Misunderstanding Scripture


Interpreting God’s word incorrectly is not a new thing. In fact it’s a very old thing and the number one method Satan uses to confound people so that we do not follow God. Remember his question to Eve in the Garden—Has God really said . . . ?

From then on, people have been in conflict about God’s word.

The same was true in the last years of Judah’s existence as a nation. Babylon had already defeated them and carried away the wealthiest, most influential people into exile, while installing a puppet-king in place of the boy-king they dethroned.

While Jeremiah continued to prophesy to the people in his homeland, Ezekiel proclaimed God’s word to the first-wave exiles in Babylon. Not surprisingly, their messages were the same: Judah will fall to the Babylonians.

The people in Jerusalem didn’t believe Jeremiah, and the people in Babylon didn’t believe Ezekiel. At one point when he proclaimed God’s word, the people said, He’s speaking in parables. But he wasn’t. He was delivering the message God gave him, but at one point he stopped God and said, ‘Then I said, “Ah Lord GOD! They are saying of me, ‘Is he not just speaking parables?’” ‘

That incident reminds me of the disciples’ confusion when Jesus told them he was going to Jerusalem where He’d be put to death, but that He would rise again on the third day. His men simply thought He was speaking metaphorically. They didn’t understand He meant He would literally die and literally rise again.

Too often that same confusion reigns today. People say the Bible doesn’t actually mean what it says. They say some passages don’t apply to our culture or that people have been misinterpreting them for centuries or that these five verses nullify the hundred or so that seem contradictory.

What is God actually telling us?

Of course Satan is still active in this process. He wants us to be uncertain about Scripture, and particularly how Scripture applies to us. I mean, he actually used Scripture against Jesus, trying to trap Him and trick Him by God’s words in Scripture.

I find it interesting that Jesus simply dismissed Satan’s bait. He didn’t explain what the verses actually meant or when the statements would be fulfilled. But He took the opposite approach with His disciples after His resurrection. Then He carefully explained the Law and the Prophets to them so that they could see how He was, in fact, the promised Messiah.

The fact that Jesus unfolded Scripture for them is encouraging, I think. It means that the truth is within the pages of the Bible, waiting for us to understand. And the cool thing is that God sent the Holy Spirit to us when Jesus left.

One of the “functions” of the Holy Spirit is to guide us in all truth, to bring to our remembrance what God has said. He doesn’t invent new truth. He doesn’t send golden tablets written in King James English. Rather, He clarifies the Bible. He brings the various points of history together. He shows how Scripture interprets Scripture.

The Bible, of course, is under attack by those who don’t believe in God. It’s full of errors, they say, and contradictions.

Well, it’s not. What it is, is the God-breathed writings of men of God. They wrote using their own style, to a contemporary audience, for a specific purpose. So of course the Bible doesn’t read like a textbook or a story book or a history book. It’s really like no other book every put together.

The main point is that the Bible as a unit is about God—His plan, His purpose, His person, and His work. Of course, Jesus stands at the center, along with the Father, and it was this truth that Jesus explained to His disciples.

Since Jesus rose from the grave, we’ve had over 2000 years of scholastic investigation of the Scriptures, analyzing, comparing, contrasting. Unless someone adds to the Bible (as the Mormons do by introducing a supposed later revelation known as the Book of Mormon) or subtracts from the Bible (as the higher critics do by nullifying the parts that contain miracles or other supernatural elements), it’s hard to miss what God has done and is doing in human history. The Old Testament foreshadows and promises and prophecies that God would send a Savior; the gospels recount the life, death, and resurrection of that Savior; the remainder of the Bible relates how the Savior affects our life, now and in the future.

There’s no longer any mystery. What God is doing has been fully disclosed. He’s even disclosed Himself by showing up in the likeness of us humans. We can see what God is like by seeing what Jesus was like.

Of course, doubters don’t want to listen to the accounts of Christ’s life. How can we possible know those are true?

