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 15: Getting Real with God

Lamentations 3:40-51 :

Let us search and try our ways,
and turn again to Yahweh.
Let’s lift up our heart with our hands to God in the heavens.
“We have transgressed and have rebelled.
You have not pardoned.

“You have covered us with anger and pursued us.
You have killed.
You have not pitied.
You have covered yourself with a cloud,
so that no prayer can pass through.
You have made us an off-scouring and refuse
in the middle of the peoples.

“All our enemies have opened their mouth wide against us.
Terror and the pit have come on us,
devastation and destruction.”

My eye runs down with streams of water,
for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
My eye pours down
and doesn’t cease,
without any intermission,
until Yahweh looks down,
and sees from heaven.
My eye affects my soul,
because of all the daughters of my city.

It appears that, at this point, Jeremiah realizes that the only right thing for Israel to do is to take a good look at their ways and come clean before God about the reality that they have sinned. The problem is that it doesn’t appear that God is forgiving them right now, so Jeremiah is in torment. He knows that they should be admitting that they are wrong, but he feels as if God isn’t listening to them. His people are still getting devastated by His anger.

Do I believe that God isn’t really seeing the confession of His people? No, I believe God was seeing it. I don’t believe that just because Jeremiah wrote about waiting until God happens to notice their confession, that God hadn’t noticed. I think that this is just evidence that this as an honest lamentation. It’s not a record of truth about God’s behavior. It’s an honest record of man’s emotions about the torment of God’s punishment. It’s man’s feelings about what God might be doing right now, even though He wasn’t. This should be comforting to us.

God expects us to be honest with Him about our feelings, even when they are wrong! Have you ever considered the fact that God already knows what you are feeling before you express it? Just because you don’t express your feelings to God, doesn’t mean that He can’t see exactly how silly they are right now. These lamentations are yet another evidence that God wants us to pour out the truth about what we feel to Him, even when we are wrong. God is a real person and He cares more than any other person we know. He wants our emotions even though they are imperfect. If you think about it, this makes sense. If we want our emotions to improve, we must bring them, as imperfect as they are, to God so that He can change them. God is able to deal with our wrong feelings and help us walk back into the light.

Day 113: The Shepherd Becomes a Lion

Jeremiah 25:30-38

“Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and tell them,
“ ‘Yahweh will roar from on high,
and utter his voice from his holy habitation.
He will mightily roar against his fold.
He will give a shout, as those who tread grapes,
against all the inhabitants of the earth.
A noise will come even to the end of the earth;
for Yahweh has a controversy with the nations.
He will enter into judgment with all flesh.
As for the wicked, he will give them to the sword,” ’ says Yahweh.”

Yahweh of Armies says,
“Behold, evil will go out from nation to nation,
and a great storm will be raised up from the uttermost parts of the earth.”
The slain of Yahweh will be at that day from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They won’t be lamented. They won’t be gathered or buried. They will be dung on the surface of the ground.
Wail, you shepherds, and cry.
Wallow in dust, you leader of the flock;
for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions have fully come,
and you will fall like fine pottery.
The shepherds will have no way to flee.
The leader of the flock will have no escape.
A voice of the cry of the shepherds,
and the wailing of the leader of the flock,
for Yahweh destroys their pasture.
The peaceful folds are brought to silence
because of the fierce anger of Yahweh.
He has left his covert, as the lion;
for their land has become an astonishment because of the fierceness of the oppression,
and because of his fierce anger.

When you become a fat, satisfied and rebellious sheep, it’s pretty easy to forget that if it were not for your shepherd, you wouldn’t survive long. One of the horrible things about our human nature, is that we can’t handle security and prosperity, that’s one thing we see when we look at a passage like this.

Israel had been given everything they had from God. They didn’t even build the cities that they aquired. God had protected them from the very beginning using supernatural means. They would not have even existed had God not taken them out of Egypt and then continued to protect them up to this point, but instead of being thankful and submissive to God, they became rebellious and challenged God. God had been a good shepherd to them up to this point, but their sin caused Him to make a change.

Jeremiah tells us that God had become angry and was about to roar like a lion at His own flock. I can’t think of anything more frightening than for a shepherd to become a lion. That sounds like something out of a nightmare, but that’s what the sins of Israel caused God to do. God cannot support sin and He was about to demonstrate that fact. Notice that God even says that “the leader of the flock will have no escape.” The people and the leader that God had put over them were going to be punished as if they were sheep being eaten by a lion.

