TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT-
We continue to read the Lord’s assessment on the role of the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day.
Jeremiah 23:21-22 21 “I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.”
People are running with their own thoughts today, without taking counsel from the Word of the Lord. Jeremiah is letting the false teachers and prophets know that they are responsible for turning the people of God in the wrong direction.
Jeremiah’s words to the leaders, the kings, priests, teachers, and prophets, highlight the fact that human beings are responsible for communicating truth to the people they influence. And the people are responsible (and accountable) for either their obedience or disobedience to God’s revealed truth. Our reading in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians yesterday confirms that those who are disobedient to the gospel will suffer for it (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Teachers have a greater responsibility before God because they are called to communicate His truth:
James 3:1 1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (See Jeremiah 23:34, 39-40).
Verse 22 also highlights the fact that God knows how people would have responded if they had more light or accurate information.
Jeremiah 23:22 22 “But if they had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.”
The Lord knows how people would have responded if they had been given the unadulterated truth. Jesus knew that the people of Sodom would have repented if they had the same degree of the light of Christ as did the Galilean cities (Matthew 11:20-24).
Jeremiah reminds those pretending to be prophets that God knows when they are ‘faking it’, borrowing other people’s messages, preaching their own dreams, and fabricating false prophecies.
New Testament churches should not be ‘dream centers’, but communities of Bible-believers who are being built up in the Word of God and are actively obedient to it.
God’s Word is living and active. God deals with His people through the ministry of the Word. He exposes that which is false. He renders the verdict of the cross by judging all that is condemnable- our flesh. He brings to our minds what is true and empowers us to live accordingly.
Hebrews 4:12 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Jeremiah 23:29 29 “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”
In Chapter 24, after King Jehoiachin and the officials were carried off into Babylonian exile, Jeremiah is given the vision of the two baskets of figs, one with good figs and another with bad, inedible figs. Those who are obedient to Jeremiah’s message, and willingly surrender to the Babylonians, are the good figs. Their families will be once again planted in the land after the 70 years of their captivity are over. The poor figs represent those who have rendered themselves useless in God’s plan through their own disobedience:
Jeremiah 24:9-10 9 ‘I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I will scatter them. 10 ‘I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers.'”
Jeremiah 25 summarizes the history of disobedience among the people of Judah. For 23 years Jeremiah has been prophesying, along with other prophets a call to repentance, and the people have not listened (Jeremiah 25:3). Jeremiah reminds them that although the Lord has chosen to bring destruction upon them, they have brought this destruction upon themselves.
Jeremiah 25:7 7 “Yet you have not listened to Me,” declares the LORD, “in order that you might provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.”
Jeremiah pronounces the judgment:
Jeremiah 25:11 11 ‘This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
Jeremiah also announces that a judgment will fall upon Babylon at the end of the 70 years (Jer 25:12-14). They will be made slaves to another nation (The Medio-Persians).
Jeremiah is then shown ‘the cup of God’s wrath’ which represents judgment (Jer 25:17). Jesus is pictured as taking this cup when He willingly yields Himself to the Father’s plan to suffer as our substitute on the cross (Matthew 26:39,42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 18:11). He is willing to take the punishment incurred by the cosmic treason of our sin against Him, our holy Creator-God.
The Lord then has Jeremiah hear His list of all the nations, including His own people, who had made themselves His enemies and were due the wrath of God’s punishment.
This reminds us that we were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deed (Colossians 1:21) and while we were enemies (Romans 5:10) and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Jeremiah is told to prophesy with a special image of judgment- grapes being trodden on in the winepress. This image is featured throughout the Bible: “the grapes of wrath”. (Jer 25:30; Isaiah 63:2-3; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:19-20; 19:11-16).
The judgment pictured here looks beyond the localized judgment of Jerusalem in 589-587 BC, or in 70 AD, to something more global, as pictured in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 6:4-19:21).
Jeremiah 25:33 33 “Those slain by the LORD on that day will be from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be lamented, gathered or buried; they will be like dung on the face of the ground.”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-17
In 2 Thessalonians 2 we learn that the church had been thrown into confusion due to a forged letter that they had received claiming to have come from the Apostle Paul! In this letter the writer, claiming to be the Apostle Paul, said that the day of the Lord had already come.
What this means is that the church at Thessalonica was thinking that all the events that are identified with the ‘day of the Lord’ (the judgments upon the unbelieving world to clear a way for the kingdom of God) had already come. This is another case of ‘over-realized eschatology’. There are some today who mistakenly believe that we are in the kingdom of God now. (It is true that God reigns above all, Christ is enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, and that He currently reigns in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit. But the prophecies concerning the kingdom of God require the Messiah to rule with a rod of iron from Jerusalem over all nations.)
Paul begs the church not to be deceived. The pseudo-report teaching that the day of the Lord had already come was a counterfeit and contained false information. Satan loves to make false charges against those who labor in the truth of God’s Word.