Anyone interested in evidence might want to take a look at some of the work done by J. Warner Wallace. He is a cold-case detective who has used the skill set acquired on the job to look at Christianity. His latest book is called Forensic Faith.

Here’s one five-and-a-half minute video in which he addresses what some consider the contradictions of the gospel writers.

This is just one man adding his knowledge to the mountains of evidence that already exist for the truth of the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t really need to be defended, of course, because reading it brings verification of its veracity, but other fields of study agreeing, only makes the case stronger.

If the evidence is so strong, why don’t people believe it?

For the same reason the Jewish people in Babylon and in Jerusalem didn’t believe Ezekiel and Jeremiah: other voices spoke contradictory messages. People claiming to be prophets were telling those first wave exiles that they’d be back in Jerusalem in a few short years, that the exile would not last for any length of time. They were making stuff up. They were not speaking God’s word.

So too people today can listen to the wrong source and get the wrong worldview that will lead them to error, not truth. It’s all a matter of who you trust.

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Tears Of The Messiah – A Reprise


I re-posted this article two years ago (it first appeared here in March 2013), but I think it rightly brings a couple things together. First, it deals with the events leading up to Jesus’s trials, crucifixion, and resurrection, which we commemorate at this time of year. Secondly, it includes thoughts based on the book of Jeremiah, which I am again currently re-reading. Without further prologue:

– – – – –

Most people know that Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb before He raised him back to life. It’s a touching scene, one that has produced any number of sermons.

Fewer people, I tend to think, know about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem on his final entry into the City of David. Luke records the scene, as well as the build-up to it. Clearly Jesus cared deeply—not for the walls and the buildings, but for the people inside, for what Jerusalem stood for. This was the place God intended to be central to His worship. His people were there, the temple known as His house was there.

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:

    “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:37-44)

Earlier, when Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He had similar thoughts:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! (Luke 13:34)

Jesus was deeply moved by the rejection of His rebellious people. He wanted them to receive their King, to experience the peace with God He offered.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s desire is still for rebellious people to repent and turn to Him. Jesus said in Matthew, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (18:14) Then in 1 Timothy, Paul wrote

This [prayer on behalf of all men] is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I’m in awe that Jesus unabashedly wept for those who would turn their back on Him, that God, loving the world so much, paid the price for our sin just so we could enjoy peace with Him:

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

I’ve never thought about it much before, but might not Jesus weep for each person who walks away from Him?

Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet because in a number of places Scripture mentions him weeping for Judah and their stubborn, rebellious heart—well, more precisely for the destruction of the nation which he foresaw.

At one point he prophesied that the people who had been taken to Babylon in the first wave of captivity would be better off than those left behind. They would prosper in their new land and one day be restored to Judah. But those who stayed or who fled to Egypt would bring destruction on their heads. I’m sure the people who heard him thought he was nuts. Captivity good, freedom bad, he seemed to be saying.

The problem was, they had limited sight. Jeremiah was speaking the words given him by omniscient God.

So, too, Jesus knows we are in desperate need of His life-giving blood—more dramatically than if we were in need of a transfusion. What’s more, He bled out for us. Why, then, wouldn’t He weep over those who wave Him off and walk on by to destruction?

Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 5:21 pm  Comments (1)  
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Tears Of The Messiah


JerusalemMost people know that Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb before He raised him back to life. It’s a touching scene, one that has produced any number of sermons.

Fewer people, I tend to think, know about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem on his final entry into the City of David. Luke records the scene, as well as the build up to it. Clearly Jesus cared deeply—not for the walls and the buildings, but for what Jerusalem stood for. This was the place God intended to be central to His worship. His people were there, the temple known as His house was there.

