Day 22: A God of Mercy and Property

Lamentations 5:1-5 :

Remember, Yahweh, what has come on us.
Look, and see our reproach.
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our houses to aliens.
We are orphans and fatherless.
Our mothers are as widows.
We must pay for water to drink.
Our wood is sold to us.
Our pursuers are on our necks.
We are weary, and have no rest.

A curious thing about this lamentation is what it implies about God. Israel was obviously destroyed for their disobedience. Why would a holy God care about their “reproach” or that they are now “orphans and fatherless?” They sinned. Now it’s their problem, not God’s. The fact that this lamentation exists and that it is found right here in God’s book, tells us that God does care, even about sinners. Israel admitted that they sinned, yet they also remembered that God was a God of mercy. God didn’t want them to suffer, even though they sinned.

Although it isn’t the most important issue in this passage, it’s interesting what the Israelis were complaining about here. They complained that they had to pay a water bill and a fuel bill. It’s a little bit difficult to feel sorry for them here isn’t it? They also complained about losing their inheritance. I think that what this poem is telling us is that the people didn’t have their own land anymore. They couldn’t dig a well and get their own water. They couldn’t grow and harvest trees for wood. They now had to pay others just to survive. We may have “private property” today but when what you can do on that property is tightly controlled by a government, then it really isn’t very private. If your property is taxed upon death then it isn’t much of an inheritance either. These kinds of things are what oppressive foreign governments did to Israel. It’s important for Christians to pay attention to these small indicators in the Bible because it may help us vote more wisely. Greed to get everything given to us by the government may result in having everything we earn taken from us, and as we read here, that’s something people lament over.

Day 116: God’s Power and Good Leadership

Jeremiah 26:17-24

Then certain of the elders of the land rose up, and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying, “Micah the Morashtite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah; and he spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Yahweh of Armies says:
“ ‘Zion will be plowed as a field,
and Jerusalem will become heaps,
and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.’
Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Didn’t he fear Yahweh, and entreat the favor of Yahweh, and Yahweh relented of the disaster which he had pronounced against them? We would commit great evil against our own souls that way!”

There was also a man who prophesied in Yahweh’s name, Uriah the son of Shemaiah of Kiriath Jearim; and he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah. When Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men and all the princes heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Uriah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt. Then Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him, into Egypt; and they fetched Uriah out of Egypt, and brought him to Jehoiakim the king, who killed him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.

But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that they didn’t give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t say that the majority of the leaders got together and took a vote as to whether or not to kill Jeremiah. All it says is that “certain of the elders of the land rose up, and spoke.” In fact, God also tells us here that if it wasn’t for “the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan,” Jeremiah would have been given “into the hand of the people to put him to death.”

This demonstrates the power of a few wise leaders. Even if the majority is wrong, a single wise leader can change the course of history. God didn’t use a vote to change the direction of the people. He used the wise words of what appears to be a small minority. This demonstrates that righteousness doesn’t come from voting, but from those who understand the truth of the situation.

In this case, the wise leaders reminded the people of their own history. It would be wrong to kill someone for prophesying against Jerusalem and Israel because good prophets had said things like this before. Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings in Judah and he didn’t kill the prophet Micah when he warned them about the same thing. Instead, the king humbled himself and prayed that God would change His mind. It appears that the second argument was that another prophet had already prophesied the very same thing. His name was Uriah and he had already been killed by the king. Jews know that the word of two witnesses establishes a fact and Jeremiah was the second witness. This was a very serious warning and it appears to have affected the people enough to stop their plans to kill Jeremiah.

These events remind us of some encouraging things. You don’t have to be in the majority to be right and to change public opinion. It also shows us that God is capable of saving us from something horrible even when it doesn’t look possible.

Day 44: Popular with One

John 5:41-44 : “I don’t receive glory from men. But I know you, that you don’t have God’s love in yourselves. I have come in my Father’s name, and you don’t receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

Jesus said that He came with the fame of His Father. He was famous because God said this is “The Guy.” Jesus didn’t need the fame of men. These Jewish religious leaders, however, thrived on the fame of men as do many politicians today. A common theme in Christianity is the promotion of the fame of God and the removal of the fame of men. All of the “great” men of the Bible were clearly fallible except for Jesus. Most of the time when you read about the disciples in John, they are in the process of doing something foolish or unfaithful. Men don’t have anything to offer. We need help. This is a major theme in “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Men, when faced with enough temptation, always give in. Jesus said that He is the only way. He was the only one who did not give in.

Pope John Paul II once said: “The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.” I think Jesus would have agreed with the John Paul II on this one. Taking a vote is not a good way to find the truth because it depends on a popularity contest. If there happens to be more sinners in the crowd than righteous, then you get something other than justice.

The quality of the vote counts for something in the world of justice. Truth in small numbers is better than mass of liars. There was no lack of voters at the Tower of Babel. Even Hitler was popular.

Here, Jesus also speaks of a man who will come in his own name. He’s going to be very popular. This appears to be a reference to “The Anti-Christ” of the future. This is a prophesy in Revelation:

Revelation 13:4-6 : They worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” A mouth speaking great things and blasphemy was given to him. Authority to make war for forty-two months was given to him. He opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his dwelling, those who dwell in heaven.

Here, John, who also wrote Revelation, mentions a man coming who will openly defame God and the people will follow him.

Jesus tells us that the only fame worth having is the fame that comes from God. That’s what we should desire. That’s what Jesus made possible!