(G)od’s (P)rotective (S)cripture

The Word for today:
Jeremiah 42, 43

When Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, most of the people were carried off to Babylon. The leaders of the few who were left asked Jeremiah to seek God’s will for them:
“Please hear our petition and pray to the LORD your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the LORD your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” (1)

So Jeremiah took their questions to God. After ten days God answered Jeremiah, saying that if they remained in Jerusalem, they’d be safe. But if they left the city to go to Egypt, they would die there:
“This is what the LORD says: ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. However, if you say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt,’ then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die.” (2)

Despite the fact that all his prophecies concerning Babylon had come to pass, the disobedient leaders accused Jeremiah of lying. Ignoring the Word of the LORD which they’d asked Jeremiah to seek, they set out for Egypt.

In so doing, they went out of God’s protection into His judgment, as all who are disobedient to His Word do.

When God’s Word specifically warns us that there is trouble down a certain road, there is trouble down that road. We don’t have to test the Word of God as if it were just a theory. God’s Word has been right in it’s every particular utterance. In fact, I have a million dollars for anyone who can point to one instance where the Word of God has proven untrue. I will get no takers.

What “road” has God told you to avoid? Maybe you’re not on the road to Egypt, but are you on the road to adultery? or unforgiveness? or gossip and back-stabbing? Are you on the way to self-centeredness? Are you nearing neglect of the gift he has given you? Are you getting closer and closer to faithlessness?

If you’re on one of those roads, the Word of God guarantees trouble ahead. I have another million dollars for anyone who has taken the road to Egypt, and encountered no trouble there.

***

I’m always technologically behind the cue ball, so it wasn’t until a month ago (when a friend loaned us one) that I ever used a GPS. All the way to Florida, I was astonished at its accuracy. And I had a blast fiddling with all the different voices on the little gizmo.

As the miles piled up and started to make me a little loopy, I began thinking how great it would be if there were a spiritual GPS, and I said so to Shelley.

“You–the biggest Bible banger south of the North Pole–are actually wishing that God would provide a spiritual GPS?”

I caught her irony. Rolling down I-95, I began to wonder what the actual voices of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sound like, and how neat it would be…

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(1) Jeremiah 42:2-3; (2) excerpted from Jeremiah 42:7-16

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disaster and deliverance

rescued

(by Pastor Joe)

The Word for today: Jeremiah 39- 41

mark this: Jeremiah 39:18
“I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.”

“This is the end, my only friend, the end…”
That’s how things certainly seemed.
– The end of the siege of Jerusalem (39:2)
– The end of Zedekiah’s reign (39:6-7)
– The end for Jerusalem’s Walls (39:8)
– The end of Solomon’s Temple (2 Kings 25:9)
It was the end of the world as Israel knew it.

But in this time of chaos and turmoil, in the midst of destruction (ch. 39), political intrigue (ch. 40) and assassination (Ch. 41), one story of salvation emerges. It’s the end of the story for Ebed-melech, and it’s the only thing positive in these three chapters.

We know from Jeremiah 37:7-13 that Ebed-melech was the Ethiopian eunuch that rescued Jeremiah from certain death in the cistern. In a time of mass cowardice, this faithful servant risked his own life by boldly going before the king and personally seeing that Jeremiah escaped death inside the well.

Here in today’s reading, Jeremiah is given a special message for Ebed-melech. In the midst of the total collapse of Jerusalem, this one man is spared and promised deliverance, protection, and salvation. He is not the first outsider redeemed by God, nor will he be the last. Ebed-melech joins a long list of Gentiles who placed their trust in the God of Israel and therefore were rescued.
– Rahab (Joshua 6:25)
– Ruth (Ruth 1:16, 2:12)
– Naaman (2 Kings 5:15)
– 2nd Ethopian Eunuch (Acts 3:36)
– Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:34)

Ebed-melech, along with the rest of those on the list above, typify Christians.
Consider the facts:
1. Ebed-melech was nameless.
We don’t know his name, as Ebed-melech is not even a name, but a title that meant “servant of the king.”
2. Ebed-melech had no hope of a future
That’s where the whole eunuch thing comes in, enough said.
3. Eden-melech was a foreigner.
That’s where the whole Ethiopian thing comes in.

