TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- – JEREMIAH 8:8-9:26;
Jeremiah addresses the false priests, prophets and scribes who deceitfully handle the Word of God. They were lowering the moral standards of Scripture to accommodate the decadence of their culture. This would result in their destruction.
Warren Wiersbe summarizes well the failure of those who were entrusted with the Scriptures:
“The false prophets, who claimed to be writing and speaking in the name of the Lord, deceived the kingdom of Judah. They were men whose personal lives were godless, whose hearts were covetous, and whose remedies for the problems of the nation were useless. Their ministry was popular because they majored on the superficial and marketed whatever good news the people wanted to hear.”
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Warren Wiersbe.
Jeremiah 8:11 11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.”
Sadly, this treacherous malpractice is found in the church today. The Apostle Paul foresees it in his letter to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:3-4 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
The people of Judah believed in the myth of their own self-righteousness. The Apostle Paul writes about this in his letter to the Romans:
Romans 10:3 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
They trusted their temple observances, while failing to give God the heart devotion and obedience that He was due, had they really known Him for Who He is.
The price of their spiritual adulteries and unrepentance would be the destruction of Jerusalem- death in the city. They would experience the curses that were promised for breaking their covenant with the Lord (Deut. 28:15-26, 47f) -their crops would fail, their opportunity for harvest would pass, their trees would bear no fruit (8:13), they would be attacked by venomous snakes (8:17),and their cities and towns would be destroyed (9:11). The people would be either be slain or taken captive (9:16-19).
Jeremiah says that the sensibilities of Judah are so distorted that they feel neither sorrow nor shame for their sin. They pretend that they are morally and spiritually fit, taking pride in their religion, their temple and their heritage. And yet even their presumed worship is a stench before God. Their reformation under King Josiah was entirely superficial. Jeremiah lists their sins- they oppress the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. They casually practice theft, crimes of violence, murder, adultery and other forms of sexual immorality. Lies fly from their tongues like arrows shot from a bow. While they speak amicably to their neighbors, they are plotting to betray them. They practice idolatry in their homes.
I once witnessed a funeral procession in Jerusalem. They carried the body through the street with a parade of loud mourners. Sometime ‘wailing women’ are hired to sound the family’s grief.
Jeremiah 9:17-20 17 Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come; And send for the wailing women, that they may come! 18 “Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water. 19 “For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion, ‘How are we ruined! We are put to great shame, For we have left the land, Because they have cast down our dwellings.'” 20 Now hear the word of the LORD, O you women, And let your ear receive the word of His mouth; Teach your daughters wailing, And everyone her neighbor a dirge.
Jeremiah explains why this punishment is coming upon them:
Jeremiah 9:13-14 13 The LORD said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, 14 but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them,”
In the midst of this warning of imminent judgment coming upon the people of Judah, we are offered this relevant advice:
Jeremiah 9:23-24 23 Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.
We close today’s reading in Jeremiah with the discovery that Judah is listed along with those pagan nations who will soon be punished. I’m sure it would be shocking to hear that the Lord is associating them with pagans. They had become dull. They had little appreciation for the privilege they had of a covenant relationship with God. The outward rite of circumcision was to be a symbol of their inward heart-commitment to be set apart to God as a holy nation (Jeremiah 9:25-26; Genesis 17:9-14). Yet how dull the people of Judah had become.
May this instruct us to never substitute outward shows of piety for a genuine relationship with God through ongoing faith, trust and obedience to His Word.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – COLOSSIANS 3:1-17
Once again, we see the 50:50 ration of doctrine and application in Paul’s letters. In Chapters 1 and 2 we have ‘the indicatives’- Paul states the facts about Who Christ Is and what He has accomplished. Chapters 3 and 4 will have ‘the imperatives- Paul will command the believers to walk in the light of this ‘gospel reality’.
FACT: You are crucified with Christ. You are dead. Therefore, here comes the IMPERATIVE: Put to death whatever is associated with your old Adamic behavior patterns- sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. Don’t pretend that these old practices are anything less than idolatry!
FACT: Your new life is hidden (identified with Christ) in God. You are already positioned ‘in Christ’ at the right hand of God, far above principalities and powers, complete and pronounced righteous in Him. Therefore, here comes the IMPERATIVE- Set your minds on things above- the gospel realities, the big picture, the fact that you are alive only because of Him, to live through Him and for Him. Be occupied with Christ! In Him you can bring forth lasting fruit that is pleasing to the Father.
FACT: Christ is our life. FACT: Christ is coming again. FACT: We will appear with Him in glory. The IMPERATIVE is implied, don’t waste your life living for earthly things. You used to walk in the ways of the Adamic nature, but now YOU MUST (IMPERATIVE) put off anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language from your lips, and all habits of lying, exaggerating, excusing, self-glorying and self-justifying.