So what are we to do about our problem as humans? Although it isn’t obvious in this passage, hope was on the way. God wasn’t merely delighting in the fact that humans are unable to do anything right. God was making it clear that we have a severe internal problem. We can’t prosper because we can’t stop sinning even under the best of conditions. When Jesus came, God brought our solution. He was able to change our ability to handle prosperity by removing the rebellion from our hearts. That doesn’t mean that we don’t continue fight it in our flesh, but God removed the root of the problem by causing us to be born again. Our Good Shepherd will never turn on us like a lion ever again.

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 102: Yahweh Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says against the shepherds who feed my people: “You have scattered my flock, driven them away, and have not visited them. Behold, I will visit on you the evil of your doings,” says Yahweh. “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will set up shepherds over them, who will feed them. They will no longer be afraid or dismayed, neither will any be lacking,” says Yahweh.
“Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will raise to David a righteous Branch,
and he will reign as king and deal wisely,
and will execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved,
and Israel will dwell safely.
This is his name by which he will be called:
Yahweh our righteousness.

After God proclaims one of the most troubling curses in all of history, He immediately affirms the fact that a day will come in which a “righteous Branch” of David will come and save all of Israel and Judah. Even though it was unlikely that anyone understood how God could do it, He still promised to do it. Lets look at where God places blame.

God pronounces a “woe” on the “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” of His pasture. If you want to learn what it means to receive a “woe” from God, read the book of Revelation. This book of Jeremiah has done a pretty good job of explaining it too. Woes from God are what we might call times of “hell on earth.” When God says this, the people responsible have done something very grievous. Remember what has been going on in Judah at this time. There were false prophets speaking against Jeremiah as well as rebellious kings who were teaching the people that it was Ok to practice idolatry. These “shepherds” were actually scattering the sheep instead of tending to them. Lions and bears are the ones that scatter the sheep. These leaders were acting like enemies. When a shepherd consumes the sheep that God intended for him to care for, it makes Him very angry. I’m not sure that I can adequately express the amount of anger God has in this situation and I don’t really have to. All you have to do is look at the destruction that resulted from this behavior.

In God’s anger, He pronounced mercy. This is something that clearly separates God from man. He, in His wrath, still brought mercy and here we learn more about His plan to do it. Even before God began his “woe” on Judah, God pronounced His intention to solve the problem forever by sending Jesus. God intended to save Israel, not to destroy her. The day would come when Jesus would rule on David’s throne on earth. This hasn’t actually happened yet. Israel is still seeking a leader that will bring peace and true safety from her enemies. As Christians, God has shown us the way already, though. God sent His son to die for the sins of the whole world by becoming righteousness for us and because of this we already call Him: “Yahweh our righteousness”.

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.

Day 80: Considering Hell

Jeremiah 17:1-4

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron,
and with the point of a diamond.
It is engraved on the tablet of their heart,
and on the horns of your altars.
Even their children remember their altars
and their Asherah poles by the green trees on the high hills.
My mountain in the field,
I will give your substance and all your treasures for a plunder,
and your high places, because of sin, throughout all your borders.
You, even of yourself, will discontinue from your heritage that I gave you.
I will cause you to serve your enemies in the land which you don’t know,
for you have kindled a fire in my anger which will burn forever.”

There are those who don’t believe that God would ever send anyone to Hell. Perhaps that’s why God gave us passages in the Bible like this one. In this passage, God talks about Judah’s coming takeover by Babylon again but this time, He emphasizes the condition of the hearts of the people. He says that their sin is etched into their hearts like you would engrave something on stone. He mentions that even their children look back and remember idols instead of remembering God. The picture I get is one of permanence. The hearts of the people and their children have been permanently dedicated to idolatry. They have been ruined.

The thing that caused me to stop and think for a while is the statement that God makes at the end. He says that they have “kindled a fire in my anger which will burn forever.” At first, I thought that it looked like a contradiction. God can’t be angry with Israel forever and still allow them to return to the land, but when I carefully consider what is said here, it doesn’t say that God would be angry with Judah forever. He merely says that His anger will burn forever because of what happened. Let’s consider that a little.

In the book of Revelation, we learn that God has prepared a lake of fire for Satan and his angels. This is a place where fire burns forever but it isn’t a place intended for man at all. Men will go there, but it wasn’t for them. Could it be that Hell is a result of God’s eternal anger against the fact that sin corrupts those He loves? God was expressing His anger over the fact that sin was permanently etched in the hearts of those He wanted for Himself, but I believe His anger is directed against Satan, not His people. His people will be punished temporarily, but only Satan and His followers will be facing eternal fire. Hell is necessary because it demonstrates God’s eternal anger against sin. That’s how bad it really is and how much He hates it.