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:

    “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:37-44)

Earlier, when Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He had similar thoughts:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! (Luke 13:34)

Jesus was deeply moved by the rejection of His rebellious people. He wanted them to receive their King, to experience the peace with God offered.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s desire is still for rebellious people to repent and turn to Him. Jesus said in Matthew, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (18:14) Then in 1 Timothy, Paul wrote

This [prayer on behalf of all men] is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I’m in awe that Jesus unabashedly wept for those who ended up turning their back on Him; that God, loving the world so much, paid the price for our sin just so we could enjoy peace with Him:

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

I’ve never thought about it much before, but might not Jesus weep for each person who walks away from Him?

Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet because in a number of places Scripture mentions him weeping for Judah and their stubborn, rebellious heart—well, more often for the destruction of the nation which he foresaw.

At one point he prophesied that the people who had been taken to Babylon in the first wave of captivity would be better off than those left in Judah. They would prosper in their new land and one day be restored to their home. But those who stayed or who fled to Egypt would bring destruction on their heads. I’m sure the people who heard him thought he was nuts. Captivity good, freedom bad, he seemed to be saying.

The problem was, they had limited sight. Jeremiah was speaking the words given him by omniscient God.

So, too, Jesus knows we are in desperate need of His life-giving blood—more dramatically in need than if we were bleeding out and only a transfusion could save us. We, the walking wounded spiritually, are oblivious to our condition much of the time. When the truth breaks through, some hide from it or run as fast as they can to escape the awareness of their condition, but others cast themselves on God’s mercy, realizing that Jesus bled out for us.

Why, then, wouldn’t He weep over those who wave Him off and walk on by or sprint from Him to their own destruction?

This post, minus some revision, first appeared here in March 2013.

Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 5:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Existence of God Wasn’t Always A Question


Bible-openSome years back I had an amazing revelation when I was reading Psalm 115 related to the existence of God—not whether He exists but how to digest the arguments against His existence by those who do not recognize Him. In Psalm 115, the writer includes a section about idols:

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat. (vv 4-7)

The thing is, this is written in juxtaposition to “But our God is in the heavens.” In other words, by implication, the psalmist is saying, God is all that these idols are not.

My thought was, how did the psalmist know? Did he see a vision of God? Or accept that God had spoken through the Torah? Did he believe the stories passed down from father to son about God in the midst of Israel’s camp for forty straight years—or was he one of those older children who witnessed God’s presence? Was he, perhaps, a high priest who had seen the tablets written by the finger of God? Or had he heard a prophet and witnessed the fulfillment of his words?

Interestingly, this statement that God is in the heavens seems to be unquestioned, not the introduction of a topic to debate.

Years later, Jeremiah said something very similar, but the fact that he was a prophet would indicate to me that he had first hand knowledge of the fact that God lives.

First, reciting what God said, he describes the inanimate idols of the nations, ending with:

“Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot walk!
Do not fear them,
For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good.” (Jeremiah 10:5)

The next verse, and this would appear to be Jeremiah’s conclusion, says “There is none like You, O LORD;/You are great, and great is Your name in might.”

All this to say, it doesn’t appear that the Israelites had any question about God’s existence. Their problem was His identity.

Moses’s question was this: When the people ask me for Your name, what should I tell them?

I used to have trouble with the answer: I AM WHO I AM. What did that even mean?

Now I realize it is most profound. God is and always has been. He is before anything else was and He will continue to be, without end. He is the creator and sustainer of the world. All things find their being in Him and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him is life and breath. And He has no end.

So my revelation? Questioning the existence of God seems to be a very modern thing. The psalmist and Jeremiah had no problem identifying false gods as nothing, but they knew quite well that God lives.

This article, minus some minor editorial changes, first appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in December 2007.

Published in: on January 14, 2016 at 6:53 pm  Comments (13)  
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God And A Rose In The Desert


Rose in the desertOK, this rose is not actually IN the desert, but it has felt as if it could be. Here in SoCal we had an unseasonable heat wave—five days of temperatures reminiscent of August, not March. St. Patrick’s Day? Surely we’ve done a time warp thing and ended up in summer.

In fact, the last four were all 90° F or higher, and that in itself was a record. Three of the days set individual records as the hottest March 13, 14, 15 on record.

