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 156: Ask and Receive

Jeremiah 37:16-21

When Jeremiah had come into the dungeon house and into the cells, and Jeremiah had remained there many days, then Zedekiah the king sent and had him brought out. The king asked him secretly in his house, “Is there any word from Yahweh?”

Jeremiah said, “There is.” He also said, “You will be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.”

Moreover Jeremiah said to king Zedekiah, “How have I sinned against you, against your servants, or against this people, that you have put me in prison? Now where are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you, nor against this land?’ Now please hear, my lord the king: please let my supplication be presented before you, that you not cause me to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.”

Then Zedekiah the king commanded, and they committed Jeremiah into the court of the guard. They gave him daily a loaf of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city was gone. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

God really hates lies. He even calls it out as a major reason for His punishments in the book of Revelation. Here’s what He says:

Revelation 21:8

But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

You could say that Jeremiah was now in a sort of Hell on earth situation. He had spent many days in a dungeon during a time when no one had food. I doubt very much if he had eaten at all while sitting in the dark and cold. When the king took him out to talk with him about his visions for the future, Jeremiah still didn’t lie. He had to tell the king that he was going to be taken by the Babylonians. I think that most people would lie in this situation in order to get out of suffering, but an honest man doesn’t do that. There’s a worse place than any place here on earth and that is Hell and Jeremiah was obviously aware of what would happen to him should he ever fail to tell the truth about what God said. You can contrast his behavior with that of the king. The king wouldn’t even talk to Jeremiah openly but talked to “him secretly in his house.” In a sense, the king was lying by his behavior, just to protect his reputation.

Even though Jeremiah was obedient, starving to death in a dungeon was a horrible thing. Even though he had to tell the king the truth, he reasoned and pleaded with the king to be allowed to not die in the dungeon. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about suffering a bit more because I think that those who don’t suffer that much sometimes act like it’s a good thing that we should somehow enjoy. It is true that suffering for the Lord is always good, but Jeremiah demonstrates the wisdom in choosing to do what we can to stop suffering, even for the Lord. Jeremiah didn’t want to suffer if he could avoid it and he asked God’s representative of the evil government of his time if he would allow him to not go back. Remember, God had told Jeremiah that He would be with him and protect him, yet God had allowed Jeremiah to end up starving to death in a dungeon. It really wasn’t adding up. God chose to require that Jeremiah ask to be taken out of the situation and God arranged that this condemned king would choose to remove Jeremiah from the dungeon and feed Him instead.

Could it be that God wants us to ask Him to remove our suffering? I believe He does. That doesn’t mean that all of our suffering will be removed, but I do believe a great deal of it will be. Jeremiah demonstrates this but so did Paul. He asked God that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed. In that case God gave him the grace to overcome it without removing it, but Paul still asked repeatedly. Even Jesus asked to be removed from some of His suffering if it was God’s will. Jesus had to go through the whole thing for us. I think that’s why God wants us to ask. Jesus already went through the fire for us. I think that God desires to take take some of that fire from us when we ask. So I believe that when we are suffering, we should ask God to take us out of it, even if that suffering has served a good purpose in our lives.

Day 154: Talking to God without Listening to Him

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words, which he spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.

Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.”

Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people, for they had not put him into prison. Pharaoh’s army had come out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

Then Yahweh’s word came to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘You shall tell the king of Judah, who sent you to me to inquire of me: “Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which has come out to help you, will return to Egypt into their own land. The Chaldeans will come again, and fight against this city. They will take it and burn it with fire.” ’

“Yahweh says, ‘Don’t deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely depart from us;” for they will not depart. For though you had struck the whole army of the Chaldeans who fight against you, and only wounded men remained among them, they would each rise up in his tent and burn this city with fire.’ ”

This piece of history records a very interesting situation. God tells us that neither the king, “nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words.” Even so, “the king sent… to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.'” What we have here is one-way communication. Israel decided not to listen to God but expected God to listen to them when they were in trouble. It appears that “when the Chaldeans… were besieging Jerusalem,” the Israelis found it in their best interest to have the prophet that they ignore pray to get the war to stop. We get to read here about how that turned out.

At first, it appeared to work because when Egypt decided to move in, the Chaldeans “withdrew from Jerusalem.” Perhaps they thought that they could ignore God and get His blessing anyway by praying some magic words, but God made sure to have Jeremiah give them another message.

God not only didn’t choose to help them, He repeated His intention to have them be destroyed. He had the very same prophet that they had been ignoring, tell them that the Chaldeans would not only return, but that even if they were all wounded, they would still end up burning Jerusalem.

There’s one thing that appears to be very clear from this passage. You can’t expect to pray to God for His help if you have been ignoring Him. I believe that this passage demonstrates that not only will God not help you, He may get angry and hurt you. Some may say that God is being mean here, but that’s because they are still refusing to see the obvious. God is a real person and He can’t be boxed up in a man-made, man-focused religion. Just like you would expect of any person, God gets angry when He’s ignored and He doesn’t feel close to people who try to use and abuse Him. He’s also the most powerful person and can do something about it when He’s mistreated. It is a lesson to us to pay attention to God’s words, then we can expect that God will hear our prayers for help.

