TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- JEREMIAH 19:1-21:14

Another lesson from the Potter’s House

Jeremiah is told to buy a clay jar from a potter. In yesterday’s reading, we witnessed how the Potter re-shaped a vessel due to the marred clay.  Now he is to take a vessel along with the elders and priests to the Valley of Ben Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There he is to publicly proclaim the imminent disaster upon the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem (Jer 19:3-9). Then he is to break the vessel while the leaders are watching,

Jeremiah 19:11 11  and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial.

Topheth was a location in Jerusalem where worshipers, influenced by the pagan Canaanite gods, engaged in child sacrifices offered to Molech and Baal. This detestable practice was deserving of Yahweh’s wrathful punishment.

After prophesying at Topheth, Jeremiah went into Jerusalem’s temple to prophesy destruction.

These prophecies did come true as the Babylonians launched siege warfare against the Jews. The enemy cut off all their food supplies, and the people became so hungry that they resorted to cannibalism, even eating their own children. This horrific fact was also predicted in the Torah (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57). The actual occurrence of these events is recorded in 2 Kings 6:28-29; and in Lamentations 2:20 and 4:10).

The chief temple officer, Pashhur, was furious with Jeremiah’s prophecies and had him beaten (most likely whipped to the legal limit of 39 stripes) and then put in stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. On the next day, when he is released, Jeremiah prophesies Jerusalem’s destruction once again and proclaims that its citizens will be taken into captivity in Babylon. Pashhur (now renamed by Jeremiah, Magor-Missabib, meaning ‘terror on every side), will see the fulfillment of this prophecy and then be taken captive to Babylon where he will die along with others to whom he had prophesied lies.

Jeremiah pours out his complaint to the Lord. He has suffered the hard consequences of bringing the Word of the Lord to the people of God. He is persecuted, maligned, and scorned. We have his conflicting emotions recorded in Chapter 20:7-18:

Jeremiah 20:7-9 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me. 8  For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. 9  But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah is tempted to quit. But the burden of the Word of the Lord is so strong that the suffering he experiences while attempting to be silent seems greater than the suffering he experiences when he is beaten for speaking aloud the truth. The Word is like fire burning in his bones so that he cannot contain himself. Like the Apostle Peter in the Book of Acts, “He cannot but speak of what he has seen and heard,” or the Apostle Paul who said, “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (Acts 4:20; 1 Corinthians 9:16b).

In Chapter 21, the Babylonians begin their attack against Jerusalem, and King Zedekiah requests that Jeremiah inquire of the Lord in hopes that they will experience miraculous deliverance. However, Jeremiah announces that the Lord says that He Himself is using the Babylonian army to fight against them. He mercifully sets before them life or death. If they stay in the city, they will die by either sword, famine, or plague. But if they go out of the city and surrender to the Babylonians, they shall live. 

TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 1 THESSALONIANS 5:4-28

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they are not in darkness. They have the light of God’s Word. They are children of the day. Therefore they should not be caught off guard but should diligently live their lives in the hope of the Lord’s coming, pursuing holiness. They should not be fearful of men but have a healthy fear (reverence) for God. As it has been said, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 9  For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10  who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Paul gives some final exhortations:

Respect your hard-working leaders. They are not perfect, but God has gifted them for the upbuilding of the church and given them to you as a gift. Therefore, hold them in the highest regard (1 Thess 5:12-13).

Resolve conflicts according to God’s counsel and live in peace with each other.

Respect people’s various capacities and stages of development and treat them accordingly with a view to building them up in the Lord- warn the idle, encourage the timid (small souled), help the weak, and be patient with everyone.

Let merciful kindness rule, instead of insisting on ‘getting even’ when wronged with a blow-by-blow retaliation.

Be joyful. When? Always. Pray. How often? Continually. Give thanks. When? In ALL circumstances. We may not be thankful FOR the circumstances, but we can be thankful IN the circumstances because Jesus is Lord over all circumstances.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire, but test everything. Examine everything with the Word. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

Here is what I believe to be the theme verses of the Epistle. This is the goal- sanctification. God Himself is the means.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

And it is all because of God’s grace (1Thess 5:28)

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALMS 82:1-8

This is a call for justice. God is the Lawgiver and the Judge. Abraham recognized this.

Isaiah 33:22 22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Genesis 18:25b Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

The Lord does not need a jury to weigh in on His decisions, as He is altogether righteous. In His court, there is no defense or appeal.

The ‘gods’ are addressed here. These are those men who have been granted awesome authority to represent the Lord on the earth and interpret His law.

The ‘gods’ are not demons in that demons don’t die as men.

There is some ambiguity about verse 5. Does it refer to the poor and needy (v.4) or the appointed judges?  Most likely, the judges.

Psalm 82:4-5 4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

Warren Wiersbe explains the role of the judges: “Though these people held high offices and were called “elohim—gods” (Ex. 21:6), they were only humans and would be judged for their sins. Privilege brings responsibility, and responsibility brings accountability. Jesus quoted verse 6 (John 10:34-36) to defend His own claim to be the Son of God. For, if the Lord called “gods” the imperfect human judges chosen by men, how much more should Jesus Christ be called “the Son of God,” He who was set apart by the Father and sent to earth! In spite of their titles and offices, these judges would die like any other human and pay the price for their sins. When God the Judge ceased to speak, then Asaph added his prayer that God would bring justice to all the earth and not just to Israel (v. 8; 9:7-8). When the Lord comes to judge the earth, no one will escape, and His sentence will be just. Asaph’s prayer echoes the church’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).- Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.

Hear the heart cry of the Psalmist:  Psalm 82:8 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 25:8-10

Proverbs 25:8-10 8 Do not go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor humiliates you? 9 Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, 10 Or he who hears it will reproach you, And the evil report about you will not pass away. 

Stop and think about this. Don’t jump to conclusions! 

PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – The Operation World Prayer App has this to say about Romania today:

Romania is one of the world’s most Christian nations by percentage, but it is difficult to see this in society. The atheistic worldview of Communism persists. Weak faith, hypocrisy, and slander of other denominations cause problems for all Christian groups. This does not glorify Christ and does not build up the Church. Church members and even clergy mix faith with folk religious practices or the occult. Churches neglect many poor people. Pray for a breakthrough of love, holiness, discipleship, and prayer in all denominations.

PRAYER: Lord God, You are our strength and fortress, our refuge in times of distress. You are the Potter. We are the clay. We trust You as King, Judge, and Lawgiver and worship Your ways, even when we lack understanding. Forgive us for those times when we lean on our own understanding and fail to see the good when it comes. You are a Mighty Warrior. We cannot fight against You and prevail. We need Your dealings to keep us humble. May we be always rejoicing and giving thanks in all circumstances. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Pastor David