Day 9: God Cannot Coexist with Sin

Lamentations 2:15-17 :

All that pass by clap their hands at you.
They hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying,
“Is this the city that men called ‘The perfection of beauty,
the joy of the whole earth’?”

All your enemies have opened their mouth wide against you.
They hiss and gnash their teeth.
They say, “We have swallowed her up.
Certainly this is the day that we looked for.
We have found it.
We have seen it.”

Yahweh has done that which he planned.
He has fulfilled his word that he commanded in the days of old.
He has thrown down,
and has not pitied.
He has caused the enemy to rejoice over you.
He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.

There was a time when Jerusalem was so wealthy that silver was as common as gravel. Foreigners would travel from far away to see it. It wasn’t just the beauty that they wanted to see. It was the wisdom that they longed to hear from the God of Israel. Jerusalem was a sign to the world that God was real and that He wanted a relationship with mankind, but now, after the exile and the destruction, the city became something else.

This passage reminds us that “Yahweh has done that which he planned.” As a reminder, let’s go look at those plans.

Deuteronomy 29:22-28 :

The generation to come—your children who will rise up after you, and the foreigner who will come from a far land—will say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses with which Yahweh has made it sick, that all of its land is sulfur, salt, and burning, that it is not sown, doesn’t produce, nor does any grass grow in it, like the overthrow of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which Yahweh overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath. Even all the nations will say, “Why has Yahweh done this to this land? What does the heat of this great anger mean?”

Then men will say, “Because they abandoned the covenant of Yahweh, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods that they didn’t know and that he had not given to them. Therefore Yahweh’s anger burned against this land, to bring on it all the curses that are written in this book. Yahweh rooted them out of their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and thrust them into another land, as it is today.”

Why would God plan such a beautiful thing, only to destroy it because of mankind’s failures? We now know that God did it to demonstrate the seriousness of our sin problem. The fact is that mankind has no hope in religion. There is no process by which we can make ourselves sinless. God used the history of Jerusalem to demonstrate that to us. When we try to be religious, we may start out well, but because sin is still living inside of our minds, it eventually works its way back out. God cannot coexist with sin and because of that, something had to be done about our sin before God could live with us.

Jerusalem was built back up but not with its original glory. Someday, it will be more glorious than it has ever been. That’s because mankind’s sin problem has been permanently removed by Jesus. When the time is right, He will return and restore Jerusalem and it will never be destroyed again.

Day 6: Cut Off

Lamentations 2:1-4 :

How has the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger!
He has cast the beauty of Israel down from heaven to the earth,
and hasn’t remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.

The Lord has swallowed up all the dwellings of Jacob
without pity.
He has thrown down in his wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah.
He has brought them down to the ground.
He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.

He has cut off all the horn of Israel in fierce anger.
He has drawn back his right hand from before the enemy.
He has burned up Jacob like a flaming fire,
which devours all around.

He has bent his bow like an enemy.
He has stood with his right hand as an adversary.
He has killed all that were pleasant to the eye.
In the tent of the daughter of Zion, he has poured out his wrath like fire.

It’s pretty obvious who the subject of this poem is. Eleven lines start with the word “He” and one starts with “The Lord.” God’s actions against Israel are clearly being contemplated in this lamentation. There are those who believe that God wouldn’t punish anyone. They refuse to talk about punishment or Hell, but as you can see, when you read the Bible for yourself, it’s impossible to ignore the wrath of God. If you are walking along with me as a devotional doing one episode a day, you have been reading about God’s wrath almost every day for over a year. That’s a small sample of how much the Bible talks about it. Those who choose to ignore it are doing it at the expense of telling the truth about what the Bible says. If they don’t believe that they need to be saved from it, they are at risk of experiencing it.

If we learn nothing else about the wrath of God as we read through these books of the Bible, I hope we all learn that it’s something to avoid. If God didn’t spare Israel, He definitely won’t spare the Gentiles. That’s not just an assumption. Here’s what Paul wrote into the Bible:

Romans 11:19-21 :

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.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that you might lose your salvation if you sin. This means that if you don’t recognize your own sin, but instead believe that it was by your goodness that you are saved, you never had salvation. You are a dead branch because you aren’t taking life from Jesus. You are still trying to live independently. A branch has to live off of the tree to live. In the same way we must have faith in Jesus in order to live the Christian life. If we are to avoid the wrath of God, we must trust in Jesus for our salvation. This goes for the Jews and for the Gentiles.

