Jeremiah 40 to 42 After the siege ended, Nebuchadnezzar had left a small contingent in the land to care for it. They came to Jeremiah, the prophet, seeking God’s counsel about what they should do. Standing before him, they said: “Please pray to the Lord “your” God that He will tell us where we should go and what we should do. We promise that whatever He says, we will do.” After ten days, Jeremiah emerges from his prayer closet with God’s counsel, which is resoundingly rejected. Jeremiah’s words and their promise to do whatever he said don’t match what they wanted to hear. How often do we make promises, but become impatient and decide to do what “we want” not what God says?
Instead of believing Jeremiah, they said: “God did not send you to tell us to stay here.” Out of the mouth, the heart speaketh. Their false piety is nothing more than hypocrisy. They said, we will not stay here because “our” God said for us to go. How like Saul when Samuel confronted him and like him, this contingent quickly forgot their promise because it didn’t fit with their plans. Now it is not “your” God but, “our” God and, “our” God said; go to Egypt.
Jeremiah reminded them and he is reminding us:
God would not send confusing messagesbecause He not a God of confusion
Are we wanting God’s permission to do what we have already decided OR do we wait and listen for His voice to say: “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” [Is 30:21]
Genesis 20 Abraham, what were you thinking when you told Abimelech that Sarah was your sister? Did you not learn from your foray into Egypt? How often do we find ourselves doing another lap around the wilderness like the Israelites because we fail to learn from the first mistake and just keep repeating it? It is no wonder unbelievers call us hypocrites. Our walk and talk do not match. Maybe that is why God had the Israelites come to the Tabernacle at least 3 times a year to offer sacrifices. Those were visual reminders of men’s failure to walk circumspectly. We too need constant reminding to keep short accounts with God.
Abraham surmised forgetting the foray into Egypt when he said: “surely I thought no one fears God in this place.” Without firsthand knowledge he presumed. Because David saw that as his weakness he wrote: “Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me;” [Ps 19] There is a warning here that Abraham should have known; do not assume without facts.
Abraham said he believed God but his life revealed that he feared men more than God. Beware of this sin! The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. [Prov 29:25]
God was gracious to both Abraham and Abimelech but think of what could have been avoided had Abraham just trusted God! Fear God and trust Him only.
Has someone ever called you a hypocrite? Maybe they, like Abimelech, feared God more than you? Is what others think about you more important than your relationship with God?
Obadiah/Jonah: We have heard: sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me. But, of course, we know that that is an untruth for we have been the recipient of hurtful words and they linger in our hearts. Both Obadiah and Jonah heard the words of hate but what they did with those words is a lesson for all of us. The prophets Obadiah and Jonah are sequestered between other books that we might stop and reflect: is my heart that of man or is my heart that of God.
Obadiah heard God speak and he recorded the gloating prideful words of Edom but he saw that if he left it at the feet of God, he could see hope when all seemed lost. Listen to his words: those who have been delivered will go up to Mt. Zion!
In sharp contrast is the prophet Jonah who wore his hatred on his sleeve. He hated the Ninevites and was angry that God would call him to go there and preach. In his mind, Jonah was asking; how could I, after all, they have done? And so Jonah found a berth in a ship to hide but soon God would hide him in the belly of a fish.
God’s question to Jonah is one that HE is asking us: Do you have a right to be angry? God is asking us that same question. God is asking us to see men through His eyes of compassion even-when-it-is-hard.
Ezekiel 33 We have become a culture in which blameshifting and judging is as commonplace as yesterday’s news.
The exiles come to hear Ezekiel’s preaching but then behind his back they gossip about his words—and who knows what else. Many go to “church” and say what a great message, but later tear the preacher apart. The preacher’s message was clear; “Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds!” Instead, they say, It’s not my fault we are in this fix! If it isn’t your fault, whose fault is it? Or, others say: God isn’t fair. Really? How about your fairness to God when you hear what to do and don’t do it? James says if you know what to do and don’t do it, it is sin.[James 4:17] And then there is this argument: See, I told you, there is no hope, what’s done is done. Are you deaf? God is not willing any should perish. The answer is to turn and repent of your sin!.
All of this sounds so familiar. What goes around comes around. Pilate heard Jesus say I am the truth and scoffed: what is truth? Instead of listening he turned and walked away thinking he could just wash his hands and all would be well. The exiles were like Pilate.
Dr. Constable is right: When we are fairly comfortable it is easy to listen to preaching and to critique the preacher but do nothing in response to what he has said.
People are waiting for the movie Downton Abbey to be released. People already have purchased tickets and are counting down the days. Why are people drawn to this fictitious story? One reason may be that one character, the stuffy butler, captures our heart. Like in feudal times the butler understood his role as servant and he obeyed. In the NT Peter has a vision in which he is told to rise up and kill but he responded: “Surely not, Lord!” How often are we like Peter and not like the butler when we say “but Lord?” or “why me Lord.” Could it be that we don’t understand our role as a servant?
The Lord prepared Ezekiel for the death of his wife. He told him:
“I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you with a jolt, but you must not mourn or weep or shed tears.”
And it happened just as the Lord had said; in the evening his wife died and Ezekiel did just as the Lord commanded. Ezekiel did not question: “but why Lord?” or as Peter said, “Surely not, Lord!” Ezekiel, like the stuffy butler, obeyed without question because he knew his position as servant and he trusted the Lord to take care of the details.
How about us? Do we trust God enough to be obedient even when we don’t understand the reasons behind his request?
Job and his three “comforters” have been dialoguing back and forth on the points of wickedness and righteousness. The three, Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar are sure Job is in the camp of the wicked. As their words show they believe the contrast to Romans 8:1!
