TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- JEREMIAH 1:1- 2:30
Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, was a priest who prophesied during the last 40 years of the southern kingdom of Judah’s existence, spanning the reign of at least 5 kings (from the latter half of Josiah’s reign through to King Zedekiah and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 587 BC). He prophesied and witnessed Judah’s tragic fall to the Babylonians.
During his lifetime the kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria were battling for world supremacy. All three Empires were used as God’s instruments of chastisement upon His people (both Israel and Judah) because they had violated their covenant commitment to Him and no longer heeded His Word.
Jeremiah is sometimes referred to as ‘the weeping prophet’. In his lifetime he witnessed a mini-revival/reformation that took place under the reign of King Josiah, when the scroll (most likely, Deuteronomy) was discovered and many godly values, previously lost, were recovered. But he also witnessed the progressive spiritual declension that took place after Josiah was killed.
Jeremiah was deeply troubled by Judah’s unfaithfulness and was not ashamed to call for repentance with tears. Perhaps this prophetic passion that was a signature of Jeremiah’s ministry is why he is brought to mind when people tried to comprehend the ministry of Jesus Christ more than 600 years later:
Matthew 16:13-14 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”
Jeremiah emphasizes four main themes in his prophecies:
- The nation had forsaken God and broken the covenant made at Sinai.
- The Leadership of Judah had failed. The prophets prophesied falsehoods out of their own imaginations. The shepherds of Judah had forsaken their flocks and the priests were profane.
- There was only one hope for survival- surrender to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The leaders of Judah were too self-deceived in their pride to obey Jeremiah’s message, despite many clear warnings. God could no longer put up with Judah’s rebellion and would bring about the prophesied 70-year captivity.
- There would be a return to the Promised land and a restoration of the nation after the 70-year captivity. God has a new covenant and the rule of the Messianic king in view when He outlines His hope and future for the nation.
An Outline of Jeremiah:
Chapters 1- 25 Concerning the People and the City
Chapters 26- 45 The Character and Course of Jeremiah’s ministry
Chapters 46- 51 Concerning the Surrounding Nations
Chapter 52– Concluding Historical Details- The Fall of Jerusalem
After 20 years of ministry the Lord tells Jeremiah to collect all the words that God had given him from his first days and write them in a scroll:
Jeremiah 36:1-2 1 In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day.
Jeremiah dictated the words to a scribe named Baruch, who was commanded to read all these words to the people of Judah when they gathered for one of their fasting days, in hope that the people would repent and turn to the Lord. (Jer. 36:4-8).
Baruch also compiled facts about Jeremiah’s life. This fact explains why the scroll of Jeremiah reads like an anthology revealing truth about both the man and the message. Jeremiah is a prophet of God’s justice and grace. He has a message for God’s covenant people and for the nations.
We find out important information about Jeremiah’s calling and the nature of Jeremiah’s ministry in the first chapter. NOTICE HIS PRE-NATAL CALLING. (A Great Reminder of God’s perspective on the preciousness of the life of the unborn in the womb!)
Jeremiah 1:4-10 4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. 8 “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. 9 Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 10 See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
In these words, we have a foreshadowing of the message of the cross of Christ: The cross brings judgment upon all that is condemnable ‘in Adam’, overthrowing the reign of sin with the mighty death blow of God’s final verdict on the flesh. The old man is crucified, that is, plucked up, broken down and destroyed. Through our faith-union with Christ we are crucified with Christ and our flesh is perfectly judged by God’s righteousness. By virtue of our faith-union, we become alive ‘in Him’ and are raised in Him. He builds us up as those who are planted ‘in Him’.
The believer can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Notice how Jeremiah made excuses as he tried to dodge God’s calling on his life. He was mindful of his own inadequacies, his youth, his lack of skill and personal experience.
Yet it is our inadequacy that qualifies us to be used of God, so that the excellency of the power might be of Him and not of us.
What excuses are you making? Are you dodging the call of God on your life?
