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Archive for February, 2017

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“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

Fox News carried an interview last evening with a man appearing to be wrapped in the evil tendrils of deception he couldn’t sit still. His eyes were wide and flamed and his speech rushed out of his mouth while his body bounced and shook.

At first I mistook his demeanor as being fervent about the subject, but the longer he chattered, almost without taking a breath, the deeper he slipped into that dark place where truth held no substance, but a return to power of his former leader’s community organizing agenda sparked him giddy.

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh if from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 6:2-3 NIV).

And so it was in the days of Zedekiah, king of Judah. The year is 586 B.C. and Judah has been engaged with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, since 605 B.C.—you do the math. The king of Babylon by this time has carried possibly as many as fifteen thousand or more Jews into captivity, and in 597 B.C. King Neb appointed Zedekiah to be a puppet king. And puppet he was. A real politician who aimed to please everyone, but ended up pleasing no one. Especially not God.

God told them through Jeremiah, to go peacefully to Babylon. But peaceful was not in their vocabulary and the leaders demanded Zedekiah put Jeremiah to death. They couldn’t bear to hear truth, but chose to believe lies. And I can see the picture in my mind’s eye—Zedekiah, in an unkinglike fashion, throwing up his hands and sighing: “Behold he is in your hands; for the king, can do nothing against you” (Jeremiah 38:5 NIV).

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Have you bowed to the evening news as your source of information, or is God your standard and source of truth?

So, this group of arrogant, ungodly leaders who refused to listen to the words of God, grabbed Jeremiah and cast him into a deep cistern in the court of the guardhouse. Scripture tells us there was no standing water in the well, but there was mud. Lots of yucky mud. And Jeremiah sank in this putrid muck.

The 38th Chapter of Jeremiah paints the account of Jeremiah’s plight and how God used a seemingly insignificant man to save him. And for all of you who deem yourselves insignificant, you have no idea how God can and will use you if you stand for righteousness…even when it seems you’re swimming upstream against a rip-tide of unrighteousness.

Jeremiah, however, was now confined to the court of the guardhouse to limit his speech. But God’s plan is never thwarted, and God was using Jeremiah to give the king yet another opportunity to listen.

Reaping and Sowing

Are you listening to the Word of the Lord today?

Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him at the third entrance in the house of the Lord. (A road less travelled.) The king asked God’s prophet to tell him the truth—he wanted to know God’s word to him. Really? (Jeremiah had only been telling all of Judah what God said was going to happen for at least thirty-eight years—and to this king for eleven years).

Jeremiah’s reply is also in this 38th Chapter, but Jeremiah has the courage to remark, “…if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.”

But at the king’s urging, Jeremiah repeated God’s promise even in these last hours of their rebellion. The king admitted his fear, Jeremiah reassured him God was faithful and would save him, but the king chose to listen to the priests and leaders’ deceptive words so long his heart was weak and he refused to trust the Word of the Lord. He believed men rather than the Lord God Almighty.

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Who do you choose to believe—man’s words or God’s Word?

And there are always consequences when anyone rejects God. Doesn’t matter if you believe in Him or not. He is God. This is His world. His Law. And His way. But He is full of mercy and grace and love. Love so great He sent His Only Son to pay the price for our rebellious sin against Him. The original choice to believe and trust belongs to us. “Whosoever will may come.”  But the consequences of our choices belong to the Lord our God.

Zedekiah tried to determine his own consequences when he and his men attempted escape in the darkness of night, but he was caught, brought before Nebuchadnezzar and sentence was passed. All of the nobles he bowed to were slaughtered before his eyes, and Nebuchadnezzar killed Zedekiah’s sons too…just before King Neb blotted out Zedekiah’s eyes.

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When the time for choices end, only consequences remain.

Imagine an eternity with that scene playing in the darkness of his mind. I’m sure he wished he had listened to the Word of God, but it was too late. His time for choices gone. The gavel was down and the consequences applied. Forever. The Chaldeans burned the city and broke down the walls of Jerusalem and took Zedekiah, in fetters of bronze, to Babylon. To die.

Now is the time for God’s people to fast and pray. Tomorrow may be too late.

We are at that same cross-road in America today . This nation has rejected God—for at least two generations—maybe more. Yet God keeps pleading for us to return and repent. We have an opportunity at this moment in time—perhaps like Zedekiah, the last opportunity before God’s gavel smacks the sound block, and the consequences for our rebellion are sealed. Forever. For the same reason it fell on Judah—God’s people still refusing to listen to God’s Words. Will we be weak? Deceived? Or will we be stubborn and stiff-necked, refusing to repent and return to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and soon coming King?