Day 122: Praying for the Peace of Babylon

Jeremiah 29:1-7

Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the residue of the elders of the captivity, and to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon, (after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths, had departed from Jerusalem), by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon). It said:

Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and dwell in them. Plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and father sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there, and don’t be diminished. Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to Yahweh for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”

One thing that we get to enjoy in the Bible is the ability to read other people’s mail. This is one of those letters. This doesn’t mean that reading other people’s mail is a virtue. It’s OK to do here because it’s an “open letter” that God wanted everyone to see. In this case, it’s the letter that Jeremiah sent to the captives that had already been taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. It’s a letter that was meant to be spread around to all of them. This is the very same way that much of the New Testament was written. Many of those books are simply letters that were intended to be read by many people. Perhaps this letter was a pattern for the ones to come.

Jeremiah’s letter is actually very comforting. Not only does it give the people specific instructions from God, those instructions are that they should settle down and start building families in Babylon. He told them to go ahead and plant gardens and eat the fruit of the land. Not only were they to live in peace, God told them to seek the peace of the city. In fact, God bound the two together. Their peace would now depend on the peace of Babylon.

Right before I started writing this today, I listened to a message that stated that America is a secular government and it has become increasingly anti-Christian. In a way, America is one of the last parts of “western society” to become anti-Christian. Beside the fact that “secular government” is wrong and should never have been celebrated, what should our response be as Christians to the situation that we now find ourselves in?

Some have decided to protest. Others have become more politically active. This radio program suggested that the Gospel needed to be preached. All of these things sound good to me, but how do any of those things solve the identity problem America has. If we are secular, we can’t be “under God.” The two don’t go together because God clearly says that there should be no other gods before Him. If America is a secular nation, what should a Christian do about it? If we are to hate the world, should we fight against America? I would suggest that since God has not given us any other option, that we follow God’s word that Jeremiah gave to the captives. Let’s pray for the peace of America. That doesn’t mean that we accept secularism. Peace can’t come from secularism. It can only come from Christianity. When we pray for the peace of our nation, we are also praying for the Gospel and that America will become a nation that is under God, because without Jesus there can be no peace. When America is truly at peace, we will also be at peace.

Day 103: Two Very Important Jobs

Jeremiah 23:7-12

“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that they will no more say, ‘As Yahweh lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;’ but, ‘As Yahweh lives, who brought up and who led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they will dwell in their own land.”

Concerning the prophets:
My heart within me is broken.
All my bones shake.
I am like a drunken man,
and like a man whom wine has overcome,
because of Yahweh,
and because of his holy words.
For the land is full of adulterers;
for because of the curse the land mourns.
The pastures of the wilderness have dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right;
for both prophet and priest are profane.
Yes, in my house I have found their wickedness,” says Yahweh.
Therefore their way will be to them as slippery places in the darkness.
They will be driven on,
and fall therein;
for I will bring evil on them,
even the year of their visitation,” says Yahweh.

We have learned from the Bible that there were two very important positions that God set up in Israel in order for the people to properly to relate to God. Priests were required so that man would be able to communicate with God and prophets were raised up in order to be the voice of God to the people. It isn’t a surprise, then, that when priests and prophets become profane, that the people fail to have a proper way to communicate with God. When spiritual leadership goes bad, it doesn’t just pervert the communication between God and man, it also makes God very angry and results in wrath. That’s what we learn about here in Jeremiah. God had every intent to make Israel His nation, but first, He would have to deal with the leadership that had decided to pervert both the worship of the people to God and the voice of God to the people.

Do you remember that God calls Christians priests as well as prophets? We have the responsibility of both worshiping God and bringing concerns of others before God in prayer, and also to tell others what God’s word says and lead them to repentance so that they will become followers of Jesus. We all have these special jobs and as far as I can tell from the Bible, these jobs are more important than any earthly job. It is very important for us to not avoid our priestly jobs of worship and prayer for others. It’s also important for us to keep speaking God’s word to others in order to encourage them and help them continue to live their lives according to the truth. I don’t believe that a true believer will profane these positions, but we can certainly avoid performing our duties. Let’s remember that these spiritual activities are real jobs that God has given us to do, and remember how important those jobs are in our world today.

Day 69: When God Cancels the Prayer Meeting

Jeremiah 14:10-12

Yahweh says to this people,
“Even so they have loved to wander.
They have not restrained their feet.
Therefore Yahweh does not accept them.
Now he will remember their iniquity,
and punish them for their sins.”

Yahweh said to me, “Don’t pray for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and meal offering, I will not accept them; but I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

This passage shows us that sometimes it is actually wrong to pray for someone’s good. We also read that God makes it very clear first, but it’s important to know that the Bible teaches this. There are many, especially in my current culture, who believe that God doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Many go as far as to say that eventually everyone will be accepted by God, no matter how they try (or don’t try) to reach Him. This passage from the Bible and others like it, make it quite clear that there is a limit. Eventually, God’s grace is taken away from those who refuse to repent and turn to God.

Jeremiah was directly told by God to not pray for the good of His people. God was going to punish them and praying against God’s will would be a waste of Jeremiah’s time. I think that it’s important that we read God’s word to find out if some of the things we are praying are futile too. God may use His word to help us to understand that what we are desiring is outside of His will. As I’ve mentioned before, we should take all of our concerns to God, even the ones that are futile. Notice that in the passage before this one, Jeremiah was asking God to not leave Israel because of the famine. God then made it clear that Jeremiah should stop praying for the good of Israel. I believe that if we are honest before God, He will make it clear when it is time to stop praying for something. Until then, it’s more important to never give up! That’s something that Jesus said. Let’s read that again:

Luke 18:1-5

He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up, saying, “There was a judge in a certain city who didn’t fear God, and didn’t respect man. A widow was in that city, and she often came to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’ He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God, nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.’”

So, it safe to say that we should always pray and not give up until Jesus tells us otherwise.

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.