Jeremiah was a youth who was being called to be a prophet to the nations! Yet God told him, “Do not be afraid of them!” (Jeremiah 1:8)
God would give Jeremiah a message of judgment and grace. He has done the same for us! The gospel is a message that confronts human pride, exposes sin, warns of the inevitable fourfold judgment that all flesh is corrupted with sin and will be plucked up (the wages of sin is death), broken down (judged in the eyes of God’s perfect holiness and justice), destroyed (in the fire of God’s righteous wrath) and overthrown (forgotten, rendered useless, lost, and forever separated from fellowship in the oblivion of hell). But the same God who has demonstrated His great wrath against sin at the cross, has also demonstrated His great love and mercy, offering forgiveness and eternal life to those who trust Him. He will build and plant them in His new creation in Christ.
The Lord gives Jeremiah a series of visions and then asks, “What do you see?”
The first vision is that of an almond tree. The Lord uses a play on words to assure Jeremiah that he will bring to pass all that He calls Jeremiah to proclaim. The word for almond tree in Hebrew is ‘shaqed’ which sounds like ‘shoqed’ which means ‘an alert watching’. Jeremiah would have a difficult ministry with little tangible results as far as producing repentance in the hearts of the people. Yet the Lord would be wide awake and alert and would assuredly perform all that He has revealed and declared through His Word given to His prophet.
The second vision was of a boiling pot (1:13). This was the warning of God’s wrathful punishment coming upon Judah’s idolatry (1:16) from the kingdoms of the north (the Babylonians). Judah turned to the Assyrians and the Egyptians rather than the Lord for their help, only to see them crippled by the Babylonian conquest. The Lord promises to preserve Jeremiah as he delivers these hard messages.
Jeremiah Chapter 2 describes the history of the house of Israel’s apostacy (2:1-12).
The Lord gives this scathing verdict on both the northern and southern kingdoms:
Jeremiah 2:13 13 “For My people have committed two evils:
- They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
- They have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
What are living waters? Living waters are waters that emerge from springs, ever fresh and ever flowing.
What is water stored in a cistern? It is water that is collected, no longer fresh, no longer flowing. Broken cisterns cannot retain the water they receive.
What happens when we neglect communion with our Spiritual Life Force in Christ? We build for ourselves substitutes. We end up with lifeless professions, and false religion. We make for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. The result is death.
Judah turned to Egypt for help. Yet the waters of Egypt’s river Nile would fail them. Judah turned to Assyria for help. Yet the water of Assyria’s river Euphrates would fail them also. In vain they will try to remedy their plight.
Verse 22 reminds us that there is nothing but the atoning blood of Christ that can remove the stain of our guilt and sin before God (Hebrew 9:22).
Jeremiah 2:22 22 “Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord GOD.
Ultimately, they would become captives to the powers of Babylon:
Jeremiah 2:37 37 “From this place also you will go out with your hands on your head; For the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust, and you will not prosper with them.”
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – PHILIPPIANS 4:1-23
We mistakenly think of the church at Philippi as a joyful church or a church that had no problems. Not so. They had problems like all churches.
There were relational difficulties. Even seasoned missionaries, Euodia and Syntyche, who were fellow workers with the Apostle Paul, needed the help of their brothers and sisters to “live in harmony with each other”.
They were experiencing anxiety and losing their joy.
2 Corinthians Chapter 8 informs us that the church in Philippi was one of the churches in Macedonia that was ‘in deep poverty’, and yet they were generous in support of the needs of the church in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
As a result of their ‘great ordeal of affliction’ and financial hardship they had lost their contentment in Christ.
Paul directs them to focus on what they have in the gospel! True joy is not dependent upon what one has of material provisions, but Who Christ is and the good news of what He has done and will do!
Philippians 4:4-7 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
He teaches them to keep their focus on the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:
Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Then he reminds them to consider his own example (4:9). The Apostle Paul was no stranger to hardship. He was not living in luxury. He was in a prison cell!
He speaks in relation to undergoing financial difficulties when he says, “He can do all things through Him who strengthens Him!
Philippians 4:11-13 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The Apostle is grateful for the sacrificial giving of the church at Philippi. Not only did they contribute to the needs of the church in Jerusalem, but also to the needs of Paul’s itinerant ministry and his needs in prison.
He gives them this word of assurance- that the God whom He has come to love, and trust is faithful!
