Day 178: Dream Big

Jeremiah 45:1-5

The message that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For Yahweh has added sorrow to my pain! I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.” ’

“You shall tell him, Yahweh says: ‘Behold, that which I have built, I will break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up; and this in the whole land. Do you seek great things for yourself? Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh,’ says Yahweh, ‘but I will let you escape with your life wherever you go.’ ”

This part of Jeremiah feels like reading the appendix of a book. Here, we jump back to and get some detail about an event that happened between Jeremiah and Baruch. Those who chose to add chapter divisions to the Bible, made this passage into its own chapter. It does appear to be naturally separated from the rest of the book. So, what does God want us to learn from it?

It appears that this happened at the time that Jeremiah was commanded by God to write down God’s message. It appears that when the Baruch the scribe who was writing down the message heard what he was supposed to do, he was filled with anxiety. If you go back and look at chapter 36, when these events happened, you can see that God expected Baruch to not only write down the words but to read them to the leadership. Then both he and Jeremiah were forced to run and hide. God was telling Baruch that he was to become unpopular by simply obeying God. Baruch was the messenger that people would want to kill simply for writing down and reading God’s word! It would appear that this didn’t sit very well with Baruch. I think that this would probably be a challenge for many Americans today as well. Baruch was obviously trained for a special occupation. It appears that he could read and write better than his own leaders could. His career was about to be ruined by simply obeying God’s command. To be honest, I think I would have been pretty disappointed myself. What hope did he have left in his career? How was he supposed to retire?

God asked Baruch a question that I have to ask myself. “Do you seek great things for yourself?” Isn’t that what Americans are supposed to do? God says this to Baruch: “Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh.” To put this in a different light. Suppose I turned 30 in 1928. The stock market was about to crash and the great depression was about to happen followed by a second world war. Let’s say that God decided to tell me all about it in advance. I would feel like my life was about to be ruined in that case too. God is telling us to not place our hope in our lives here in this world. He’s also comforting us by telling us that He can save our lives even through hard times, but we may not get much more than that as the world is being punished for its sin. It can actually be a danger for us to “dream big” in this life. What we need to do is to obey what Jesus said and store up our treasure in Heaven. It may seem like God is telling Baruch to not dream big, but Jesus came and told us the opposite. He said that if we give up good things in this life, we will get 100 times more and experience eternal life. May God help us to see this more clearly so that we can truly experience joy in our lives today and stop worrying about what is happening in our world.

Day 44: Popular with One

John 5:41-44 : “I don’t receive glory from men. But I know you, that you don’t have God’s love in yourselves. I have come in my Father’s name, and you don’t receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

Jesus said that He came with the fame of His Father. He was famous because God said this is “The Guy.” Jesus didn’t need the fame of men. These Jewish religious leaders, however, thrived on the fame of men as do many politicians today. A common theme in Christianity is the promotion of the fame of God and the removal of the fame of men. All of the “great” men of the Bible were clearly fallible except for Jesus. Most of the time when you read about the disciples in John, they are in the process of doing something foolish or unfaithful. Men don’t have anything to offer. We need help. This is a major theme in “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Men, when faced with enough temptation, always give in. Jesus said that He is the only way. He was the only one who did not give in.

Pope John Paul II once said: “The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.” I think Jesus would have agreed with the John Paul II on this one. Taking a vote is not a good way to find the truth because it depends on a popularity contest. If there happens to be more sinners in the crowd than righteous, then you get something other than justice.

The quality of the vote counts for something in the world of justice. Truth in small numbers is better than mass of liars. There was no lack of voters at the Tower of Babel. Even Hitler was popular.

Here, Jesus also speaks of a man who will come in his own name. He’s going to be very popular. This appears to be a reference to “The Anti-Christ” of the future. This is a prophesy in Revelation:

Revelation 13:4-6 : They worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” A mouth speaking great things and blasphemy was given to him. Authority to make war for forty-two months was given to him. He opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his dwelling, those who dwell in heaven.

Here, John, who also wrote Revelation, mentions a man coming who will openly defame God and the people will follow him.

Jesus tells us that the only fame worth having is the fame that comes from God. That’s what we should desire. That’s what Jesus made possible!

Day 32: Popularity vs. the Will of God

John 4:1-3 : When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.

In this passage, Jesus decided to stop his disciples from baptizing in Judea and travel back to His home region of Galilee up north. Jesus didn’t want to continue when He heard that the Pharisees knew He was getting more popular than John. Now, to be very clear, I don’t know for sure why He did this, but we have other instances when Jesus stopped short of allowing Himself to get popular, when He turned the water into wine (John 2:1-11 and the post: “Good Timing”) may have been another time.

It is clear from those times Jesus didn’t allow Himself to be popular until God’s time for it had come. Instead of paying close attention to getting more popular, Jesus paid close attention that God’s will was done and He, instead, ensured that He didn’t get popular. God’s will was all-important to Jesus and this serves as an important example to us.

Does this mean that we should try to become unpopular? Not at all. The point here is that we seek and do the will of God above all else, even if it goes against getting popular. Jesus was later to allow popularity when it was God’s timing. Doing what God wants is really the only intelligent thing to do if you want to have the best life possible. Your life on earth will be better, even though we will still have many troubles, but your eternal life in Heaven will be much longer than the mortal one here.

In this world’s system, we see that it is normal to ignore God and focus only on this world. The way the world works is clearly not the way God wants Christians to be. We should seek God’s will as a top priority over everything else because the future is more important than the present. I don’t believe that finding God’s will is that difficult. God made us and He knows that we will work the way He made us. I am confident that God works with our desires. Sometimes, however, God makes it clear to us that His way goes against our natural desire and He expects us to choose the correct path. If we don’t follow His way, we will be sorry. God is the creator as we learned in chapter one, and He really does know what is best for His creation.

One of the great things about the Bible is that it is full of instructions about good things that He wants us to do everyday. One of them is getting to know His word like we are doing now:

2 Timothy 2:15 : Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth.

It is important for us to not forget that no matter what good works we do, we will need to stay connected to Jesus. We need His strength to do good. Jesus says later in John:

John 15:5 : I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

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)