Day 24: Turn Us To Yourself

Lamentations 5:19-22 :

You, Yahweh, remain forever.
Your throne is from generation to generation.
Why do you forget us forever,
and forsake us for so long a time?
Turn us to yourself, Yahweh, and we will be turned.
Renew our days as of old.
But you have utterly rejected us.
You are very angry against us.

Here we are at the end of Lamentations. Jeremiah wrote the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations, but as you can see, Lamentations was very short. This illustrates to us a part of God’s amazing character toward mankind. The Bible tells us that our crying and God’s anger is much shorter than His favor to us. Let’s look at that again:

Psalm 30:4-5 :

Sing praise to Yahweh, you saints of his.
Give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment.
His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may stay for the night,
but joy comes in the morning.

Even though this is true, weeping about our sin is necessary. That’s another thing we have learned as we have taken this short journey through Israel’s sorrow. This particular passage reminds us that even though God’s discipline is actually short, it feels like “forever.” We were never meant to be separate from God, even for a moment! That’s another important thing for every single human to come to grips with before it is too late.

Sin is very, very serious. It is truly amazing how easily we ignore the horror of it. Studies like this one remind us of what faces us when we sin. God’s anger is the worst thing a man can experience and I don’t want anyone to experience it anymore. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I do this, but I also know that there’s nothing you can do about it without God’s help.

Let’s be careful not to think that coming to God is an act of mankind. If you are stuck in a pit, you need someone to get you out. It’s pretty ridiculous to think that we can get ourselves out of the pit. If we could, we wouldn’t be stuck in it! Look at what God put in this prominent place at the end of this book of sorrow: “Turn us to yourself, Yahweh, and we will be turned.” We know from the rest of the Bible that if God doesn’t turn us, we will never be turned. The fact that you can repent, is a gift of God. If you are able to repent now, do it! You may never have this chance again.

Day 168: Why Would God Allow This?

Jeremiah 41:4-10

The second day after he had killed Gedaliah, and no man knew it, men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even eighty men, having their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and having cut themselves, with meal offerings and frankincense in their hand, to bring them to Yahweh’s house. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went, and as he met them, he said to them, “Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” It was so, when they came into the middle of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah killed them, and cast them into the middle of the pit, he, and the men who were with him. But ten men were found among those who said to Ishmael, “Don’t kill us; for we have stores hidden in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey.”

So he stopped, and didn’t kill them among their brothers. Now the pit in which Ishmael cast all the dead bodies of the men whom he had killed, by the side of Gedaliah (this was that which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel), Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with those who were killed.

Then Ishmael carried away captive all of the people who were left in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people who remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the children of Ammon.

This sure was a horrible time in Israel’s history. In this passage we read about a group of men who came in an obvious state of repentance to offer sacrifices to God. Since some of them were from Samaria, it would appear that these were men who possibly had been attempting to worship God their own way in Samaria and were now aware of their sin and seeking to make a change. The horrible thing we read here is that they were met by a man who intended to kill them.

We also read that Ishmael came out to these men “weeping all along as he went.” He must have seemed like a very sincere guy, but he was actually an extreme liar and murderer. This is yet another reminder to us that we can’t judge a person by their appearance. It may take time before we can determine if a person’s tears are real. Just because someone acts like they have come to God, doesn’t mean that they really intend to follow through.

Those poor Jews who moved to Mizpah under the protection of Gedaliah and the king of Babylon, were now forced to follow this wicked man, Ishmael, on his way back to Israel’s long-time enemies: “the children of Ammon.” I’m pretty sure that they would have been better off having been taken back to Babylon. It’s pretty obvious what the children of Ammon thought of the Jews after sending Ishmael to kill them off with such deception. Why would God allow such a thing to happen?

When we see things like this happen in life it can be very confusing to us and cause us to doubt God. We should never doubt God’s goodness and justice, however. God is actually the only one who really knows what is going on inside of every person, and God knew that many of these people were still unwilling to obey Him. We will learn more about that as we read on.

