What does our God want from His people? What does He expect?
He desires and expects loyalty – as a husband expects it from his wife. Faithfulness to the one man to whom she is married.
God’s people are married to Him. He is the one who provides for them, protects them, and leads them. God is the husband and His people are the wife.
Yet there is adultery all over the land of Judah. At first, when the kingdom split between Israel and Judah, the latter was faithful. There was a long season when there would be good and bad kings, but there were some like Hezekiah and Josiah who brought back the ordinances of God and increased the faith in the land.
Those days were over. As Jeremiah speaks God’s words to the people, he has dire predictions. No longer will God contend with His people. They are committing adultery, and He is about to separate from them. When He does, they will be taken into captivity and lose their great nation He had provided. No longer His blessing. Now His judgment.
How can you tell when a nation has turned from God? They become extremely selfish, extremely proud, and extremely evil. No longer do they honor the ordinances placed into effect by their God; they replace these with those of other men. Reasoning replaces faith. Hearts become hard to the words of their God.
And sin reigns instead of righteousness.
These are sad days in the nation of Judah. They have been warned again and again, but the prophets who have spoken have been ignored. Some have been killed; others imprisoned. Anything to shut up the words from God.
Jeremiah is warning one last time – and telling them what is coming if they don’t repent.
You see, God has a special plan for this nation. From Judah is to come the Messiah who will be the salvation for all the world, but in this condition they couldn’t bring forth a Messiah. There aren’t enough people to even care about that. They are corrupt to the core.
I can’t read these words without thinking about our modern world – especially the United States. We were started as a Christian nation. Of course, we had some problems, but for the most part, our forefathers were devout Christians. In the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims dedicated the new land to the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When you look back, you realize that all of the Ivy League schools were started primarily as learning centers for those called to the ministry. If you walk the halls of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, you will see scriptures chiseled in the stone walls. One of my favorites inscribed at Harvard is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
What in the world has happened to our nation? Humanism, pride, arrogance. Man has raised himself higher than God.
If you think that you know more than God, or if you think that there isn’t a God, you are certainly in trouble. A nation that goes that way is headed for trouble – and lots of it.
Our positions of leadership and prosperity have been as a result of blessings from God.
Let’s pray for our nation. Let’s pray that our leaders will repent and humble themselves before the Mighty Hand of God. Let’s pray that arrogant ministers will turn back to God and that the people who call themselves by His name will repent also.
We need Him today in a mighty way!
I Timothy 4
From the chapters in Jeremiah, it’s an easy transition into this chapter in I Timothy.
“In the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (V. 1)
Now does that sound familiar? So what do we as believers do about it? Do we get up on a pedestal and rant?
I think not. I think that the changes have to come from hearts that are truly repentant before God, and no amount of ranting will cause those changes.
Don’t get me wrong. There will be times when ministers or individuals will get a bold word which God wants them to speak. That’s different. A Word for God in season will prick the hearts which are ready to receive from Him.
But until a bold word is given to us, we must pray and pray diligently. Ask God to give you a list of people to pray for. They may be those in authority, or they may be members of your own family. Or friends.
Then pray for them. Ask God to open the eyes of their hearts so that they can see the truth. Then speak God’s words into their situations.
Our God is looking for intercessors – those who will pray for His will to be done in the earth. His will is for our country and our world to turn back to Him – and for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be brought to all of the nations.
Let’s do our part!
Plagues, plagues, and more plagues.
During our reading throughout these chapters and as we continue on through the next phase, it’s important to remember what God is doing. He has a long-term goal which is the most important goal in the history of the earth. The goal is to bring a Savior to mankind, and to reclaim all of mankind who would receive Him.
Just think, if God were to beam a Savior down from Heaven, He wouldn’t be recognized. He would be seen as a majician, and very few would receive Him as Savior.
So God had to prepare a people who could carry the truths He would bring. Those people would then be prepared to understand the Savior when he finally came. (more…)
So when Jacob was one hundred thirty years old he went with his wives, children, and all of his possessions to the land of Egypt to begin the second phase of God’s great plan. The first phase, which lasted 200 years or so was the calling of Abraham and grooming him to be the patriarch of this great nation, the calling of Isaac, and the calling of Jacob.
God had spoken to Abraham that his descendants would go into a foreign land and stay there 400 years before they would be delivered by His mighty hand. In the last few chapters we can see clearly how God was working His plan. Now that Joseph was there in charge of distributing the grain, he is in position to appropriate the best land for his family.
