Day 2: The Sins of Jerusalem

Lamentations 1:6-9 :

All majesty has departed from the daughter of Zion.
Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture.
They have gone without strength before the pursuer.

Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and of her miseries
all her pleasant things that were from the days of old;
when her people fell into the hand of the adversary,
and no one helped her.
The adversaries saw her.
They mocked at her desolations.

Jerusalem has grievously sinned.
Therefore she has become unclean.
All who honored her despise her,
because they have seen her nakedness.
Yes, she sighs and turns backward.

Her filthiness was in her skirts.
She didn’t remember her latter end.
Therefore she has come down astoundingly.
She has no comforter.
“See, Yahweh, my affliction;
for the enemy has magnified himself.”

A beautiful thing about this lamentation, is that it doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that the people of Jerusalem had “grievously sinned.” I am told that it isn’t uncommon for historic writers to conveniently overlook the errors and wrongs of their own nations. That’s something that really sets the Bible apart. The Bible is written in such a way as to glorify God, not the nation of Israel and in cases like these, that means that Israel must expose itself as a filthy sinner. That’s exactly what we read here.

As Gentiles who believe in the Bible, we must also come to grip with our filthiness. God makes it clear that the Gentiles were also hopelessly filthy, in fact, that’s another thing we learn from this lamentation. It tells us that “the enemy has magnified himself.” Not only did the Gentiles not deserve God’s blessing because of their idolatry, they added to it by acting as if they were better than Israel. That reminds me of two important teachings in the Bible.

God teaches us that when we gloat over the destruction of someone else, He may stop punishing the ones He is punishing because of our hypocrisy. Let’s look at what it says:

Proverbs 24:17-18 :

Don’t rejoice when your enemy falls.
Don’t let your heart be glad when he is overthrown,
lest Yahweh see it, and it displease him,
and he turn away his wrath from him.

God also teaches us that as Christians, we my be tempted to think of ourselves as better than the Jews. This teaching comes with a severe warning. Let’s look at that too:

Romans 11:18-22 :

don’t boast over the branches. But if you boast, it is not you who support the root, but the root supports you. 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. See then the goodness and severity of God. Toward those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

The Bible clearly teaches that how we treat the Jews is an expression of the reality of our faith. If we act is if we are better, we obviously don’t understand salvation, which means that we aren’t saved yet either. To put it in blunt terms, if you look down on the Jews, you are going to Hell not Heaven because you don’t really believe in Jesus yet. When we really understand our sin and our salvation, we stop looking down on the Jews and everyone else who sins.

Day 201: Five Swords and a Drought

Jeremiah 50:35-40

“A sword is on the Chaldeans,” says Yahweh,
“and on the inhabitants of Babylon,
on her princes,
and on her wise men.
A sword is on the boasters,
and they will become fools.
A sword is on her mighty men,
and they will be dismayed.
A sword is on their horses,
on their chariots,
and on all the mixed people who are in the middle of her;
and they will become as women.
A sword is on her treasures,
and they will be robbed.
A drought is on her waters,
and they will be dried up;
for it is a land of engraved images,
and they are mad over idols.
Therefore the wild animals of the desert
with the wolves will dwell there.
The ostriches will dwell therein.
It will be inhabited no more forever,
neither will it be lived in from generation to generation.
As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and its neighbor cities,” says Yahweh,
“so no man will dwell there,
neither will any son of man live therein.

Here we read that God used swords to bring Babylon down. In this prophesy, God applies His use of war as a punishment for their pride. He used it to bring down the ruling class and the intellectuals. He used it to bring down their war technology and their best fighting men. We are even informed that He used it against their “mixed peoples.” Perhaps, Babylon thought that “diversification” would protect them on the downside. Diversification doesn’t work when God is against you.

We also see here that God applies “a drought” as a result of their religious practices. God records here that the Babylonians were “mad over idols.” God cursed the city by predicting that it would one day remain uninhabited. When I looked at pictures of some of the remains of that old city, it appeared to me that there were still new buildings built around them. I don’t think that this prophesy has come true yet. When you look at the locations where Sodom and Gomorrah were, they really are desolate. It would appear to me that the ultimate end of Babylon is yet to come. Even so, ancient Babylon was taken over by the Medes and the Persians.

