Day 143: The Grand Finale

Jeremiah 33:10-13

Yahweh says: “Yet again there will be heard in this place, about which you say, ‘It is waste, without man and without animal, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without animal,’ the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, ‘Give thanks to Yahweh of Armies, for Yahweh is good, for his loving kindness endures forever;’ who bring thanksgiving into Yahweh’s house. For I will cause the captivity of the land to be reversed as at the first,” says Yahweh.

Yahweh of Armies says: “Yet again there will be in this place, which is waste, without man and without animal, and in all its cities, a habitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the South, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flocks will again pass under the hands of him who counts them,” says Yahweh.

In the United States, we have Independence Day celebrations every year that include firework displays. These shows usually end with an unusual amount of fireworks going off all at the same time. We often call it “The Grand Finale.” When I read this chapter of Jeremiah, it seems like God’s Grand Finale about His intention to restore Israel to the land. He says it over, and over, and over again. If you compare each reminder to a rocket, it’s like they are exploding one after another in rapid succession.

Notice that both these statements say: “Yet again…” God is repeating over and over to Jeremiah while He’s in jail that things are going to be better. There will come a time when the Israelis are happy again and without concern. It’s obvious, as real rockets are launched into Israel today, that this day has not yet come. God also mentions the fact that they will be talking about bringing “thanksgiving into Yahweh’s house.” That can’t be Israel today because God’s house isn’t even there.

Those who say that God is finished with Israel today will have to deal with the Bible, though. Once again, it comes down to whether you are going to believe God or man. If you are going to believe man, why believe the Bible at all? There are plenty of other things that God says much fewer times in the Bible that you would have to reconsider if you are going to be consistent. The underlying issue is that if the Bible isn’t true about Israel, then it could be wrong about your everlasting life as a Christian. Thankfully, God repeats Himself in the Bible about Israel and our salvation. If we believe that we are saved, then the only consistent thing to do is to believe Israel will go on forever too. When we fight against the Bible in any area, we hurt ourselves and our witness to others.

If you are one of those Christians who believes that this is talking about the Church, then you are also calling your own salvation into question. If God is able to talk to Jeremiah, while he’s in jail about the Church, knowing that Jeremiah will believe that He’s talking about the Jews, couldn’t God do the same to you? Could it be that someone else will be saved and have eternal life other than you because God is only symbolically talking to you today? So you see, this is an important subject to us now and one that each Christian should settle in their minds.

Day 111: Refusing to Listen to God

Jeremiah 25:7-14

“Yet you have not listened to me,” says Yahweh; “that you may provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own hurt.”

Therefore Yahweh of Armies says: “Because you have not heard my words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,” says Yahweh, “and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against its inhabitants, and against all these nations around. I will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and a hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the lamp. This whole land will be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

“It will happen, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,” says Yahweh, “for their iniquity. I will make the land of the Chaldeans desolate forever. I will bring on that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings will make bondservants of them, even of them. I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the work of their hands.”

The reason that I am so serious about going through the Bible like this, is because I can’t think of anything more important to people today. The reason that our world is suffering so much, is because people are continuing to avoid God’s word. It should not be a surprise to me that people will avoid my blog and Daily Bible Radio too because that’s what people tend to do to God’s word, but the reason I do it anyway is because the consequences are so high and this passage talks about that.

When we refuse to listen to the Bible, it’s a sign that there’s something else that we would rather have. We don’t want the Bible to tell us that we can’t have something we deeply desire, so we would rather provoke God to anger than to give up our sin. God makes it clear that it will be to our own hurt if we continue to live this way.

Then what we have are two examples of nations that refused to listen to God’s word. First, we have Israel. Because Israel stubbornly refused to listen to God, their cities were going to be deserted and become a national example of what happens when people decide to ignore God. Then we have the example of “the land of the Chaldeans.” Because Babylon also refused to follow God’s word, they would become “desolate forever.” It doesn’t matter if you are God’s favorite, like Israel was, or you are a nation of the world, God’s word cannot be avoided. I believe that this implies that the opposite is also true. Whether you are Israel, or another nation of the world, following God’s word will make your nation great.

