Day 7: A God Forsaken Place

Lamentations 2:5-10 :

The Lord has become as an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel.
He has swallowed up all her palaces.
He has destroyed his strongholds.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation in the daughter of Judah.

He has violently taken away his tabernacle,
as if it were a garden.
He has destroyed his place of assembly.
Yahweh has caused solemn assembly and Sabbath to be forgotten in Zion.
In the indignation of his anger, he has despised the king and the priest.

The Lord has cast off his altar.
He has abhorred his sanctuary.
He has given the walls of her palaces into the hand of the enemy.
They have made a noise in Yahweh’s house,
as in the day of a solemn assembly.

Yahweh has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion.
He has stretched out the line.
He has not withdrawn his hand from destroying;
He has made the rampart and wall lament.
They languish together.

Her gates have sunk into the ground.
He has destroyed and broken her bars.
Her king and her princes are among the nations where the law is not.
Yes, her prophets find no vision from Yahweh.

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground.
They keep silence.
They have cast up dust on their heads.
They have clothed themselves with sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.

One thing that the fall of Judah and Jerusalem shows us is what it is like to be forsaken by God. I’ve mentioned this before. It’s like experiencing a little bit of Hell. When God turns His back on you, you not only lose your access to God, as is expressed in the fact that Judah had no priests, but you also lose your government, which was expressed in the fact that Judah’s kings were taken into exile. Government may seem like a problem today, but let’s not forget that the absence of government is actually much worse. Government, even in its perverse form today, is still an extension of the hand of God. Even though justice is often poorly applied, it is still applied against many evil doers, even today. The same goes for religion. Because many are still allowed to live as Christians in peace, the 10 Commandments are still in operation among believers in the world. If God were to remove all government and all Christians, the world would experience the kind of Hell that Judah was experiencing here.

Another part of this horror was the fact that they stopped hearing the voice of God. His word was no longer being taught to the people. Proverbs reminds us of what this this is like. Let’s read that again:

Proverbs 20:20 :

Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in blackness of darkness.

It may not seem, like this proverb is talking about God’s word, but I believe that it is pretty clear. When you are cut off from your father and mother, you are cut off from the influence of God’s word in your life as a son or a daughter. The same thing happens when you are cut off from God. The worst thing that happens to you is that you lose your sense of direction. As rebellious human beings, we easily lose sight of the fact that God’s authority and God’s word are absolutely necessary for our well being. All God has to do is take those things away and it becomes painfully clear that we needed them all along.

Day 213: A Lesson from King Zedekiah’s Life

Jeremiah 52:1-11

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. He did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through Yahweh’s anger this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence.

Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. In the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it; and they built forts against it round about. So the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.

In the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was severe in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled, and went out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden. Now the Chaldeans were against the city all around. The men of war went toward the Arabah, but the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they took the king, and carried him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; and he pronounced judgment on him. The king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. He also killed all the princes of Judah in Riblah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison until the day of his death.

Zedekiah’s story is a sharp rebuke to all of us. He was the one who allowed Jeremiah to be thrown in jail, only to secretly let him out when no one was looking. He was more afraid of men than of God. Here we see where that kind of behavior took him in his life. He ended up being the king who went down in history as the one that lost Jerusalem. He is the one that God brought down His final judgment upon.

While Zedekiah was in Jerusalem, Jeremiah was afflicted. Remember that he was thrown into a muddy well and then confined in jail. When we read those things it seemed so unfair and it was, but in the end, Jeremiah won. Zedekiah was taken captive into Babylon and Jeremiah was allowed to go wherever he wanted and He chose to stay there in Judah. Zedekiah’s punishment was severe. His eyes were put out after watching his children be put to death. This shows us what God thinks of it when His prophets are mistreated. Zedekiah was always expecting God to save Him, but refused to listen to or believe in God’s words.