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“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11 NIV).

 

Next week:  Insignificant? Maybe. But not in God’s eyes!

 

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                                                         Part Two

                                   SLICING, DICING, AND BURNING

Someone much wiser than me said, “It only takes a generation for a nation to turn away from God.” And the Book of Jeremiah gives the absolute proof certain of this proclamation.

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King Jehoiakim ruled in Judah from 609 B.C. until 597 B.C. He was the son of King Josiah who reigned from 630 B.C. until 609 B.C.

Josiah was a man after God’s own heart, but his son Jehoiakim, was bad-to-the-bone. Josiah cleared the land of idols, destroyed their places of worship, and found God’s word, which had been lost in the temple. (Can you imagine the Word of God being lost in the House of God? Still happens today in some churches, doesn’t it?)

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When Josiah finally heard the Word of God, he tore his clothes and commanded priests and scribes to inquire of the Lord concerning the words of the Book. His story is found in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35 and is so worth the read if you don’t know about this last good king in the land of Judah. God blessed Judah because of Josiah’s obedience. But generational sin lurked like a shroud of judgment, because Josiah’s father, King Manasseh had been the worst of the worst and that gene pool washed like a tsunami over his grandson Jehoiakim.

God sent Jeremiah the prophet, during the days of good King Josiah to remind the priests, rulers, and people of their refusal to listen and obey His Word. To remind them of the judgments He had pronounced against the granddaddy, and remind them of their urgent need to listen and repent.

When Jehoiakim inherited the throne, Jeremiah’s obedience to do what God called him to be and do, proved to be a perpetual pain in this king’s back-side. And the prophet ended up confined, unable to deliver God’s word to the people. But Jeremiah’s work was far from finished. So, the Lord told Jeremiah to take a scroll and write on it the words God spoke to him. God said, “Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Even while they were back at their idol worship and evil ways, God was ready to hear and forgive their sins. Just like today, over twenty-six hundred years later, God’s message is still the same. And so is every man, woman, boy and girl—the same. Full of sin without the wisdom to see their great need for salvation through Jesus Christ or the ability to save themselves from God’s judgment.

Well, Jeremiah called Baruch, the scribe, and dictated to him all the words the Lord had spoken to him. We’re not told how long the process took, but remember, God called Jeremiah to be His prophet in 627 B.C. It’s now 606 B.C. That’s a bunch-a-words folks. Written by hand, in pen and ink, on a loooong roll of parchment.

What happened next is worth reading in the 36th Chapter of Jeremiah, verses 10-21. But picture this, the king is sitting in his winter house and there’s a fire burning in the brazier in front of him.

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Jehudi unrolled the scroll and began reading—one column, two, three, and four columns. Imagine the scene, the king is obviously incensed and grabs the scribe’s knife and slices the scroll and pitches it into the fire. Then he sliced and diced the whole scroll containing the Words of God and burned it all in the fire until it was consumed!

“Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments” (Jeremiah 36:24 NIV).

I’m waitin’ for the lightning and goose-bumps raced across my body as I read this and then again as I’m typing these words to you. Remember his daddy’s reaction when he heard the Word of God? He feared and tore his clothes. Jehoiakim and his crew? Not so much.

I have every Bible I’ve ever owned and if there were a fire at my house, my Bibles would be the first thing I’d race to save. Wouldn’t you? But to cut them apart and watch ’em burn?

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Yet before we cluck our tongues and look down our noses at King Jehoiakim, don’t we reject God’s Word when we leave it in the back of the car from one Sunday ‘til the next. Never thinking about where our copy of the Word is ‘til we leave for church the following week? Or worse yet, we leave it on the end table by our chair, right next to the HD remote. Which gets more use during the week—the Word of God or the remote?

But God didn’t wring His holy hands. No, He told Jeremiah to get another scroll and repeat the process. Which Jeremiah and Baruch did, because we have the words God spoke to Jeremiah in our Bibles today. But listen carefully to the words God spoke concerning King Jehoiakim.

“You will have no one to sit on the throne of David, and your dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and frost of the night. (He wouldn’t receive a proper burial. The birds and beasts would pick his bones.) I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them” (Jeremiah 36:29-31 NIV).