Even the customs of Egypt play into God’s hand. The Egyptians are prejudiced against Hebrews – and particularly sheepherders. Since Jacob’s family herd sheep, Pharoah gives them a choice land, Goshen, which is away from most other people. The Hebrews are in position to grow and thrive and bond as a nation.
Jacob’s twelve sons will become the heads of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel.
Everything is working according to design.
One more reminder, if you think His plans are taking awhile in your life, just think about these people. Sometimes God seems to take more time than we would like, buttrust Him. He is working out the details.
How does Jesus handle grief? We see it in this passage.
John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus and the one who recognized who Jesus was. John was a completely holy man. Yet, just as is the case in our modern society, sometimes people call good “evil” and evil “good.” Because they want to live in debauchery, they blame those who are upholding God’s principles. So Herodias, Herod’s wife, acts toward John.
When Herod has John beheaded, Jesus is notified. So what does He do? He runs to His Father. The Word says that He goes off by Himself to a deserted place so that He can pray and seek God.
There have been times in my life when grief seemed to be overwhelming me. So I know personally how significant these actions are. When we run to our Father and let Him minister to us, He lifts us up in a way that seems impossible. Everything gets put into perspective.
We are in this thing called “life” forever. Part of it here on earth, but most of it in Heaven. When we focus on eternity, we are ready to live with zeal in the here-and-now. It will all turn out alright in the end for those who are His.
Then after going away, Jesus sees the crowd and His compassion leads Him to heal and minister to them. One of His many miracles is performed at this time. He feeds a crowd of five thousand men, plus women, and children by breaking up five loaves and two fish.
His pay back to the devil for John’s death is to heal the sick and perform miracles so that the crowds can see the One true God. There is no mistaking the fact that Jesus is representing God as He ministers to the sick and feeds the multitudes.
One more note. Do you sometimes feel that you want to share your love of God and His Word with others, but feel inadequate to do so? Don’t let those feelings stop you. When you begin to break the bread that you have, it will begin to multiply, just as this natural bread did with Jesus. God doesn’t give us a huge pile of understanding until we are ready to give it out.
When we give what we have, more will be given to us. When we share what we know, even if we think it is a little, we will receive more. That’s God’s way. Give and it shall be given unto you!
I have probably heard more sermons about Joseph than any other Old Testament figure. His story can only bring hope to any who are believing God for great things, and having to wait awhile before they come to pass. There are many lessons we could learn from Joseph.
The dreams he had from God showed his brothers – and even his parents – bowing before him. Yet almost immediately, it seems, his life takes a turn south. First his brothers sell him into slavery. And then, if that isn’t bad enough, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him, and he lands in prison.
Would you have given up? Would you have said by that time, “I guess those dreams weren’t from God?” Would you have been mad at God for allowing those incidents to take place? Many people would have done all those things after going through Joseph’s experiences.
Not Joseph! He obviously remains faithful to God and trusting in His mercy. There is no account of Joseph feeling sorry for himself. Instead, everywhere he is placed, God’s favor is upon him. That favor blesses every place he goes, and causes him to be promoted to the top job.
God had a big plan, and Joseph was to be part of it. The devil stirred up the brothers and he stirred up Potiphar’s wife, not knowing that everything he did to hurt Joseph ended up being for his good.
Psalm 105:19 says about Joseph, “Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.”
Anytime there is a word from God, the enemy tries to steal it. So Joseph gets tested by the word. Yet the devil is constantly playing into God’s hands.
In fact, God wanted Abraham’s family to become cohesive as a nation, so His plan is to take them to a place where they can grow in unity. The devil does that for Him. Then we know that Joseph is to become a ruler in Egypt, but he needs administrative training first. So the devil provides that also. He learns to administrate in Potiphar’s house and in the prison. He also needs to understand the customs of egypt. What better place to learn those than in a house of a high official? Done!
This should be a lesson for our lives. We may have heard from God about some tremendous things He wants to accomplish, yet all we see is doom and gloom. Look around and you might see some attributes you are developing in the meantime. (If nothing else, you might be gaining some humility)! If we stay faithful to Him, we will see His promises fulfilled.
It’s obvious that Joseph remains full of faith. At the very end of these adversities, as he is interpreting dreams, he gives God all of the credit.
He’s ready now for the really big promotion. Are you?
Jesus is having to get tough with these Pharisees. Their hearts are very hard – like rock. So He’s having to do what Jeremiah talks about. He’s having to use a Word which will break a rock in pieces.
