Bible, Bible Study

A Weeping Profit

For years now, I have urged women to read through the Bible using the chronological plan. It’s especially helpful for getting all the historical events of Old Testament history in order so you can understand what precipitated what’s happening in whichever book you’re currently reading.

But there’s another reason it’s helpful. A reason that’s difficult to put into the right words, but one I think is equally important as understanding the historical order of events.

I’ve read through the Bible a few times using the chronological plan, and I started it again this past January. It started out OK, like it always does. You’ve got Creation. You’ve got a bunch of godly patriarchs: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. You’ve got God rescuing His people from Egypt and bringing them into the Promised Land. And, of course, along the way, you’ve got instances of some pretty heinous sins committed by individuals. But the overall, visceral sense you get is that God is advancing His plan through godly people. He’s working to establish His people in their land and prosper them.

Then, along about the time Solomon’s wives turn his heart away from God and entice him into idolatry, you start getting this sense of foreboding. Things are changing. Something is about to happen and it isn’t going to be good. And that’s exactly what comes to pass. You get slammed with a bunch of evil kings. Oh sure, there’s the occasional bright spot of an Asa, a Hezekiah, a Josiah. But the bad kings keep coming more and more frequently, each one more and more depraved. And God’s people, led by these evil kings, plunge headlong into sin and idolatry that’s worse than that of the pagan nations God had them drive out when they entered the Promised Land.

You sit in the midst of the filth and rebellion of God’s people for months – knowing that, for them, it was actually centuries – feeling your skin crawl at the evil you’re reading about. You hear God cry out to Israel through the prophets, to turn around and come back to Him. You see Him pour out a little bit of His wrath on His people here and there. Just a taste of what’s to come if they don’t repent and return. You sit there, helpless and frustrated, knowing what’s going to happen to these people, aching for them to just stop it! Stop sinning. Humble yourselves. Rend your hearts and not your garments

But they don’t. No matter how many times you read the Old Testament hoping and pleading with Israel to change her ways so that there will be a happy ending, it never works out that way. God’s people continue to forge ahead, inventing new ways of doing evil. Whoring after idols of stick and stone. Abandoning the God who saved them and carried them.

By August (in the chronological reading plan) I’d been watching these people sink lower and lower into degradation and debauchery for the better part of a year. But then I started reading Jeremiah, and I realized another reason he’s often called “the weeping prophet”. Yes, he was probably lonely since God didn’t allow him to marry and have a family for support. Yes, he was grieved that his people wouldn’t turn back from their sin. But after reading the first three chapters of his book, I had to think Jeremiah had yet another reason for weeping. 

The words God put in Jeremiah’s mouth are the words of the broken heart of God:

I remember when you loved Me and were loyal to Me; how we enjoyed sweet fellowship. You trusted Me and I protected you. You followed me and I provided for you. You lifted up my Name, and I lifted up yours in the eyes of the nations.

You’ve never been able to say that I wronged you. I have never let you down. I have never failed you.

And despite all of My love and care for you, you have cast Me aside. You have chosen the sewer over your Savior. Evil over the Eternal One. Hell over Heaven.

I have called you back to Myself time and time again, but you keep running away from Me. Even now, if you will repent and come back to Me, despite everything you have done, I will forgive you. You can enjoy that sweet fellowship with Me once again. I want to tenderly care for you and give you every good thing.

I love you. Come home.

How could Jeremiah – how could we – not weep over the things that break the heart of our good and loving God? How can we not grieve over the things that grieve Him?

And that brings me back to why the chronological reading plan is so helpful. 

You need to not only understand the cold, hard historical facts that led up to this moment, you need to feel in your spirit, know in your heart the weight of sin, the blackness of evil, the depth of God’s love, compassion, patience, and righteousness. And you don’t get that by randomly parachuting into OT books. You have to walk with these people – live with them – and watch what they do over time. You have to sit next to God through His words and see with His eyes, understand how He feels about His people, and stand with Him as He acts in holiness and justice.

“Just the facts, ma’am,” is not enough when it comes to Scripture. We must live it, put it on and wear it, immerse ourselves in it, if we truly want to feast on God’s Word and know God’s heart.

Uncategorized

The Word on Wednesdays

Hi ladies! I hope you enjoyed our most recent Bible study, 1&2 Timothy: The Structure and Spirit of the Church, which we wrapped up recently.

I’ve been taking a break on Wednesdays, getting ready for our new study. I hope you’ll enjoy it and that it will edify you as you seek to grow in Christ and His Word. (The picture above does not mean we will be studying James. :0) I really had planned to start our new study last week, but I’ve had a family situation come up unexpectedly that I need to devote some time and attention to, and that has to come first. My new plan is to start our new study next week- August 28.

So, if you haven’t quite finished with the 1&2 Timothy study, you can use this time to finish up, and I’ll also be posting some articles from the archives that I think you’ll find helpful as we make our way toward our next study. Here is this week’s article:

sunday school

Sunday School: Chronological Study Lessons

During 2014, I led my ladies’ Sunday School class in a chronological read-through of the entire Bible. Each week I taught a lesson from that week’s reading and posted it here on the blog.

