Day 12: God’s Enemy

Lamentations 3:10-18 :

He is to me as a bear lying in wait,
as a lion in hiding.
He has turned away my path,
and pulled me in pieces.
He has made me desolate.
He has bent his bow,
and set me as a mark for the arrow.

He has caused the shafts of his quiver to enter into my kidneys.
I have become a derision to all my people,
and their song all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness.
He has stuffed me with wormwood.

He has also broken my teeth with gravel.
He has covered me with ashes.
You have removed my soul far away from peace.
I forgot prosperity.
I said, “My strength has perished,
along with my expectation from Yahweh.”

It’s bad enough for God to turn his back on you. It’s even worse for Him to go on the offensive and attack you. That’s what these verses describe. When we become an enemy of God, He will attack and He will obviously win.

In this passage, God’s attack is compared to a bear and a lion. Mankind doesn’t have much of a chance against these beasts, but the passage also describes God as having weapons. If a bear had a weapon and you had none, then you can pretty much assume that you are dead. God will win when He chooses to attack you and this passage tells us that God does attack people. It’s important that we are honest about these things with each other. It may not be popular to talk about in our culture, but it is the truth and as I mentioned before, it’s here for a reason. Hell is real and it is an attack by God on those that refuse to accept His provision for sin.

This passage also talks about the fact that other humans join in and put down a person that God doesn’t like. That’s pretty easy to understand. We know that when someone is unpopular, it’s pretty common for there to be people who enjoy the process of making a person feel like dirt. We read here that God uses this as a part of His punishment too. This reminds me that Hell is not a party. Your friends won’t be friends there.

This passage also says that God removes peace from a man that He despises. I think that another way to look at this is that God can cause a person to be under constant stress. It’s good to remember that this is a part of God’s wrath. As Christians, we don’t have God’s wrath anymore and we shouldn’t be under constant stress. We need to remember that God saves us from that and that we should expect His peace in our lives.

As I’ve mentioned before, hope is one of the most important mental states in this life. In battle, it is obvious. Troops without hope are not likely to succeed. Ultimately, that’s what is taken away when God becomes an enemy. Thankfully, God was not leaving Israel for good.

Day 11: When God Turns Away from Man

Lamentations 3:1-9 :

I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
He has led me and caused me to walk in darkness,
and not in light.
Surely he turns his hand against me
again and again all day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin old.
He has broken my bones.
He has built against me,
and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in dark places,
as those who have been long dead.

He has walled me about, so that I can’t go out.
He has made my chain heavy.
Yes, when I cry, and call for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
He has walled up my ways with cut stone.
He has made my paths crooked.

This part of the Bible teaches us that it is important to consider what it is like when God is against you. It’s important that we not think of God as a big Santa Clause in the sky. God isn’t just there for us. We were made by Him and for Him. God is there for us in a sense that He loves us and wants to help us, but He isn’t a tool in our hands to be used for our own desire. Our will was intended to be subjected to His. When we consider the true nature of God, we must consider His wrath and anger because it is real. His wrath is what we get when we choose to make ourselves greater than He is.

There are several things that a man experiences when God turns against him that are represented in this passage. One is that they walk in darkness. I take that to mean that his life becomes hopeless in that he can’t see around him anymore. Another thing mentioned here is that he becomes unhealthy. God is always involved in the processes of our body that keep us well. He also mentions that God surrounds him with “bitterness and hardship.” He says that it’s like having a heavy chain on him. He mentions that God puts up walls in his path and makes his paths crooked. This reminds me to thank God when my day is going smoothly. It is God who holds the power to change our smooth days into difficult ones.

I think that the worst thing in this passage is that God no longer listens to prayer when a man is in this condition. This is a place that none of us should ever be in, but it’s good for us to consider what it is like. If a man chooses to ignore God and His mercy, all that is left is to suffer alone and without hope. God hasn’t provided a way for man to walk independently of Him and end up well. Those who choose to rebel against God, are choosing to not have their prayers answered and that very well may be the very worst part of going to Hell. In this life, hope is always in the back of our minds, but when God finally turns His back on you, all hope is gone.

Day 7: A God Forsaken Place

Lamentations 2:5-10 :

The Lord has become as an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel.
He has swallowed up all her palaces.
He has destroyed his strongholds.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation in the daughter of Judah.

He has violently taken away his tabernacle,
as if it were a garden.
He has destroyed his place of assembly.
Yahweh has caused solemn assembly and Sabbath to be forgotten in Zion.
In the indignation of his anger, he has despised the king and the priest.

The Lord has cast off his altar.
He has abhorred his sanctuary.
He has given the walls of her palaces into the hand of the enemy.
They have made a noise in Yahweh’s house,
as in the day of a solemn assembly.

Yahweh has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion.
He has stretched out the line.
He has not withdrawn his hand from destroying;
He has made the rampart and wall lament.
They languish together.

