Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 237: Jeremiah 22 - 24

Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness. (Jeremiah 22:13)

What condemnation for the rich and powerful of Judah, who had exploited the poor and the weak to build their fortunes. And it wasn't that the exploiters were just scratching out a meager existence, trying to feed their own families. They were driven by a lust for luxurious living and lost no sleep about bleeding the poor to maintain their own comfort.

And it's probably no surprise that the throne did not make one immune to this materialism sickness: Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? The prophet reminded Jehoiakim that better kings before him had been content to have enough to eat and drink, and were not driven by the hunger for excess.

Are we any different? Does it matter to us where the clothes we wear or the toys we play with are manufactured? And under what conditions? Does getting a shirt for a few dollars less make exploiting God's children okay? Is it okay to say, "My kids are warm and well-fed. I'm not responsibile for other people's kids"?

Why is it the more I have the more I want? How much is enough?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 236: Jeremiah 19 - 21

Whoever stays in this city will die. (Jeremiah 21:9)

Have you ever been the bearer of bad news? This was Jeremiah's lot in life. His was the unpopular job of sounding the death knell for Jerusalem. Once, after sharing a warning from God, he was confined in stocks for 24 hours because of it. That ought to shut him up. Upon his release, he started right in again (20:1-6).

Then Jeremiah prayed a prayer of protest to God. I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long (20:8). It cost Jeremiah dearly to preach God's word.

So how did Jeremiah feel when messengers came to him again asking, on behalf of King Zedekiah, for a good word about the impending Babylonian attack? God has delivered us before. What kind of miracle does he have up his sleeve for us this time? I wonder if Jeremiah felt tempted to soften the blow. What he said must have hit the king like a sledgehammer: This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: . . . I myself will fight against you (21:4,5).

Today, Jeremiah is one of the most respected of all God's prophets. In 590 B.C., not so much. A follower of God cannot measure his success by how much he's liked. Might as well accept it; ministry is not a popularity contest.

When's the last time you spoke an unpopular truth and suffered the consequences?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 232: Jeremiah 7 - 9

The whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart. (Jeremiah 9:26)

The message delivered to Judah is an indictment of its arrogance and stubbornness. Even animals have the sense to know to whom they are accountable for the seasons and for sustenance (8:7). But of Judah it is said the people are too stiffnecked to know when they are beaten (7:26), following the stubborn inclinations of their hearts (7:24).

According to Rabbi Abraham Heschel, God's anger is always measured and for a purpose. There is no divine anger for anger's sake. It's meaning is . . . instrumental: to bring about repentance; its purpose and comsummation is its own disapperance. [1]

The point is that people should have the good sense, when confronted by God's anger or discipline, to change their ways, but Jeremiah says that too often we doggedly march on to our own destruction when a simple change of course would make all the difference. Physical circumcision was only supposed to be a symbol of the inward circumcision of the heart – resulting in submission of the whole person to the sovereignty of God.

[1] Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 286.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 229: Isaiah 64 - 66

We are the clay, you are the potter. (Isaiah 64:8)

Submitting to the hands of the Potter is a matter of trust. I don't have the text in front of me, but in The Bait of Satan author John Bevere writes that if we know God will not hurt us, either in what he does or in what he does not, then we will gladly trust him to work out the best in us and for us.

The question is: Do we trust God? Do we believe he has our best interests at heart? If so, then we can give ourselves to our Potter trusting that what he forms in us will be better than what we could come up with left to our own devices.

Jerusalem had been destroyed and Judah had been given over to the Babylonians. All of this was used by the Potter to preserve, shape and renew God's people... his handiwork.

What's God doing in your life this week?