What does the New Testament say? The same exact thing about us!

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12)

We had no family lineage, we had no rights as citizens, we had no hope- just like Ebed-melech. But don’t stop there- go on to Ephesians 2:13–
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

That is the Good News. That is our story.
Just like Rahab, we have been spared from destruction.
Just like Ruth, we go from strangers to part of the family of God.
Just like Namaan, we go from covered in uncleanness to whole in Christ.
Just like the 2nd Ethiopian eunuch, we go from spiritual darkness to the light of Jesus.
Just like the Philippian jailer, we go from death, because of our transgressions, to new life in Christ.
And just like Ebed-melech, we find deliverance and salvation in the Living God.

Praise God for this story. At the darkest hour in the history of Israel, we see a tiny glimpse of hope and know that Ebed-melech’s journey can be our own as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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lifted up

The Word for today:
Jeremiah 37, 38

mark this: Jeremiah 38:11-13 —
So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-Melech the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern.

We Bible teachers talk in big words, not because we want to act like big deals, but because it takes big words to convey big meanings.

The big Bible word you’ll hear most often is ‘salvation.’ So what does salvation mean?

I’m not sure what it means, but it means absolutely everything to me! Ask anyone what being saved means and they’ll probably begin using more big words–that salvation means redemption, and justification, and resurrection, and propitiation, and sanctification, and glorification, and even vicarious substitutionary atonement. Yikes.

Which, of course, prompts further questions about those words. What do they mean? And then more big words are necessary to explain those big words, until we are so far away from understanding the first word (‘salvation,’ remember?) that we are forced to shout “STOP!”

And so I will. Instead of using technical, theological terms, I’ll convey salvation in personal terms:
To me, salvation means that I was lifted up.

Lifted up is what I remember about being saved. Lifted up is what I am feeling today as God continues not only to save my soul, but to save my day.

When Jeremiah is lifted out of the cistern in our reading today, that’s salvation.

The picture is of a helpless man lifted by the hand and strength of another. If Jeremiah had been able to crawl out, or jump out, it wouldn’t have been salvation.

Salvation happens when we can’t reach high enough or jump high enough. We can’t think our way out or work our way out. We can only be lifted by the hand of another.

I have a poster in the little room where I write. It’s directly in front of me because I never want to forget being lifted up by the hand of God. A girl is looking through her tenement window on a rainy day. Photographed in black and white, the day is bleak. But the girl has drawn a smile on her fogged-up window pane. The words of Psalm 30:1 provide the caption:
I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths.

Whatever the depths, and however you got there, is not an issue in God’s kingdom. What matters is that, having fallen, you are now in a position to be lifted up. Having fallen, you’ve met every prerequisite for salvation.

“So look up, for your salvation is near!” (1)

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(1) Luke 21:28

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with or without me

The Word for today:
Jeremiah 36

mark this: Jeremiah 36:22-23 —
It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire.

Here in the USA, we get to vote, to cast an opinion. And I hope that you do. It’s an expression of liberty, with which God has endowed us; which generations of soldiers have upheld at the cost of their lives.

That little voting booth is a monument to American political freedom, a secular ‘holy of holies,’ infusing us with a small surge of power.

In that booth, behind that curtain, what each of us thinks actually counts, and carries influence. But the influence ends here, in the transient now, with choices concerning alderman or councilman or senator or president.

Moreover, a problem can arise if the voting experience lends us the mistaken impression that issues of essential truth, beyond the political process, are also contingent upon our approval, and await our say-so.

***

Cultural commentators classify our era as a time of transition, from “modernism” to “postmodernism.”

Modernism decrees that truth is not an absolute–that each individual defines his own truth (1).

Postmodernism goes a step further into the darkness, and decrees that there is no truth to define.