If you’re using the chronological one year Bible reading plan this year, here’s the lesson that roughly corresponds with this week’s reading. (And even if you’re not, I hope you’ll enjoy this lesson anyway.)

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 34 ~ Aug. 17-23
Jeremiah 35-50, Psalm 74, 79, 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36, Habakkuk
Idolatry: No Turning Back

idolatry

Background:
Israel is gone, carried off into captivity by Assyria. Judah has managed to hang on a little longer, due in part to Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s godliness, but, now, Nebuchadnezzar has besieged and overthrown the last of Judah’s fortified cities, slaughtered the king and the nobles, and carried nearly all the citizens off to a 70 year exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar left a small remnant of the poorest of the poor to continue living in Judah to work the land, and set up Gedaliah as governor over them. Gedaliah was subsequently assassinated by the Ammonites, and the remnant decided -against God’s clear instruction through Jeremiah- to go to Egypt, and to force Jeremiah to go with them. This is where we now find them in chapter 44…Continue reading.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Jeremiah 23

1937485_824377827603153_712723081626384146_n

Jeremiah 23:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flockout of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As theLord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me;
    all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
    like a man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
    and because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
    because of the curse the land mourns,
    and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
    and their might is not right.
11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
    even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the Lord.
12 Therefore their way shall be to them
    like slippery paths in the darkness,
    into which they shall be driven and fall,
for I will bring disaster upon them
    in the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord.
13 In the prophets of Samaria
    I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
    and led my people Israel astray.
14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem
    I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
    they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
    so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
    and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets:
“Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
    and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
    ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

18 For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord
    to see and to hear his word,
    or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
19 Behold, the storm of the Lord!
    Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
    it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he has executed and accomplished
    the intents of his heart.
In the latter days you will understand it clearly.

21 “I did not send the prophets,
    yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
    yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
    then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
    and from the evil of their deeds.

23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares theLord, who steal my words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

33 “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the Lord?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the Lord.’ 34 And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ I will punish that man and his household. 35 Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has theLord answered?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 36 But ‘the burden of the Lord’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man’s own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. 37 Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the Lord answered you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 But if you say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the Lord,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’” 39 therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. 40 And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach andperpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Jeremiah 14

10485987_824377607603175_1429977163756612189_n

 

Jeremiah 14

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:

“Judah mourns,
    and her gates languish;
her people lament on the ground,
    and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
Her nobles send their servants for water;
    they come to the cisterns;
they find no water;
    they return with their vessels empty;
they are ashamed and confounded
    and cover their heads.
Because of the ground that is dismayed,
    since there is no rain on the land,
the farmers are ashamed;
    they cover their heads.
Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
    because there is no grass.
The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights;
    they pant for air like jackals;
their eyes fail
    because there is no vegetation.

“Though our iniquities testify against us,
    act, O Lord, for your name’s sake;
for our backslidings are many;
    we have sinned against you.
O you hope of Israel,
    its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
    like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
Why should you be like a man confused,
    like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us,
    and we are called by your name;
    do not leave us.”

10 Thus says the Lord concerning this people:
“They have loved to wander thus;
    they have not restrained their feet;
therefore the Lord does not accept them;
    now he will remember their iniquity
    and punish their sins.”

11 The Lord said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.

17 “You shall say to them this word:
‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
    and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
    with a very grievous blow.
18 If I go out into the field,
    behold, those pierced by the sword!
And if I enter the city,
    behold, the diseases of famine!
For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land
    and have no knowledge.’”

19 Have you utterly rejected Judah?
    Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
    so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
    for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
20 We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,
    and the iniquity of our fathers,
    for we have sinned against you.
21 Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
    do not dishonor your glorious throne;
    remember and do not break your covenant with us.
22 Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
    Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O Lord our God?
    We set our hope on you,
    for you do all these things.

 

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Idolatry, Old Testament, Sunday School

Jeremiah and His Message ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-10-14

Jeremiah and His Message

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 32 ~ Aug. 3-9
2 Chronicles 32-35, Nahum, 2 Kings 22-23, Zephaniah, Jeremiah 1-9
Jeremiah and His Message

Background:

Hezekiah to Josiah (2 Kings 21:11)
As you will recall, Judah had had a good king in Hezekiah. He had done his best to do away with idol worship and re-institute the proper worship of Yahweh. But outward reforms cannot change individual hearts, and idolatry was already so entrenched in Judah that when Hezekiah died, the people quickly turned back to their old ways under Hezekiah’s son Manasseh.

Manasseh reigned for 55 years and did more evil than the pagan nations God had originally told Israel to annihilate from the Promised Land. (2 Kings) He was followed by Amon, who was equally evil and reigned two years. By the time Josiah took the throne, the people had been under pagan rule for nearly 60 years. Since Josiah’s reforms (removing idolatry and idol worship paraphernalia) did not begin for another 18 years, the people were actually involved in the practice of idolatry for 75 years.

