Day 166: The Remnant

Jeremiah 40:7-12

Now when all the captains of the forces who were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, children, and of the poorest of the land, of those who were not carried away captive to Babylon, then Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men came to Gedaliah to Mizpah. Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan swore to them and to their men, saying, “Don’t be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it will be well with you. As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to stand before the Chaldeans who will come to us; but you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken.”

Likewise when all the Jews who were in Moab, and among the children of Ammon, and in Edom, and who were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, then all the Jews returned out of all places where they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, to Mizpah, and gathered very much wine and summer fruits.

An interesting fact about Judah’s captivity in Babylon is that there were people who never left Judah. God made sure that there was a remnant of Jewish people left behind. This has been a repeating theme throughout the Bible. As far as I know, God has always reserved a remnant of people out of His judgment. When Adam and Eve were the only two people to judge, God even allowed them to live and be saved. After that, we saw God preserve Noah and his family during the flood that killed everyone on the planet. Do you remember what God told Elijah when he thought that he was the only prophet left in Israel? God had actually reserved 7,000 people in Israel that hadn’t worshiped Baal.

In this case, it really turned out to be a good deal to be among the poorest of Judah. Those were the ones God chose to be his remnant this time. God also reserved the Israeli forces that had been committed to the fields outside of Jerusalem. My understanding is that forces outside the wall were just waiting to die out there because they were unprotected. The Bible talks quite a bit about how God works regarding the proud and the humble and this is a graphic illustration. Here’s a proverb that sums it up:

Proverbs 3:34

Surely he mocks the mockers,
but he gives grace to the humble.

These people that were left behind were willing to accept God’s will that Babylonians were now to be in charge. I can’t say that they lived happily ever after, though, and the historic records provided for us here in the next chapters of Jeremiah explain some of that. Even so, God was able to preserve the humble. This is an important thing for us to pay close attention to. The world is constantly telling itself that the rich and powerful inherit the earth. Not only is this the opposite of what history like this demonstrates, it’s the opposite of what Jesus clearly told us. If we are to live out the truth, then we must humbly obey God’s word even if it means that we lose power and possessions.

Day 120: Handling Apparent Contradictions

Jeremiah 28:1-9

That same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was of Gibeon, spoke to me in Yahweh’s house, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years I will bring again into this place all the vessels of Yahweh’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried to Babylon. I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, who went to Babylon,’ says Yahweh; ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ ”

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people who stood in Yahweh’s house, even the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May Yahweh do so. May Yahweh perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring again the vessels of Yahweh’s house, and all those who are captives, from Babylon to this place. Nevertheless listen now to this word that I speak in your ears, and in the ears of all the people: The prophets who have been before me and before you of old prophesied against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet happens, then the prophet will be known, that Yahweh has truly sent him.”

This passage presents a serious problem. What do you do when two prophets speak seemingly contradictory messages? Here, the prophet Hananiah said that in two years, Nebuchadnezzar will return all of the captives taken to Babylon as well as all of the temple vessels. Jeremiah had just said that if the people refuse to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, they will be destroyed and all of the rest of the temple vessels will be taken away. Why would Nebuchadnezzar give back what he had taken if they were just going to end up surrendering? More importantly, how are we supposed to handle it when prophets say things that don’t seem to go together?

Thankfully, Jeremiah shows us how to handle this by his own example. First of all, Jeremiah agrees that if it is the word of God, it must be accepted. He started out by saying: “Amen!” If it really was a word from God, then God is certainly able to change His mind and stop Nebuchadnezzar. After all, Jeremiah was asking the people to repent. Perhaps, within those two years, the people were going to repent and God would send the captives home. Perhaps, Jeremiah realized that God could bring them home with the temple vessels and then the people would surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and both of their prophesies would work out together after all. There was one problem though. Many prophets, including Isaiah, had said that war, evil and pestilence was coming. Those prophets had already been proven to be legitimate. That leads us to an important thing to remember when someone seems to contradict the Bible. It’s not possible for the Bible to be wrong. Either we don’t understand how it will work out together, or the prophet that is now speaking is false. That’s what Jeremiah also says here. If the prophet’s words don’t happen, then it will be obvious that God didn’t send him. Hananiah had just given a definite time in which something had to happen. They would all find out in two years if Hananiah was speaking God’s word or not.

