Thru the Bible – Day 175

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Day 175 – Thru the Bible

Today we continue in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 26 – Once again Jeremiah had to pronounce God’s judgment on the people, the temple, and the city. The reaction of the religious leaders and officials to this message was anger. Jeremiah had dared to threaten these outward symbols that had become idols instead of the means of knowing the true and living God.

In speaking against the hypocritical, established leaders, Jeremiah is assuming a responsibility that we will later see Jesus fulfill as He cleanses the temple, displaying righteous anger at the way it had been turned into a trading post (John 2:13–17). Jesus then claimed that the true temple would be his risen body (John 2:18–22). Stephen, likewise, when accused of speaking against the temple, pointed to the need to leave earthly symbols and embrace the reality to which they point, namely Jesus (Acts 7:47–56). As the people stoned him, Stephen beheld “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). His vision, too, was of the spiritual reality, not the shadows of religious practice and prestige.

It is easy to want to base our hope on our performance of, or regard among, the shadows, the symbols, and/or the activities of worship. But Jesus said that “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

How do you keep from getting wrapped up in religious symbols and activities and miss the true Gospel?

Jeremiah 27 & 28 – In delivering once again the same basic message that Judah must submit to the yoke of Babylon, Jeremiah is told to do some play-acting, with an actual yoke placed on his neck. The emphasis in this oracle is the sovereignty of God. On this subject most Christians agree, until it comes to the question of the extent of God’s sovereignty in our own lives. The prophet is uncompromising here. God’s rule is absolute, yet human responsibility is real and evildoers must answer to God. To many people this is a problem, yet it is clear in Scripture that both aspects of this apparent paradox are true.

Jeremiah declares the rule of God over the whole creation. This is God’s world, and He gives power and possessions to whomever He wills. This brings up two considerations for believers today, one concerning Jesus and one concerning us. First, Jesus is true and sovereign God and, at the same time, true and responsible man. Yet these two realities (sovereignty and responsibility) are in perfect harmony. Second, Peter declares that “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God [sovereignty], you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men [responsibility]” (Acts 2:23). For Believs, Paul urges us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [responsibility], for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure [sovereignty]” (Philippians 2:12–13). We trust God in the necessity of these conclusions, despite our finite inability to understand how they fully coordinate.

The false prophets are predominantly those who proclaim that the Babylonian captivity will be partial and short-lived (example, Hananiah; 28:1–3). The fondly held opinion that there is nothing to worry about is ever present. In many churches today, themes of judgment and hell are either glossed over or flatly denied. Jesus confirmed the message of the prophets by speaking of judgment and death as the outcome of rebellion against God (Matthew 5:20; 12:36–37; 13:41–43; 25:31–46; Luke 16:19–31).

The world considers the Christian idea of God as a judge (Romans 1:18) to be either horrendous or ridiculous. Yet if the same people look forward to a life after death, they want it to be just, harmonious, and free of evil. All people ultimately want evil to be judged—we just don’t want our own evil to be judged.

How do you recognize both your responsibility and God’s sovereignty in your life?

Jeremiah 29 – Jeremiah now writes a letter to the exiles in Babylon, continuing the theme of condemnation of the false prophets. One would think that, given the initial Babylonian victory and the first exile in 597, these so-called prophets would have learned from their experience. But they continue to proclaim lies. Jeremiah’s message to the exiles is to get on with a normal life where they are, and even to pray for the welfare of Babylon. This is important instruction for God’s people in all ages as we become the agents of God’s righteousness in all the places to which His providence calls us—agents of gospel transformation in the world in which we live.

Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles also exhorts them to ignore the lies of the false prophets. God controls the length of their exile, after which He will fulfill His promises. His plan is to give them wholeness, a future, and a hope. As in the New Testament, hope is not merely a fond wish but a certain future based on God’s faithfulness to His word (Romans 5:1–5; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:5, 27; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 5:8; 1 Peter 1:3, 21).

Note the way prayer works: God first tells the exiles what He will do and why; then they will pray accordingly, and God will hear them. Those who seek God with a whole heart will find Him, and they will be restored from their exile. Prayer is not trying to get God to do something He might not otherwise do; rather it is aligning our thoughts, desires, and will with God’s, as we humbly consider our circumstances in the light of the priorities that He reveals in His Word. We ask Him to do His will (Matthew 6:10). God speaks first, and we respond to His Word. He initiates prayer by revealing His will. True prayer is always that God will fulfill His revealed will. When we don’t know the details of His will, we can follow Jesus’ example: “Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). As His adopted children, we can rest confident that whatever He ordains will ultimately be for our joy and glory.

How do you remind yourself to trust God’s perfect will for your life?

What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?

Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.

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