Friday, July 29, 2011

August 1, 2011 (Judges 15; Acts 19; Jeremiah 28; Mark 14)

In Jeremiah 28 in get a glimpse into what Jeremiah thinks should lie at the heart of a prophetic ministry. In this chapter we have Jeremiah squaring off with on of the most prominent false prophets of his day, Hananiah. Hananiah had a very successful ministry of prophesying that which would tickle the ears of his audience. His message was basically (my paraphrase of course) ‘God loves us too much to allow us to suffer. We will certainly prosper!’ It was an old version of what is still around today – a classic ‘prosperity gospel.’ Jeremiah says that this kind of preaching is making God’s people trust in a lie (v.15).
Jeremiah, on the other hand is busy preaching “war, famine, and pestilence against many…” (v.8) Some might regard such preaching like they regard a sour, wet blanket. Why always such the frowning face, Jerry?
The reason Jeremiah preaches thusly is not because he does not want his people to prosper. Indeed he profusely “Amens” the sermon of Hananiah (v.5-9). He really hopes that what the false prophet says will come true. He just knows that it will not, because Holy God has said that it will not. And Holy God has said it will not because His people have become a profoundly unholy people. And whenever unholy people are trying to come to Holy God real prophets proclaim the gross reality of sin and its horrible consequences. They implore such sinners to flee the wrath to come.
So, having said all of that perhaps we should ask ourselves what kind of flavor does our “proclaiming” have to it. Can the people we share the gospel with not only sense the compassion in our voice but also the urgency we feel for their souls? Or do we present the gospel as one other alternative amongst an host of numerous options? “Why not trying Jesus if nothing else works for you?” Beyond this thought, what kind of preaching do we gravitate towards? Do we want to be entertained and have our ears tickled and leave with warm fuzzies knowing that our future is okay no matter what our lifestyle demonstrates? Or do we really welcome the rebukes of the word, realizing those rebukes are the very means God Almighty desires to use to keep us close to Him and faithful to the end?

August 2, 2011 (Judges 16; Acts 20; Jeremiah 29; Mark 15)

I think it is instructive to read the letter that Jeremiah penned to the Babylonian exiles (Jer.29) while thinking through the New Testament reality that those who have chosen to align themselves with Jesus really are exiles in this world. We are exiled aliens. This world is not our home; it is not our final destination. We are just passing through (ex: Heb.11:8-11; Phil.3:20; 1 Pet.2:11). We should not live in this world as if this world were our all. Our attachment and allegiance to this world should not be what anchors us in this life. Indeed quite the opposite should be true of us. We should be so heavenly-minded that it effects all we say, think, and do here and now.
            Having said all of this, what then should be our relationship to the current land in which we are exiled? Should we all quit our jobs and go join a monastery or go climb and tree and wait for the Lord to snatch us up? Or should we belittle our country and neglect service to it since we do not ultimately belong to it? I think the obvious answer to all of these questions is “No”! Listen to Jeremiah:
            [4] “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: [5] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. [6] 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. [7] 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.
            Live normal life and serve the country where you live and while your marrying and raising and family and engaging in employment and serving your country should not take the primary place in your life, they should nevertheless find a prominent place.

August 3, 2011 (Judges 17, Acts 21, Jeremiah 30-31; Mark 16)

            So in Acts 21 Paul is on his way to Jerusalem feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to go. On his way he makes a pit stop at Phillip the Evangelist’s house. While here a prophet named Agabus comes to Paul, wraps him up with his belt and tells Paul that this is what the Jewish people will do to him once he arrives there.
            Now ask yourself what you would have done in that situation. I probably would have said something like, “Thank you Lord that you have sent your servant to warn me from walking into harms way. I thought I heard you, but obviously I did not because I know that you would never want me to walk into danger. Although you have already spoken clearly, decidedly, and finally about what you want me to do I guess I heard wrong. So, I will just sit here and wait for another plan to formulate.” This is not what Paul says. He says:
I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (v.13).
            We will probably not have the same direct revelation that Paul has had about going to Jerusalem. God does still speak thusly (i.e. in dreams and visions, etc.) but this is not the normal way He chooses to lead especially since His written revelation has been completed. We will always need to weigh the wisdom and counsel of other godly men and women as we decide our next move. When we, however, arrive at a certain degree of confidence, as to what that move is that the Lord desires let us pursue it with all we have! And if it appears to be a path laden with risk and danger let us dismiss it outright. Indeed this is often an indication that it certainly is from the Lord! Let us pursue His will with reckless abandon and leave the consequence to Him. It may be dangerous to follow Him, but it is more dangerous not to. (Reflect on the passage in 1 Kings 13 about the disobedient prophet, especially v.24)