I’d suspect the Ides of March or Pi Day, but I’m not superstitious. Instead, I believe God is in control, even of our weather. I often want to say, No, Mr. Weatherman, there is no Mother Nature who is giving us heat or rain or wind or low pressure or snow or any of the rest. It is God who foreordains such thing.

I admit, though, as I sat here in my air-condition-less apartment, I was praying for God’s mercy. It’s hard to write or edit when it’s uncomfortably warm, but it’s impossible when the computer over-heats.

At last today we had a break in the heat. Mercifully (!! 😉 ) the temperature dropped nine degrees, and the prediction is that tomorrow will be even cooler.

In all this my poor plants outside on my porch in full sun soaked up the water which I dutifully gave them every morning. Still, when I saw the rosebud on my rather unhealthy potted rose bush, I didn’t think it would survive. I’ve seen what the sun can do to those poor things. They get all droopy and start wilting before they ever open.

But not this one. Somehow, despite the heat, this little rose looks like it’s going to survive and thrive.

That little flower reminded me of Jeremiah. In virtually any way that you can look at it, Jeremiah had a horrible life.

At God’s direction he prophesied to a people who did not listen to him—not once or a couple times or even a couple years! He did this his whole life. And as a result, he was mocked, ridiculed, beaten, thrown in the stocks, arrested and put in the dungeon, tossed into a mud-filled cistern, then watched as his prophecy came true.

All the leaders of Jerusalem were killed and the rest, all but the poorest of the poor, were led into captivity. Jerusalem itself was torched.

Here’s how Jeremiah characterized his life in Lamentations:

I am the man who has seen affliction
Because of the rod of His wrath.
He has driven me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely against me He has turned His hand
Repeatedly all the day.
He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away,
He has broken my bones.
He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.
In dark places He has made me dwell,
Like those who have long been dead.
He has walled me in so that I cannot go out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry out and call for help,
He shuts out my prayer.
He has blocked my ways with hewn stone;
He has made my paths crooked.
He is to me like a bear lying in wait,
Like a lion in secret places.
He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces;
He has made me desolate.
He bent His bow
And set me as a target for the arrow.
He made the arrows of His quiver
To enter into my inward parts.
I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
Their mocking song all the day.
He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has made me cower in the dust.
My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the LORD.” (3:1-19)

Those words remind me of Job. Jeremiah’s condition reminds me of a barren desert, of a dry wilderness.

But remarkably, he turns a corner. And there’s a rose. This is too beautiful, and some of these verses are well-known because of the praise they offer God. I think, though, that we forget the context.

Jeremiah had seen horrors. Famine killed the Jews before the Babylonians stepped foot into the city. And it wasn’t pretty. Parents were eating their dead children and bodies were lying unburied in the streets.

Then the enemy breached the wall. The king, the princes, and their advisers made a run for it, but they were captured. The princes were killed before their father’s eyes, then he was blinded. The last image he saw were his dead sons.

Next Jerusalem was looted, the temple was desecrated by the presence of these godless adversaries who stripped it of anything of value. Then they burned it along with the palaces, and torn down the walls of the city. Jerusalem was a ruins. The jewel of God, a desolate heap.

Jeremiah’s own personal difficulties were part of the greater picture of the destruction of the nation. But as he lamented, he did not lose sight of God, and that’s the part that is so beautiful. Here’s a godly response to suffering, one that is Job, times ten. Why we don’t look to Lamentations in times of suffering, I don’t know. I mean, these are not platitudes. This is from a man who knew suffering all his life:

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he should bear
The yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and be silent
Since He has laid it on him.

Let him put his mouth in the dust,
Perhaps there is hope.
Let him give his cheek to the smiter,
Let him be filled with reproach.
For the Lord will not reject forever,
For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.

For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.
To crush under His feet
All the prisoners of the land,
To deprive a man of justice
In the presence of the Most High,
To defraud a man in his lawsuit—
Of these things the Lord does not approve.
Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass,
Unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That both good and ill go forth?
Why should any living mortal, or any man,
Offer complaint in view of his sins?

