Day 171: God’s Plan of Salvation

Jeremiah 42:7-18

After ten days, Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah. Then he called Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, and said to them, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your supplication before him, says: ‘If you will still live in this land, then I will build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I grieve over the distress that I have brought on you. Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Don’t be afraid of him,’ says Yahweh, ‘for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you, and cause you to return to your own land.

“ ‘But if you say, “We will not dwell in this land,” so that you don’t obey Yahweh your God’s voice, saying, “No, but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we will see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there we will dwell;” ’ now therefore hear Yahweh’s word, O remnant of Judah! Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘If you indeed set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to live there, then it will happen that the sword, which you fear, will overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, about which you are afraid, will follow close behind you there in Egypt; and you will die there. So will it be with all the men who set their faces to go into Egypt to live there. They will die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. None of them will remain or escape from the evil that I will bring on them.’ For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and my wrath has been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you, when you enter into Egypt; and you will be an object of horror, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach; and you will see this place no more.’

One thing that I am continually reminded of as I study Israel’s history is my own need for God to open my mind to His truth. God gives us many amazing promises, but I find that I will run right by them as if they don’t exist and continue to follow my fear. In this passage, God gives His amazing promise to the remnant of Judah, but first He makes them wait for 10 days. Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes? When we confess our confidence in God, we might be thinking that God is so happy to have us that He will respond to us instantly, and sometimes that is the case, but in this case, God chose to make them wait for an answer.

The wonderful thing is that God’s answer came with a promise of protection. If these people were willing to go back to Israel and stay there, God would make sure that Babylon wouldn’t harm them, but God knew their hearts. He exposes them here when He says: “Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Don’t be afraid of him.” If we put ourselves in their position, we would have to consider the fact that they just watched as Babylon desimated Jerusalem, killing people burning the city and removing their neighbors. This would take complete faith, not in what they saw but in what God was saying. God promised protection if they would stay in Israel, but He also made another promise.

He told them that if they wouldn’t stay and, instead, decided to move to Egypt where they felt safer, God would make sure that trouble would track each and every one of them down and kill them all. The choice was theirs. Either believe in God’s word and be saved, or trust in yourself and suffer. Where have we heard that before? It sounds a lot like John 3:16 doesn’t it? You can’t get away from this message, whether you read the Old Testament or the New. God will allow circumstances to make it seem like something that God says is impossible. We need God’s help to keep us focused on God’s word so that we won’t suffer the consequences of disobedience. We need God to open our minds to the reality of the world from His perspective, not our own. May He continue to build our faith as we live our lives for Him today.

Day 170: Seeking God’s Will

Jeremiah 42:1-6

Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, came near, and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Please let our supplication be presented before you, and pray for us to Yahweh your God, even for all this remnant, for we are left but a few of many, as your eyes see us, that Yahweh your God may show us the way in which we should walk, and the things that we should do.”

Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to Yahweh your God according to your words; and it will happen that whatever thing Yahweh answers you, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you.”

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May Yahweh be a true and faithful witness among us, if we don’t do according to all the word with which Yahweh your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is good, or whether it is bad, we will obey the voice of Yahweh our God, to whom we send you; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of Yahweh our God.”

At this point in Israel’s history, it would appear that a very good thing is taking place. “All the captains of the forces” and “all the people from the least even to the greatest” came to Jeremiah to hear God’s word. All of the people told Jeremiah that they wanted to know which way they should go from here. So, Jeremiah agreed to pray and ask God on their behalf.

After Jeremiah said this, the people went on to swear that they would do anything God says “whether it is good, or whether it is bad” “that it may be well” with them. They made it clear that their intentions were to obey God and that’s it.

I think that we are no starting to see how these events are important for us today. Have you ever been interested in what God’s will is for your life especially at times of great change? Have you ever made a deal with God that if He would tell you what you are to do, no matter what it is, that you would do it? It’s pretty obvious that when we do ask for God’s will, He is willing to tell us. That’s what Jeremiah’s answer shows us, but there’s something much deeper that we need to be concerned about that God is going to show us in this passage. God is ready to answer us, but are we really ready to do what He wants or are we merely asking God to bless our own desires? One of the horrible things about our sinful human nature is that we have the ability to act very sweetly on the outside when our desires are pretty sour. We may start to believe our own external sweetness, but God sees what we are really thinking.

Even though we may deceive ourselves, it is wise to seek God’s council and the Israelis did the right thing when they came to Jeremiah. God will show us the reality of ourselves when we ask. I wonder if it would have been better for them to ask God to examine them inside. I think you will see what I mean as we read on.

Day 155: Mob Justice

Jeremiah 37:11-15

When the army of the Chaldeans had withdrawn from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army, then Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to receive his portion there, in the middle of the people. When he was in Benjamin’s gate, a captain of the guard was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are defecting to the Chaldeans!”