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 216: The God of Justice and Mercy

Jeremiah 52:31-34

In the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evilmerodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and released him from prison. He spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon, and changed his prison garments. Jehoiachin ate bread before him continually all the days of his life. For his allowance, there was a continual allowance given him by the king of Babylon, every day a portion until the day of his death, all the days of his life.

Evidently, it took two days for king Evilmerodach to get Jehoiachin out of jail. I’m not sure about that but what we do know is that King Jehoiachin was released from jail on both the 25th and the 27th of the month. That’s because in 2 Kings 25:27 we read that Jehoiachin was actually released on the 27th. Perhaps it was officially decided on the 25th and ultimately executed on the 27th. I don’t believe that there is an error in the original text. It could be that the translation that we have of the original has an error but it appears to be more likely that the writers are writing from two different perspectives. One is probably talking about when the degree was issued, and the other is probably talking about the actual day that Jehoiachin walked out of jail. An accusation against the Bible, built on this alone, would be pretty pathetic since there isn’t enough information to prove that there is an error here. Still, I like to mention it so that no one is surprised when they see or hear about it.

The bigger thing to see here is the mercy and grace of God. Even here at the end of a book about the horrors of God’s judgment against sin, we read that mercy and grace was extended to Jehoiachin. This wasn’t just mercy toward this king. It was also mercy toward the nation of Israel. God had not forgotten them and He intended to do everything He said He would do

We have been following God’s story of the salvation of the human race. It’s no surprise that these events are followed by this amazing little passage. God is making it perfectly clear that He is a God of salvation. No one is beyond His mercy. Even after all of the sin and all of the prophesy that God performed against Judah, His grace came through in the end. This is the God that we have. I think that we know this in our hearts. God has put the truth in us that our God must be both a good judge and a merciful person. As a result we all have the same choice today. Either we will accept God’s mercy, or receive the judgment we deserve.

Day 215: A Small but Important Example

Jeremiah 52:24-30

The captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the threshold, and out of the city he took an officer who was set over the men of war; and seven men of those who saw the king’s face, who were found in the city; and the scribe of the captain of the army, who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the middle of the city. Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah. The king of Babylon struck them, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath.

So Judah was carried away captive out of his land. This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive:

in the seventh year, three thousand twenty-three Jews;

in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty-two persons;

in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty-five people.

All the people numbered four thousand six hundred.

One thing I realized as I read this, this time, is that there were only 4,600 people who went into exile. That sure is a small number. It sounds to me like a lot of people must have been killed in the process. We also know that this only represented two tribes of Israel. The rest had been taken away many years earlier by Assyria. Even if the number was multiplied by 10 it would only be 46,000, though. It causes me to realize that God intends for us to focus our attention on Israel, even though they are small. The Bible also tells us why in the New Testament.

As we consider the history of this small nation up to this point, it may seem futile. Why would God save these people out of Egypt with such power and have them build a grand and beautiful Temple, only to have the temple destroyed and the people sent back into slavery? God told them that He already knew that this was going to happen. Doesn’t it seem strange that a God who knew it all ahead of time would do it anyway?

The Bible tells us in the New Testament, that Israel is an example to us. That means that instead of saying to ourselves: “Shame on Israel for the way that they acted,” we are supposed to be putting ourselves in their place. It tells us that Israel’s behavior is the same as that of everyone else. When we attempt to stand on our own righteousness before a Holy God, we all fail. We all end up being taken back into slavery because we can’t do the good that we think we can. Israel’s example is set up for all of us to watch. This is the low part of their story. It’s where we see the futility of mankind. The great part of the story was yet to come as Jesus brought Salvation to them and to the whole world. We get a little reminder of that in our last passage of Jeremiah.

Day 210: Epic Themes

Jeremiah 51:49-53

“As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall,
so the slain of all the land will fall at Babylon.
You who have escaped the sword, go!
Don’t stand still!
Remember Yahweh from afar,
and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”

“We are confounded
because we have heard reproach.
Confusion has covered our faces,
for strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Yahweh’s house.”

