Monday, August 31, 2009

It Will Happen

Ezekiel 12:21-25
(21) And the word of the LORD came to me:
(22) "Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, 'The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing'?
(23) Tell them therefore, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.' But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision.
(24) For there shall be no more any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel.
(25) For I am the LORD; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord GOD."

Not being a prophet, the son of a prophet, or even working for a non-profit, I can't be too sure about this, but I've got to think that unfulfilled prophecies have to be very high on the list of the frustrations of God's annointed. Ezekiel and others predicted doom for Jerusalem. The people saw some of it, but were in kind of a limbo time. The final exile was yet to happen, so they went back to thinking that all was well. Plus, it seems that there were those who gave false prophecies to tickle the ears of the people.

Our inclination is always for certaintly. I know that I tend to have such small faith when it comes to things like these. I know that Christ will return someday, but I would really appreciate a date. God chose not to give us any kind of certain dates, despite what some folks with their end-time charts may tell us. We are to accept His promises by faith.

What seems bizarre to me is that we can look at how many of His prophecies were fulfilled even within the time of Scripture. This book is a great example of it. King Zedekiah was eventually exiled and blinded. The city did fall. And getting outside of this book, we know that the prediction of Isaiah 7:14 was ultimately fulfilled in the coming of Christ. It's prophecies like these that help to cement my faith in Scripture.

All this tells me that I need to patiently wait on God. He has given me no promises other than my salvation and that Christ will eventually come to set the world right again. Frankly, that needs to be enough.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A New Heart

Ezekiel 11:19-21
(19) And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,
(20) that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
(21) But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord GOD."

This is a little appetizer for a similar promise that is coming in Ezekiel 36. Here God is telling Ezekiel how things will work. The people have hearts of stone. God promises that He will remove their hearts of stone and replace them. He has to do this in order that they can follow Him. It ends by reminding us that there are those who will still pursue their own desires. I would take this to mean that they still have the hearts of stone.

Hopefully this passage points you to the incredible majesty of God. He transforms hearts in His sovereign will. He doesn't woo people to Him. He doesn't sit up in heaven hoping that we will choose Him because He loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. No, He transforms people from the inside-out so that they may have a relationship with Him.

Does this make the chosen any better than those who are not chosen? I would say no. We are all like sheep who have gone astray. All I know is that I want to be faithful to my calling.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Holy Indignation

Ezekiel 9:4-6
(4) And the LORD said to him, "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it."
(5) And to the others he said in my hearing, "Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity.
(6) Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the house.

This continues Ezekiel's vision. He saw that the Lord wanted this man clothed in linen to put a mark on those who were upset by what they saw in Jerusalem. This reminds me of what Peter had to say about Lot and his reaction to Sodom:

2 Peter 2:7-8
(7) and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked
(8) (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

It seems that there is something to be said for being upset by what we see around us. However, I also think that there is a danger in this. It is popular, particularly in more fundamentalist circles, to build a bunker against the world. Yes, the world is filled with wickedness. We even have whole Christian denominations calling evil good. The homosexual lobby practically has a whole broadcasting network dedicated to their cause. Our churches are filled with gossip and slander.

Yes, there is much to get upset about. However, unless that indignation comes from the right place we are nothing more than Pharisees. Are we upset because we want to feel good about not doing what we see others doing? Or are we upset because we realize how much sin grieves God?

More importantly, are we starting with the mirror? Are we mostly concerned with dealing with our own sin. I know how easily my heart is led to seeing things I shouldn't. I know how easily my stomach is led to eating when I don't really need the fuel. I know how easily my mouth can go to gossip and slander. I know how easily I move to laziness when I should be working to earn the salary I am paid each month.

Yes, let us groan about the abominations before us, but let us start with those we see in our own lives, amen?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hiding from God

Ezekiel 8:10-12
(10) So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel.
(11) And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up.
(12) Then he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, 'The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.'"

This is part of a vision that Ezekiel had. I don't think he was necessarily seeing actual events real-time, nor do I think that matters. The point is that there were elders of the house of Israel committing idolatry in secret. This was considered to be a grave abomination, as we would expect.

There are so many things that come to my mind as I read this, but I'll limit myself to two. First, I am reminded of how I lived when I was enslaved to sexual sin. I was capable of reading the Bible, closing it, and then surfing porn. That's how bad it became for me. That's how far I had taken my idolatry. Of course it was impossible to do it if I had any sense at all of the presence of God. Who would surf porn with Jesus in the room?