Jeremiah and Josiah (Jeremiah 1:2)
Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (1:2). Josiah did not begin his reforms until the 18th year of his reign, meaning, he was likely influenced by Jeremiah’s preaching for five years preceding the reforms. In fact, it is probable that Jeremiah’s preaching, at least in part, led to Josiah’s reforms.

Jeremiah’s Message
Jeremiah was one of the final prophets God would send to warn Judah about her sin. In fact the first 45 chapters of Jeremiah can generally be summed up as: “Turn from idolatry and back to the Lord to avoid judgment and exile.”

Second Verse, Same as the First
As we read both the major and minor prophets of the pre-exilic era, their messages can sometimes feel very repetitive. To a great extent, they are. There are two reasons for this.

1. God had one, very simple message for His people: repent and turn back to Me. He didn’t have a long list of demands or complicated instructions, just “repent and return.” Even with varied object lessons, there are only so many ways a prophet can say that before you start feeling like you’ve heard it before. God wanted to drive this point home.

2. We need to keep in mind that the book of Jeremiah (and some of the other prophetic books) was not, at the time, a book for people to sit down and read from beginning to end. Jeremiah is a collection of sermons (and some writings) given in various places to various audiences over a period of about fifty years. Today, we’re looking at a representative sample of Jeremiah- chapter 7.

Jeremiah 7:1-28

7:1 (Matthew 4:9)
Notice where God told Jeremiah to preach this sermon: in the gate of the temple. Think about it. These people are supposedly coming in to worship God, and here God is (speaking through Jeremiah), at the entrance to His own house, speaking directly to them about what He wants from them. Do they listen? Obey? No, they walk blithely past Him into His house and do things their way.

www-St-Takla-org--jeremiah-warns-the-people-of-judah

Why? Because they didn’t want an actual relationship with God. They wanted to wallow in the sin of their idol worship while still getting all the benefits (agricultural blessings, protection from enemies, etc.) they thought God would continue to provide if they went through the outward motions of sacrifices and going to the temple. This blending of idolatry with the worship of God is called syncretism

Syncretism is alive and well today. There have been churches that have held Christian-Islamic worship services, churches that teach yoga (a Hindu worship practice), even when we join ourselves or our churches to “Christian” churches whose doctrines aren’t biblical, we are guilty of syncretism.

Let’s not forget what Jesus told Satan in the wilderness when Satan tempted Jesus to worship him:

You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’ (Matt 4)

After all Jesus did for us to save us from our sin, it is the ultimate understatement to say that He ALONE is worthy of all our worship, love, and devotion.

7:2-10 (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
“Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.” That’s it. That’s all there was to it. It might not have been what they wanted to do, but it wasn’t impossible, and it was what God desired.

God urged the people not to trust in the empty words and false beliefs they wanted to believe and had convinced themselves were true–namely, that since the “temple of the Lord” was in their midst and they were still attending and making sacrifices, God’s favor still rested on them– but to believe and act on what HE was actually telling them: repent and return.

God exhorts us to do the same thing. We are not to be people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim.) We are to believe and practice what His word says -not what we desire to be true- even if it’s difficult.

11-20
Ever since God had brought Israel out of Egypt nearly a thousand years earlier, He had been warning them of the consequences of idolatry. Here the time of His patience is almost at a close, and He will soon be carrying out those consequences. God even tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people. He knows they will not repent.

In a similar way, throughout our lifetimes, God persistently calls to each of us sinners to come to Him in repentance and faith in Christ. He graciously and patiently calls to us again and again, but, if, by the time we die, we have refused to surrender to Him, He will execute judgment on us.

How much better to turn to Christ early and experience the sweet fellowship that comes from being forgiven for our sin and reconciled to God. Jeremiah saw this and wanted this for his people, but they would not have it. We see in chapter 9 how grieved he was about this.

21-26
“Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh”- The burnt offerings were completely consumed by fire. Parts of the sacrifices (or peace offerings) were eaten by the one offering them. What God is basically saying here is, “Take what you would have offered as a burnt offering and turn it into a sacrifice and go ahead and eat both of them. You might as well just eat them, because I’m not going to accept them.”

God again takes the people back to the Exodus and reminds them that when He initially brought them out, and all during their wilderness wanderings, there was no sacrificial system. All He asked of them was to obey Him and walk in His ways. That was His priority. That was what came first: their love for Him and obedience to Him. The sacrificial system came later. Sacrifices were to be a natural outward expression of the people’s inward love for God.

It is no different for Christians. God is not interested in mere outward behavior, service, or religious practices. He wants our hearts. Our outward actions are to reflect the love for Christ that is already present in our hearts.

27-28
Unfortunately, even though Jeremiah faithfully preached God’s word, the people would not listen. Did this mean Jeremiah was a failure or that God was disappointed in him? No. He did exactly what God told him to do, and that’s what God judges His servants by, not the results.

We will experience the same thing at some point if we faithfully preach the gospel to people and stand on God’s word. People will reject the gospel, preferring to live in sin. People who call themselves Christians will reject the truth of God’s word no matter how clear it is or how nicely we present it to them. Does this mean we are failures or that God is disappointed in us? No. God considers us faithful if we believe, obey, and share the gospel. The results are up to Him.