We also have a very interesting detail about God’s world-wide control over all authority on earth. Notice that God says: “I will send to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon…” God took full responsibility for the actions of this foreign government official. There is a great deal more we learn about how God dealt with this man in the book of Daniel, but here we clearly see that God was in charge of Him. He even called this Gentile leader: “my servant”. It could be that Nebuchadnezzar became a follower of the God of Israel, but we also know that God claims to be over all kings on earth. Whether a king believes in Him or not, God is the one in charge of their actions because He is the highest authority and is the one who gives that authority to the nations. When those nations avoid His word, it eventually leads to their end.

Day 108: Following Their Own Word

Jeremiah 23:33-40

“When this people, or the prophet, or a priest, asks you, saying, ‘What is the message from Yahweh?’ Then you shall tell them, ‘ “What message? I will cast you off,” says Yahweh.’ As for the prophet, the priest, and the people, who say, ‘The message from Yahweh,’ I will even punish that man and his household. You will say everyone to his neighbor, and everyone to his brother, ‘What has Yahweh answered?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh said?’ You will mention the message from Yahweh no more: for every man’s own word has become his message; for you have perverted the words of the living God, of Yahweh of Armies, our God. You will say to the prophet, ‘What has Yahweh answered you?’ and, ‘What has Yahweh spoken?’ Although you say, ‘The message from Yahweh;’ therefore Yahweh says: ‘Because you say this word, “The message from Yahweh,” and I have sent to you, telling you not to say, “The message from Yahweh;” therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and I will cast you off, and the city that I gave to you and to your fathers, away from my presence. I will bring an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.’ ”

Making up a message from God is a very serious crime. According to what we read here, it will bring “an everlasting reproach on you, and a perpetual shame, which will not be forgotten.” Now, we know that this shame and reproach was paid for by Jesus when He died, but it demonstrates to us that what false teachers and prophets do is as serious as the sins that they claim to avoid. The sins of religious people are very serious because they claim to be speaking for God.

I’m a bit stunned about this since it seems quite different than it was when I was young, but we live in a very religious culture here in the United States now. By religious, I don’t mean that everyone believes in God or the gods. What I mean is that I am seeing what Jeremiah was seeing, that “every man’s own word has become his message.” People are making up their own truth about what God thinks, says or is. If they think Christianity is wrong about something, they simply revise it and continue to call themselves a Christian. Then they claim that everyone that doesn’t follow their ideas is not a Christian. No wonder Jeremiah couldn’t get along with anyone. Everyone had decided to listen to themselves and I can’t imagine a less unified culture.

I do have a word of encouragement for Christians, though. One of the blessings we have as Christians is that we have each other. In a day when everyone follows their own word, we follow God’s and when we do it, we do it together. We can have unity that shines like a light in the darkness. As we simply love each other, we will attract those who are seeking a way out of the violence and disunity of this world.

Day 107: Thinking Critically About What Teachers Say

Jeremiah 23:25-32

“I have heard what the prophets have said, who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, even the prophets of the deceit of their own heart? They intend to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they each tell his neighbor, as their fathers forgot my name because of Baal. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the straw to the wheat?” says Yahweh. “Isn’t my word like fire?” says Yahweh; “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says Yahweh, “who each steal my words from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets,” says Yahweh, “who use their tongues, and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams,” says Yahweh, “who tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their vain boasting; yet I didn’t send them or command them. They don’t profit this people at all,” says Yahweh.

Many books in the New Testament have warnings in them about the false teachers that were to come. The men who wrote these warnings had the writings that we are reading today from the Old Testament. It is very valuable and contemporary for us to consider what Jeremiah wrote down for us about the false prophets of his day. It allows us to recognize people like this when they try to deceive us today.

One thing that false prophets do is to use their dreams as proof of God’s direction in our lives. The problem with doing this is that God tells us clearly, here, that false prophets used dreams to spread lies about God’s direction. If I’m reading this correctly, God is telling us to not rely on the dream alone. Notice that God tells the prophets to go ahead and tell their dreams, but he also says to that those who have His word should speak His word too. God then mentions straw and wheat and that His word is like fire. Now straw cannot be eaten, but wheat can be. Somehow, a person must separate straw from wheat. I do know that God’s word is required to interpret the dreams that come from God so we can tell truthful dreams from lying ones. It could be that God is using this metaphor to explain this. Fire burns wheat and straw, but I think that a skilled farmer learns to apply fire to the straw and keep the wheat. The fact that God’s word is like a hammer, reminds me of how much more powerful propositional truth is compared to mysterious dreams. Once the clear truth is known, it crushes the foolish interpretations of a dream that don’t apply.