How did I manage this then? I pretended that God wasn't watching. I was always painfully aware of His presence afterward, but while I was feeding my lust I would just ignore Him. I was like the hideous bugblatter beast of Traal in the Hitchiker's Guide series. This beast was so stupid that it figured that if you couldn't see it, then it couldn't see you. That's how I treated God. I treated Him like he was that beast and that if I ignored Him I could do what I wanted. Of course, this is patently ridiculous but you need to do those kinds of mental gymnastics if you are going to consistently feed your flesh.

The other thing I think of is how rampant idolatry is within the church today. We may not worship images of animals, but I there are plenty of other idols for us to worship. Gluttony is an easy one to point out. The love of self and fame are pretty easy to spot as well. There are more subtle ones like the love of money. Family can be an idol as well. How about comfort? How about sports teams?

Idolatry is everywhere and certainly not limited to the church and its leaders. However, the leaders should know better. As someone training to be a leader of some sort, what am I doing to ferret out the idols in my heart? I know that there are still plenty in there.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting Wet

Ezekiel 7:14-17
(14) "They have blown the trumpet and made everything ready, but none goes to battle, for my wrath is upon all their multitude.
(15) The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour.
(16) And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of them moaning, each one over his iniquity.
(17) All hands are feeble, and all knees turn to water.

This passage describes how the people will react to the wrath of the Lord. As you can see, the description is not very pretty. Most will be destroyed and those who survive will be terrified.

My ESV Study Bible had an interesting note about verse 17. Apparently the Septuagint understood this to be that their thighs would become wet. In other words, they would be so terrified that they would wet themselves in fear. I do understand that most modern translations put an understood "as" or "like" in there so that the idea is that they would become so terrified that their knees would become weak.

I don't want to devolve into 10 year-old boy potty humor here. However, I do want to make the point that this shows just how real the Bible is. The language of the King James tends to give a very lofty air to the Bible because of how our ears hear 17th century speech with all the "thees" and "thous." I would submit that the Bible is actually very real and should be understood in language we can understand. Of course, the trick is to do that in a way that is also faithful to the text.

Oh, and lest this be a purely academic post, I would like to use this opportunity to remind you that you do not want to be on the receiving end of God's wrath. However, apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ that is just what you have coming to you. Repent and believe now before it is too late.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Faithful Watchman

Ezekiel 3:17-19
(17) "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.
(18) If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
(19) But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

This is the beginning of a longer passage where God gives instruction to Ezekiel. He explains what Ezekiel is to do with both wicked and righteous people. Basically, it is Ezekiel's job to deliver the mail.

Our job is no different. We are to deliver the gospel to people. We cannot make them believe. In fact, there is nothing in this passage where God demands persuasiveness from Ezekiel. He simply wants Ezekiel to be faithful in delivering His message. Those who hear the message need to do business with the Lord.

It would seem to me that this has clear application for the Christian today. It is certainly true for those who are called to teach and preach, but I believe it is generally true for those who have repented and believed in Christ. I don't think that God will demand blood from us if we do not share the gospel because that demand has been satisfied at the cross. However, I do believe that we are to be as faithful as Ezekiel was.

I know that this is something I am not great at. I'm OK, but anyone who is consistently faithful must also have a proclivity for hot tubs because he is going to spend a lot of time in hot water. There is certainly a tension here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Throne of the Lord

Ezekiel 1:25-28
(25) And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.
(26) And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.
(27) And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.
(28) Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

I have long used a joke I picked up from a coworker a long time ago. When a decision has to be made I will tell my immediate manager "that's why you get the big chair." This is always a joke because the person just above me has the same office furniture I have. It's a sarcastic way of making the point that he gets more responsibility with few extra perks.

Conversely, God really does get the big chair. Ezekiel 1 is a description of it. It's pretty wild with living creatures that have four different faces, feet like calves' hooves, and wheels that propel them in any direction without turning. I'm not sure how it works, but it is pretty incredible. As the ESV Study Bible points out, Ezekiel frequently uses the Hebrew word "ki," which is translated as "like, as." In other words, he is groping for language to describe this vision.

It's easy to gloss over this chapter in pursuit of the meat of Ezekiel's visions. However, I think doing that robs us of a chance to learn something really important. I love the Third Day song "Show Me Your Glory." Well, here we have a sense of what God's glory is really like and it is awesome.