Day 133: God’s Darling Child

Jeremiah 31:18-22

“I have surely heard Ephraim grieving thus,
‘You have chastised me,
and I was chastised, as an untrained calf.
Turn me, and I will be turned,
for you are Yahweh my God.
Surely after that I was turned.
I repented.
After that I was instructed.
I struck my thigh.
I was ashamed, yes, even confounded,
because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
Is Ephraim my dear son?
Is he a darling child?
For as often as I speak against him,
I still earnestly remember him.
therefore my heart yearns for him.
I will surely have mercy on him,” says Yahweh.

“Set up road signs.
Make guideposts.
Set your heart toward the highway,
even the way by which you went.
Turn again, virgin of Israel.
Turn again to these your cities.
How long will you go here and there,
you backsliding daughter?
For Yahweh has created a new thing in the earth:
a woman will encompass a man.”

I believe that the Bible is instructing us to hear these words by Ephraim as being the words of Israel when they decide to repent and turn back to God. You really have to study God’s words. This is true even when looking at prophesy that is in a poetic form like this. Earlier in the chapter we read that God called Ephraim His firstborn. That’s pretty significant. It’s interesting to note that Ephraim wasn’t a firstborn naturally. He was actually Jacob’s grandson from Joseph and Joseph was definitely not a firstborn either. To make it even more interesting, Ephraim wasn’t even Joseph’s firstborn. Even so, God decides to call him that. Notice that “firstborn” is a title, not necessarily a birth order. That’s something important to remember when studying the Bible. As a firstborn, it makes sense that when God refers to Ephraim, He’s referring to Israel as a nation. In this passage, we see Ephriam coming to his senses about his sin.

Then, we see God describe His feelings for Ephraim. God’s heart actually “yearns for him.” I have to confess that for some reason, I don’t often consider God as a person that yearns for things. I guess I always think of Him as a person who already has everything He wants, but that is definitely not an accurate picture. The Bible corrects my wrong assumptions about God here. God has purposefully placed Himself in a position in which He yearns for those He loves. He calls Ephraim, and by implication, Israel, “a darling child.” God does punish His children when they sin, but He doesn’t take His eyes off of them because He longs for them to be with Him.

As Christians, the Bible clearly calls us God’s children and this passage shows us how God thinks about His children. That implies to us that God also longs for us. The reason we should do what is right is because we are children of God. God isn’t disconnected. If you are a Christian, God longs for you too.

Ephesians 5:1

Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.

Day 94: Repentance is Critical

Jeremiah 21:1-7

The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, when king Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, saying, “Please inquire of Yahweh for us; for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon makes war against us. Perhaps Yahweh will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may withdraw from us.”

Then Jeremiah said to them, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘Yahweh, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the walls; and I will gather them into the middle of this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation. I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and animal. They will die of a great pestilence. Afterward,” says Yahweh, “I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his servants, and the people, even those who are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life. He will strike them with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them, have pity, or have mercy.” ’

There are some today who don’t believe that God requires that people repent before they become a Christian. I believe that this passage is an illustration of the fact that God does require repentance before He gives mercy. Let me remind you that by repentance I mean a change of mind, specifically about being a sinner and accepting God’s view of your bad behavior.

In this passage, the king of Judah sent men to Jeremiah to ask him to ask God for His help against the coming attack from Babylon. Many kings in the past had requested help from God and received it in times like these, but this time, God’s message was terrifying. Jeremiah told them that God Himself intended to fight against Jerusalem! This reminds me that when we fear man more that God, we make one of the biggest mistakes possible. God is the one we should be fearing and the fact that God brings it up by His actions demonstrates the problem of repentance.

Judah was asking for God’s help when they hadn’t even confessed and turned from their sins. They were using God as a way to get out of trouble while still living the way that they wanted to and God’s response to this was to not only deny their request for mercy, but to demonstrate His great anger against them. He was not only going to bring the sword of Babylon against them, He was going to add disease to it and require that some of them be taken as slaves back to Babylon. No mercy was to be given at all.

The God of Israel is still the same today. When you read about the Gospel in the New Testament, you often read the words, “repent” and “believe” together. Becoming a Christian isn’t simply the addition of new things to your life. It’s also the removal of the old things. If a person’s heart is not brought to the place where they understand that they have sinned and need a savior, they don’t have a proper understanding of the Gospel and they can’t be saved. Salvation is turning from old beliefs, to new ones. It’s not a simple request that God stop being mad and start being nice. As we see here, that doesn’t work.