evil neighbors

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evil neighbors

Jeremiah 12:14-17 (JDV)

Jeremiah 12:14 This is what Yahveh says: “Concerning all my evil neighbors who attack the inheritance that I bequeathed to my people, Israel, I am about to uproot them from their land, and I will uproot the house of Judah from them.

Jeremiah 12:15 After I have uprooted them, I will once again have compassion on them and return each one to his inheritance and to his land.

Jeremiah 12:16 If they will diligently learn the ways of my people – to swear by my name, ‘As Yahveh lives,’ just as they taught my people to swear by Baal – they will be built up among my people.

Jeremiah 12:17 However, if they will not obey, then I will uproot and destroy that nation.” This is what Yahveh declares.

evil neighbors

Here Jeremiah indicates that God has a purpose for the evil neighbors – the Gentile nations that he will use to uproot and exile Israel. They too, will have a second chance. If they “will diligently learn the ways of my people – to swear by my name, ‘As Yahveh lives,’ – then they “will be built up among my people.”

God has a purpose for all of us. he wants all of us to come to the knowledge of his truth and be saved. He cares about us, and he cares about our evil neighbors.

Note that there is no universalism here. God has a purpose for all, but not all will submit to that purpose. Note the conditional statements in verses 16-17. The evil neighbors who repent are compared with those who do not. Only the repentant will be restored. The former will be built up. The latter will be destroyed.

Lord, today we choose to diligently learn the ways of your people. Build us up Lord!

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thorn harvest

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thorn harvest

Jeremiah 12:5-13 (JDV)

Jeremiah 12:5 If you have raced with runners and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a tranquil land, what will you do in the thickets of the Jordan?

Jeremiah 12:6 Even your brothers – your own father’s family – even they were treacherous to you; even they have cried out loudly after you. Do not have confidence in them, even if they speak good things about you.

Jeremiah 12:7 I have abandoned my house; I have deserted my inheritance. I have handed the love of my throat over to her enemies.

Jeremiah 12:8 My inheritance has become like a lion in the forest. She has roared against me with her voice. That is why I hate her.

Jeremiah 12:9 Is my inheritance like a hyena to me? Are birds of prey circling her? Go, gather all the wild animals; bring them to devour her.

Jeremiah 12:10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled my plot of land. They have turned my desirable plot into a desolate open country.

Jeremiah 12:11 They have made it a desolation. It mourns, desolate, before me. All the land is desolate, but no one takes it to heart.

Jeremiah 12:12 Over all the barren heights in the wilderness the destroyers have come, because Yahveh has a sword that devours from one end of the land to the other. No one has peace.

Jeremiah 12:13 They have sown wheat but harvested thorns. They have exhausted themselves but have no profit. Be put to shame by your harvests because of Yahveh’s burning anger.

thorn harvest

The Lord expresses his grief over the betrayal he has experienced. His own people cannot be trusted, so he warns Jeremiah not to expect safety and security from his family. The nation expects a good harvest of wheat, but only thorns will be left because judgment is coming. An enemy will attack, and God will not be there to rescue them, because God himself sent the destroyer.

“In the time of Jeremiah, Judah did not follow after God and were carried away into captivity rather than being allowed to live in the land God promised them. If we concentrate on worldly wealth we run the risk of not inheriting the kingdom of God that we have been promised.” [1]

Lord, show us how to plant righteousness, so that we reap your kingdom.

________________________

[1] Randy and Lois Rutan, Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Maranatha Daily Devotional. “Why Do the Wicked Prosper?” Sunday, November 8, 2015.

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religious mask

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religious mask

Jeremiah 12:1-4 (JDV)

Jeremiah 12:1 You will be righteous, Lord, even if I bring a case against you. Yet, I wish to contend with you: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are all the treacherous living at ease?

Jeremiah 12:2 You planted them, and they have taken root. They have grown and produced fruit. You are ever on their lips, but far from their conscience.

Jeremiah 12:3 As for you, Lord, you know me; you see me. You test whether my heart is with you. Drag the wicked away like sheep to slaughter and commit them for the day of killing.