But the Bible teaches that His Truth is marching on, inexorably accomplishing the purpose for which God has sent it. (2)

I have a friend who guides an annual mountain expedition. When one of the climbers was injured on the ascent, he told me that it reminded him of our relationship to God’s Truth: “The mountain is what it is (3). We can accommodate to the mountain; but it doesn’t accommodate to us. We either tread carefully–or we fall.”

A couple times every year, I fish the maw of the Niagara River, underneath the Peace Bridge where Lake Erie enters. The powerful currents pile against the massive bridge supports and turn my boat in slow, centripetal circles. I will not allow my boys to fish with me there, because the river doesn’t care.

The mountain and the river, like gravity, are no respecters of persons (4). In like manner, the Word of God doesn’t care what I think of it. It is not subject to my approval or disapproval. Indeed, I am in subjection–to its force and dominion, and to its King.

We read today how King Jehoiakim carved up and burned the Word of God. His actions were symbolic of the people as well: they had heard God’s Word and rejected it.

Despite what we might think, we can’t cut the Word of God out of our lives. Despite what they might think, people who never open their Bibles can’t shut the Word of God out of their lives.

Evangelists, as they should, exhort us to make a decision about Jesus. But know this, and know it well: Whatever we decide about Jesus–whether we take Him or leave Him–we do not pass sentence on the Truth.

Whether we take Him or leave Him, we pass sentence only on ourselves: He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life (5).

And His Truth marches on, with or without me.

***************
(1) cf. Judges 17:6; (2) Isaiah 55:11; (3) see Exodus 3:14; (4) see acts 10:34; (5) 1 John 5:12

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Don’t forget the key–or you won’t get in! (part 2)

The Word for today:
Jeremiah 35

(If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read yesterday’s Stand in the Rain blog.  It serves as an introduction to today’s article.)

***

 

Yesterday, we read about an incident on the road to Emmaus, when a stranger happens alongside two disciples who were disheartened following the death of Jesus, and puzzled about reports they’d heard–that he was alive again.

So the stranger proceeded to give them a guided tour of Scripture. Starting in the beginning, then going verse by verse, he pointed out references to the Christ, the Savior:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

It wasn’t until they’d stopped for a meal that they realized the “stranger” was Jesus. All the way down the road, the stranger had been explaining things the Bible says about him!

Then, just as suddenly as he’d appeared beside them, he was gone. The two disciples asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

You, too, will have your Road to Emmaus experience if you continue to systematically study the whole Bible. One day the key–Jesus–will be placed in your hand and the Old Testament will open before you as if you’d never seen it before. Suddenly, it’s not about lambs and burning bushes; and it’s not about Abraham and David. You will clearly see that those are just props and role players in the what the Bible really is–the Story Of Jesus.

But why wait? Let’s pretend we’re on the road to Emmaus right now. In the chapters we are currently reading, here’s a few of the things Jesus would have explained concerning himself:

I will heal them (Jeremiah 33:6).
The gospels are a virtual parade of the healed.

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin (Jeremiah 33:8).
This points straight to the cross.

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 (Jeremiah 33:15).
“The Branch” is a symbol for one of King David’s descendants who will rule forever. We meet “the Branch” in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. Jesus was called “Son of David” by the people of his day, because they recognized him as The Branch.

The LORD is our righteousness (Jeremiah 33:16).
A description of Jesus, who became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel’ (Jeremiah 33:17).
There’s Jesus again–the eternal “Son of David” promised in 2 Samuel 7.

Because you have refused the terms of our covenant, I will cut you apart just as you cut apart the calf when you passed between its halves to solemnize your vows (Jeremiah 34:18).
This is a vivid picture of Jesus, who “passed between the pieces” while Abraham slept–signifying that Jesus, alone, would fulfill every requirement for man’s salvation. This first occurred in Genesis 15:7-17, so Jesus would already have explained this to the disciples as they walked.

***

 

When you read the Bible, don’t forget the key–or you won’t get in.  And have a fire extinguisher ready–because hearts have been known to burst into flame.

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