Philippians 4:19 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALM 75:1-10
This is a Psalm that celebrates the victory of God over a proud enemy. No matter what the situation, or how it may appear, God is King and at work for salvation.
The Psalmist calls to mind the fact that God is judge (Psalm 75:7), knows all things, and judges with equity (75:2). We are not to put our trust in men or the nations from the east or west, but in the Lord, Who will exalt the righteous and cut off the boasting of the wicked.
He will not leave sin unpunished. He takes the wrath due our sin upon Himself on the cross. Those who do not believe die in their sins, under God’s wrath and thereby will experience its eternal fury in hell. But the penitent sinner finds refuge and can cleave to the altar of the cross and experience God’s merciful forgiveness.
Psalm 75:9-10 9 But as for me, I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. 10 And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off, But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 24:17-20
Proverbs 24:17-20 17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him. 19 Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked; 20 For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
We must remember when our enemy falls that we were all once enemies of God ourselves. Delight in His mercy and trust Him to deal with your adversaries.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – PHILIPPINES
(From Operation World Prayer Guide)
Republic of the Philippines
Area: 300,000 sq. km
80 provinces; 7,250 islands, of which over 700 are inhabited, 11 of which contain the vast bulk of the population. The largest are Luzon (116,000 sq. km) in the north and Mindanao (102,000 sq. km) in the south. Over 75% mountains; prone to devastating typhoons.
Population: 93,616,853 Annual Growth: 1.83%
Official language: Filipino (based on Tagalog), English Languages: 181 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Answer to Prayer
Increased spiritual unity. The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) establishes warm fellowship and cooperates in developing common goals for ministry among 68 denominations, 150 independent congregations and 170 mission agencies and parachurch groups. Philippines for Jesus (PFJ) is a network of Pentecostal and charismatic groups. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) covers more mainline groups. Many local and regional Ministerial Fellowships are established as well. Pray that this unity continues and strengthens, and that it extends across broader confessional lines.
Challenge for Prayer
Special ministry challenges:
- a) Students, over 2.5 million in 1,800 tertiary colleges and universities. Many agencies are involved: CCCI with vision for Christian movements on 125 campuses nationwide, IVCF(IFES) with 42 staff in ministry on 125 campus chapters, Navigators, AoG and others. There are also many locally initiated student ministries such as Student Missionary Outreach and Student Movement for Christ International. Pray for effective evangelical cooperation, multiplication of conversions and the development of a nationwide student missions movement.
- b) More than half of the population are under age 20. CEF has over 120 workers with ministry for school children in 55 areas. However, 24% of school-aged children are unable to attend school; most either work or have no local school. There are 75,000 street kids in Manila alone. Action International, International Teams and World Vision are just three of dozens of ministries focused on children.
- c) Sex trade workers. Up to 100,000 children and 400,000 women are involved, many of them trafficked to other countries. The sex industry is apparently the fourth largest source of income. Pray for all involved (YWAM, Jubilee Action and others) in rescuing, rehabilitating and discipling these tragic victims of sin.
- d) Spiritual vitality does not always equate to biblical truth. Philippines is awash with sects and cults that blend Christian ideas with all manner of false teachings. Some of these are schisms from Catholicism, some are independent groups that sprang from Protestant contexts, some are effectively neo-pagan religions with a Christian veneer. Most feature highly controlling and manipulative leadership and teachings. Pray for all lies to be exposed, and pray for effective Christian apologetics and ministry to the millions caught up in these groups
PRAYER: Father, we acknowledge that we need You. You are our only Savior, our Counselor, our Deliverer and our Guide. We thank You for giving us Your Word, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We thank You that He, like all You have spoken, is unfailing! You are watchful and attentive to see that all that You have promised will come to pass. We rest in Your ability to perform all Your promises in Christ Jesus! May we not make excuses and shirk our calling. Help us to be faithful witnesses and make disciples of all nations! May we never lose our joy because of difficult circumstances. Let us rejoice in the Lord knowing that in Him we not only have the victory, but we have all things. Thank You for fresh confidence to face this day, knowing that You will supply our every need in Christ Jesus. Strengthen us in Jesus’ Name. Amen.