There are some things that we can learn from this passage and apply today. One is that war is something that God can use. God doesn’t use war for selfish human conquest. He uses it as a way to “clean up the neighborhood.” If war were to be irradiated in our world, it would mean that evil would run riot. To completely remove war and war technology would be to follow a Satanic path against God. Satan would be able to do whatever He wants. As we have been reading, we would be avoiding the clear teaching of the Bible to not see that God is a God of justice and purity. He will not allow sin to continue and will bring justice when the time is right.

Day 200: The Peril of Trusting in Man’s Greatness

Jeremiah 50:29-34

“Call together the archers against Babylon,
all those who bend the bow.
Encamp against her all around.
Let none of it escape.
Pay her back according to her work.
According to all that she has done, do to her;
for she has been proud against Yahweh,
against the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore her young men will fall in her streets.
All her men of war will be brought to silence in that day,” says Yahweh.
“Behold, I am against you, you proud one,” says the Lord, Yahweh of Armies;
“for your day has come,
the time that I will visit you.
The proud one will stumble and fall,
and no one will raise him up.
I will kindle a fire in his cities,
and it will devour all who are around him.”
Yahweh of Armies says: “The children of Israel and the children of Judah are oppressed together.
All who took them captive hold them fast.
They refuse to let them go.
Their Redeemer is strong.
Yahweh of Armies is his name.
He will thoroughly plead their cause,
that he may give rest to the earth,
and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.

One of the dangerous things about investing in the stock market is that people tend to gravitate toward buying stock in large, well situated companies. The logic is that the large companies are more stable and less likely to fail. When we consider these companies in the light of God’s word, a major risk is exposed.

Here it says that Babylon, which was the world power at the time, was to be forced by God to be attacked and to fall. The reason is clearly given here as well. Babylon became “proud against Yahweh, against the Holy One of Israel.” One of the problems with becoming large and well situated, is that you may begin to think that you don’t need God. The Bible and history demonstrate that this is a very common problem. If this is so, then large, well situated institutions of man are actually more dangerous than small ones to invest in. That’s not to say that small ones aren’t proud too though! If companies can easily become proud, what is there to invest in?

The point is that God is the only safe bet. If we become proud and start to depend on our own portfolios, we became a target for God’s judgment. You don’t need any money in the stock market to become proud. You can be proud of your own good works. Perhaps you think that you are doing so many good things in church that all you need to do is to depend on them. It is true that God rewards everyone for the work that is done for Him, but if you begin to rely on your own power to do those good works, you are about to fall. Our good works are only possible as we rely on God’s power. Pride against God must be exposed and corrected so that we will learn that it is only by God’s power that good results. The great civilization of Babylon was easily torn down by God, even though it didn’t seem very likely from man’s perspective. On the other hand, if we trust in God’s power, we will stay strong no matter how big we are.

Day 192: Pride of the Heart

Jeremiah 49:15-22

“For, behold, I have made you small among the nations,
and despised among men.
As for your terror,
the pride of your heart has deceived you,
O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
who hold the height of the hill,
though you should make your nest as high as the eagle,
I will bring you down from there,” says Yahweh.
“Edom will become an astonishment.
Everyone who passes by it will be astonished,
and will hiss at all its plagues.
As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and its neighbor cities,” says Yahweh,
“no man will dwell there,
neither will any son of man live therein.

“Behold, he will come up like a lion from the pride of the Jordan against the strong habitation;
for I will suddenly make them run away from it,
and whoever is chosen,
I will appoint him over it.
For who is like me?
Who will appoint me a time?
Who is the shepherd who will stand before me?”
Therefore hear the counsel of Yahweh, that he has taken against Edom,
and his purposes that he has purposed against the inhabitants of Teman:
Surely they will drag them away,
the little ones of the flock.
Surely he will make their habitation desolate over them.
The earth trembles at the noise of their fall;
there is a cry, the noise which is heard in the Red Sea.
Behold, he will come up and fly as the eagle,
and spread out his wings against Bozrah.
The heart of the mighty men of Edom at that day will be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.

When I do a web search for Edom, the words: “was” and “ancient” are present. It’s obvious that what God said about them here, happened. It’s also evident that this civilization was great. They carved themselves right into the rock in a city called “Petra.” If you get a chance to check it out, you will probably be amazed. God said here that He knew that they “dwell in the clefts of the rock” and “hold the height of the hill.” I have to admit that their situation was impressive. I’m pretty sure that just coming up to the city of Petra to do battle would have been intimidating. It could be that we are now a part of Jeremiah’s prophesy as we observe the remains of Petra. It says here that “everyone who passes by it will be astonished.” Just how did such a strong people die off?