Let us examine and probe our ways,
And let us return to the LORD. (3:21-40)

We are so conscious today, in large part because of sermons on Job, of the fact that not all suffering is because of personal sin, and that is certainly true. But God still wants to use our suffering, if not for discipline and correction, then to strengthen our faith, to provide an example to others, to give us an opportunity to trust Him in a new way. To give us His comfort. Or to show His mercy. Sort of like a rose blooming though it hardly seems possible.

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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Hard Of Hearing


figsI don’t think any group of people illustrates better how those rejecting God simply refuse to hear God speak than the people of Judah who Jeremiah prophesied to. Amazingly, God warned Jeremiah, who was apparently a young man when he started prophesying, that the people would not do what he was telling them to do. But still, God wanted him to keep on warning them.

So Jeremiah did. For decades.

He warned that if the people didn’t repent, God would bring an end to the nation just as He had sent Israel into exile. God had him give a number of object lessons to illustrate the things He wanted Judah to understand.

One was a potter and the clay he was using to make his pots. Another was a cloth belt he was to take and bury near the river. Of course, when God sent him back to reclaim it, it was ruined. God’s pronouncement followed:

‘This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless. For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’ (Jer. 13:10-11; emphasis mine)

Still, no one believed him.

Ripe_Figs_-_c._1773Even when the Babylonians came up against them and defeated them, carrying the leaders into exile, even when they removed the rightful king and set his uncle on the throne, even when they stripped the gold from the temple and pillaged everything of value, Judah still held fast to the idea that they’d prevail.

God had Jeremiah put before them two baskets of figs, one filled with good figs and the other with over ripe ones that were worthless. Then he prophesied:

“Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. 6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. (Jer. 24:5-7)

But those who remained in the land—Jeremiah, under God’s direction, said they were like the basket of bad figs and as such were worthless, fit only to be destroyed:

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. (Jer. 24:10)

At another time, Jeremiah put a wooden yoke on his neck and prophesied:

“It will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine and with pestilence,” declares the LORD, “until I have destroyed it by his hand. (Jer. 27:8)

But he was up against some false prophets and “your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers or your sorcerers” who were telling the people just the opposite. One of them took the yoke from Jeremiah and broke it in two. He falsely prophesied that in two years God would break the yoke of Babylon, that the exiles would be returned to Judah, that the temple vessels would be restored to them.

No, Jeremiah countered. He’d just ensured that the yoke Judah was under was made of iron, and then this:

“Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’”

So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month. (Jer. 28:15b-17)

Yep, two months after breaking the wooden yoke, Hananiah died.

You’d think that would be convincing evidence that Jeremiah was the real deal, a prophet who spoke the words of the Lord. But no.

Jeremiah was arrested, an attempt was made to kill him, and he was accused repeatedly of treason. You see, he was begging the people to surrender. It was the only way they could be saved, he said, as God’s spokesman. If they would turn themselves over to the Babylonians, they’d come away with their lives.

As the days drew closer to the final exile, Jeremiah wrote to the first group of exiles and told them to make themselves at home because the exile would last for seventy years, but after that, they’d be restored to their land.

Judah ignored even this word of hope. In fact, when word came to Jerusalem about Jeremiah’s message, it was one of the bits of evidence against him that he was counseling treason.

God had him perform another object lesson. He bought a piece of land from his cousin, then had the deeds sealed up in a clay jar. The message was that when God restored the people to the land, they would once again thrive.

No matter. The people didn’t want to hear it. They’d closed their ears to the warning that they needed to repent or face destruction. Now they closed their ears to the promise of restoration.

The last we know of Jeremiah, after Jerusalem was destroyed and only the poorest of the poor remained, a group of people wanted to leave for Egypt. They asked Jeremiah whether that’s what they should do. He said he’d ask God. When he returned and told them that no, they should not go to Egypt, again they refused to listen. No matter that they’d given their word that whatever Jeremiah told them, that would be their decision. Instead they did just the opposite.