I know that this is something I need to consider a bit more. Our age tends to throw the word "awesome" around quite a bit. This description of God is truly worthy of awe.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Faithful God

Lamentations 3:19-23
(19) Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
(20) My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
(21) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
(22) The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
(23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

No study of Lamentations would be complete without treating this passage. Verse 23 would make for a great hymn, wouldn't it?

This passage reminds me of where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going. I remember being stuck in the muck and mire of habitual sin. I remember how I had to go when pornography beckoned. I remember how I would eat out of boredom rather than hunger. I remember what it was like to get winded after climbing a flight of stairs. Those were bitter times indeed.

I certainly am not perfect with my eyes, mouth, or legs. However, I am not where I was. I know that even when I do stumble the Lord is there faithfully showing me mercy. Every morning is a fresh chance to live for His glory. This is amazing to me when I consider how badly I mess up sometimes. Yet He is there and He is faithful.

2 Timothy 2:11-13
(11) The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
(12) if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
(13) if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself.

Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God is Love?

Lamentations 2:2
(2) The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; in his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought down to the ground in dishonor the kingdom and its rulers.

I continue discussing the nature of God with some folks at an online message board. The leader of that board insists that his view of God is correct. He sees God as love, but not necessarily as personal. He also sees all religions as basically the same. Of course, these things aren't true, though there are elements of truth to his belief. I am trying to give a biblical view of who God is. Hopefully someone will listen there.

This verse really turns the whole "God is love" concept on its ear, doesn't it? Yes, there are two verses that describe God this way in 1 John, but to see Him simply as love at the exclusion of His other traits is a big mistake. Here we see that God is just. In fact, we see that He "has swallowed up without mercy." That doesn't sound like the God we know, right?

We must remember that God is holy. He is also just. His holiness and justice demand satisfaction for sin. That is what Christ accomplished on the cross. He did not show mercy to His Son, but let Him bear the curse of the Father's wrath. What a Savior!

And, lest we think that the Old Testament God is somehow different than the New Testament God (which of course is ridiculous since God doesn't change), there is this verse:

Lamentations 2:19
(19) "Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street."

This is a call to repent and prayerfully seek God's mercy. That was all that they could do in the face of His judgment. That's all we can do too. The good news for us is that on this side of the cross we are certain that there is grace.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Prayer for Repentance

Lamentations 1:18
(18) "The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering; my young women and my young men have gone into captivity.

Metaphorically speaking, Jerusalem realized her folly. She understood that she had rebelled against the Lord and His Word. She did not plead for an end to suffering, but asked that her suffering be used as an example to others. She wanted to use it to glorify God. In other words, she got it right after she had got it wrong for so long.

I think this is a much-needed reminder in Evangelicalism today. We need to remember that repentance is not just punching our tickets to heaven. It is a matter of realizing the folly of our sin against the Word of God. It is a matter of not just being sorry, but actually turning away from it.

I rejoice for the fact that I will have a chance to share my testimony at the fall convocation this semester at school. The reason is because I am quite certain that there will be men in attendance who struggle with sexual sin. Also, I won't have to look too far to find men who struggle with gluttony. My prayer is that my example can help others to turn from their sin and to the Lord. All I can do is put it out there. It is up to the Lord to make the seeds grow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Choose Your Friends Well

Lamentations 1:2
(2) She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.

I've finished Jeremiah and now it's time for Lamentations. It seems silly to finish Jeremiah and not read this one too. I find it fascinating from a literary perspective because of all the acrostics in it. It almost seems like God was showing off when He inspired this book.

This verse picks up where Jeremiah left off. Jerusalem was devastated. She had a lot of allies through her whoredom, but they have all abandoned her. She is left alone and broken.

While I am not a fan of "Jesus is my BFF" theology, I would commend Him to you here. People will fail us. Even folks who appear to be solid will fail us. Jerusalem made poor choices with her allies and paid the price. But even if we make good choices we are going to be disappointed from time to time.

Don't rely on people to see you through life. Rely on Jesus. I really think that He is who Solomon had in mind when he wrote:

Proverbs 18:24
(24) A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lessons from Jeremiah

I finished Jeremiah this morning. Going through that book slowly was not a lot of fun, though it was edifying. As I finish I want to reflect on a few themes I saw in it.

