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Category: Jeremiah

Seeking peace and welfare

Group of hands and dove of peaceLast night in our small group discussion we read through 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and talked about seeking peace and about praying for “kings and all those in authority”. Our discussion was framed within the context of the sermon from this past Sunday which was titled, “Blessed to Be a Blessing – Three Requirements for Sharing God’s Blessing With Others”. While listening to others in the group share their thoughts and perspectives I was reminded of the following passage from Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.  – Jeremiah 29:4–7

The first thing I notice in the verses above is that it is God who is speaking and it is the exiles (the Israelites who have been led in captivity to Babylon) to whom He is speaking. Not only that, God makes it clear that it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar or the Babylonians that took them into captivity but rather that it was He (the LORD) who sent them into exile. So once again, we are reminded of God’s sovereignty and how He uses circumstances that we might perceive to be less than ideal (to put it mildly) to fulfill His purposes and to bring Him glory.

The next thing I notice is that He doesn’t tell them to wallow in sorrow or to plan their escape. There were false prophets at that time trying to convince the people that their captivity would be short lived. God, through Jeremiah, was telling them the reality of the situation which is basically that they should get comfortable. Build houses, plant gardens and establish relationships He says. In other words, be faithful in the midst of your present circumstances. Sure they wanted to go home. Sure they were grieved to be stuck in a pagan culture that did not allow them to worship the way they desired. Sure they had learned their lesson and were ready to go home and start over again. But God wanted them to be faithful to Him right where they were. Independent of their circumstances. Independent of their location.

And the last thing I see is that they are encouraged to pray for the welfare of Babylon because in it’s welfare the exiles will also find their welfare. The word “welfare” is translated as “peace” (shalom) in other versions of the Bible. How difficult of a command this must have been. They were supposed to pray for the peace and prosperity of those who have destroyed everything they held dear and who carried them away from their homeland? It doesn’t make sense. And yet, that is what they were commanded to do.

I often wonder what would happen if the people who are always quick with a complaint or a criticism of our present day “kings and all those in authority” spent that time and energy praying for them instead. I just wonder what would happen? Would God hear that cry and heal the land? What if the time that was spent putting together rallies, demonstrations and boycotts was instead spent fasting, praying, and humbling ourselves before an almighty God?

My encouragement for the day is to be more faithful in praying for our earthly leaders and authorities and seeking the welfare of our land.

Seeking Understanding and Majoring on the Majors

I’ve had some discussions recently with a dear brother-in-the-Lord that has involved the interpretation and application of scripture that quite frankly, I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with. I anticipate that we all at some point have come across something in God’s word that just doesn’t reconcile with our conscience or with our perception of what is right or just. The danger when encountering situations like this is that we start to filter the truth of God’s word through our own sense of right and wrong and we assess it in light of who we think God is versus who He really is.

It is times like this where I need to remind myself that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. After all, if I’ve had trouble coming to grips with the things that my friend and I have been discussing, it is even more troubling to consider the fact that God would have His own son – His perfect son – die on a cross for sins He did not commit. Again, God’s ways are not my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.

This morning I read the following in Jeremiah 9:

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Reading this passage reminded me that the wisdom, strength and wealth of man is nothing to boast about. These things will all fail and pass away. If we are to boast in anything, let us boast in the fact that we know (intimately and personally) and understand God.

When I read this today one of my first reactions was to think it would be hard for me to boast in my understanding of God. As I mentioned above, sometimes I just don’t understand Him or His word. But although I may not fully understand Him, I am reminded by my reading in Jeremiah that as long as I understand that God is “the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth”, everything else will be alright.

There may be things that I do not understand about God and there may be passages in scripture that I am struggling to come to grips with but I do know this – God is steadfast in His love, justice and righteousness. I believe this. I trust in this. I have seen evidence of this and have personally experienced this. God has revealed enough about Himself for me to respond and walk by faith, not sight.

I will never stop pursuing wisdom – a right understanding of the Lord. But along the way I submit all things to Him and through the power of the Holy Spirit will believe and obey that which He has already revealed to me.