Then Jeremiah said, “That is false! I am not defecting to the Chaldeans.”

But he didn’t listen to him; so Irijah seized Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. The princes were angry with Jeremiah, and struck him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe; for they had made that the prison.

It’s pretty obvious that this passage is relevant today. They had mobs back in Jeremiah’s day but they were nothing like the ones we have today. With the presence of world-wide social media, an accusation can turn into condemnation in a matter of seconds. I happen to live in an area in the United States in which this has happened multiple times in the last 20 years. In Jeremiah’s case, he was merely leaving town at a time when he could do business outside of the city. This appears to have been the business of acquiring the land that God told him to purchase. While he was doing that, he was falsely accused of attempting to defect to Babylon. Instead of being given a proper trial, they simply kidnapped him, beat him and locked him in jail.

There’s a lot of things for us to learn from these events. First of all, doing God’s will doesn’t always mean that you won’t be opposed or stay out of trouble. In this case, Jeremiah was completely obedient to God, yet he ended up being accused, beat and thrown in jail! Was this a sign that he was outside of God’s will? Absolutely not, but isn’t that what we think sometimes? We need to remember events like these when we go through trouble. We especially need to remember them when we are tempted to accuse other Christians of sin when things don’t go well for them. The Bible clearly illustrates the fact that good people often suffer persecution and it should be very obvious that this continues in our cultures today. Let’s remember what Jesus told us:

Luke 6:22-23

Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.

Another important thing to pay attention to is that government officials and police have a very serious responsibility to follow the law and to not jump to conclusions based on appearances. Israeli law clearly stated that no one was to be accused without a proper trial, yet that’s exactly what happened to Jeremiah here. Ancient Israeli law actually forms the bases for our laws for trials today. Israel had these very laws already but they abandoned them in their own fear and passion. Any of us in positions of authority have the ability to do this whether we are managers, parents or older siblings. Let’s learn from this and stand up for justice. Let’s allow God to show us the facts before we jump to conclusions. Let’s also remember that social media is often used to slander people. This is a sin that actually keeps people from heaven. As I have mentioned before it’s right up there with all the other big ones like murder and sexual sins. Christians should have nothing to do with social media slander but should be a force of righteousness that moves people toward the proper methods of justice.

Day 153: It’s Usually Better the Second Time

Jeremiah 36:27-32

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after the king had burned the scroll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, “Take again another scroll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. Concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Yahweh says: “You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written therein, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cause to cease from there man and animal?’ ” ’ Therefore Yahweh says concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: “He will have no one to sit on David’s throne. His dead body will be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. I will punish him, his offspring, and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them, but they didn’t listen.” ’ ”

Then Jeremiah took another scroll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.

I believe that there is a very real possibility that Satan thought that he had won at this point. It appeared that he actually got God to curse the line of the Messiah. God had promised that there would always be a king on David’s throne, but here, God actually declares that Jehoiakim will never have a descendent on the throne. This actually became a very serious issue. How was God going to save Israel now?

There’s another issue that causes difficulties in the New Testament. Have you ever noticed that the genealogies for Jesus are different in Matthew and in Luke? It has been determined that the one in Matthew follows the genealogy of Joseph and the one in Luke follows Mary’s genealogy. Did you also notice that one of Joseph’s ancestors is none other than Jeconiah which was Jehoiakim’s son? Well, God walked around the problem with ease. He caused Mary, who was also a blood relative of David, to conceive without the help of Joseph and then had Joseph adopt Jesus. God left the genealogies in His word for us to figure out later. So Jesus was a blood relative of David and a rightful heir to the throne of Israel through Joseph! As you can see, God is in the details.

God also walked around the problem that Jehoiakim produced by burning God’s word. He simply had Jeremiah do it again, only this time, Jehoiakim was cursed and “many similar words were added” to the new book. The new edition was an expanded edition! As a side note, I discovered this principle as a software engineer. There were times when we had to re-make a software system and I don’t remember a time when the second system wasn’t an improvement on the first. God has a way of doing that through us. We don’t need to worry when it seems that all hope is lost. When God is in charge, it just means that something better is about to happen.

Day 139: How Does This Make Sense God?

Jeremiah 32:24-27

“Behold, siege ramps have been built against the city to take it. The city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword, of the famine, and of the pestilence. What you have spoken has happened. Behold, you see it. You have said to me, Lord Yahweh, ‘Buy the field for money, and call witnesses;’ whereas the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.”

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?

God is the maker of all reasoning, yet, there are times in life when what God tells us to do doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. This passage is an excellent example of this. Jeremiah is in jail, the remainder of his country is crumbling before his eyes. God had made it clear that He intended to destroy the land and even told Jeremiah to tell people to leave. Now, God tells him to buy land. How in the world does that make any sense?