Jeremiah 12:4 How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? Because of the evil of its residents, animals and birds have been swept away, because the people have said, “He cannot see what is happening among us.”

religious mask

What Jeremiah could not understand was why all these good churchgoing people kept prospering when he knew their religion was a mask. They had all the outward signs of prosperity and fruitfulness, but he knew they were wicked murderers inside. God was always on their lips but far from their conscience. They claimed to believe in God, but did not really think he could see them.

If you struggle to make your relationship with God a reality, perhaps you wonder sometimes if you are one of them, instead of a true believer. The struggle is a good thing. You should never presume that everything is fine between you and God. Keep fighting for the prize every day. Do not give up. He does see you, and he wants you to live for him, and seek his character. He does not like the mask.

Lord, we want to be real, to remove our mask, and seek you in truth.

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after the backlash

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after the backlash

Jeremiah 11:18-23 (JDV)

Jeremiah 11:18 Yahveh caused me to know, so I knew. Then you helped me to see their deeds,

Jeremiah 11:19 because I was like a docile lamb led to slaughter. I didn’t know that they had devised plots against me: “Let’s destroy the tree with its fruit; let’s cut him off from the land of the living so that his name will no longer be remembered.”

Jeremiah 11:20 But, Lord of Armies, who judges righteously, who tests heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, because I have presented my case to you.

Jeremiah 11:21 Therefore, here is what Yahveh says about the people of Anathoth who intend to take your life. They warn, “Do not prophesy in the name of Yahveh, or you will certainly die at our hand.”

Jeremiah 11:22 Therefore, this is what Yahveh of Armies says: “I am about to punish them. The young men will die by the sword; their sons and daughters will die by famine.

Jeremiah 11:23 They will have no remainder, because I will bring disaster on the people of Anathoth in the year of their punishment.”

after the backlash

Jeremiah had been doing a good thing. He had been proclaiming the truth to a nation that had turned its back on the truth. He stared popular opinion in the face and dared to call a spade a spade. He was being fruitful for the kingdom of God.

The result? There was a price on his head. He did the right thing and it only cost him trouble and misery. His fruitfulness had a backlash.

But God opened the door to the future to him. He could see that these very people who were plotting his death would pay for their rejection of him, his God, and his message. There would be justice after the backlash.

Lord, we choose to trust you and do the right thing, even if there is a backlash.

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as numerous as the streets

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as numerous as the streets

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (JDV)

Jeremiah 11:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from Yahveh:

Jeremiah 11:2 “Listen to the words of this covenant and tell them to the men of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 11:3 Tell them, ‘This is what Yahveh, the God of Israel, says: “Let a curse be on the man who does not obey the words of this covenant,

Jeremiah 11:4 which I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the iron furnace.” I declared, “Obey me, and do everything that I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God,”

Jeremiah 11:5 in order to establish the oath I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, like it is today.'” I answered, “Amen, Lord.”

Jeremiah 11:6 Yahveh said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Obey the words of this covenant and carry them out.’

Jeremiah 11:7 You see, I strongly warned your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt until today, warning them time and time again, ‘Obey me.’

Jeremiah 11:8 Yet they would not obey or pay attention; each one followed the stubbornness of his evil heart. So I brought on them all the curses of this covenant, because they had not done what I commanded them to do.”

Jeremiah 11:9 Yahveh said to me, “A conspiracy has been discovered among the men of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 11:10 They have returned to the violations of their fathers who refused to obey my words and have followed other gods to worship them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah broke my covenant I made with their fathers.

Jeremiah 11:11 “Therefore, this is what Yahveh says: I am about to bring on them disaster that they cannot escape. They will cry out to me, but I will not hear them.

Jeremiah 11:12 Then the cities of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods they have been burning incense to, but they certainly will not save them in their time of disaster.

Jeremiah 11:13 Your gods are indeed as numerous as your cities, Judah, and the altars you have set up to Shame – altars to burn incense to Baal – as numerous as the streets of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 11:14 “As for you, do not pray for these people. Do not raise up a cry or a prayer on their behalf, because I will not be listening when they call out to me at the time of their disaster.

