Day 194: Things We Know and Things We Don’t

Jeremiah 49:28-33

Of Kedar, and of the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck, Yahweh says:
“Arise, go up to Kedar,
and destroy the children of the east.
They will take their tents and their flocks.
they will carry away for themselves their curtains,
all their vessels, and their camels;
and they will cry to them, ‘Terror on every side!’
Wander far off!
Dwell in the depths, you inhabitants of Hazor,” says Yahweh;
“for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has taken counsel against you,
and has conceived a purpose against you.
Arise! Go up to a nation that is at ease,
that dwells without care,” says Yahweh;
“that has neither gates nor bars,
that dwells alone.
Their camels will be a booty,
and the multitude of their livestock a plunder.
I will scatter to all winds those who have the corners of their beards cut off;
and I will bring their calamity from every side of them,”
says Yahweh.
Hazor will be a dwelling place of jackals,
a desolation forever.
No man will dwell there,
neither will any son of man live therein.”

Kedar was the second son of Ishmael, so we know that this prophesy was concerning some of Abraham’s children. These people were well known for their tents. My understanding is that there are some pretty nice tents in the middle east today as well, complete with electricity and appliances. Evidently, even back in the days of Babylon, the people of Kedar took tent dwelling to a higher level. It appears, however, that these children of Abraham decided, for the most part, to go away from the faith of Abraham.

This passage mentions scattering “those who have the corners of their beards cut off.” That seems like a pretty strange thing for God to bring up in regard to His judgment of a people. To make it even stranger, the King James doesn’t say that at all. Other translations seem to think it has to do with cutting bangs. This is one of those areas of the Bible that I will have to call a mystery. We don’t have to understand everything in the Bible. In fact, it’s pretty obvious that God planned for it to be that way. We are His children and we may not be able to understand everything He says right now. We may have to get older. Some things may not even be there for us during our time. Whatever it means, it’s pretty clear that the people of Kedar knew. God knew how they had been disobedient to Him and that they also deserved His wrath.

God is aware of the times that we live in as well. We may not live in a tent, but we may have a little house or live in a condo. God wants us to acknowledge Him and give Him glory for all He has created. God also wants us to live according to the conscience that He has put within us in our time. If we don’t do these things, we will be judged too. These things are perfectly clear in the Bible and that is what we are responsible for.

Day 183: Why Israel and Egypt?

Jeremiah 46:25-28

Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Behold, I will punish Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with her gods and her kings, even Pharaoh, and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants. Afterwards it will be inhabited, as in the days of old,” says Yahweh.
“But don’t you be afraid, Jacob my servant.
Don’t be dismayed, Israel;
for, behold, I will save you from afar,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob will return,
and will be quiet and at ease.
No one will make him afraid.
Don’t be afraid, O Jacob my servant,” says Yahweh,
“for I am with you;
for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you,
but I will not make a full end of you,
but I will correct you in measure,
and will in no way leave you unpunished.”

One of the interesting things that I see in this passage is that God intended for Egypt to be “inhabited, as in the days of old.” His prophesy against Egypt was not permanent and God makes a small statement about that here. Then, God goes on to reassure His people Israel for the rest of this passage.

There is an interesting contrast between Israel and Egypt, and Babylon. God promises that both Israel and Egypt will rise again, and also says to Israel: “I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you.” God says that His punishments against Israel are measured, or have a limit. I think that this spells out the difference between how God disciplines His children and how He disciplines those who aren’t. God’s children will only be punished for a limited period of time. Those who are outside of God’s family will be destroyed forever. This brings up an important question.

What did Israel and Egypt do to deserve to continue to exist? It is obvious that they both were filled with evil. Israel had been sacrificing their own children. Egypt was worshiping everything under the sun and encouraging God’s people to do the same. How is it that they were allowed to continue to exist? Perhaps the easy way to answer this question is to point it at ourselves. Why did God allow you and I to exist as Christians? What did we do to deserve it? I hope that the answer is obvious: we didn’t do anything to deserve it and neither did Israel or Egypt. The reason they were saved is the same reason you and I were saved. God simply decided to do it. When God does things like this, it removes all pride doesn’t it? It also builds a living demonstration of His grace. Both Israel and Egypt stand today as examples of what happens when God decides to save.

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.