I’ve been in this kind of situation in my mind many times with God. It’s one of the reasons that I look forward to getting a new body. I can’t stand the fact that I stress over things that I can’t understand. My problem is the same one that Jeremiah has and God addresses it in the first question of His response. Is there anything too hard for God? The funny thing about that is that Jeremiah just said that to God in His prayer. I think that Jeremiah was saying that in reference to the fact that God destroyed Judah even though it didn’t seem likely to the people, but now God is trying to tell Jeremiah that God will restore Israel even though it doesn’t seem likely to him! I think that Jeremiah is trying to process how these two things can possibly happen.

God is not necessarily going to explain how it will happen, but He will repeat what will happen to Jeremiah next. What Jeremiah needed and what we need, is to simply trust in God’s power to do everything He says He will do. We need to really take hold of the fact that God is able to do anything. If God needs to create the whole universe in six days, then He can. If He needs to have a virgin give birth, He can. If He needs to raise the dead, He can. If He decides to completely destroy and remake the universe, He can. Jesus is our best example. When the storm raged around Him, He decided to take a nap. May God help us to trust in His power and follow the example of Jesus.

Day 132: What God Says

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Yahweh says:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children.
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”

Yahweh says:
“Refrain your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,” says Yahweh.
“They will come again from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your latter end,” says Yahweh.
“Your children will come again to their own territory.

God talks so much about His intentions to restore Israel that it’s almost exhausting. This book is about a prophet that was sent to warn Israel about the fact that they were about to be punished and destroyed as a nation, yet it talks so much about the restoration of Israel, that I am forced to bring it up over and over again. I am guessing that I have brought this subject up about ten times in Jeremiah, and we are only about half way through the book.

Here, God is quoted as talking about Rachel weeping for her children. One interesting thing that I realized about Rachel’s children is that they were only two or sometimes three of the 12 tribes of Israel. One of them was Joseph which was often split into the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and the other was Benjamin. Another interesting fact is that the families of these two children were separated from each other when the nation split. Joseph’s children went to the northern kingdom of Israel and Benjamin’s children ended up with the children of Judah in the southern kingdom. The fact that God mentions Rachel weeping for her children implies that both the southern and northern kingdoms are destroyed.

God also is quoted as saying that Rachel should stop crying. He mentions that her work will be rewarded. It is interesting that Rachel died after giving birth to her second son Benjamin. I am not sure but perhaps the work that God is referring to here is Rachel’s difficulty getting pregnant and when she finally was pregnant, it was hard as well. The Bible is very clear that hard work brings a profit and God appears to be recognizing the hard work of motherhood. It’s important that women realize that God knows, recognizes and honors the differences between men and women. I believe that the Bible is clear that motherhood represents a part of God’s own work.

Perhaps, the most important thing to recognize about this short passage is how many times it mentions that it was spoken by God. It says: “Yahweh says” two times and “says Yahweh” two times. It’s pretty obvious what God’s will is when He makes it so clear isn’t it? If you ever are wondering what God’s will is, you might consider the fact that God wants Israel to become a great nation. Praying for Israel is a very wise thing to do.

Day 98: Repetition and Reputation

Jeremiah 22:6-9

For Yahweh says concerning the house of the king of Judah:
“You are Gilead to me,
the head of Lebanon.
Yet surely I will make you a wilderness,
cities which are not inhabited.
I will prepare destroyers against you,
everyone with his weapons,
and they will cut down your choice cedars,
and cast them into the fire.

“Many nations will pass by this city, and they will each ask his neighbor, ‘Why has Yahweh done this to this great city?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they abandoned the covenant of Yahweh their God, worshiped other gods, and served them.’ ”

God has repeatedly told Judah about His plan to destroy them hasn’t He? Sometimes I worry about what God’s will is. I wonder if I missed the memo somehow, especially when I suffer for one of my decisions, but when I read Isaiah and Jeremiah, I remember that if God had wanted me to know something, He would have probably repeated it several times like He did for Israel and Judah. When we are punished by God, it’s because we didn’t obey the clear direction that God gave us. God loves Israel and didn’t want to punish them, but just like when a parent threatens a child with punishment, they may become complacent and rebellious thinking that they will get out of it and still do whatever they want. Eventually, a loving parent has to take action to punish a child. At that time the child will know what they are getting punished for, that’s for sure.

One of the reasons that God must punish rebellion is because His reputation is important for those who are watching from the outside. If God’s people were to get away with murder, everyone would learn that God is a push over. He doesn’t really mean what He says when He tells them to follow His laws. It’s interesting that Moses was concerned that if God destroyed the people, He might get a bad reputation, but the exact opposite is true. If God were to not destroy a wicked people like Judah, people would not understand the seriousness of His law. So, we read here that one good result of God’s destruction of Judah and Jerusalem will be that people will walk by the destruction and know why it happened. It will actually promote the fear of God among the nations. God intended for Israel to participate in causing the nations to fear God, and here we see that God is able to accomplish that with or without them.