The people of Judah during this period are a real study of what it means to have hard hearts. They listened to those who said the things they wanted to hear, not to God’s word delivered in an unambiguous way by His prophet who had the credentials of one whose word came true.

But they didn’t want to hear THAT message—the one from God that told of the consequences for their sin, that talked about exile and repentance, about putting away their idols and ignoring the false prophets and the sorcerers. So they stopped their ears and went with the beautiful message of peace—the one that was completely NOT TRUE.

How like today.

Published in: on March 10, 2015 at 6:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Key To Life


Christ as Lord 2The book of Jeremiah has a small verse toward the beginning that is the key to life. It either describes what is true of us or what was true of us but is not true anymore. It’s such a key verse that a counselor has made it the root of his teaching about our emotional health. But that’s for another day. The verse is Jeremiah 2:13.

For my people have forsaken Me the fountain of living water
To hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

I’ve been watching a YouTube video one of the atheists from the Facebook group posted. He’s explaining his journey from a teen who believed he was gong to become a pastor, to the atheist he is today. In the first part he describes how he was involved in church and how he was known at school as the Bible guy.

So what happened that brought such a radical change? The verse in Jeremiah explains. First there’s a point where people turning away from God forsake him. For some it comes sooner than later, but it manifests in a rejection of what God has said.

Next comes turning to our own resources which, like the broken cistern, can’t work.

Lot thought he could move from the fertile valley where he’d gone to live after separating from Abram, into the godless city of Sodom, and he did, but at a cost. Moses thought he could bring water from the rock by striking it instead of speaking to it, and water came, but at a cost. David thought he could hide from Saul by going over to the Philistines, and he did, but at a cost. Peter wanted to fight the soldiers who came to take Jesus and crucify Him, but he failed utterly.

Whenever man goes his own way, there’s either outright failure or great consequence later. Our schemes don’t work.

Eve wanted to be like God, ignoring the fact that God had actually made her in His likeness and had breathed life into her so that she became a living soul. She forsook Him, though, so she could go her own way and eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

What’s more, Adam followed her, knowing full well that God had said eating would result in death. He dug his own cistern presumably because he didn’t want to trust God to fix the problem Eve had created. He thought the only way for him to hold onto Eve was to do what she’d done.

At any rate, the schemes the two of them concocted did not work. They certainly didn’t become so very wise that they were like God—except, perhaps, in their own minds. That’s really the problem.

People who turn from God are basically saying they are wise enough in and of themselves to determine what’s right and wrong. The don’t what an authority telling them what to do, which is why some of them refer to God as a tyrant. In their minds, they are the top authority, and anyone who wants to boss them around has overstepped his bounds. He’s taking from them what they’ve determined is their right—to call the shots for their own lives.

Christians often talk about the throne of our lives and the struggle, an ongoing struggle, to let God sit in the place of authority where He, being sovereign, belongs. But those who forsake God have basically declared war on Him and have pushed Him off the throne and out of their lives. They have no struggle. They’ve decided they are in charge, and the only issue that comes up from time to time is how to make it work.

It won’t work. Not in the long run, and often not in the short run. But that’s not a fact you can argue people into believing. Most often people need to come to an end of themselves. They try and try and try and life is still falling apart, in one area or another. Many times in multiple areas.

That’s precisely what happened to Judah when Jeremiah was prophesying to them. God sent prophets and they ignored them. Then He sent adversity, but they went their own way. They thought God was the one letting them down, not rescuing them when trouble came. They didn’t understand that He wanted them to turn to Him and repent.

Here’s how God through Jeremiah described them:

“For all of them are adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like their bow;
Lies and not truth prevail in the land;
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” declares the LORD (9:2-3).

A few verses later, God declares His intent to punish His people for their waywardness:

“I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
A haunt of jackals;
And I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”

Who is the wise man that may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through? 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, but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them” (vv 11-14).

