TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- JEREMIAH 16:16- 18:23
The Lord continues to explain the reason why He can no longer withhold judgment from falling on His unrepentant people.
Jeremiah 16:17 17 “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.
The deep rootedness of their sin is beyond erasure.
Jeremiah 17:1 1 The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus; with a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart and on the horns of their altars,
The Lord contrasts those who trust in the Lord and those who trust in the unregenerate hearts of men, in words similar to those of the Psalmist in Psalm 1.
Psalm 1:1-4 1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 5 Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 “For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. 8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
The incurable nature of the depraved human heart is summed up in verse 9:
Jeremiah 17:9 9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Jeremiah knows that, although sin remains enthroned in the heart of the natural man, God, the only hope of Israel, is enthroned in heaven, sovereignly reigning over all (Jer. 17:12).
Jeremiah’s confidence in the Lord is evident:
Jeremiah 17:14 14 Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise.
Once again, in Chapter 17, Jeremiah is called to act a drama at the city gates. There, at the entrance of the city where decisions are made and laws are enforced, Jeremiah was to call for adherence to the laws of the Sabbath (17:21-22).
After going to the gates, Jeremiah is sent by the Lord to the Potter’s house (Jeremiah 18:1). Once there, the Lord said He would give His message. (We see this pattern throughout the Bible; Acts 9:6. The Lord meets us in the place of obedience with further instruction.)
The Potter was working on a clay vessel on the wheel. But the clay in His hands was marred and so the Lord shaped it into another pot, as it seemed best to Him. He works with the clay, even when it is resistant to being shaped according to His preferred design. It will serve His purposes, nevertheless.
If the stubbornness of the evil heart resists His hand, rather than doing the good He had intended, He uses the clay to show His scorn of sin. He promises to make them an object lesson before the nations of God’s judgment towards those who break covenant with Him.
Jeremiah is verbally abused by the leaders of Judah, the priests, the prophets and the so-called wise men. He cries to the Lord for help, knowing that his enemies want to kill him (Jeremiah 18:23).
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 1 THESSALONIANS 4:1-5:3
The Thessalonians wanted to live lives that were pleasing to God (4:1-2).
In Chapter 4, Paul answers the questions that have been plaguing them.
- They had questions about how they should handle the prevalent sexual ethic of their day (4:3-8).
The Thessalonian culture, like our culture today, advocated the satisfaction of all lusts and temporal addictions (sensual lust, intellectual lust, travel/wander lust, adventure lust, and approbation lust- the inordinate need for approval from others). These addictive pursuits were the result of their not finding their deepest satisfaction in God.
Christ-followers are called to live lives of sexual purity. They recognize that the sexual relationship between the male husband and female wife is designed by God to be a fruitful expression of their intimate covenantal bond as a ‘one flesh unit’ in marriage.
Christian believers need to learn to bring their bodies under control and to put healthy boundaries in place so as not to entertain sexual lust.
Violating the call to purity ultimately incurs the wrathful judgment of God upon the impenitent children of disobedience (Colossians 3:6).
The church today, like the church at Thessalonica, needs to be reminded that giving in to an impure sexual ethic is incompatible with God’s call to holy living.
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
- How should they relate to one another in the fellowship of believers? (4:9-10) Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are members of the family of God and they are to treat their fellow members as their brothers and sisters with love. Paul explains that the Holy Spirit prompts them to love one another as Christ has loved them and encourages them to continue to do so. They should love one another more and more (4:10). As someone said, “Live your love out loud!”
- What about their personal ambitions? The way of the world is self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, to loudly proclaim your prominence, interfere with others and ride on the backs of other people’s labor. Instead of being busy, they become busy bodies. Others have ambitions to get to the place where they do not have to work because everyone is working for them. They call it ‘the good life’. Paul says that the believer’s life, the truly good life, is counter cultural. Believers should be responsibly contributing to the good of others. We stand in contrast to those who live with worldly ambition. We are to ‘study to be quiet’, to’ bend every effort to be quiet’, ‘aspire to be quiet’, or as one translator puts it, “Be ambitious to be quiet”. What does that mean?
- Campbell Morgan explains it this way: “This command stands in sharp contrast to the passion for notoriety, the desire to be seen and known. He urges them to be ambitious, to be secluded, hidden, quiet.” Don’t labor to be conspicuous, or famous.
The next command that Paul gives is not to meddle in other people’s business. Christians are to responsibly attend to their own affairs and not interfere in the affairs of others. They are to work hard for their living, so they are not financially dependent on anyone.
- A big concern of the Thessalonians was the question- “What will happen to those in our fellowship who have already died?” We have already learned that the Thessalonians had a healthy expectation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:10), however they were concerned that those in their church who had already died would miss out on the benefits of the Second Coming.
Paul comforts these bereaved saints with the truth that Christ’s return will bring a blessing to those who have already died in the Lord, as well as those who are alive on the earth at the time of His coming. “The dead in Christ shall rise first”.