Even if you are sometimes nice to Christians and pray, it doesn’t mean that you will be saved from Hell. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Zedekiah did some good things but the most important thing was missing and that was faith in God’s word. God warned him over and over that Babylon was coming. He even told him that it was possible to surrender and avoid destruction, but Zedekiah would not believe God. He chose to do things his own way. May unbelievers be given eyes to see and turn to the truth and be saved, and may we as Christians continue in faith every day and avoid being foolish like Zedekiah was.

Day 202: All Nations are Guilty

Jeremiah 50:41-46

“Behold, a people comes from the north.
A great nation and many kings will be stirred up from the uttermost parts of the earth.
They take up bow and spear.
They are cruel, and have no mercy.
Their voice roars like the sea.
They ride on horses,
everyone set in array,
as a man to the battle,
against you, daughter of Babylon.
The king of Babylon has heard the news of them,
and his hands become feeble.
Anguish has taken hold of him,
pains as of a woman in labor.
Behold, the enemy will come up like a lion
from the thickets of the Jordan against the strong habitation;
for I will suddenly make them run away from it.
Whoever is chosen,
I will appoint him over it,
for who is like me?
Who will appoint me a time?
Who is the shepherd who can stand before me?”
Therefore hear the counsel of Yahweh
that he has taken against Babylon;
and his purposes
that he has purposed against the land of the Chaldeans:
Surely they will drag them away,
even the little ones of the flock.
Surely he will make their habitation desolate over them.
The earth trembles at the noise of the taking of Babylon.
The cry is heard among the nations.

As we read earlier, there were those who thought that Jeremiah was helping Babylon’s cause by discouraging the people with his words. It’s pretty clear that Jeremiah was simply speaking God’s words because God also had quite a few things to say against Babylon. I think that Jeremiah had something bad to say about all of the countries in the area. There’s a lesson for us even in these things.

Just because someone says something that sounds discouraging, doesn’t mean that it isn’t right. It’s easy for us to make the assumption that we are doing fine, when actually we have been sinning. It is discouraging to hear that we have been sinning, but it is very arrogant for us to pretend that we haven’t. When God warns us of the consequences of our sin, the most positive thing that we can do is repent. Attacking the messenger just makes our sin bigger.

The fact that Jeremiah had something bad to say about everyone, reminds us of another basic Gospel truth. One of the important purposes of God’s word, is to expose our sin. If our sin isn’t exposed, we can’t see that we are sinners that need saving. God’s word through Jeremiah informed all of the nations in the area that they were all guilty before God, including Israel. The fact that all have sinned, is foundational to the Gospel. Let’s look at what God told us through Paul:

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

No nation is good enough to stand before God and that’s because no individual is good enough either, except for one. Jesus is the one who was good enough to stand before God and He spent His life in order to save us from the consequences of ours. Just as Jesus saves us individually, He will also be saving the nations of the world someday too because He is the only one who can stand before God without being judged by His word.

Day 193: Conquered but not Destroyed

Jeremiah 49:23-27

Of Damascus:
“Hamath and Arpad are confounded,
for they have heard evil news.
They have melted away.
There is sorrow on the sea.
It can’t be quiet.
Damascus has grown feeble,
she turns herself to flee,
and trembling has seized her.
Anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her,
as of a woman in travail.
How is the city of praise not forsaken,
the city of my joy?
Therefore her young men will fall in her streets,
and all the men of war will be brought to silence in that day,”
says Yahweh of Armies.
“I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus,
and it will devour the palaces of Ben Hadad.”

Damascus is one of the oldest populated cities in the world today. We have been reading about God’s judgment against many nations and cities at the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Here we read that the city of Damascus was also to be defeated, but it doesn’t appear that the prophesy is telling us that Damascus was to be completely destroyed. After Nebuchadnezzar took over the area, he decided not to destroy this city. For some reason, God decided to allow this one to continue to stand.