It may be possible for us to build strong defenses against men, but it is impossible for us to defend ourselves against God. It’s clear what happened to Edom. God says right here that the “pride of your heart has deceived you.” We may work harder than everyone and think that our defenses are beyond penetration, but none of that matters to the God who made rock out of nothing. God says: “For who is like me? Who will appoint me a time? Who is the shepherd who will stand before me?” Not only did God take Edom down, He made sure that “no man will dwell there.”

Esau was a man of war. We saw that way back when he met his brother Jacob on the road with a band of fighting men. The nation became strong with many kings over the years, but when God decided that enough was enough, He finished them off. This is yet another warning to mankind. The pride of man’s heart can deceive him. No matter how great our endeavors, God is always greater and if we dare to fight against Him, God will win and we may never stand again.

Day 190: The Terror of Ammon

Jeremiah 49:1-6

Of the children of Ammon. Yahweh says:
“Has Israel no sons?
Has he no heir?
Why then does Malcam possess Gad,
and his people dwell in its cities?
Therefore behold, the days come,”
says Yahweh,
“that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard against Rabbah of the children of Ammon,
and it will become a desolate heap,
and her daughters will be burned with fire;
then Israel will possess those who possessed him,”
says Yahweh.
“Wail, Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste!
Cry, you daughters of Rabbah!
Clothe yourself in sackcloth.
Lament, and run back and forth among the fences;
for Malcam will go into captivity,
his priests and his princes together.
Why do you boast in the valleys,
your flowing valley, backsliding daughter?
You trusted in her treasures,
saying, ‘Who will come to me?’
Behold, I will bring a terror on you,”
says the Lord, Yahweh of Armies,
“from all who are around you.
All of you will be driven completely out,
and there will be no one to gather together the fugitives.

“But afterward I will reverse the captivity of the children of Ammon,”
says Yahweh.

I come from a time in which great harm was done by terrorists against the United States. The word “terror” almost seems to be sinful in and of itself, but the Bible corrects this error. God brings terror upon His enemies, so terror cannot be evil in and of itself. When terror is brought against those who do good, then it is evil, but terror against those who do evil is not. That should be clear from how the United States decided to destroy terrorists.

After reading through all of the history in the Bible about Israel. It’s interesting to hear God’s thoughts. That’s what we get to do when we read what the prophets like Jeremiah said. One of the big surprises to me is how God talks to Gentiles in such a caring way. The Ammonites were one of those groups of people that were supposed to be removed from Israel’s land. Evidently, Ammon knew this. God makes it clear in this passage, that they were the occupiers because God told them to leave. Now time was up and God was going to completely ruin them. God really didn’t have to spend any time explaining things to them, yet, we read here that God had Jeremiah explain what was going on. They had been living in pride against God and God was going to send them into captivity like Moab.

God also showed His love toward the Gentile nation of Ammon by telling them that they would also be released from captivity someday. Evidently, they were going to have their own land, outside of the boundaries of Israel in the future. Not all Gentiles were to be completely destroyed. God decided to allow some of them to continue on and it appears that Ammon was one of the countries that God decided to give grace to. Ammon’s destruction reminds us that when God tells us to do something, He expects us to do it. If we don’t, we can then expect to be punished.

Day 189: The Moab Mirror

Jeremiah 48:39-47

“How it is broken down!
How they wail!
How Moab has turned the back with shame!
So will Moab become a derision
and a terror to all who are around him.”
For Yahweh says: “Behold, he will fly as an eagle,
and will spread out his wings against Moab.
Kerioth is taken,
and the strongholds are seized.
The heart of the mighty men of Moab at that day
will be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.
Moab will be destroyed from being a people,
because he has magnified himself against Yahweh.
Terror, the pit, and the snare are on you,
inhabitant of Moab,” says Yahweh.
“He who flees from the terror will fall into the pit;
and he who gets up out of the pit will be taken in the snare,
for I will bring on him, even on Moab,
the year of their visitation,” says Yahweh.

“Those who fled stand without strength under the shadow of Heshbon;
for a fire has gone out of Heshbon,
and a flame from the middle of Sihon,
and has devoured the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones.
Woe to you, O Moab!
The people of Chemosh are undone;
for your sons are taken away captive,
and your daughters into captivity.