The biggest one is that God is sovereign. He has a plan and He means to stick to it. Whether part of that plan involves "middle knowledge" is not up for me to say right now, but He clearly knew that His people would mess up the covenant.

God uses means to accomplish His will. We should not feel secure even if we are one of the means He uses. He used the Babylonians and they got the longest section describing their destruction. Short-term success does not necessarily equate to holiness.

On a personal level, I feel for Jeremiah. He had a very bad gig. What's incredible to me is how faithful he remained to his calling. My seminary uses this verse as sort of its foundation:

Jeremiah 3:15
(15) "'And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Some of this is a bit of a culture war mentality that we have, but I think that there is a deeper reason. If we are going to be faithful preachers we need to look to Jeremiah as an example of what can happen to us. I don't think any of my classmates or I are going to get thrown in any cisterns, but we are likely to face some scorn and derision if we preach the Word faithfully.

This leads to my last theme. Those of us who call ourselves Christians and "people of the book" need to be faithful to it. Jeremiah was faithful to the Word of the Lord. It brought him great pain and suffering, but we look back thousands of years later and his suffering doesn't seem so great. I have a feeling that it doesn't seem like a big deal to him now either.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Really Gone

Jeremiah 50:39-40
(39) "Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations.
(40) As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.

Ever seen Babylon on a map? I understand that it is in present-day Iraq. I also have heard that Saddam Hussein intended to rebuild it. That makes a lot of sense for someone who saw himself in the light he did.

However, it never happened. He was overthrown and democracy now more or less rules in Iraq. I am not trying to say that the United States was necessarily acting out of the interest of serving God's will, but it does seem like we were used to keep this prophecy valid. I don't want to make too much of the war in Iraq. I do know that there are a lot of people happy to have seen Saddam fall though.

My point is that God will fulfill His purposes. He will use means to accomplish them. I think that there are plenty of times when the means don't even realize how they are being used. The US invasion of Iraq is probably one of them. The Babylonian attack on Judah was certainly another.

God is bigger than we are. He sees how it all works out. No matter how hard we try we cannot foil His plans. I find that life is just better if we are working with Him rather than against Him.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Destroying the Destroyer

Jeremiah 50:2-3
(2) "Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: 'Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.'
(3) "For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away.

The circle finally closes on Babylon. God had used Babylon to punish Israel and Judah, but there still had to be a reckoning for their sin. Their time had come and God was going to use Persia to punish them.

I may have mentioned this before, but I think it bears repeating. Just because someone or some organization seems successful we should not leap to the conclusion that they are doing the right things. If we measured success that way we would be inclined to follow the gods of Babylon. After all, they had the upper hand. Their kingdom was incredibly prosperous.

However, in the end they still had to face the true God's wrath. There had to be justice for how they worshiped. Their success was fleeting only because they were instruments in God's hands.

This is why we must use the Bible as our standard for judging ministry. Obviously it leaves some things up to personal preference. I don't think God cares if we use pianos, organs, or guitars in singing our songs. I don't think he cares if we wear suits or skater jackets. What He does care about is the true proclamation of the gospel done by humble leaders who know Him and love Him. That's the kind of place where I want to worship and where I would want to lead if I end up going the pastoral route.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Working Hard

Jeremiah 48:10
(10) Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.

This little proverb appears in a chapter describing the upcoming destruction of Moab. It tells a pretty grisly tale for Moab. Of course, Moab and Israel go way back and they ultimately deserve what they get.

I just found it interesting that this proverb popped out in the middle of this chapter. According to the notes in my ESV Study Bible, this refers to the work that the Babylonians are going to do in Moab. God appointed them to destroy Moab and this proverb explains that it is important to do God's work with zeal.

I don't want to go all Prayer of Jabez on this verse. I don't think that it holds any mystical significance beyond the obvious. However, I do think that the obvious is plenty to chew on. We are to do God's work zealously. We are not to shrink back from the difficult things He calls on us to do. This is a dire warning for anyone who plans to go into any kind of ministry. Frankly, it's a dire warning for any Christian because we are all called to do the Lord's work.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Philistines

Jeremiah 47:6-7
(6) Ah, sword of the LORD! How long till you are quiet? Put yourself into your scabbard; rest and be still!
(7) How can it be quiet when the LORD has given it a charge? Against Ashkelon and against the seashore he has appointed it."