God knows the plan

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

This is a verse that many people have committed to memory and is often shared with the intent of eliciting warm fuzzies. It’s a nice, comforting, and encouraging verse. However, when you look at it in context, it can be easy to see how it may have been difficult to experience an immediate sense of comfort and encouragement when it was originally shared.

God, through the prophet Jeremiah, just told His people that because of your rebellious sin, I’ve allowed you to be taken captive by the Babylonians and there you will remain in exile for 70-years. While you’re there, build houses, plant crops, grow your family, and seek the welfare of both the city and the people. In other words, you’ve brought this on yourself and it’s going to be a while.

The beauty of this is that God is still God and the Israelites are still His people. He is simply disciplining His children as an all-loving and perfect father. And He has a plan. Part of His plan involves this period where His children will not be comfortable. Part of His plan involves His children being strangers in a foreign land. But it’s His plan. And ultimately, His plan will result in His children’s welfare and His plan will provide them with a hope and a future.

I saw a quote that someone shared on Facebook today that read something like, “we keep asking God to change our circumstances but all along He wants to use our circumstances to change us”. Realize that despite your present circumstances, God is still God and you are not. Remember that God has a plan and it is for your good and His glory. He plans to give you a future and a hope.

Worth boasting about

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” – Jeremiah 9:23-24

As I read these words from Jeremiah and as I consider what the application might be for me (and try to ignore the Paul Baloche song that is now running through my head), I realize that any practical application that I derive from these two verses is not going to be focused on boasting. It’s not about the act of boasting nor the content of my boast. The focus really comes down to a simple question; who am I most concerned with pleasing?

Am I most concerned with pleasing and impressing my fellow man? Am I constantly striving to impress my colleagues at work with my knowledge, expertise and results? Do I have an entire photo album on Facebook dedicated to pictures of my new luxury sedan so that my neighbors and “friends” from high school are informed about how well I’m doing? Do I only wear short sleeve shirts so that everyone has a clear view of my marathon personal record that is tattooed on my forearm?*

Or, is my focus on pleasing God?

In the verses above, the LORD provides a list of things to not boast in (wisdom, strength, wealth) as well as a list of things to boast in. He encourages those who boast to boast in this; that he understands and knows God. In particular, the man who boasts in the LORD, should understand and know that the LORD practices:

  • steadfast love
  • justice
  • righteousness

God delights in practicing and exercising those attributes, He delights in revealing those attributes to His people, He delights when we know and understand those things about Him, and He delights when we have experienced and enjoyed those attributes such that we desire to boast about Him.

As with most things, this all becomes easier to do when we take our eyes off of ourselves, off of those around us, and fix them firmly on the LORD. I will boast in the Lord my God. I will boast in the one who’s worthy.

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*I don’t own a luxury sedan nor do I have a tattoo. I may try to impress my colleagues sometime but if I do, it’s not a conscious decision and I repent.

Ancient paths

There are times when I enjoy exploring and blazing new trails. However, there is also something to be said about coming along after someone else has already done that work. There’s something to be said about having a safe, efficient, and established route to follow knowing that most of the uncertainty and risk has been mitigated. In Jeremiah 6, the nation of Israel finds itself in a situation where the God that they rejected, has now rejected them. The chickens are coming home to roost and their years of disobedience are going to be dealt with as disaster approaches from the north. All along, God had been warning Israel by setting watchmen over them – prophets who delivered God’s word about how they were to walk with God – and yet, the Israelites did not heed the warning.

The verse that jumped out at me during my reading this morning is the following one.