God has predicted the complete destruction of Damascus through other prophets, but this was not the right time. Since all of these other civilizations were wiped out, it would have been easy to assume that Damascus would have been wiped out too. It reminds us that our ideas of what will or should happen are not accurate at all without first consulting God’s word.

This is a very timely and relevant message for our cultures today. We are tempted to think that God’s word should be considered based on scientific evidence. Some believe that if the evidence appears to disagree with God’s word, then God’s word should be reinterpreted to fit the evidence, but the fact that Damascus stands today, reminds us that God’s word decided what the evidence would be, not the other way around. If the evidence appears to go against the Bible, then the evidence is the thing that should be doubted. Most likely, we are interpreting it incorrectly. It is possible to incorrectly read the Bible, but when the Bible is clear, then man’s ideas should be doubted rather than God’s word.

Day 184: When God’s Sword Comes Out

Jeremiah 47:1-7

Yahweh’s word that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck Gaza.
Yahweh says:
“Behold, waters rise up out of the north,
and will become an overflowing stream,
and will overflow the land and all that is therein,
the city and those who dwell therein.
The men will cry,
and all the inhabitants of the land will wail.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong ones,
at the rushing of his chariots,
at the rumbling of his wheels,
the fathers don’t look back for their children
because their hands are so feeble,
because of the day that comes to destroy all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains;
for Yahweh will destroy the Philistines,
the remnant of the isle of Caphtor.
Baldness has come on Gaza;
Ashkelon is brought to nothing.
You remnant of their valley,
how long will you cut yourself?

“ ‘You sword of Yahweh, how long will it be before you are quiet?
Put yourself back into your scabbard;
rest, and be still.’

“How can you be quiet,
since Yahweh has given you a command?
Against Ashkelon, and against the seashore,
there he has appointed it.”

Perhaps one of the reasons that Pharaoh was feeling so confident in his conquest of Babylon was that he had already fulfilled this prophesy. Here we read that God had decided to have Egypt conquer the Philistines, including Gaza, Caphtor and Ashkelon. God had decided to give Pharaoh that victory but it could have been that he thought that it was his own hand that won the battles.

When we read the past about the Philistines in the Bible, we learn that they were a rough people. They weren’t afraid to burn people they didn’t like in their own houses. They were the ones who fought using the giant Goliath and who captured Samson, but here we read that they were to become so weak that the men wouldn’t have the strength to go back and save their own children. It’s clear that the Philistines didn’t think they needed God either and were usually quite willing to attack Israel and enslave them if possible. For a portion of Israel’s past, the Philistines were the ones in charge.

It’s kind of strange to have a prophet talk to God’s sword and ask when it is going to stop, and tell it to go back into its sheath. Jeremiah also asks the sword how it can be quiet when God has commanded it to attack. Perhaps the battle went on and on until the Philistines were finally destroyed. If I were in the area, I might be asking the same thing. It’s not unusual for us to ask God when He is going to relieve us of our pain, but the problem we see here is that neither Egypt or the Philistines were willing to respect God’s word. When people look to their own understanding of things instead of trusting in God’s word, they can expect God’s sword to eventually come out and bring the justice they deserve.

Day 177: God’s Word vs. Man’s Word

Jeremiah 44:24-30

Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people, including all the women, “Hear Yahweh’s word, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt! Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘You and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and with your hands have fulfilled it, saying, “We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of the sky, and to pour out drink offerings to her.”

“ ‘Establish then your vows, and perform your vows.’

“Therefore hear Yahweh’s word, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by my great name,’ says Yahweh, ‘that my name will no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “As the Lord Yahweh lives.” Behold, I watch over them for evil, and not for good; and all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt will be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until they are all gone. Those who escape the sword will return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah few in number. All the remnant of Judah, who have gone into the land of Egypt to live there, will know whose word will stand, mine or theirs.