We need to be aware of the fact that there are those who will claim to speak the words of God that have not received a message from God at all. God tells us this right here and we must learn to critically separate the truth from a lie using the clear words we have in the Bible.

Day 95: The Way of Life and the Way of Death

Jeremiah 21:8-10

“You shall say to this people, ‘Yahweh says: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who remains in this city will die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he who goes out and passes over to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he will live, and he will escape with his life. For I have set my face on this city for evil, and not for good,” says Yahweh. “It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire.” ’

This may seem a bit philosophical but because of how important it is here in the Bible, I believe it’s something God expects us to consider. Do you have to believe in the Bible in order to believe in God? Obviously, we should believe in both, but the reason I bring it up is because it is possible to think you believe in God without really trusting in His word. The reality is that you really can’t know anything about God if you don’t believe His word because it is His word that tells us about God. When we start to think that, by our own intuition, we can simply trust God without His words, we are in a dangerous position. We may actually miss the way of life. That’s because we are placing our own intuition or tradition above God’s word. If this is true in your life, God may give you a life or death decision like He did to Judah here.

God set up a situation in which Judah had to simply trust God’s word instead of trusting everything they had come to know about God and Jerusalem. I am sure that most every Jew in Jerusalem knew that it was God’s city and that if they wanted protection they should stay as close to God as possible, yet, God’s word through Jeremiah was that they must flee to their enemies now and live. They probably knew the story of Hezekiah and Rabshakeh in 2 Kings 18 very well. At that time, King Hezekiah told the people to not defect to the enemy but to stay in the city. God’s word in the past was the exact opposite of what Jeremiah was telling them to do now! God set this situation up in such a way that they were not able to trust in their own intuition or in the events of the past. They were forced to either trust God’s word now and live or die by trusting their own beliefs about what God thinks.

This is the way it has always been for mankind. God has given us the choice. We either trust in His word and live or we die because of our lack of faith. The choice we have before us now is the option to trust that Jesus is God and that He really did die to take away the sins of the world. Everyone who believes in God’s word, no matter how intuitive or scientific they think it is, will live. Those who don’t will suffer. It may go against everything that we think is right. God wants us to stop trusting in ourselves and turn to faith in His word alone because only faith in God’s word will save us.

Day 81: Humanism vs. God

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Yahweh says:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man,
relies on strength of flesh,
and whose heart departs from Yahweh.
For he will be like a bush in the desert,
and will not see when good comes,
but will inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh,
and whose confidence is in Yahweh.
For he will be as a tree planted by the waters,
who spreads out its roots by the river,
and will not fear when heat comes,
but its leaf will be green,
and will not be concerned in the year of drought.
It won’t cease from yielding fruit.

This is one of the most important passages in the Bible to me because of how it has helped me with important issues in the culture. There is a war raging and at the base of that war is a philosophy. One side says that we should trust in experts, government officials and clergy. The other side says that we need to stick to the Bible. This passage tells you how to handle this dilemma in no uncertain terms.

It all comes down to one question: “Who are you placing your trust in?” Are you trusting in what a man has said? Or, are you trusting in what God has said? God tells us, through Jeremiah, that the answer to that question will have an effect on your well-being. It’s a critical decision. If you decide to trust in man, you will have a hard life. God tells us that you won’t be able to “see when good comes.” Instead, you will have to live in a place where nothing grows. You will have a bad economy even if opportunity is right in front of you.

If, on the other hand, you choose to put your confidence in God. Your life will be good even if you have to go through a drought. Life will still spring up for you even in the hard times.

Here are some things to consider. When clergy tell you that evolution is probably correct even though the Bible says it only took six days, you have a choice to make. The beneficial choice is to go with what God says and believe in six days. When a scientist tells you that we should worry because of man-made climate change, while the Bible tells us that God is the controller of the climate, the economic choice is to go with what God says in the Bible and not worry. You will probably see more clearly to take advantage of opportunities God has given. If man says that parents shouldn’t spank their children and you read differently in the Bible, your life will be better if you do what the Bible says and your children will grow too. Do you see how important and practical this is? These are only a few cultural issues.

Satan used this very issue to corrupt the human race. He said to Eve: “Did God really say…?” He got Eve and Adam to trust in themselves. When we trust in man, we are cursed and when we trust in God we are blessed.