Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Colonnade and shops in Bath, England

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 12, Jer 23-25

Today's readings are Jer 23-25. tomorrow's are Jer 26-29. 

Jer 23 begins with a woe. God warns the leaders (shepherds) of Israel that He will tend to His people if they won't. This warning has echoes of Ezek 34 in it, showing that there is accountability for leaders who are given spiritual responsibility for those they lead. God will care for His children by raising up a "righteous branch", a wise king who will be a righteous judge (Jer 23:5-6). This king will become the righteousness of the people. 

God will ultimately take care of his sheep but will hold the shepherds responsible for how they tend to them in the meantime.  This is emphasized by the revelation that there is particularly harsh judgment in store for those prophets and leaders that lead the people in an ungodly direction (Jer 23:9-40). Even today, these are sobering words for anyone called into a leadership position in the church.

Jer 24 can be challenging for some. 2 Kings 20 told us of good king Hezekiah's invitation for envoys from the king of Babylon to come and see the riches of the temple and the kings storehouses after the miraculous defeat of the Assyrians outside of Jerusalem. That prideful invitation comes home to roost as the new king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar takes Judah and Jerusalem captive. As Jer 24 describes this invasion and its consequences in terms of a contrast between good fruit and bad, God describes some of the exiles taken away by Nebuchadnezzar as good fruit that will be returned to Jerusalem. God will do this in a spectacular display of His sovereign power shown in Jer 24-25. As for the good fruit, God says

Jeremiah 24:7
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
 As for the bad fruit, 
Jeremiah 24:10
And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they shall be utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.”
The methods God uses to accomplish His purposes in the lives of His people can be startling. We hear the the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, as evil a king as there ever was, is actually serving God (Jer 25:9) in being used by Him to refine God's people. Even more surprising is that Nebuchadnezzar does not operate independently of God, God is actually the one who sends Babylon and other warring nations against Judah (Jer 25:8-9). Furthermore, the nations who come against Judah will be judged completely and harshly (Jer 25:10-29), showing that they are not unwilling pawns being manipulated by God, but unrepentant, rebellious people who are acting according to their own evil natures and desires.

The amazing element of all this is that God uses the wicked hearts and intentions of the ungodly to accomplish His purposes in the hearts of the godly. It is no wonder that one of the most frequently repeated phrases in the Bible is "fear not", appearing in some form over 200 times. God is always in control, always moving toward His goal for his people and always drawing them closer to Himself regardless of the way our situations may seem.

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