What God wanted was for them to repent, turn back, and worship Him, but they weren’t willing. Nor are many today willing to give up going their own way. They don’t want to let God call the shots.

This atheist who made the video said as much. There came a day when he started dating the girl he said had a reputation in high school as “the party girl.” Eventually, he, the Bible guy, decided they should move in together. People in his church tried to tell him he shouldn’t but that didn’t matter. And then, shortly afterward, he started drifting away from church. And besides, God wasn’t answering his prayers about the things he didn’t understand in the Bible.

Well, sure. He’d already made up his mind about what he thought about the Bible, about God’s authority in his life. God says clearly that our sins make a separation between us and God and because of them, God’s face is hid from us so that He does not hear.

He’s not going to continue giving us living water when we’ve forsaken Him, when we’re off trying to dig our own cisterns, broken though they are. Not until we get on our knees and repent.

CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 2


“A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.” So reads the tag line for Mike Duran‘s recent release, The Telling, a contemporary supernatural suspense.

The premise brought to mind a couple Biblical prophets. The first was Jonah, a good model for the main character in The Telling, in my opinion. Both received a call from God, both renounced that call, both suffered consequences and came to a place of despair, only to have God pull them out of the depths and give them another chance to obey Him. Of course, Jonah’s story doesn’t end there whereas the fictitious Zeph does experience redemption at the end.

Jonah “pulled up a chair” to watch the destruction he had prophesied. When it didn’t come, he sulked. God gave him an object lesson to show him how lacking in compassion he was.

The fictitious Zeph wasn’t lacking in compassion. He simply didn’t realize that his lack of obedience was causing others to suffer. Once he came to that realization, things began to change.

The second Biblical prophet I thought of was Balaam, perhaps not as well known as Jonah. He was hired by one king to curse the people of Israel. God’s people. Apparently Balaam was a prophet of God, so this was an ironic situation, a prophet of God asked to curse God’s people. Balaam had the sense to say he would only speak the word which God gave to him. But somewhere in the process, he lost his way. We know this because of context and the interpretation of other Scripture verses.

First the context. God gives Balaam the OK to accompany the messengers to see the king who wants to hire him, but He says Balaam must only speak His words. On the way, an angel comes out to kill Balaam. Say what?!?

Clearly, something happened between God giving His permission for Balaam to go and the angel waiting in ambush. I can only surmise that Balaam lost his way and planned in his heart to speak words God did not give him to speak.

As it turned out, Balaam’s faithful donkey saw the angel, three times, and saved him by refusing to pass within the angel’s reach. Who knew an angel was limited in such a way that a donkey could thwart his intentions?

At any rate, Balaam arrived at the spot where he met the king. Three times this monarch asked Balaam to curse the people of Israel and three times he blessed them instead. But his story doesn’t end here either. Apparently after delivering God’s blessing, he then advised the king how he could trip up Israel. This we know from other scriptures interpreting the original story, culminating with Revelation 2:14b.

You have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

I’d say Balaam lost his way. I’d say Jonah lost his way. I’d say the fictitious prophet Zephaniah lost his way when he renounced the gift God had given him because of the bitterness and anger and doubt and despair that filled his soul.

Other prophets faced similar depression, if you will. Elijah, after triumphing over the 450 prophets of Baal ran off when he received the message that Jezebel was going to kill him. He hid and in the process cried out to God bemoaning the fact that he was the last (he thought) to believe. He simply wanted to die.

God responded by giving him a break, a companion, a promise, and a vision of the future.

Jeremiah was another depressed prophet. In fact he is called the weeping prophet. His emotional condition was a mixed bag, I think. He did feel forlorn because of his circumstances. He was targeted for death, after all, because he was prophesying that Judah would face consequences for their sin. But he also lamented for his nation. He knew that the exile was coming. He counseled the king to repent, to surrender, knowing that this would spare Jerusalem and save many lives. How each passing day of disobedience must have grieved his heart.