The rest of Jeremiah covers the upcoming destruction of the nations. Here we see Jeremiah's plea for the Lord to stop the destruction. However, the Lord will destroy whom He will.

I'm still not sure exactly how to read Revelation and other apocalyptic literature, but I am pretty well settled on at least one matter. Christ will come back in glory to reign. It is not going to be a good day for His enemies. There is no fence-sitting with Christ. Either you're His friend or His enemy. How will it be for you when He returns?

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Galatians 5:1
(1) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Josh Hamilton has done much damage to his witness for the gospel recently. He admitted that the wild party photos of him are legitimate. Drunk or no, what he was doing was not acceptable no matter how you look at it.

Now as a Christian as well as someone who has come out of a couple of enslaving habits I certainly can extend grace to Josh. I know what it's like to stumble. I haven't done it quite on that scale, but I certainly know what it's like.

The problem is that the world doesn't understand this. Now I'm not about to say that everyone's salvation is dependent on Josh's sobriety. However, I do know that his Jesus-talk took a big hit in the eyes of the watching world.

What upsets me is that I don't think he has the mindset of a freed person. He speaks of "recovery" all the time. He still uses the language of addiction. He does not speak of being free. I realize that there is a semantics issue here too. However, I wish that he would acknowledge that Christ came to set him free and not just to manage his sin.

I don't want to pile on Josh. He got cocky and thought that he could take some liberties. It happens to everyone sometimes. However, I also hope that he realizes what comes from the big stage he has. I also hope he can get past the injuries he has and get back into his baseball groove that he enjoyed last year.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Cause and Effect

Jeremiah 44:20-23
(20) Then Jeremiah said to all the people, men and women, all the people who had given him this answer:
(21) "As for the offerings that you offered in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your officials, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them? Did it not come into his mind?
(22) The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day.
(23) It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey the voice of the LORD or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day."

In the previous verses the people lamented how badly their lives had gone since they stopped making offerings to the queen of heaven. They figured that all the calamity had come upon them because of this. Jeremiah had to straighten them out.

I think that it is easy for us to get into the mindset of God as a cosmic traffic cop. We think that we can make Him do what we want based on how we perform. We also think that we can escape consequences of sin if we just stop sinning. These people lived in wanton idolatry and stopped when they began to be consumed by the Babylonians. They figured that stopping the idolatry would make the Babylonians go away. What they failed to consider is that the exile was the consequence of their idolatry.

For us on this side of the cross we must remember that there are consequences to sin. Yes, there is grace and forgiveness at the cross. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. However, there are still consequences we must deal with. Maybe it's an unwanted pregnancy. Maybe it's bankruptcy from poor stewardship. Maybe it's a loss of health from gluttony or drunkenness. Ultimately we will enjoy salvation, but we still need to deal with the consequences.

The good news is that it is never too late to start doing the right thing. We must repent and believe.

Friday, August 07, 2009


Jeremiah 41:6-7
(6) And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, "Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam."
(7) When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern.

I think the Bible has a bad reputation for being a boring book. Yes, there are some dry parts. Reading Leviticus without an eye on Hebrews is pretty dry, for example. However, it is also full of suspense and intrigue.

This is the culmination of the work done by the scoundrel Ishmael. I have no great theological truth on which to pontificate, but I do commend this story to you if you think that the Bible is just boring. The Bible shows the human condition, warts and all. That's one of the things that I love about it. The Bible is very, very real.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Accepting Truth

Jeremiah 38:6
(6) So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king's son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.

These folks didn't like what Jeremiah had to say about the upcoming fall of Jerusalem. Their solution was to put him in a cistern. To me, this is the equivalent of a child sticking his fingers in his ears and singing so he can't hear what someone is telling him.

We live in a time where people do not care much for propositional truth. Frankly, I don't like it much either when it convicts me. Yet there are some things that are simply true. No matter how much we may rail against it, if we jump off a tall building we are going to have to deal with gravity. If we have $100 in the bank and make a purchase for $200 we are going to have $100 of debt. You just can't argue with that.

What gets me is when we try to make these same kinds of arguments against God. I don't expect the unbelieving world to submit to the truth of God's Word, but I certainly expect that from those who claim to follow Christ. What do we say about our faith when we pick and choose what we are going to believe? Who are we to put ourselves in authority over Scripture? We say that we like the grace parts, but we don't like the parts that convict us so much.