And God’s Words became reality for King Jehoiakim, the priests, and the people when Nebuchadnezzar and his great armies killed, captured and burned Jerusalem, and carried many from Judah captive to Babylon for seventy years. Why? Because they did not listen to the Words of God to obey them!

God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and forever. Neither Jehoiakim nor any of his descendants will be present in the coming kingdom. His choices brought the consequences of separation from God then, now, and forever. No more chances. His doom was sealed and God’s wrath on him was executed by the King of Babylon. Done. Finished. Forever.

But God’s mercy and grace are still available to us. How will the recount of Jehoiakim’s foolish choices and consequences resonate in your life? The words “…but they didn’t listen…” echo in my ears from 606 B.C., through the corridors of time, to today…

Am I listening? Are you listening? What choices will we make? Will we choose rewards or consequences?

“And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’” (Revelation 21:6-8 NIV).

 

Part Three: Weak, Deceived, Can’t Trust – Jeremiah 37 – 38

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                                                        Part One

                                        THE FAITHFUL RECHABITES

                                                         Jeremiah 35

 

“…I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear…” (Jeremiah 25:3-4 NAS)

How many of you can say amen when you hear a parent say to their children, “I’ve told you time and time again. When will you hear? Can’t you understand what I’m saying?” I bet you’ve said the same thing to your children. Well, we’re all in good company, God said the same thing to His children down through the halls of history. And the result was always the same—rewards when they listened and consequences when they didn’t.

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Biblical scholars tell us when God repeats something once it’s important, but when He repeats it over and over again—we’d better listen. And obey. The folks in Jeremiah’s day flat refused God’s warning. But don’t we do the same thing today? Filling the churches on Sunday, yet leaning to our own understanding the rest of the week?

The 35th Chapter of Jeremiah records the account of a family called the Rechabites. The father’s name was Jonadab who was the son of Rechab. By all accounts this family was tight. Rechab set the standard and the sons obeyed—as did their wives, children, and grandchildren.

What a novel occurrence–even in that day!

I read the chapter, and read it again. I needed to know more about these Rechabites. What prompted this father-leader and what caused the sons and their families to listen? Was he a warrior? A brutal man who demanded obedience? But it appears this was a family of scribes. A family whose grandfather was witness to the cleansing of Israel from Baal worship and the slaying of Ahab, Jezebel, and those who followed this despicable idol. You can find the history in 2 Kings 9 and 10. (Probably around 841 B.C.)

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Can you imagine the conversations around the campfires at night? This scribe-father instructed his sons and their families to drink no wine, to build no houses, to sow no seed, nor plant vineyards, and to live in tents—and through generations they obeyed.

God told Jeremiah to invite these Rechabite men to the temple in Jerusalem, sometime probably around 609-606 B.C. and give them wine to drink. What? Would God do something like that to trick ’em? No. This was a test, to be used for an example. And these fathers passed with flying colors.

Would you?

Inside the pomp and circumstance of the temple chambers this family refused Jeremiah’s offer of wine and gave testimony to what they’d been taught. And God used them as a living example of obedience to His disobedient people in Judah.

God gave Jeremiah these words to speak to the inhabitants of Jerusalem:

“Will you not receive instruction by listening to My words? The words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are observed. So they do not drink wine to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again; yet you have not listened to Me” (Jeremiah 35:13-14 NAS).

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And God pronounced judgment for His people’s disobedience. Total disaster! In 605 B.C., the King of Babylon first invaded Judah and carried 5,000 captives to Babylon.

But to the house of the Rechabites, for their obedience to listen and obey their fathers, God promised His reward: “Jonadab, the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before me always.”

Folks, “always” means forever. We shall see all these sons of Rechab, standing before the Lord. Generations of them during the Millennium, in the New Heavens and Earth. Wouldn’t you love to hear that promise as a reward for your obedience? God’s gift to your children and grandchildren? During these days of great deception and falling away from the Word of God, what are the chances?

Slim to none if we don’t set our hearts, minds, and souls to listen and obey the Word of God. Every word He has spoken to you and to me over and over again—through His written Word, through His prophets, and preachers—through His Spirit. Maybe through your parents and grandparents, but especially through His Only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who told us:

“I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER, BUT THROUGH ME” (John 14:6 NAS).

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Part Two Wednesday: SLICING, DICING, AND BURNING, Jeremiah 36

 

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