Her gates have sunk into the ground.
He has destroyed and broken her bars.
Her king and her princes are among the nations where the law is not.
Yes, her prophets find no vision from Yahweh.

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground.
They keep silence.
They have cast up dust on their heads.
They have clothed themselves with sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.

One thing that the fall of Judah and Jerusalem shows us is what it is like to be forsaken by God. I’ve mentioned this before. It’s like experiencing a little bit of Hell. When God turns His back on you, you not only lose your access to God, as is expressed in the fact that Judah had no priests, but you also lose your government, which was expressed in the fact that Judah’s kings were taken into exile. Government may seem like a problem today, but let’s not forget that the absence of government is actually much worse. Government, even in its perverse form today, is still an extension of the hand of God. Even though justice is often poorly applied, it is still applied against many evil doers, even today. The same goes for religion. Because many are still allowed to live as Christians in peace, the 10 Commandments are still in operation among believers in the world. If God were to remove all government and all Christians, the world would experience the kind of Hell that Judah was experiencing here.

Another part of this horror was the fact that they stopped hearing the voice of God. His word was no longer being taught to the people. Proverbs reminds us of what this this is like. Let’s read that again:

Proverbs 20:20 :

Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in blackness of darkness.

It may not seem, like this proverb is talking about God’s word, but I believe that it is pretty clear. When you are cut off from your father and mother, you are cut off from the influence of God’s word in your life as a son or a daughter. The same thing happens when you are cut off from God. The worst thing that happens to you is that you lose your sense of direction. As rebellious human beings, we easily lose sight of the fact that God’s authority and God’s word are absolutely necessary for our well being. All God has to do is take those things away and it becomes painfully clear that we needed them all along.

Day 6: Cut Off

Lamentations 2:1-4 :

How has the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger!
He has cast the beauty of Israel down from heaven to the earth,
and hasn’t remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.

The Lord has swallowed up all the dwellings of Jacob
without pity.
He has thrown down in his wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah.
He has brought them down to the ground.
He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.

He has cut off all the horn of Israel in fierce anger.
He has drawn back his right hand from before the enemy.
He has burned up Jacob like a flaming fire,
which devours all around.

He has bent his bow like an enemy.
He has stood with his right hand as an adversary.
He has killed all that were pleasant to the eye.
In the tent of the daughter of Zion, he has poured out his wrath like fire.

It’s pretty obvious who the subject of this poem is. Eleven lines start with the word “He” and one starts with “The Lord.” God’s actions against Israel are clearly being contemplated in this lamentation. There are those who believe that God wouldn’t punish anyone. They refuse to talk about punishment or Hell, but as you can see, when you read the Bible for yourself, it’s impossible to ignore the wrath of God. If you are walking along with me as a devotional doing one episode a day, you have been reading about God’s wrath almost every day for over a year. That’s a small sample of how much the Bible talks about it. Those who choose to ignore it are doing it at the expense of telling the truth about what the Bible says. If they don’t believe that they need to be saved from it, they are at risk of experiencing it.

If we learn nothing else about the wrath of God as we read through these books of the Bible, I hope we all learn that it’s something to avoid. If God didn’t spare Israel, He definitely won’t spare the Gentiles. That’s not just an assumption. Here’s what Paul wrote into the Bible:

Romans 11:19-21 :

You will say then, “Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.” True; by their unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by your faith. Don’t be conceited, but fear; for if God didn’t spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that you might lose your salvation if you sin. This means that if you don’t recognize your own sin, but instead believe that it was by your goodness that you are saved, you never had salvation. You are a dead branch because you aren’t taking life from Jesus. You are still trying to live independently. A branch has to live off of the tree to live. In the same way we must have faith in Jesus in order to live the Christian life. If we are to avoid the wrath of God, we must trust in Jesus for our salvation. This goes for the Jews and for the Gentiles.

Day 3: A Close Look at the Negative

Lamentations 1:10-14 :

The adversary has spread out his hand on all her pleasant things;
for she has seen that the nations have entered into her sanctuary,
concerning whom you commanded that they should not enter into your assembly.

All her people sigh.
They seek bread.
They have given their pleasant things for food to refresh their soul.
“Look, Yahweh, and see,
for I have become despised.”

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look, and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which is brought on me,
with which Yahweh has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.

“From on high has he sent fire into my bones,
and it prevails against them.
He has spread a net for my feet.
He has turned me back.
He has made me desolate and I faint all day long.

“The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand.
They are knit together.
They have come up on my neck.
He made my strength fail.
The Lord has delivered me into their hands,
against whom I am not able to stand.

I have noticed that my culture has chosen to avoid anything negative. My perception is that this culture believes that there are no sins accept the sin of pointing out sin. Once again, this is irrational because they exempt themselves from their own rule. Passages like these remind us that sin is real, and as a result, the anger of God is justified.

In my culture, anger itself is negative. They must assume that the Christian God is wrong then because in this passage, God is said to have “fierce anger.” Whenever the world thinks that God is wrong, you can bet that the idea came from Satan. I believe that the underlying force behind avoiding negative things is Satan. He knows that the source of all of these negative things is the sin that he introduced into our world. In light of this, let’s consider what God is having us study here.