Day 30: Joy of a Friend

John 3:22-30 : After these things, Jesus came with his disciples into the land of Judea. He stayed there with them, and baptized. John also was baptizing in Enon near Salim, because there was much water there. They came, and were baptized. For John was not yet thrown into prison. There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John’s disciples with some Jews about purification. They came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same baptizes, and everyone is coming to him.” John answered, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. This, my joy, therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Here we find Jesus and His disciples baptizing in Judea and John the Baptist baptizing in Enon. Notice that this is another place to check Biblical geography. I can see by looking at the map that John the Baptist was baptizing up north of Samaria closer to Galilee where Jesus grew up. Evidently, Jesus and His disciples had traveled south to Judea and were baptizing there.

This part also mentions that John was to be thrown in prison. As I indicated in an earlier post, this story is provided detail in other historic accounts in the Bible. At this time, John was still free and baptizing. It is also mentioned that the Jewish leaders were still questioning John’s people about “purification”. I am not exactly sure what they were talking about in particular, but the issue of baptisms must have come up again because of what they ended up talking to John about. It became a concern among John’s disciples that Jesus was getting more publicity.

Again, as we have heard before, John explains that he is not the main attraction. He reasons with them about the fact that Jesus must become more popular because He is more important. He says that a man only gets what God gives him. John was only sent to announce Jesus. Then John uses wedding metaphor that becomes even more common later in the New Testament.

John describes Jesus as a bridegroom who has the bride. He describes himself as his friend who is happy enough just to hear his friend’s voice. Who is this bride? The Bible also says:

Ephesians 5:23 : For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body.

This verse indicates that the assembly or church (those who were to be saved) are his bride. That means you. John is saying that he is happy that we (Jesus and the church) are getting together. John was eager to submit himself to the one who was greater. Why did John not tell his disciples to go away? I think that it is because there were to be other friends of the bridegroom other than just John and they needed to realize what was given to them from God and be happy too. (see: Matthew 25:1-13)

Day 22: Good Timing

John 2:6-11 : Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three meters apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” They filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.” So they took it. When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Notice how Jesus only worked with the servants. The person in charge of the party didn’t know that any miracle had taken place. Jesus did what His mother wanted but was also able to keep a very low profile. Jesus high-profile moment was yet to come. I am eager to talk about it but instead you can read ahead to Palm Sunday (and the miracle that preceded it) if you want. It is found in John 11:1 – 12:13. Jesus doesn’t attempt to stop the crowds but instead purposefully does a huge miracle in front of them and later accepts their praise as the King of Israel.

It is not uncommon that wrong timing is the sinful error that we make. There is an appropriate time for almost everything:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 :
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born,
and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill,
and a time to heal;
a time to break down,
and a time to build up;
a time to weep,
and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn,
and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek,
and a time to lose;
a time to keep,
and a time to cast away;
a time to tear,
and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak;
a time to love,
and a time to hate;
a time for war,
and a time for peace.

Jesus masterfully managed this situation. He both honored his Father in Heaven and honored his mother on earth within the limits of His Father’s timing. Many of the great things that are ours as Christians will be realized in the future. For now, we look forward with a hope and faith in the One who has promised them, for there is a time coming in which our bodies will no longer die!

Day 18: A True Minister

John 1:35-39 :Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.

In this part, we have John seeing Jesus on another day. He had already pointed Jesus out the crowd once. You could say that, technically, he had already done his duty before God the last time, but when John saw Jesus again, he again told people to look.

John actually convinced people to leave him and follow Jesus. This is the way of a true minister. A true minister does not attract attention to themselves. The whole point of Christian ministry is to point people to God. Once again, this shows the humility of John the Baptist. When the disciples left him and went to Jesus, he didn’t try to stop them. He urged them to go after Jesus. Sometimes, we see the opposite type of behavior in leadership today. The world teaches their leaders to take credit and get more people for themselves. A true minister is like John according to the Bible. You can read more on this topic in 1 Corinthians 3.

It is fascinating to me that Jesus asked these two followers what they were looking for. We know that Jesus is God and that He knew everything already. Why would he ask? In many instances, Jesus said things like this. When it seemed like the reasons were obvious, He still required people to say them out loud.

I see that this has a correlation with prayer. God already knows what you want before you ask, but, He wants you to ask. I notice that when we are forced to ask, we have to admit that we are taking something from someone; something that we don’t have. Jesus on many other occasions called for His disciples to have faith. Faith is believing that God will work things out. When we ask God to do something we admit out loud that we are not getting it from somewhere else and that we want Him to work it out.