It seems awfully arrogant to claim to know Jesus and then dismiss the parts we don't like. How did we come to know about Jesus in the first place? We used the Bible. How can we say that those parts are true and useful, but the others aren't? How can we say that the message of the gospel is appropriate for all times, and then say that we are in a different time so others don't apply?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Situational Repentance

Jeremiah 34:15-16
(15) You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name,
(16) but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves.

Jerusalem was under siege, so Jeremiah commanded the people to release all their Hebrew slaves from their commitment. Keep in mind that the Hebrew slaves were more like indentured servants. They sold themselves into service to pay for something. At the seventh year they had to be freed, per the Law.

The people obeyed at first. After all, they needed help in defending the city. But when the Babylonians stopped their siege the people changed their minds. They took the Hebrews back into slavery.

This reminds me of my promises "never to drink again" when I was hung over. How many of us have made foxhole prayers that we were sincere about at the time only to repent of our repentance later? I certainly did a lot of that when I was struggling with habitual sexual sin.

God doesn't want our wishy-washy prayers. He wants our hearts. He demands our hearts.

2 Corinthians 7:9-11
(9) As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
(10) For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
(11) For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

It all starts at the cross. Consider what your sin did to Christ. Consider how sin grieves our holy God. How can we give Him any less than our whole hearts?

Monday, August 03, 2009

The King and Priest

Jeremiah 33:14-18
(14) "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
(15) In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
(16) In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'
(17) "For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel,
(18) and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever."

The Old Testament speaks to three offices: prophet, priest, and king. Each of these had their parts to play in society. Christ came as the fulfillment of these offices. This passage speaks to two of them.

When I first read this today I was a little confused by verse 18. After all, isn't the temple unnecessary now that Christ has come? Why would anyone still need to burn sacrifices after Christ came to atone for our sins and be the propitiation of God's wrath?

I think the point is that Christ fulfills that office for us. Now that He has come we no longer need the blood of bulls and goats. He has already served as the sacrifice for all of our sin. His sacrifice is the rock on which we stand rather than our own achievements.

Of course, He is also the righteous king that sits on the throne of David. He will also sit in the judgment seat one day. My stepfather is an attorney and one of the things I've learned from him over the years is that it is good to know the judge. If you are in Christ you already know the judge. What a blessed promise!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Faith in Action

Jeremiah 32:8
(8) Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, 'Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.' Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

Jeremiah did something that seemed insane. He bought a field just before Jerusalem was to be besieged, captured, and burned. I don't know much about real estate, but I do know that this is a bad idea on the surface. If I knew a hurricane was about to hit South Florida I wouldn't go out and buy a big tract of land and develop on it. I would wait until it lost its value after the hurricane.

As with so many other things, there was symbolism to this purchase. By leading Jeremiah to purchase this property God showed that He would be faithful to the new covenant He made. Good times would return to Jerusalem one day. However, this took right perspective from Jeremiah to make this decision.

How are you living your life? Are you basing all your decisions on the temporal or do you have an eye to the future? Are you looking forward to the day when the world is consumed and we get to enjoy eternity with Christ, or are you living just for today? I'm all for Dave Ramsey, but all he can do is help us prepare our finances for our eventual retirement. If we are followers of Christ we have an eternal reward waiting for us that makes everything in this world pale in comparison.

This is not a call to asceticism, but to perspective. What hope do you have?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-33
(31) "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
(32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.
(33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Finally Jeremiah takes a turn for the positive. This is the hope that we have in Christ. God made a covenant with Israel, but they couldn't keep it. Here God promises to make a newcovenant with them. It seems to me that this was fulfilled in Christ.

I think it is unwarranted to see Christ all over the Old Testament. I've been exposed to teaching that does that. I suppose it is better to see too much of Christ than too little (so says Spurgeon), but I also want to be faithful to the text.

Even with that caution in mind I think this is a clear prediction of Christ. I also think that it gives warrant to the idea that the church and Israel are linked together. God made a promise to national Israel, but they blew it. Here God promises a new covenant through Christ. I love this promise:

Jeremiah 31:35-37
(35) Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD of hosts is his name:
(36) "If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever."
(37) Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD."

Clearly He speaks of things that cannot happen. Therefore, if we are part of the new covenant through Christ we are His and will be for eternity. As the old hymn says, "Alleluia! What a Savior!"