“Yet I will reverse the captivity of Moab in the latter days,”
says Yahweh.
Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

The crime that Moab committed that caused them to receive this horrible punishment from God was that they dared to magnify themselves against Him. In other translations it says that they exalted themselves against God. As a result, God intended to hunt them down. He even said that if they appear to have gotten away once, He would catch them again and if they get away the second time, He will catch them again. Their children would also go into captivity.

When you look at the history of Moab, you see that they actually thought that they could fight against God by harming those He had chosen to bless. They used their abilities to find a way to wage a war against the will of God, as if they could actually win that war. As we look at others, it’s easy for us to see how foolish and horrible it is to attempt to do something like that, but I have found that when I take the same measuring stick and measure myself, it doesn’t look very good.

When I have a mind to sin, I tend to do what I can get away with too. For instance, when driving on the road, do we see how far below the speed limit we can legally go, or how high above it? My mind is quite willing to work overtime to figure out a way how to live in the flesh while walking in the Spirit, which is quite impossible. Even the concept of being “neutral” is an example of this war against God and His word. God says that those who are not for Him are against Him. If we claim that we are just being neutral, we are calling God a liar because He says there is no neutral! That’s just another war against God that He will judge. Our pride is very deep and deceptive. We tend not to see it because, of course, we wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?

The truth that God has made known to us is that we were all Moab and we still have our Moab moments. We all had that pride that guided our actions as we breathed God’s air and lived in the bodies that God made while doing things we knew He didn’t like. We were fighting against Him and both sin and death took us captive too. The wonderful thing about this passage is what it says at the end. God not only promised punishment, He also promised release. After all that Moab had done to God and His people, God determined to “reverse the captivity of Moab in the latter days.” This is a big reason for us to praise God. We all have sinned and deserve God’s eternal punishment, but God intended to free us by His grace. Praise God.

Day 188: Taken Down by God

Jeremiah 48:29-38

“We have heard of the pride of Moab.
He is very proud in his loftiness, his pride,
his arrogance, and the arrogance of his heart.
I know his wrath,” says Yahweh, “that it is nothing;
his boastings have done nothing.
Therefore I will wail for Moab.
Yes, I will cry out for all Moab.
They will mourn for the men of Kir Heres.
With more than the weeping of Jazer
I will weep for you, vine of Sibmah.
Your branches passed over the sea.
They reached even to the sea of Jazer.
The destroyer has fallen on your summer fruits
and on your vintage.
Gladness and joy is taken away from the fruitful field
and from the land of Moab.
I have caused wine to cease from the wine presses.
No one will tread with shouting.
The shouting will be no shouting.
From the cry of Heshbon even to Elealeh,
even to Jahaz they have uttered their voice,
from Zoar even to Horonaim, to Eglath Shelishiyah;
for the waters of Nimrim will also become desolate.
Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab,” says Yahweh,
“him who offers in the high place,
and him who burns incense to his gods.
Therefore my heart sounds for Moab like flutes,
and my heart sounds like flutes for the men of Kir Heres.
Therefore the abundance that he has gotten has perished.
For every head is bald,
and every beard clipped.
There are cuttings on all the hands,
and sackcloth on the waist.
On all the housetops of Moab,
and in its streets, there is lamentation everywhere;
for I have broken Moab like a vessel in which no one delights,” says Yahweh.

We read in this prophesy that not only was Moab successful and rich, they were also proud and arrogant. God took them down from the hights of beauty, wealth and arrogance, to the depths of ugliness, poverty and shame. There was a time when they had everything and they thought that it was because of their own excellence. God chose to punish this group of people by completely removing all beauty, wealth and respect. Moab becomes an illustration of the teaching of the Bible about pride. Let’s look at that again.

Proverbs 16:18

Pride goes before destruction,
and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

This also reminds me of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about being careful not to fall into sin and believe that everything is fine. Here’s what he said:

1 Corinthians 10:12

Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

Just because you have it good, doesn’t mean that you are right. It could mean that you are about to be completely destroyed by God Himself. That’s what the nation of Moab discovered and it actually scares me when I think about the United States. It is true that we have had some excellence here, but now it is very obvious that sin has taken over the lives of a huge number of people. I believe that there is arrogance here and clearly we have a problem with the worship of money. God is the same God that brought Moab down to the dirt. May God help us before it is too late and we are completely ruined like Moab was.