FACT: In the body of Christ there is no racial distinction or class distinction, so (IMPERATIVE) treat all in the church as members of Christ! (Colossians 3:11).
Wear your true colors- virtues that suit your new identity in Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
FACT: God has been gracious and forgiving towards you. IMPERATIVE: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
FACT: You were called by the gospel into a relationship of peace with God. IMPERATIVE: Let that peace rule your hearts. Be anxious for nothing. Be thankful.
IMPERATIVE: Be filled with the Holy Spirit by being filled with the Word of God.
Colossians 3:16 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
FACT: All you have is Christ. He is your Life. Therefore, IMPERATIVE- DO all in the Name (nature) of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him!
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 78:32-55
The Psalmist continues to recount the history of God’s gracious dealings despite Israel’s long history of disobedience.
In his dealings with the human race, The Lord knows what we are made of. He graciously offers us salvation.
Psalm 78:39 39 Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return.
The Psalmist describes the exodus as the Lord bringing his people out of Egypt “like a flock”. “He led them like sheep through the desert.” (Psalm 78:52)
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 24:27
Proverbs 24:27 27 Prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house.
This is a good proverbial reminder to get our priority straight. Focus first on what will sustain you. What has the Lord called you to do in terms of fruitful service? Build your life around that.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – PORTUGAL
Area: 92,389 sq km
occupying 15% of the Iberian Peninsula, which is shared with Spain. Also, the Atlantic islands of the Azores (2,247 sq km, nine islands) and Madeira (794 sq km, two islands).
Population: 10,732,357 Annual Growth: 0.35%
Official language: Portuguese Languages: 9 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Challenges for Prayer
Evangelical growth remains encouraging but is also hampered by certain challenges:
- a) Serious divisions. Many denominations suffered acrimonious splits, especially some Pentecostal denominations. Some recent progress has been made to overcome these; pray for churches to major on the core elements of the faith and extend grace in the minor distinctives.
- b) The need for a united vision. The Portuguese Evangelical Alliance (EA) continues to grow in impact, a necessary development. Pray for wisdom, vision and courage for its leaders and members, since the EA plays a key role.
- c) The need for passion for the lost. The Portuguese Church has a unique role to play because of the widespread use of the language. Most churches could easily increase involvement in evangelism and in mission. Some churches and missions are active in sending. A new national sending agency (MEVIC) recently began.
- d) Church planting. Many more churches are needed. DAWN, together with the EA, targets a goal of 4,000 evangelical churches by 2015. Several groups adopted cell-church models but face the difficulty that, for many Portuguese, a physical structure communicates religious legitimacy. Pray for continued church growth, for affordable and appropriate meeting places and for leaders for these future churches.
Many congregations lack full-time workers with adequate theological depth and spiritual maturity; church growth exacerbates this problem. These institutions are therefore highly strategic: Assemblies of God, Portuguese Bible Institute (GEM, ECM), Presbyterian, Baptist and Brazilian-founded Bethel Bible Institutes. TEE programs and Núcleo, a widely used Bible correspondence course, are also strategic. Pray that these may contribute to meeting the ministry needs of the churches.
The seven northern and northeastern provinces which are strongly traditional Catholic; relatively few evangelical churches exist. Brethren, Baptists, AoG, GEN. TEAM, ECM and several other missions all have church planting programs in the area.
The 316 counties, 44 of which still have no evangelical congregation. This is praiseworthy progress from the 69 in 2000 that lacked a church.
MADEIRA ISLAND– (270,000) which has fewer than 20 small evangelical churches, and the Azores (250.000) with a further 26, most being Assemblies of God and Baptist.
Ethnic minorities. Large numbers of immigrants continue to flow into Portugal. The earlier waves of Portuguese speaking West Africans and Brazilians are joined by Chinese, Macanese and Eastern Europeans- especially Ukrainians, who now comprise Portugal’s second-largest community. Many of these are unevangelized but open to the gospel; pray for the churches (both Portuguese and foreign) to gain a vision to reach them.
PRAYER: Lord, we thank You for the gift of Your Son. Through our faith-union with Him, we now have access before You. We are hid with Christ and stand completely identified with Him. We are perfect in our standing even while we are imperfect in our state. This is a marvelous truth. Help us to be mindful of this fact and not slip into the habits of our old nature with its evil inclinations. We present ourselves to You this day, letting Your Word dwell richly in us, yielding ourselves to Your Holy Spirit’s abilities to bring forth what is pleasing to You. May our lives be a prayer of thanksgiving that will bring glory to Your Name! We give thanks to You our God and Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.