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Jeremiah 6:16

In the verse reference above, the Lord instructs them to consider the road they are on and to look at the ancient path as a reference point for how to walk in a way that will yield rest for their souls. And yet, the people refuse. Taking this verse line-by-line and considering how I might apply them to my context, I see the following:

Stand by the roads, and look” – I should take the time to evaluate and consider the path that I am on. To consider my ultimate destination as well as consider how I get there. To look for the milestones and scenery to determine whether I am on track or have veered off course. Take the time to get my bearings not relative to my current surroundings but relative to the divine destination that has been established for me.

ask for the ancient paths” – When traveling to a new destination, I often inquire of others that have been there before me to find out the best way to get there. Likewise, I should consider the way of faith and how those that have come before me walked with God in obedience and by faith. I should consult God’s word that I might be encouraged as I consider how people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and others learned to walk faithfully with their God.

where the good way is; and walk in it” – This verse tells me a couple of things; there is a way that is good and I should walk in it. And, if there is a way that is good, this tells me that there must also be a way that is bad. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers“. By standing by the road and looking, we determine the road that we are on. By asking for the ancient paths, we are able to glean wisdom from wise men who have walked before us in faith with God. By walking along the good way, we can be blessed.

and find rest for your souls” – When we find ourselves walking along “the good way” we find ourselves walking in obedience and in fellowship with God. This leads to peace and rest as we abide in Him. This brings to mind Jesus inviting all who are heavy laden to come to Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. God desires us to rest in quiet confidence in all that He has done and in all that He is.

I am glad that, not only am I able to reference the paths of righteousness and way of faithfulness as outlined in the Bible, I am also able to observe and learn from Godly men in my church. Quite frankly, my biggest obstacle is probably my own pride. So, to that end, my prayer is that I will be willing to humble myself enough so that, should I look around at the roads and determine I am off course and lost, I will be willing to stop and ask, “which way to the ancient paths?”.

Obeying God and Upsetting Others – Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah 38 - Jeremiah delivers a message to King Zedekiah

Chapter 38 is pretty eventful for Jeremiah. His faithfulness to proclaim God’s message has once again put him in danger. It seems as though Jeremiah’s message does not make for good war-time propaganda and some of the officials from the king’s court are concerned that if the people hear what Jeremiah has to say, it could be detrimental to the morale of the people.  So, they decide to silence the messenger by throwing him into the bottom of a cistern. Fortunately for Jeremiah, there is another member of the king’s court named Ebed-melech that realizes that what has happened is not just and decides to do something about it. He explains to the king what has happened and receives the order to take 30 of the king’s men and rescue Jeremiah.

Once Jeremiah is free from the cistern he is summoned by the king who is interested in hearing all that Jeremiah has to say. After being assured that he will suffer no harm for delivering his message, Jeremiah proceeds to instruct the king with the word of the Lord and tells him that if he surrenders to the officials of the king of Babylon, his life will be spared and the city will not be destroyed. If he does not surrender, the outcome will be much worse and the entire city and all the people that are in it will be destroyed by fire.

Chapter 38 ends before we receive any insight into how the king will respond to the Lord’s message delivered through Jeremiah. But even without having insight into how this all turns out, it causes me to consider that Zedekiah is faced with a decision that many of us are faced with on a relatively regular basis. And that decision is, will we believe and trust in God and respond in obedience to His word or will we disregard God’s word out of concern for our own comfort or in fear of how others might perceive us? Read more

Don’t Burn the Scroll – Jeremiah 36

Jeremiah 36 - Jehoiakim burns the scrollMy time in God’s word this morning had me in Jeremiah chapter 36 where I read about Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim the king of Judah. God was gracious to Jehoiakim in that He instructed Jeremiah to deliver a message. The message being that the Lord was going to bring destruction and disaster to Judah and all the nations of Israel. That’s the bad news. The good news is the intent and motivation behind the message. You see, God wanted Jeremiah to write these things down so that upon hearing them, the house of Judah might turn from their evil ways so that God could forgive them of their iniquity and their sin. And so, Jeremiah began to speak this message from the Lord while Baruch served as a faithful scribe and transcribed everything onto a scroll.

Eventually, the king’s officials get wind of the scroll and it’s contents and request a private reading from Baruch. After hearing the message, the kings officials are fearful and instruct Baruch that he and Jeremiah should hide themselves. I’m still not sure if their fear was due to their understanding of the impending judgement of God or if they were scared of how the king would respond. Regardless, their next move is to take the scroll and give the king the benefit of hearing this important message from God. Here’s what happens next, Read more

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