Clearly Jeremiah, though pushed to the limit, did not lose his way.

It’s an interesting study, I think, to consider why one gifted man of God would lose his way and another of like stripe would not. The Telling is a tale about one who did lose his way. There’s much in Zeph’s background that explains why he made the choice he made, but there’s enough there to make me wonder, was he in fact a man gifted by God or a man used by God? Is there a difference? I think so. God can use even the rocks of the field to give Him praise, but He called twelve men to come and follow Him.

Published in: on September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 2  
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The Forbidden S Word


Some words are still forbidden in our western culture. A select few are bleeped from live shows, thanks to modern technology, because they are still considered inappropriate for the general populace. Certainly “adults” use those words, but they aren’t considered right for polite society.

Still other words get people fired. Anything caught on mike that might be construed as a racial slur is grounds for dismissal. Terms demeaning women or homosexuals are creeping into that same category.

Then there are the words no one will say, not publicly anyway. And no, sex is not one of them. Quite the opposite. When once sex was considered private, something not to be discussed in mixed company, now sex and all its parts are fair game, not only for discussion but for comedic source material.

So what is this forbidden S word, if not sex?

Sin.

No one wants to talk about sin in public. You won’t hear sin come up on Dr. Phil or David Letterman or Saturday Night Live.

Saying that someone sins is considered judgmental, the worst kind of accusation today. Someone who is judgmental is intolerant, which is tantamount to saying he is a perpetrator of hate crimes.

Yet sin does the greatest damage to a soul, a family, a business, a community, a government. Its consequences are deep, hurtful, and lasting. Lasting. As in, eternal. Apart from the forgiveness of Christ, sin damages whatever it touches.

It’s behind terrorism, behind sex trafficking, pedophilia, first degree murder, corporate greed, government corruption, HIV/AIDS, welfare fraud — in other words, it’s behind all the problems society wants to eradicate.

But nobody wants to talk about it.

Not even Christians.

When we do, we are deemed unloving, accused of being gleeful when we point the finger at sinful behavior, and even of rejoicing at the idea that people will be condemned to hell.

How ironic. Today it’s considered more loving to let people walk off a cliff in blissful ignorance than it is to shout out warnings for them to stop and turn around.

But the culture in Jeremiah’s day was no different. When he started pronouncing the warnings God charged him with, saying that Babylon would come and capture Judah, he was accused of treason. His life was threatened on more than one occasion, and eventually he was arrested.

People even came to him and said, What are you hearing from God? When he told them, they said he was making it up. At one point a group of them accused his assistant of getting Jeremiah to say negative prophecies against them.

The real issue wasn’t Jeremiah. It was God and His word. Those people did not want to submit to God’s authority. They wanted to go their own way.

At one point, Jeremiah told them, from God, to surrender to the Babylonian king. If they would wave the white flag, they would go into captivity but they would not die.

They refused, and a year and a half later when they were under siege and were starving to the point of eating their own dung, of cannibalizing their dead, they still did not bow to God’s direction.

Their defeat was total.

The king who would not follow the word the Lord delivered by Jeremiah, witnessed the murder of all his sons, and then his own eyes were blinded. He ended his days in a Babylonian dungeon.

All the nobles, priests, officials, scribes, anyone of standing who had not been killed were carried away into exile. Shockingly, the total number of people taken was only 4,600.

Over 600,000 people had migrated from Egypt during the exodus, but instead of growing and prospering, their number peaked out in David’s rule and then began to decline.

But to drop as low as less than 5,000? Did they never think to ask God what was wrong? Did they never consider that perhaps the prophets were right?

Or had they stopped listening to the prophets? Was sin already a dirty word, and they no longer talked about such things openly? And if anyone dared to be so bold as to stand on the street and tell people to repent, perhaps those walking by would avert their eyes and hurry toward home.

After all, who would use the forbidden S word in public? For shame!

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm  Comments (14)  
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