Listen in to the dialog between Job and Eliphaz In Job 21 to 24 to get the whole story and then go and read Psalm 73 to see another person who faces this same conundrum.
Job responds to the next challenge by asking the same thought Asaph pondered. Why do the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous seem to falter and many times fade away. Asaph wondered if he, like Job, had remained faithful for no reason. We often say the same thing as we watch all of our life’s savings eaten by moths and our bodies suffer from disease and harm by others. God is not in a box, closed and secure from all of life; He is omniscient! So Job’s three friends and Asaph himself have to look at life from another viewpoint.
Asaph returns to the Temple where he says: I entered the precincts of God’s temple and then I understood the destiny of the wicked. But, Job has no temple yet to attend so he is left with his thoughts and trying to piece them together. He says the “counsel of the wicked is far from me!” I just don’t understand and if only God would come and we could talk about this it would all be made right. Eliphaz remains steadfast in his critical argument against Job but Job tells him: He knows the path I take and if he tested me I would come forth as gold. As we read those words we must decide if that is true for us. If God would come and stand in our presence would He say that? Job and Asaph looked at life without that confirmation but if you are a born-again believer you can attest to this truth because of Roman 8:1:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2Kings 18 – 20 If truth be known, boasting comes rather easily to us. The prophet Jeremiah said this:
“If people want to boast, they should boast about this: They should boast that they understand and know me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things,” says the Lord”
Let’s see if Hezekiah passed that test and then check ourselves as well.
It seems that no matter how good, how powerful, how majestic God is, men vacillate between being faithful and unfaithful. An enemy surfaces and men capitulate and surrender failing to realize that God can and will drive them out. So it was with Hezekiah first time around. He saw the kingdom of Israel right next door surrender and taken captive to the land of Assyria yet he did not learn from that error of judgment. Instead when faced with the same scenario, used bribery instead of prayer. Having been successful, Assyria escalated the demand expecting the same result but this time Hezekiah submitted not to him but to God. God routed the enemy and peace returned because Hezekiah turned to God. If only we would learn the first time around.
Next Hezekiah is sick unto death and he prays for healing and God restores him to full health. But, then another enemy, Babylon comes knocking. Hezekiah misses an opportunity to share the power of God. Instead, Hezekiah shares his wealth. The Chronicle writer notes that God left Hezekiah alone when they came to “test what was in his heart.” Hezekiah missed a golden opportunity to share the power of God to heal. It wasn’t his wealth that made him whole but God!
How many golden opportunities have we missed?
Today, stop, use every opportunity to share Christ.
2 Sam 13 As we read this tragedy we are confronted with the sin of David being replicated in his firstborn son Amnon but more so is the innocence of his daughter Tamar. How many of our daughters have had to face similar circumstances and only hear the silence of those who should stand up and call sin sin. How many have heard their brothers say “be quiet; don’t take it so seriously.” We want to scream, cry and join our hearts with Tamar whose virginity was slain. We want to not let her voice go unnoticed as she cries out from the grave; learn from my naiveté and my trusting innocence when I should have seen and stopped the charade in its tracks. Girls take heed!
Tamar was raped plain and simple and she was silenced. Her voice cries out from the pages of scripture. Scripture says keep away from sexual immorality but our culture says it won’t happen to you. Scripture says possess your own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion but our culture says just be silent. Tamar was caught in a catch 22 situation and her father was too naïve to think his only son would take sexual advantage of his sister. Fathers, listen and put hedges of protection around your daughters.
What can we learn from Tamar? Satan is diabolical and crafty and uses men like Jonadab and Amnon so we must be wise and discerning. Tamar is saying don’t be foolish; sin is about to happen. Tamar is crying out from the grave; listen to me; learn from me. No means no.
Tamar cries out: Fathers; put hedges of protection around your daughters; rebuke the sin and the sinner. Daughters, when you sense danger leave because Satan is more powerful than you are!
The anointed King David rose to prominence as the Goliath killer, unafraid of his size and character. Yet, as we read this chapter, we find that fear of King Saul drove David to sin to protect himself. Where was God then? It seems like we are doing another lap around the wilderness and we are back to Prov 29:25 again “the fear of man is a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” How often does this verse reveal our heart and our actions, like the old saying of putting the cart before the horse.
David’s sin of lying led to tragic results when Doeg the Edomite killed the high priest and the other priests. This won’t be David’s first lie which causes us to wonder why did God choose him to be the next king. The answer is what God told Samuel. I don’t look at the outward man but the heart of the man. One of the character qualities of David is that of repentance when his sin was revealed.
We are quick to criticize David but fail to see how often we too make critical mistakes when it comes to self-protection because of the fear of man. Remember the words of Isaiah “God is the one you must respect, He is the one you should fear.” [Is 8:13]
Today, stop and slow down; think before you act and repent when your sin is revealed.
Prov 28 “A poor person who walks in his integrity is better than one who is perverse in his ways even though he is rich.”
Today we hear it said and see it before us; get it while you can by any means you can. Is it really better to be materially rich? What does that reflect in our mind’s eye? Do we trust in God’s provision for our daily needs or do we choose to store up riches for an unknown future?
In a recent publication, an author commented that men strive to attain material possessions while forgetting the principle of Luke 12:20 ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” We might all take a moment and check our checkbook to see what entries are placed there. What will we plan to do with any abundance that God has given to us? Will we choose to bless others or be like Scrooge who hoarded his wealth? And if our checkbook is lacking in dollar signs why not consider offering our services to a homeless shelter this season or providing a simple meal to a lonely person in your church?
Jim Elliott was told he could do anything he wanted to, could have obtained houses lands accolades applauds and treasures but instead he felt a call to Ecuador to the Auca Indians. He had written in his journal: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.