“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will execute judgment on her engraved images;
and through all her land the wounded will groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to the sky,
and though she should fortify the height of her strength,
yet destroyers will come to her from me,” says Yahweh.

As I have studied the Bible, I have noticed that there is an epic theme that emerges. It could be called: “The Tale of Two Cities.” I’ve been told that Babylon is the most mentioned city in the Bible after Israel and that makes sense. These two are in conflict with one another. Babylon represents the world and Israel represents God. The world is involved in idolatry and God’s city isn’t supposed to do that. There was a time when God had Babylon destroy Israel, but these verses of Jeremiah help us to see that there is more going on here. God wasn’t done with Israel or Babylon yet.

The world “holy” means: separate. The Bible tells us that God is holy. In a sense, He is separate from both Israel and Babylon and verses like these remind me of that. God intended for Israel to be the city that demonstrated His holiness by showing the world who He is, but instead, they decided to practice idolatry. So, God had them destroyed, but that didn’t let Babylon off the hook for their idolatry. God was still planning to destroy Babylon too, as we read here. God’s holiness will not be disturbed by any city. If anyone chooses to worship another god, they will be destroyed no matter how they started out. In this sense, the two cities became the same for a while, but why would God allow that?

I believe that this shows us yet another epic theme and that is the theme of grace. God allowed Israel to fall into sin so that He could save them by grace. Their works were not allowed to save them. Instead, God’s city was to rise up out of the ashes as a city blessed by the grace of God, not by works, so that no one could boast. Those who trust in their own works cannot build a city strong enough to withstand Babylon, but those who have been saved by God’s grace, rest on the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus must first save Israel and when Israel rises up by grace, the Holy Spirit will make it unstoppable.

Day 203: Not Forsaken

Jeremiah 51:1-8

Yahweh says:
“Behold, I will raise up against Babylon,
and against those who dwell in Lebkamai, a destroying wind.
I will send to Babylon strangers, who will winnow her.
They will empty her land;
for in the day of trouble they will be against her all around.
Against him who bends, let the archer bend his bow,
also against him who lifts himself up in his coat of mail.
Don’t spare her young men!
Utterly destroy all her army!
They will fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
and thrust through in her streets.
For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God,
by Yahweh of Armies;
though their land is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.

“Flee out of the middle of Babylon!
Everyone save his own life!
Don’t be cut off in her iniquity,
for it is the time of Yahweh’s vengeance.
He will render to her a recompense.
Babylon has been a golden cup in Yahweh’s hand,
who made all the earth drunk.
The nations have drunk of her wine;
therefore the nations have gone mad.
Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed!
Wail for her!
Take balm for her pain.
Perhaps she may be healed.

When I read this passage, I remember the words that Jesus said:

Matthew 7:2

For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.

In this prophesy, God tells us that Babylon was to receive arrows just as they gave them out. They were also to receive battle against those who wear coats of mail, have their young men cut down, and be attacked by people from far away. God was going to give back to them what they gave to His people Israel, but the most amazing thing I read here is what God said after that.

God said: “For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God, by Yahweh of Armies; though their land is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.” This may be the most clear and obvious passage that directly opposes replacement theology. That’s the belief that the Church replaces Israel and has now obtained all of her promises. The typical argument that I hear is that the Church has been given Israel’s promises because Israel was unfaithful to God. That argument is directly refuted here. God doesn’t give to Israel according to her deeds. God’s promise to be faithful to Israel does not depend on Israel’s performance. The reason that I bring this up over and over again, is because this is a Gospel issue. If God’s faithfulness depended on man’s performance, then salvation is based on man. The true and only Gospel teaches us that it is not by man’s performance at all, but by God’s faithfulness alone that we are saved.

The last few verses here should sound pretty familiar. That’s because something very similar is written again in the last book of the Bible. Many prophesies in the Bible have an immediate application as well as a future one. A surprising fact about the Bible is that Babylon is one of the biggest subjects. For a city that doesn’t even exist today, that’s kind of peculiar. Obviously, the old city of Babylon was destroyed many years ago, but what that nation started in the world is still alive and well. Babylon loved idols and was proud against God and it was eventually destroyed. It stands as a symbol of what is about to happen to all who have followed her ways.