Much of this book is a close look at the negative. Here it teaches us that once we are subject to God’s fierce anger, we suffer greatly. We learn that we end up suffering all day long as we use up our nice things to simply buy food. We watch our strength waste away as we lose to our enemies. We watch as the good is overrun by evil right before our eyes. This reminds us that sin is real and it has real consequences that we will feel. If we avoid the negative, we fail to understand the seriousness of punishment which causes us to not see the seriousness of our sin. Sin is negative but the greatest negative is the fact that Jesus, who was perfect, was tortured to death. If we avoid that negative thing, we will live negatively for eternity in Hell. Let’s not be deceived by our culture. The only way for things to get positive, will be for every one of us to take a close look at the negative.

Day 88: Jeremiah Gives Them Hell

Jeremiah 19:7-13

“ ‘ “I will make the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem void in this place. I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies to be food for the birds of the sky and for the animals of the earth. I will make this city an astonishment and a hissing. Everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues. I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters. They will each eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies, and those who seek their life, will distress them.” ’

“Then you shall break the container in the sight of the men who go with you, and shall tell them, ‘Yahweh of Armies says: “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, that can’t be made whole again. They will bury in Topheth, until there is no place to bury. This is what I will do to this place,” says Yahweh, “and to its inhabitants, even making this city as Topheth. The houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, which are defiled, will be as the place of Topheth, even all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the army of the sky and have poured out drink offerings to other gods.” ’ ”

If they thought they hated Jeremiah before, God had more for them. We find out from the next passage that Jeremiah is standing right there in Gehenna telling them that they are going to be starved and killed in such numbers that they will not have enough room to bury all the dead in the valley. They are going to be so hungry that they will start eating their own children and friends. Then we find out why God had him bring the pot. He broke it in front of them as an illustration of the fact that they would be so utterly destroyed that they will not be able to be repaired.

This is probably the best reference for what Jesus was communicating when He talked to us about Hell. It’s where the cursed dead were left for the birds. It’s a place of defilement and Jesus added the fact that the real Hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out. Why do we have to know this? I think the answer is pretty obvious don’t you? It’s a real place and God doesn’t want man to go there. He made a way for anyone who believes to escape it, but people are ignoring it and building nice parks over the bones of the dead like we see in the Gehenna today. This horrible time was just one of the many that were to happen to Jerusalem after that point in history. We can try to ignore those times and why they happened, or we can learn about them and avoid doing the things that lead to them. This is true for Israel as a nation, and for each of us spiritually.

Day 87: The Valley of Slaughter

Jeremiah 19:1-6

Thus said Yahweh, “Go, and buy a potter’s earthen container, and take some of the elders of the people, and of the elders of the priests; and go out to the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate Harsith, and proclaim there the words that I will tell you. Say, ‘Hear Yahweh’s word, kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem: Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will bring evil on this place, which whoever hears, his ears will tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have defiled this place, and have burned incense in it to other gods that they didn’t know, they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal, to burn their children in the fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I didn’t command, nor speak, which didn’t even enter into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that this place will no more be called ‘Topheth’, nor ‘The Valley of the son of Hinnom’, but ‘The valley of Slaughter’.

I did some searching on the web for: “The Valley of the Son of Hinnom” and found out that it looks like a small valley with some buildings paths and what appears to be a nice little park. It’s interesting because Jesus referred to it as Hell. The word Gehenna is said to be a transliteration of “The Valley of Hinnom.” Scholars argue over whether or not it ever really was a garbage dump for Israel, but one thing everyone appears to agree with is that it was the place where the kings of Judah burned their children to the gods. That’s because the Bible says it right here. To Jesus, this valley was a type of Hell even though it isn’t Hell itself. It certainly doesn’t look like Hell today, but what happened there is truly horrible.

God told Jeremiah to tell the leaders that the place would become a place named after slaughter. It was clearly a symbolic thing and it’s no surprise that Jesus would continue the same symbolism in His words to the people. Sin has consequences. As I was studying this place, I noticed some scholars who cast doubt on whether or not Jesus was referring to eternal damnation when referring to it. I looked up all 12 references and it’s pretty obvious that the New Testament writers used this place as a reference to a spiritual place. It wasn’t just a place for the body to be thrown, but a place for the soul. See Matthew 10:28. It’s not like Jesus didn’t talk about this in other ways. He also mentioned it without saying Gehenna in His teaching about the judgment of nations in Matthew 25 where He says that the place was intended for Satan and the fallen angels.

It’s pretty obvious that what God said about this place has happened. We call it “Hell” even today even though the physical place looks rather nice now. Jesus has made it clear to the world that this represents a real spiritual place, and just as the people of Jeremiah’s day mocked Jeremiah’s message of destruction, so people today mock the reality of an eternal place of torment.