When our Christian brothers and sisters die, we grieve because of our loss. Paul said that for him to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). So, we do not grieve for our lost loved ones in Christ as those who do not have hope. For we know that believers who have died are absent from the body, that is, free from their old physical earth-suit, and are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). And the hope of the physical resurrection, our spirits being clothed with a renewed body like the glorified body of the Lord, will be experienced by those who have already died in Christ, as well as those who are alive at His coming.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all (come to the) sleep (of death), but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
The Greek word for ‘caught up’ is ‘harpazo’- to snatch up, to seize, to catch, to take away by force. It is the equivalent word to the Latin ‘rapto’ meaning ‘to seize, carry off’, from which we get the English word ‘rapture’. It is the same word that is used in 2 Cor 12:7 when Paul was ‘caught up’ to the third heaven. It is the same word used to describe Stephen being ‘snatched speedily’ in Acts 8:39.
When will this event happen? We do not know. The fact that the Apostle Paul uses the plural pronoun ‘we’ in verse 17 hints that Paul expected to be alive to be caught up together with other believers in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air when He returned.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
How often do we comfort one another with this good news about the second coming?
Paul assures the believers at Thessalonica that they have a certain hope that Jesus is coming back and that when He returns there will be a joyous reunion with the saints who have departed before us.
Paul continues to write about future events in Chapter 5. The apostles were once occupied with the question as to when God would restore the kingdom to Israel. The Thessalonians had questions about the timing of the ‘day of the Lord’. The “day of the Lord” speaks of when God will intervene directly in world affairs and bring judgment upon the unbelievers, ‘those who dwell on the earth’. Christ will judge sin and set up His eternal kingdom. We read about it in Isaiah 13:6-12; Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, 28-32; Amos 5:18, 20; Zephaniah 1:7, 14-18; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14, 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10; and it is alluded to in the Book of Revelation 6:17; 16:14;)
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 81:1-16
The Lord is worthy of our exuberant praise! He has declared:
Psalm 81:10 10 “I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
He fed His people with the bread from heaven. He would feed us still with the finest of wheat and honey out of the rock. He feeds us with Christ Jesus, the Bread of Life. He feeds us with a perfect salvation. Because of our redemption through Christ Jesus our mouths are filled with thanksgiving and praise.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 25:6-7
Proverbs 25:6-7 6 Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7 For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.
This proverb reminds us of the words of Jesus:
Luke 14:8-9 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS- RUSSIA
(from Prayer Guide, “Operation World”)
Area: 17,075,400 sq. km
The world’s largest country, extending across 9 time zones between the Baltic and the Pacific. The Russian Federation is composed of 83 administrative districts, including 46 oblasts (provinces), 21 republics, 9 territories, 4 autonomous okrugs, 1 autonomous oblast and 2 federal cities.
Population: 140,366,561 Annual Growth: -0.39%
Official language: Russian; local languages in autonomous republics Languages: 135 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
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Challenges for Prayer
Christian leaders, who are few in number, must rise to many great challenges. Lack of training in the past, need for funding today and loss of many pastors and educators through emigration contribute to this lack of leaders. The role of foreigners will be highly limited; solutions must come from within Russia. Pray for these needs:
- a) Biblical leadership patterns need to be instilled. Authoritarian leadership styles, a legacy of Russia’s past, sadly shape how most Russian pastors operate today. This is particularly difficult because women make up the large majority of churchgoers, men have a much lower life-expectancy and too few pastors have an extensive theological education. Christian Women in Partnership is a joint venture that prepares women to be effective in ministry.
- b) Discipleship patterns are sorely inadequate. Many churches across all evangelical groups are filled with younger folk. But most of these come from non-Christian backgrounds and need grounding in Scripture and a Christian worldview. Systematic Bible study and expository preaching are rare. Cell-based Bible study groups are one key solution; pray for their multiplication.
- c)Theological education is crucial. Hundreds of theological institutions have formed since 1991, from discipleship schools up to seminaries. Pray for the Euro-Asian Accreditation Association that seeks to ensure high standards in the more academic institutions. Theological education needs to be indigenized and to address the issues relevant to Russia’s unique situation.
- d)TEE is an equally important training tool. SEAN (Study by Extension for All Nations) has a very extensive nationwide TEE program under the guidance of the Open Russian Theological Academy. To assist the thousands of pastors and preachers with minimal theological education, many denominational and interdenominational networks are embracing SEAN. Bible Education by Extension (BEE) and Emmaus Bible College and others have TEE courses used throughout the country.
PRAYER: Lord, You have shown us that our hearts are deceitful and incurably wicked. But You, in Your infinite wisdom, devised a way to pardon our guilt and give us a new heart through the willing sacrifice of Your Son. Through His atoning death and triumphant resurrection, He has secured our salvation with the seal of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. Now, for us to live is Christ. We do not fear death and eagerly wait for His return when our mortal bodies will be swallowed up with immortal ones! We know it is Your will that we pursue holiness and live each day ready to meet You. Give us the grace to do what is pleasing to You this day. In Jesus’ Name. Amen