August 4, 2011 (Judges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalms 1-2)

It is interesting to note that in Psalm 1 the “righteous” person is first described by what he does not do. He does not “walk”, “stand”, or “sit” with the wicked. Notice the downward progression. This is the perpetual motion that sin always leads its captors in. First we are casually walking in the advice of the wicked world. We start listening to how this world says we should plan for the future and live in the present. We listen so long that one day we find that our relationship with the world is no mere casual acquaintance but now we are “standing” in the very ways of sinners. Whereas before we merely listened to the world’s advice, now we do exactly what they do so much that our lives are indistinguishable. Eventually the inevitable happens to such a person, namely, he begins to reside (sit) with those who openly mock and ridicule God and his people and his ways.
I often say that I want to be more known for what I am for than for what I am against. This Psalm, however, cautions me to make sure I am known for what I am against. Both should be evident in the life of a Christ follower. Are they evident in you?

August 5, 2011 (Judges 19; Acts 23; Jeremiah 33; Psalms 3-4)

In Jeremiah 33 the prophet is proclaiming a message of eventually restoration for God’s people.  In this proclamation many truths deserve our attention today, but I would like to focus on just one. Feel free to go beyond this in your own meditation!
We must remember that Jeremiah’s original audience was on the brink of total destruction. In just a few more chapters we will read the account of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and most of its residents. As Jeremiah writes this (and preaches it)  the people’s exile is all but inevitable. And yet, Jeremiah preaches … Hope. Hope to a people who are about to face the most trying ordeal that they have ever heard about? That is correct.  God wants Jeremiah and his people to look beyond the impending disaster to the promises that await them in the future. These promises are as sure to come to pass as the sun rising (v.19-21) and culminate in the ‘Branch’ of David (v.15). Judgment is certainly coming. But judgment is never God’s last word to His people; mercy always is. Contemplating this, especially in the face of tragedy, is a large component of what it means to walk by faith. 

August 6, 2011 (Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 34; Psalms 5-6)

Fox-Hole Faith – That is the best summary description of Jeremiah 34.
In this chapter the king of Babylon has finally reached the gates of Jerusalem and has begun the arduous yet inevitable process of besieging a city. King Zedekiah and the rest of Jerusalem’s inhabitants are terrified! Jeremiah the prophet comes and delivers a message that basically says, “Repent, and prove your repentance by the good deed of setting all of your slaves at liberty.” King Zed and the rest of the folks obey the word from Jeremiah and release their slaves. Yeah, God’s people experienced genuine repentance and respond to His word with obedience… sort of.
Until the King of Babylon leaves the siege in order to go fight on another border. Then the people (v.11) take back their slaves! The pressure abates and the people rescind their promises of repentance and obedience. It is a clear example of Fox-Hole Faith. It is a tragedy and we are not immune. All of us are tempted to vow oaths that we think will please God if he will just “get us out of this mess.” Once, however, we are rescued from the “mess” we easily forget what we vowed. May we be characterized as a people whose repentance is not motivated by what mercy we can squeeze out of God, but rather by the mercy he has already lavished on us in Jesus Christ. If He never does another act of mercy for us for all eternity besides the Cross, than that is enough to wish like the hymn writer for “a thousand tongues to sing” our Great Redeemer’s Praise!

August 7, 2011 (Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7-8)

Judges 17-21 serve as sort of an epilogue to the entire book. If in Joshua we see God’s faithfulness to his people in giving them promise land then in Judges we see the faithlessness of his people in possessing the land. Indeed, the children of Israel came into the land of Canaan to possess it and tragically Canaan ended up possessing them!
In these last 5 chapters we read a few horrific illustrations of this general truth. Some of the most “R” rated material found in the bible is found here. There is a reason why these 5 chapters are never featured in a VBS with each day of the week highlighting a different chapter. It is a tragic depiction of a people who have lost their spiritual moorings. What is the reason for all this?
It is hard to read these last chapters and not pick up on the constant refrain, indeed it is the statement that closes the book, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 21:25 see also 17:6;18:1;19:1) This nation is in desperate need of a King on a throne full of power who will be able to govern the hearts of the people to fear the Lord always. Come to think of it, we are in desperate need of this as well. All of us, left to ourselves, do only what is right in our own eyes. We need someone to rule our souls and rule rightly. We need a King! The book of Judges closes with the reader longing for that king. The king was not found in Saul, and only in picture form was he found in David. The True King did not come until the entire Old Testament came to a close. Do you know His Name? Better yet, do you know His rule?