These leaders want the status quo to continue. They’re enjoying their roles as “big shots,” and they don’t want to be pushed out of their place by this “new doctrine.”
Jesus doesn’t give them what they want; He gives them what they need. If there is any hope for these guys, it’s going to be contained in a hard-heart-breaking word. It’s His love which provides them with that Word. Tough love. Hopefully some of them are listening.
In verses 33-37, Jesus gets back to words again. He takes it deeper than we have heard so far. He says that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure, brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil.” So we see that the way to change the words is to change the heart. We have to keep our hearts pure to do this thing right.
Then he goes on to say that “By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” And that even “idle words” count!
When we first learn about the significance of words, it’s easy to think that we can make “official statements” that count and then blast off in “off the record” statements which don’t count. But Jesus says that it all counts. Even idle words. We have to guard our tongues.
Yikes! You mean that all of that grumbling I’ve been doing when by myself and to my family counts? Yes, it counts!
If we want to live our lives for God with the greatest potential possible, we are going to have to guard our tongues. It’s a necessary part of God’s plan.
Words are powerful, and we need to use them wisely.
It’s amazing how many of our familiar Bible stories are in Genesis. The stories today we learned as a child. Yet as always, the simple stories have more meaning as we discern beyond the surface.
Do you remember how God gave Abraham a visual of the stars and the dust of the ground so that his faith would increase for his inheritance? Well, we see here that He does the same for Jacob.
Jacob is getting ready to leave Laban and return to Canaan. He has worked for Laban now for twenty years, and Laban’s flocks have been blessed because of God’s man being there. Now Jacob asks Laban to give him all of the spotted and speckled goats and sheep. And Laban agrees.
So Jacob peels tree limbs in stripes and puts them before the animals’ water troughs. The visual causes the goats and sheep to produce spotted and speckled offspring, so that Jacob’s flocks increase tremendously. I think that the visual is for Jacob, and not the animals. As Jacob looks at the striped and speckled tree limbs, his faith is increased tremendously, and his faith produces.
Is there something you are believing God for? Family? Provision? Health? As you are praying, keep your eyes focused on where you are going and not where you are, and your faith will be increased also. What we see greatly affects our belief system.If it takes looking at a picture, then do it.
So Jacob, his two wives, and all of his entourage start the journey back to Canaan. He first makes a pact with Laban; now he is approaching Esau. This is the big one. This is the brother whose birthright he stole, so Jacob is very afraid.
As he plans his approach, Jacob has an interesting encounter with an angel. He wrestles with the angel, and won’t let him go until this angel has blessed him.
I think of this as the Old Testament version of “ask, seek, and knock.” The Lord says that everyone who keeps on asking, seeking, and knocking will receive from the Lord. That’s what we see Jacob doing here. He is determined to receive the Lord’s blessing and won’t let go until he does.
While many others may have been casual about the blessing of the Lord, we see here a man who strives for it. He obviously considers God’s blessing to be something of great value. As a result, he gets what he is striving for.
Do you honor God’s blessing, or are you casual about it? Is His blessing something that you diligently seek? God is still looking for people who greatly honor that blessing. And He is still blessing those who do!
Jesus is continuing to instruct His disciples for their mission. They are to represent Him as they go out.
He introduces some deeper concepts than we have encountered thus far. He says that there will be persecution as they go. Even close family members will turn on the disciples and attempt to bring them harm.
So what does He mean? Of course, we see in some places around the world where Christians are persecuted violently – even killed because of their beliefs.
Yet anywhere we live, when we are following Jesus closely, there will be persecution. Maybe not death, but other forms of persecution. Open your eyes and you will see that when evil is trying to prevail, Christians are always the ones taking the brunt of the campaign.
Why is that? It’s because hovering over our world is a spiritual world which tries to control things. That spiritual world is led by the devil and his demonic forces, in a war with God. They speak to people who will listen, and their entire purpose is to overthrow God and His Kingdom. So Jesus and His followers are His aim. They try to twist everything that God says and to mock His believers.
Yet God’s Kingdom is the one which will win in the long run. When thoughts come to you not to believe God and His Word, don’t listen. In fact, speak to the thoughts out loud and tell them that you believe God and all that he says. You belong to Him, and Him alone. You will not listen to voices which come against your Father in Heaven.
Heavy stuff, huh? It is heavy, but it’s important that we understand what’s going on. Only then are we able to discern good and evil, and to overcome.
So may the overcomer in you be blessed today!