“ ‘This will be the sign to you,’ says Yahweh, ‘that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for evil.’ Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, just as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy and sought his life.’ ”

In this passage, God shows all of us where man’s real problem lies. On the surface, it would appear that the problem is that the people were choosing to worship “the queen of the sky” instead of God, but God exposes something else here. The people told God that they were going to keep their vows, but their vow was against the vow of God. The real issue is that the people were putting themselves in the place of God in their attempt to keep their own word. They were the ones who were choosing to elevate “the queen of the sky” and they were the ones who made a bad vow, so God told them that His vow is against them. As a result, the people would find out “whose word will stand, mine or theirs.”

These Jews had given up on God’s word and had chosen to believe in their own ideas about the “queen of the sky.” They never really talked to this “queen.” They were actually worshiping their own imaginations. They were trusting in their own ideas. Modern atheists today would probably mock this idea of worshiping some “queen of the sky” but they still have the very same underlying problems. They trust in their own faulty ideas and they even personify them. There are atheists who believe that “life will find a way,” but life in this sense is an evolutionary concept. It doesn’t have a mind. It can’t find things. They say things like: “science is atheistic,” but science is merely a set of tools that we use to learn things, it doesn’t have a mind. It can’t be an atheist! The concept of evolution teaches that somehow, randomness creates all of the good things that we enjoy but randomness is the opposite of creation in our experience. The idea that randomness can create, is applying a magical ability to a concept. It’s clear that atheists today are merely worshiping their own ideas and they vow to keep those ideas in tact at all cost. It is clear from this passage what God will do. God’s word will continue to oppose them until it proves to be true, just as God’s word opposed the remnant of Judah in Egypt.

Day 176: The Danger of Abandoning the Truth

Jeremiah 44:19-23

The women said, “When we burned incense to the queen of the sky and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her, without our husbands?”

Then Jeremiah said to all the people—to the men and to the women, even to all the people who had given him an answer, saying, “The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, didn’t Yahweh remember them, and didn’t it come into his mind? Thus Yahweh could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you have committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation, an astonishment, and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is today. Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against Yahweh, and have not obeyed Yahweh’s voice, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil has happened to you, as it is today.”

When we decide to question God’s word, we put ourselves in serious danger. It’s important for us to understand the basis for good and bad reasoning. Good reasoning is based on fact, but if we choose to reason without believing in what God says, our reasoning is unhinged from reality. That’s because a mere human can’t be certain about anything. We make mistakes and we are often dishonest. We also may not know all of the facts that we should know in order to make a good decision. These things make our own understanding of the facts unreliable. Judah had rejected the word of God and decided to start reasoning without first accepting God’s facts. Hopeless confusion and destruction was now all that was left for them.

These people had convinced themselves that the queen of heaven was more likely to give them well being than God was because they perceived that whenever they worshiped her, their lives were better. God tried to remind them that the reason the their lives were worse was because He had seen them worshiping her and punished them in response to that. It would appear that the people’s ears were already closed to Jeremiah at this point, though. I would think that what Jeremiah was saying would be critical information to them. You would think that the fact that things got bad only after God was upset with them would change their minds, but because their hearts and minds were unwilling to even listen, they could no longer find their way back to the facts. They had lost hold of reality and had no way back. When we cut off the truth, how can we ever get back to it? All we have left, is to trust in our own assumptions about what is real and as we see here, our own thinking will lead to our destruction.

When I consider what happened to these people, it reminds me of a couple of important things for us to remember today. One is that we would all be lost and without hope had God not caused us to listen to His word and given us an opportunity to see things in a new light. We were all trapped in our own assumptions, but God, by His Holy Spirit, interrupted our assumptions and told us the truth in a way that we were able to understand. It’s important for us to remember that it was God who saved us from the prison of bad thinking that we used to live in. The other important thing to remember is that we could get lost again. If we decide to doubt God and trust in our own ideas instead, we will find ourselves in need of saving again. I don’t mean that we lose our salvation, but God may have to go out searching for us when we wander off. Thankfully, God won’t leave us and will bring us back to a place of faith again.