Jeremiah 11:15 What right does my beloved have to be in my house, having carried out so many evil schemes? Can sacred meat prevent your disaster so you can celebrate?

Jeremiah 11:16 Yahveh named you a flourishing olive tree, beautiful with well-formed fruit. He has set fire to it, and its branches are consumed with the sound of a mighty tumult.

Jeremiah 11:17 “Yahveh of Armies who planted you has decreed disaster against you, because of the disaster the house of Israel and the house of Judah brought on themselves when they angered me by burning incense to Baal.”

as numerous as the streets

When I lived in Asia, there was nowhere I could go that I did not find a shrine to some saint or image, god or goddess. Like Jerusalem in the time of Jeremiah, the signs of idolatry were “as numerous as the streets” of my city.

God had specifically covenanted with his people to be free of idolatry – to worship and serve him alone. All of the empowerments of the covenant were now in jeopardy because the people had broken that covenant. They had failed to live up to its commands, and had forsaken its commission – to represent him by living devoted lives.

Lord, lead us to a place of restoration, where we once again can know your empowerment, and represent you among the nations.

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discipline and wrath

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discipline and wrath

Jeremiah 10:23-25 (JDV)

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, Yahveh, that a person’s way is not his own; no one who walks controls his own steps.

Jeremiah 10:24 Discipline me, Lord, but with justice – not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing.

Jeremiah 10:25 Pour out your wrath on the nations that don’t recognize you and on the families that don’t call on your name, because they have consumed Jacob; they have consumed him and finished him off and made his homeland desolate.

discipline and wrath

For several months of the past few years, we have lived with our adult children, who are raising families of their own. Children are always a delight, and our grandchildren are certainly that. But they can also be hard to live with. As a grandpa, I thought my days of being frustrated with a child were behind me. But I am finding that I have to keep my emotions in check, and learn to control myself around childish behavior.

Jeremiah talks about two kinds of punishment here. First, he asks the Lord to discipline him. He wants his just deserts, even if that causes some pain. Discipline is similar to wrath, because it produces punishment, but the motive is different. Discipline comes from parental love, and produces justice by correcting foolish behavior. Wrath is punishment coming from anger. It also produces justice, but does so by punishment of the defiant sinner that (if it comes from God) reduces the sinner to nothing (10:24).

God’s wrath will ultimately display itself in Gehenna at the end of the age. None of us have to endure that wrath. But in order to escape it, we have to be willing to be disciplined by his love now.

Lord, discipline your disciples. Rescue us from the wrath to come.

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stupid shepherds

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stupid shepherds

Jeremiah 10:17-22 (JDV)

Jeremiah 10:17 Gather up your belongings from the ground, you who live under siege.

Jeremiah 10:18 You see, this is what Yahveh says: Notice, I am flinging away the land’s residents at this time and bringing them such distress that they will feel it.

Jeremiah 10:19 Tragedy for me because of my brokenness – I am severely wounded! I exclaimed, “This is my intense suffering, but I must bear it.”

Jeremiah 10:20 My tent is destroyed; all my tent cords are snapped. My sons have departed from me and are no more. I have no one to pitch my tent again or to hang up my curtains.

Jeremiah 10:21 Because the shepherds are stupid: They don’t seek Yahveh. Therefore they have not prospered, and their whole flock is scattered.

Jeremiah 10:22 Notice! A noise – it is coming – a great commotion from the land to the north. The cities of Judah will be made desolate, a jackals’ den.

stupid shepherds

I have been reading from a book about pastoring. Mostly it is a review for me, because there is very little information I have not come across before, either as a pastor, or as a bible college professor, training pastors.

But the advantage of such books is they help the reader to see all the details, to come into the task with an awareness of how complex spiritual leadership is. Wise leaders think clearly about what they have to do.

There was one thing the shepherds (the leaders of Judah) had to do in order to lead wisely. They had to seek God. They had been stupid because they neglected that one thing. The whole nation was falling apart due to that decision.

