Day 21: Bad Brothers

Lamentations 4:17-22 :

Our eyes still fail,
looking in vain for our help.
In our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save.

They hunt our steps,
so that we can’t go in our streets.
Our end is near.
Our days are fulfilled,
for our end has come.

Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles of the sky.
They chased us on the mountains.
They set an ambush for us in the wilderness.

The breath of our nostrils,
the anointed of Yahweh,
was taken in their pits;
of whom we said,
under his shadow we will live among the nations.

Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Edom,
who dwells in the land of Uz.
The cup will pass through to you also.
You will be drunken,
and will make yourself naked.

The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, daughter of Zion.
He will no more carry you away into captivity.
He will visit your iniquity, daughter of Edom.
He will uncover your sins.

As I considered this passage, I found it helpful to recall the history of Israel’s dealings with Edom. When we do that, it’s important to remember the founder of the nation. It was Jacob’s brother Esau that was it’s father. The land of Edom comes from the a twin brother of Israel. You would think that if you wanted help from a nation, it would only be natural to get that help from a group of very close relatives, but that’s not how it went.

When Moses was guiding the redeemed slaves of Israel through the desert, they actually asked the Edomites if they could simply pass through it without staying. Edom not only didn’t invite them to stay a while, they denied them the ability to pass through and even threatened them with harm if they tried.

Things obviously didn’t change over the years after Israel became a strong nation. Now, when they were brought low, Edom continued to keep their distance from Israel. I sense a bit of sarcasm from God here, if I’m reading it right. He says: “Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Edom… You will be drunken, and will make yourself naked.” What I read here is that not only was it their brother Israel’s time of judgment, but it was about to be Edom’s also.

We have some very comforting words at the end of this lamentation. God says: “The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, daughter of Zion. He will no more carry you away into captivity.” What a wonderful thing it is for any of us to hear that our time of judgment is over and that we will have peace with God. That’s why Christmastime so special. It’s when God announced His peace with mankind. What an amazing day that was when God Himself sent angels to tell the world that He was now ready to remove their iniquity.

Day 191: A Very Foolish Choice

Jeremiah 49:7-14

Of Edom, Yahweh of Armies says:
“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
Has counsel perished from the prudent?
Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee! Turn back!
Dwell in the depths, inhabitants of Dedan;
for I will bring the calamity of Esau on him when I visit him.
If grape gatherers came to you,
would they not leave some gleaning grapes?
If thieves came by night,
wouldn’t they steal until they had enough?
But I have made Esau bare,
I have uncovered his secret places,
and he will not be able to hide himself.
His offspring is destroyed,
with his brothers and his neighbors;
and he is no more.
Leave your fatherless children.
I will preserve them alive.
Let your widows trust in me.”

For Yahweh says: “Behold, they to whom it didn’t pertain to drink of the cup will certainly drink; and are you he who will altogether go unpunished? You won’t go unpunished, but you will surely drink. For I have sworn by myself,” says Yahweh, “that Bozrah will become an astonishment, a reproach, a waste, and a curse. All its cities will be perpetual wastes.”
I have heard news from Yahweh,
and an ambassador is sent among the nations,
saying, “Gather yourselves together!
Come against her!
Rise up to the battle!”

Have you noticed that when Israel was being judged, it became a time of upheaval for all the nations surrounding it? Once Israel was judged, the hammer came down on the rest as well. It’s interesting that the nations were trying to destroy Israel, but what they were really doing was cutting off the branch of the tree that they were resting on. That’s how foolish it is to oppose God. Whenever we do that we destroy ourselves.

This passage is about God’s judgment of Edom which was the nation that came from Esau. A part of Edom called Teman was known for its wise sages. God mocks them here because they had rejected Him and by doing so, elected to destroy themselves. There’s nothing more foolish than that.

Here we read that God decided to destroy this people entirely. God mentions that under normal circumstances, attackers would leave some people behind when they’ve had enough, but God was going to cause them to be completely wiped out. There was one exception, however. God was going to save the widows and the orphans! The people who had no husband or father to protect them were going to continue to be protected by God Himself.

Once again, this passage reminds us of a Grand Theme of the Bible: God’s grace saves us by faith in His word. When we decide that we are strong enough on our own to oppose God, we become weak and are brought down by God Himself, but when we are weak and we trust in God for our salvation, God is gracious to us and saves us in the worst of circumstances. There is nothing more foolish than trusting in our own strength and failing to trust in God.

Day 186: Making a Clean Break

Jeremiah 48:10-17

“Cursed is he who does the work of Yahweh negligently;
and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth,
and he has settled on his dregs,
and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
neither has he gone into captivity;
therefore his taste remains in him,
and his scent is not changed.
Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will send to him those who pour off,
and they will pour him off;
and they will empty his vessels,
and break their containers in pieces.
Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh,
as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.