When these two disciples answered Jesus, they called him: “Rabbi” which is a Jewish teacher. I am learning that there was quite a culture surrounding the duties of a Rabbi. It was not an unusual occupation as it would seem to be in our culture. There are still those who are called “Rabbi” today. I can see why the King James version of the Bible translated it to be “Master”. My understanding is that a teacher in that culture was more like a Master Craftsman in our American culture only it was in regard to God rather than learning a trade. You were supposed to be with them and learn their ways. You would do what they tell you and you would receive special education.

These two disciples were then invited to come over to where Jesus was staying. The time detail at the end has been difficult to determine. John calls it the 10th hour, I am not sure what clock that John was referring to. We believe that John was writing from Ephesus in 90 AD or so, so he might have been referring to 10:00 of Rome. Many believe he was referring to 14:00 using the clock other gospel writers used. I don’t have enough information to determine that yet, perhaps on a later post I will be able to find more evidence.

Day 15: John the Unworthy

John 1:24-28 : The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don’t know. He is the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loosen.” These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Last time John was being questioned by some religious leaders about who he was and why he was doing what he was doing. He had already told them that he was fulfilling a prophesy but they didn’t seem to respond. They were only interested in why he baptized people if he wasn’t the Prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah. I am not familiar with the Pharisees views on baptism, but for some reason, it is mentioned here that the Pharisees (a Jewish religious group) sent them. From other parts of the Bible we know that the Pharisees are the ones who would be trying to put Jesus to death. They appeared to have a problem with John performing baptisms.

One of the great things about John is he stayed on task and simply told them that he was baptizing in an inferior way to the one who is about to show up. He tells them that the one who is coming is so much more important that it would be too high of a job to undo His sandals.

I have been told that it was a servant’s job to take care of feet in those days. Travel was often done by foot and I understand that people’s feet got pretty dirty. John seems to be saying that he would have been honored to do the lowest job for Jesus. It shows that he had a good understanding of who Jesus was.

John is an interesting study in humility. He was definitely not one you would call weak. He wore camel hair, lived in the wilderness and ate wild honey and locus (Matthew 3:4). He was probably one of the most courageous men of the Bible. He faced the Roman government directly and told their leaders that they violated God’s law. This ended up causing him to be put in jail and eventually to be executed. (Matthew 14:3-12)

He shows us that being humble doesn’t mean that you lose your will to fight for the truth. It means that you see yourself appropriately in your relationship to Jesus. Jesus ended up calling John the greatest man that was ever born up to that time. (Matthew 11:11)

Now for a geography lesson: This was taking place in a town on the Jordan called Bethany. There was actually another Bethany, that was mentioned that is near Jerusalem according to my Bible’s footnotes. We know that this one had to be on the Jordan because this is where John was baptizing. Evidently, the Jewish leaders had to travel quite a ways to pay John a visit.

Day 11: Two Testimonies

John 1:15 : John testified about him. He cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.'”

I really appreciate this verse. I like to make parenthetical comments when I write (so I really appreciate this part of John). We kind of get around the use of parenthesis today on the web by using hyperlinks. Here John puts in a comment in the text to make sure that we hear it even though it is in the middle of something else.

This particular comment is about John the Baptist testimony concerning Jesus. It is interesting that he mentions it right after his own testimony about the glory of Jesus he saw. One thing to keep in mind is that according to the law of God, a testimony had to be ratified by two witnesses to be acceptable (Deuteronomy 19:15, 2 Corinthians 13:1). John who writes expressed his testimony in verse 14, and then, in verse 15, John the Baptist’s testimony is presented. There will be more about this testimony on verse 19.

If you read more in the Bible about John the Baptist, you learn that he was Jesus’ relative. It is interesting to note that John was older than Jesus in regard to his birth. (Luke 1:36-45) John states here that “He existed before me.” This is a clear statement that he knew that Jesus existed before He was actually born on earth and was not just a man. This truly is a mystery. I don’t know how a person could have existed before they were born, but here we have it. I also realize that I understand very little about how the spiritual world works. If I consider it a little more, I don’t really comprehend many common physical events that occur in our world such as why the heart starts beating or how seeds germinate.

When we really consider this, we realize that we really understand very little in this great world that God made. This is one of the things that causes me to realize that just because I don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it isn’t real or doesn’t exist. This really is a foolish way to think. I am thankful that God challenges my thinking and causes me to be humble about what I know.

As you can see, in the Bible, even the parenthetical statements are very important and that makes sense since these are the words of God.