Paul then outlines the sequence of end time events. Just as the dead in Christ must rise before the rapture (Greek word ‘harpazo’) of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), so there must be a great apostacy, rebellion, and manifestation of the man of sin, the Antichrist, who will set himself up in God’s temple, claiming to be God and demanding worship (2 Thess 2:3-4) before the Second Coming (Greek word, ‘Parousia’) when the Lord returns to rule physically on the earth.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses were told by their founder, Charles T. Russell, that the world would end in 1874, and then revised it to 1914. After that date passed, Russell proclaimed that the Lord did come on October 1, 1914, but invisibly. The Lord Jesus apparently had exchanged His more ordinary seat at the Father’s right hand for the Throne of His kingdom. There are others who spiritualize away the prophecies of the kingdom, ignoring the bulk of the Scriptures about the literal rule of the King of Kings upon the earth.
Paul reminds the believers that the Antichrist will oppose God and God’s moral law and civil law. We see the spirit of antichrist at work today, mocking the Word of God, denying moral absolutes, and advocating anarchy in the name of freedom.
Paul then speaks of a restraining force that prevents the Antichrist coming to power. The lack of specificity here has caused commentators some headaches. Several interpretations have been suggested:
- The role of the Holy Spirit and the work of the church. Jesus referred to the restraining impact of salt in the spread of corruption, and told his disciples that they were the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13).
- Paul and the preaching of the gospel. The Thessalonians had confidence in the presence of the apostles and their teaching. There must be a witness to the gospel in all nations (Matt 24:14).
- The existing rule of law. At this time Roman law prevailed over the land. Paul expounds in his letter to the Romans that the law is God’s agent in the punishment of evil. The natural restraint against lawlessness is the law.
- A combination or mix of all of the above– the taking away of restraint would be the taking away of the church and the Holy Spirit’s ministry empowering them as agents of the great commission, and the removal of the rule of law in government. Regardless of which interpretation, Paul assumes that the Thessalonians would know what he is talking about, and therefore they should not be in a panic, thinking that the day of the Lord had already passed!
It is evident that a great delusion will come upon human beings at the time of the Antichrist. Therefore, we need to be alert, prayerful, and be transformed into fully devoted Christ-followers with our minds being renewed by the Spirit-wrought ministry of the Word of God.
Paul reminds believers of the gospel hope – Christ will defeat the antichrist.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
As believers, we are called to share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is in His great love and mercy that we have been called to salvation by belief in the truth, and by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, who grooms us into conformity to the image of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, he articulates the theme of his letter:
2 Thessalonians 2:15 15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
Don’t forget the apostle’s doctrine! It does us good to continue to fellowship in the gospel daily.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALM 84
How lovely is Thy dwelling place!
We behold God’s glory in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is our dwelling place! (Ps. 84:4) He is our strength! (Psalm 84:5). All our thoughts and affections travel the road that leads to Him! (Psalm 84:5-6).
Notice the path that has been set out for those whose hearts have been captivated by His glory! “They shall go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion”. And when we see Him, we shall be like Him!
1 John 3:2 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
As those whom God has placed ‘in Christ Jesus’ (1 Corinthians 1:30), we are looked upon with favor, for Jesus is our shield (Psalm 84:9).
Psalm 5:12 12 For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.
Knowing Jesus will flip your sense of what is most important!
The Psalmist said that now, “He would rather be a door keeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
How has the Lord changed what is now important to you? What is your preferred ‘rather’ now that you know the Lord?
The Psalm closes with important facts and promises. It would be good to memorize these verses:
Psalm 84:11-12 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts blessed is the man who trusts in You!
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 25:15
Proverbs 25:15 15 By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.
There are lessons to be learned as we influence those who are presently in control- perhaps a boss at work, or a legislator. We must be patient. We must be proactive in our gentle, but firm, communication. Eventually a ruler can be persuaded, or the hard nut can crack!
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – GEO-ETHNIC REGIONS OF RUSSIA
Operation World devotes pages to the Geo-ethnic regions of the Russian Federation: The Southern federal District, the Northwestern Federal District, the Volga Federal District, the Urals Federal District, the Siberian Federal District and the Far eastern Federal District. (Check these out on pages 712-718 in the Operation World Prayer Guide).
One thing you will notice is the growing influence of Islam in the Southern Federal District. There is also a strong presence of nominal Orthodox Christians.
The North Caucasus peoples remain some of the least reached peoples on the earth. They live in the least evangelized region of Europe. Most of the 50 or so ethnic groups in this region have little by way of Scripture in their languages or churches among their peoples.
It is fascinating to read of all the different people groups in Russia. Let us pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into this harvest field, to equip the saints, win the lost and bring glory to the Name of Jesus!
PRAYER: Lord, Your word in the mouth of Jeremiah, was designed to pluck up, break down, destroy and overthrow in order to build and plant. Your Word is a two-edged sword. It convicts us of sin and renders the judgment of the cross upon the thoughts and actions of our old sin nature. It releases us to serve righteousness with the power of Your Indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank You for planting in us a new life with new desires. Thank You that we can play a part in Your work of building up the body of Christ and winning the lost. As we walk by faith, we trust You will enable us to go from strength to strength, undergirded with the blessed hope that no good thing will You withhold from those who walk Your way. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.