“How do you say, ‘We are mighty men,
and valiant men for the war’?
Moab is laid waste,
and they have gone up into his cities,
and his chosen young men have gone down to the slaughter,”
says the King, whose name is Yahweh of Armies.
“The calamity of Moab is near to come,
and his affliction hurries fast.
All you who are around him, bemoan him;
and all you who know his name, say,
‘How the strong staff is broken,
the beautiful rod!’

The history of Moab’s dealings with Israel are covered in the Bible. I agree with others who study Moab that it is a good representation of a corrupting influence. Moab harmed Israel from the inside. It was Moab’s king that hired Balaam to curse Israel in order to keep them from harming Moab but God blessed Israel instead. Eventually, Moab realized that the way to stop Israel was to pervert them. They had their women infiltrate Israel and get the men to have sex with them. Pretty crafty wasn’t it? Israel was supposed to kill their enemies, not sleep with them!

The first verse in this passage has special meaning in light of Israel’s history with Moab. God wants us to make a clean break from sin. In this case, Israel was neglegent in killing the Moabites. Moab was harming Israel, but Israel decided to enjoy the sin that they could have with them. Israel refused to separate themselves from their sin and they ended up being punished by God for it.

Moab, on the other hand, was still around. Perhaps that is why this prophesy says: “Moab has been at ease from his youth.” God had some things that He needed to finish with Moab and we read about that here. You can imagine that after getting away with sin for such a long time that you might begin to think that you are strong and valiant. Moab thought they were strong, according to this passage, but they were about to be broken.

It’s important for unbelievers to realize that even if they are successful at perverting believers and getting them to sin, that they won’t escape God’s hand. It’s also important for us, as believers, separate ourselves from sin and sinful influences. Living a life of holiness means that we make a clean break. We need to stop playing around with sin and fight against it instead.

Day 96: How God Deals with a Misbehaving Government

Jeremiah 21:11-14

“Concerning the house of the king of Judah, hear Yahweh’s word: House of David, Yahweh says,
‘Execute justice in the morning,
and deliver him who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor,
lest my wrath go out like fire,
and burn so that no one can quench it,
because of the evil of your doings.
Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
and of the rock of the plain,’ says Yahweh.
‘You that say, “Who would come down against us?”
or “Who would enter into our homes?”
I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, says Yahweh;
and I will kindle a fire in her forest,
and it will devour all that is around her.’ ”

It’s not unusual for sinners to become so comfortable with God’s patience that they start to believe that they are immune from any trouble. David’s family was blessed by God, but they were never immune from God’s wrath. God said that if his family were to ever stray from His law, they would be severely punished and that’s exactly what was about to happen to them.

If you were to hear a word from the Lord, you wouldn’t ever want it to be like this one. God’s word to His people was one of great judgment. I have heard people act as if we shouldn’t preach to people about God’s judgment as a means to get them to consider salvation. I definitely don’t agree with that suggestion. It is true that it is God’s goodness that leads us to salvation, but how would we ever understand God’s goodness unless we are told about our impending judgment? God’s goodness comes from the fact that the judgment that we should have received was taken away.

Another thing to pay attention to is what God tells them that they should be doing. The House of David was the house of kings. God was making a political statement here. Once again we see that politics are a large part of God’s message in the Bible and what we read here reminds us of the legitimate function of a good government. God clearly tells us that the work of a government is to “execute justice in the morning, and deliver him who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor…” God’s comment to His government comes with a severe warning. As to the consequences of not doing what they are supposed to do, God says: “lest my wrath go out like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” So when you hear government officials talking about doing something that goes against what God says in the Bible, you know what God thinks about it and what will eventually be done to them. If God didn’t spare David’s family, He definitely won’t spare our leaders.

Day 88: Jeremiah Gives Them Hell

Jeremiah 19:7-13

“ ‘ “I will make the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem void in this place. I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies to be food for the birds of the sky and for the animals of the earth. I will make this city an astonishment and a hissing. Everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues. I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters. They will each eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies, and those who seek their life, will distress them.” ’

“Then you shall break the container in the sight of the men who go with you, and shall tell them, ‘Yahweh of Armies says: “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, that can’t be made whole again. They will bury in Topheth, until there is no place to bury. This is what I will do to this place,” says Yahweh, “and to its inhabitants, even making this city as Topheth. The houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, which are defiled, will be as the place of Topheth, even all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the army of the sky and have poured out drink offerings to other gods.” ’ ”

If they thought they hated Jeremiah before, God had more for them. We find out from the next passage that Jeremiah is standing right there in Gehenna telling them that they are going to be starved and killed in such numbers that they will not have enough room to bury all the dead in the valley. They are going to be so hungry that they will start eating their own children and friends. Then we find out why God had him bring the pot. He broke it in front of them as an illustration of the fact that they would be so utterly destroyed that they will not be able to be repaired.

