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Jeremiah’s Prayer March 3, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 10:23-25.

Summary: In this passage, Jeremiah prays that God would:

  • discipline him – yet not in anger, lest he be destroyed
  • punish Babylon for its war crimes against the people of Judah.

Thoughts: This passage spurred me to ponder this question: when is it proper for believers to pray that God would punish others? Perhaps we should consider those actions that are clearly sinful, e.g. rape, pillage and murder. Those of us who follow the news know that these sinful deeds still occur today; we immediately recoil from their inherent wickedness. Yet our desire for God to punish those who commit these sins is, in some sense, mitigated by our desire that they repent of them and seek mercy from Him. How can we know that they will never repent of their sins? Perhaps we should place these evildoers into God’s hands and ask that He would deal with them as He sees fit, as we lack His wisdom and foresight. He knows their hearts and can determine if they have hardened beyond the point of no return.


Jerusalem Under Siege February 15, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 6.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, proclaiming imminent judgment on the people of Jerusalem. He describes the battle plans of the Babylonian army concerning that city – including a siege. He stresses that Jerusalem will be besieged due to the detestable actions of its inhabitants. Although they claim to worship Him with pure hearts, their hearts are evil. He has repeatedly warned them – through His prophets – of the consequences of their actions, yet they have ignored all of those warnings. Thus, He rejects their acts of worship. Indeed, they are utterly worthless in His eyes, and so the Babylonians will cause them to mourn and wail.

Thoughts: In verse 20, we see that God rejects the external acts of worship of His people, as they are internally rotten. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

The prophet replies to those hypocrites who thought they had made expiation when they offered incense and sacrifices, as if that were all that was necessary in serving God. See Jeremiah 7:21-22; Psalm 50:8-10; Micah 6:7.

Jeremiah presents a more in-depth discussion of this point in the next passage, but for now, this passage should suffice as a challenge to modern-day believers. Clearly there is nothing inherently wrong with the following actions:

  • singing loudly – and on-key – during a worship set
  • praying passionately – and eloquently – in a small group setting
  • taking copious notes during a sermon.

Yet this passage compels us to consider how we live during the week – in relatively mundane moments. What occupies our time on weekdays? Is God pleased with those pursuits? Are we blessing the disadvantaged when we are not in the presence of other believers? Indeed, if we do not love our neighbors when other believers are not observing us, then God will not accept our acts of worship during formal church activities.

In verses 27-30, we see that God has tested His people and determined that they are wicked. This spurred me to consider the trials that I have experienced – and His purpose for those trials. I often wonder: given the trials that I have experienced, how will I respond to future trials? One thought is that since I am human, it would be unnatural for me to not feel some degree of sadness when confronted with a trial. Trials are meant to be painful to some degree, and God does not call us to avoid pain in those instances. That being said, the fact that I have overcome previous trials will give me confidence – in the midst of pain – that God is working through any future trials that I experience. In particular, I am learning that a confident mindset is a key aspect of His plan for me to:

  • rely less on the things of this life
  • rely more on the things of the next life.

I will not be able to completely learn that lesson in this life, but each confident thought in the midst of a trial is a small victory in that regard – and reveals some amount of spiritual mettle.

Disaster From the North February 8, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 4:5-31.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, warning the people of Jerusalem and Judah of His impending judgment. In particular, since they have repeatedly sinned against Him, He has chosen the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment; He will empower the Babylonian army to invade their kingdom from the north. Jeremiah then bemoans this portent of doom, as he cannot bear to observe the destruction of his homeland. Indeed, the Babylonians will wreak such havoc on Jerusalem and Judah that it will appear that God is reversing His act of creation through them.

Thoughts: In verses 19-21, we see that Jeremiah is deeply troubled by God’s impending punishment of His people and their land. These verses serve as a valuable reminder that this book (and the book of Lamentations) does not merely contain the words that God spoke through Jeremiah. Indeed, Jeremiah reminds us in these verses that he is a human being with passions and desires; his love for his people compels him to express these feelings. Even though God has divinely commissioned him as His prophet, he cannot help but wrestle with Him regarding His judgment. On a related note, I must admit that I cannot read Hebrew; I do envy those who are proficient in that regard, as I suspect that some of the nuances of Hebrew poetry have been lost when translating this passage into English.

Verses 23-28 highlight the scope of God’s impending destruction of the land of Judah due to the sinfulness of His people. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

In highly metaphorical language the prophet expands on the terror of God’s vengeance, that he might arouse the Jews, who were so stupid and careless…And wherever he looked, he saw dreadful tokens of God’s wrath that threatened the Jews with utter ruin.

The language that Jeremiah employs in these verses reminds me of the creation account in Genesis 1. Indeed, God could bring no greater calamity on the land of Judah than the effective reversal of His act of creation – returning it to a “formless and empty” state. When confronted with this dramatic warning, though, the people of Judah dismissed it as the ravings of a lunatic. Perhaps they could not believe that God would actually wreak havoc on their land – after all, they were His people and He was their God. Perhaps they believed that Jeremiah was merely being ostentatious. At any rate, Jeremiah would be vindicated – causing him a great deal of sorrow.

The Fall of Babylon February 26, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 18.

Summary: In this passage, John observes a mighty angel declaring the downfall of Babylon the Great – since she has:

  • committed adultery with other nations
  • indulged in excessive luxury.

Believers are exhorted to separate themselves from her – since God will judge her for her sins. Her abrupt downfall is mourned by many unbelievers, including:

  • the kings of the earth
  • the merchants of the earth
  • seafarers.

Believers are also exhorted to rejoice over her downfall – since she has persecuted them and even executed many of them. A mighty angel then describes the totality of her downfall.

Thoughts: Verses 12 and 13 demonstrate the economic power of ancient Rome. She enjoyed the finest luxuries and ruled over a vast empire – yet God called believers to “come out of her…so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.” These verses should challenge those of us who live in First World countries. For example, if our nation belongs to the Group of Eight, then one could argue that it possesses the economic strength of ancient Rome. In that case, what aspects of life in a prosperous nation compete with our call to worship God alone? Is God calling us to “come out of” our nation and avoid “her sins?” Do we need to emigrate to less prosperous nations? As God’s holy people, we must wrestle with these questions as we seek to maintain our spiritual purity.

In verses 10, 17 and 19 we see that the downfall of ancient Rome occurred “in one hour.” This highlights the rapidity of her demise; as a history buff, I believe that these verses should greatly encourage modern-day believers – especially those who live in Third World countries. Great leaders have built vast empires over the course of human history – yet we have seen that all empires eventually decline and fall. This stands in sharp contrast to the permanence of God’s power and His sovereignty over human history. In light of this, we should strive to worship our eternal, sovereign God. Indeed, history has repeatedly demonstrated that God is more worthy of worship than any empire or world leader.