Lord, make us wise shepherds, leading your people by first seeking your heart, and drawing from the wisdom of your word.

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worshiping scarecrows

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worshiping scarecrows

Jeremiah 10:1-16 (JDV)

Jeremiah 10:1 Hear the word that Yahveh has spoken to you, house of Israel.

Jeremiah 10:2 This is what Yahveh says: Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, although the nations are terrified by them,

Jeremiah 10:3 because the customs of the peoples are temporary. Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; it is worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel.

Jeremiah 10:4 He decorates it with silver and gold. It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t wobble.

Jeremiah 10:5 Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them because they can do no harm – and they cannot do any good.

Jeremiah 10:6 Yahveh, there is no one like you. You are great; your name is great in power.

Jeremiah 10:7 Who should not fear you, King of the nations? It is what you deserve. Because among all the wise people of the nations and among all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

Jeremiah 10:8 They are both stupid and foolish, instructed by temporary idols made of wood!

Jeremiah 10:9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. The work of a craftsman and of a goldsmith’s hands is clothed in blue and purple, all the work of skilled artisans.

Jeremiah 10:10 But Yahveh is the true God; he is the living God and permanent King. The land quakes at his wrath, and the nations cannot endure his rage.

Jeremiah 10:11 You are to say this to them: “These gods that did not make the sky and the land will be destroyed from the land and from under the sky.”[1]

Jeremiah 10:12 He made the land by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and spread out the sky by his understanding.

Jeremiah 10:13 When he thunders, the waters in the sky are in turmoil, and he causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the land. He makes lightning for the rain and brings the wind from his storehouses.

Jeremiah 10:14 Everyone is stupid and ignorant. Every goldsmith is put to shame by his carved image, because his cast images are a lie; there is no breath in them.

Jeremiah 10:15 They are temporary, a work to be mocked. At the time of their punishment they will be destroyed.

Jeremiah 10:16 Jacob’s Portion is not like these because he is the one who formed all things. Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; Yahveh of Armies is his name.

worshiping scarecrows

Jeremiah appeals to his nation because they should know better. They are following the pagan nations all around them, and trusting in the temporary things, instead of the God who is permanent, who made everything.

Jeremiah pokes fun of these useless idols by likening them to scarecrows in a cucumber patch. That’s about all they are good for – to keep the birds away.

Our generation thinks it is above the foolishness of idolatry, but it is not. People still trust in temporary things, and then come to a point in their lives when they realize that those temporary things cannot give them peace of mind or purpose of life. They have worshiped scarecrows, and there is nothing else.

Lord, draw us to yourself, and give us the courage to burn our scarecrows.

______________________

[1] This verse is the center of a chiasm (10:2-16) and appears to have been highlighted by Jeremiah by its having been written in Aramaic instead of Hebrew!

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under-appreciating God

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under-appreciating God

Jeremiah 9:17-26 (JDV)

Jeremiah 9:17 This is what Yahveh of Armies says: Consider this closely, and summon the women who mourn; send for the skillful women.

Jeremiah 9:18 Let them come quickly to raise a lament over us so that our eyes may flow with tears, our eyelids be soaked with weeping.

Jeremiah 9:19 Because a sound of lamentation is soon to be heard from Zion: How devastated we are. We are greatly ruined, because we have abandoned the land; our dwellings have been torn down.

Jeremiah 9:20 Now hear the word of Yahveh, you women. Pay attention to the words from his mouth. Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge,

Jeremiah 9:21 because Death has climbed in through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares.

Jeremiah 9:22 “Speak like this: ‘This is what Yahveh declares: Human corpses will fall like manure on the surface of the field, like newly cut grain behind the reaper with no one to gather it.

Jeremiah 9:23 ” ‘This is what Yahveh says: The wise person should not boast in his wisdom; the strong should not boast in his strength; the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.

Jeremiah 9:24 But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me – that I am Yahveh, showing covenant faithfulness, justice, and righteousness on the land, for I delight in these things. This is what Yahveh declares.