This is probably the best reference for what Jesus was communicating when He talked to us about Hell. It’s where the cursed dead were left for the birds. It’s a place of defilement and Jesus added the fact that the real Hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out. Why do we have to know this? I think the answer is pretty obvious don’t you? It’s a real place and God doesn’t want man to go there. He made a way for anyone who believes to escape it, but people are ignoring it and building nice parks over the bones of the dead like we see in the Gehenna today. This horrible time was just one of the many that were to happen to Jerusalem after that point in history. We can try to ignore those times and why they happened, or we can learn about them and avoid doing the things that lead to them. This is true for Israel as a nation, and for each of us spiritually.

Day 87: The Valley of Slaughter

Jeremiah 19:1-6

Thus said Yahweh, “Go, and buy a potter’s earthen container, and take some of the elders of the people, and of the elders of the priests; and go out to the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate Harsith, and proclaim there the words that I will tell you. Say, ‘Hear Yahweh’s word, kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem: Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will bring evil on this place, which whoever hears, his ears will tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have defiled this place, and have burned incense in it to other gods that they didn’t know, they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal, to burn their children in the fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I didn’t command, nor speak, which didn’t even enter into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that this place will no more be called ‘Topheth’, nor ‘The Valley of the son of Hinnom’, but ‘The valley of Slaughter’.

I did some searching on the web for: “The Valley of the Son of Hinnom” and found out that it looks like a small valley with some buildings paths and what appears to be a nice little park. It’s interesting because Jesus referred to it as Hell. The word Gehenna is said to be a transliteration of “The Valley of Hinnom.” Scholars argue over whether or not it ever really was a garbage dump for Israel, but one thing everyone appears to agree with is that it was the place where the kings of Judah burned their children to the gods. That’s because the Bible says it right here. To Jesus, this valley was a type of Hell even though it isn’t Hell itself. It certainly doesn’t look like Hell today, but what happened there is truly horrible.

God told Jeremiah to tell the leaders that the place would become a place named after slaughter. It was clearly a symbolic thing and it’s no surprise that Jesus would continue the same symbolism in His words to the people. Sin has consequences. As I was studying this place, I noticed some scholars who cast doubt on whether or not Jesus was referring to eternal damnation when referring to it. I looked up all 12 references and it’s pretty obvious that the New Testament writers used this place as a reference to a spiritual place. It wasn’t just a place for the body to be thrown, but a place for the soul. See Matthew 10:28. It’s not like Jesus didn’t talk about this in other ways. He also mentioned it without saying Gehenna in His teaching about the judgment of nations in Matthew 25 where He says that the place was intended for Satan and the fallen angels.

It’s pretty obvious that what God said about this place has happened. We call it “Hell” even today even though the physical place looks rather nice now. Jesus has made it clear to the world that this represents a real spiritual place, and just as the people of Jeremiah’s day mocked Jeremiah’s message of destruction, so people today mock the reality of an eternal place of torment.

Day 86: Jeremiah Stops Defending Israel

Jeremiah 18:11-23

Then they said, “Come! Let’s devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law won’t perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let’s strike him with the tongue, and let’s not give heed to any of his words.”
Give heed to me, Yahweh,
and listen to the voice of those who contend with me.
Should evil be recompensed for good?
For they have dug a pit for my soul.
Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
Therefore deliver up their children to the famine,
and give them over to the power of the sword.
Let their wives become childless and widows.
Let their men be killed
and their young men struck by the sword in battle.
Let a cry be heard from their houses
when you bring a troop suddenly on them;
for they have dug a pit to take me
and hidden snares for my feet.
Yet, Yahweh, you know all their counsel against me to kill me.
Don’t forgive their iniquity.
Don’t blot out their sin from your sight,
Let them be overthrown before you.
Deal with them in the time of your anger.

Sometimes it seems to us that God is wrong about something. Jeremiah heard God’s message of destruction and punishment for Jerusalem, and he asked God to be merciful but God refused. Perhaps Jeremiah thought that God was being too harsh, that is until they all decided to get together and kill Jeremiah! When that happened, Jeremiah realized that God was right about what He intended to do. Jeremiah even reminded God about what he had previously requested and now said that he wanted God to really come down on them.

There are some good things for us to learn about this. One thing is that God is able to change our hearts to match His. Jeremiah’s heart wasn’t aligned with God’s in regard to the destruction of Israel at first. God didn’t force him into alignment against his will, instead, God changed Jeremiah’s will! That’s exactly how God deals with us. God doesn’t want us to follow Him by forcing ourselves to do what God wants even though we don’t like it. God changes our hearts and causes us to want what He wants. It’s also good for us to learn that there is a time for God’s anger. We live in a time of mercy and grace, but that time eventually comes to an end. There are sins that God has yet to deal with and He will not allow them to go unpunished. When that time comes, there will be no one who will be able to stop Him from bringing His judgment.