Jeremiah 9:25 ” ‘Look, the days are coming – this is what Yahveh declares – when I will punish all the circumcised yet uncircumcised:

Jeremiah 9:26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and all the inhabitants of the open country who clip the hair on their temples. All these nations are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.'”

under-appreciating God

Benson [1] comments on verses 23-24:
“Let not men value themselves on account of their wisdom, strength, or riches, which are things in themselves of a very uncertain continuance, and such calamities are coming, in which they will stand the owners of them in very little stead. The only true, valuable endowment is the knowledge of God, not as he is in himself, which is too high an attainment for poor mortals to pretend to, but with respect to his dealings with men; to have a serious sense of his mercies to the penitent, of his judgments to the obstinate, and of his truth and integrity, in making good his promises and threatenings to both.”

The people Jeremiah was prophesying to had over-appreciated who they were, and underappreciated who God was. Death was coming to them through the windows and in the streets, and they were not prepared for it – yet they stubbornly refused to seek the only one capable of helping them.

Our generation has many such people. They need to be warned that something is coming which they cannot handle. God will either be their rescuer or their destroyer.

Lord, we appreciate who you are. Help us to share your words of warning with those who do not.

[1] Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.

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after we weep

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after we weep

Jeremiah 9:3-16 (JDV)

Jeremiah 9:3 They bent their tongue like their bow; lies and not faithfulness are strong in the land, because they go from evil to evil, and they do not take me into account. this is what Yahveh declares.

Jeremiah 9:4 Everyone has to be on guard against his friend. Don’t trust any brother, for every brother will certainly deceive, and every friend spread slander.

Jeremiah 9:5 Each one betrays his friend; no one tells the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies; they wear themselves out doing wrong.

Jeremiah 9:6 You live in a world of deception. In their deception they refuse to know me. This is what Yahveh declares.

Jeremiah 9:7 Therefore, this is what Yahveh of Armies says: I am about to refine them and test them, because what else can I do because of my dear people?

Jeremiah 9:8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow – they speak deception. With his mouth one speaks peaceably with his friend, but inwardly he sets up an ambush.

Jeremiah 9:9 Should I not punish them for these things? this is what Yahveh declares. Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?

Jeremiah 9:10 I will lift up weeping and a lament over the mountains, a dirge over the open country grazing land, because they have been so scorched that no one passes through. The sound of cattle is no longer heard. From the birds of the sky to the animals, everything has escaped – they have gone away.

Jeremiah 9:11 I will make Jerusalem a heap of rubble, a jackals’ den. I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, an uninhabited place.

Jeremiah 9:12 Who is the person wise enough to understand this? Who has Yahveh spoken to, that he can explain it? Why is the land destroyed and scorched like an open country, so no one can pass through?

Jeremiah 9:13 Yahveh said, “It is because they abandoned my instruction, which I laid before them, and did not obey my voice or walk according to it.

Jeremiah 9:14 Instead, they followed the stubbornness of their heart and followed the Baals like their fathers taught them.”

Jeremiah 9:15 Therefore, this is what Yahveh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to feed this people wormwood and give them poisonous water to drink.

Jeremiah 9:16 I will scatter them among the nations that they and their fathers have not known. I will send a sword after them until I have finished them off.”

after we weep

Karen Hall [1] describes Jeremiah as “the weeping prophet” who “had much for which to weep. He was talking to an adulterous, unfaithful, lying people. Going from “one sin to another” they chose evil rather than acknowledging God. Jeremiah was angry, but full of compassion. It is easy to read through this chapter and substitute the events of our world for what was happening then.”

She suggests that our response to our generation should be the same: “Weep first, then become angry, then show compassion for the people of our world who do not know our Lord.” Surely our compassion is shown best the way Jeremiah showed it. He let his people know what God was thinking. It’s appropriate to weep over the evil around us. But we also need to speak up, because God is going to condemn people for their rebellious acts and lying tongues.

Lord, we are weeping over the evil all around us. Show us how to bring this rebellious world back to your truth.

[1] Maranatha Daily Devotional. “First We Weep.” Thursday, November 5, 2015.

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