God Does Not Curse, He Becomes a Curse for Us

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 47-48

“Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.” – Jeremiah 48:10

“See! Right there! God says he is going to use the sword. He doesn’t keep it back from bloodshed. And, those who do are cursed. When Jesus comes back, he is going to wield God’s sword to shed blood, otherwise he will be cursed.”

This may have been what the Jews believed since they were looking for a messiah that would be a great warrior to reestablish the kingdom and the throne of David through military victory.

And, this seems to be what many Christians (at least American Christians) believe. Jesus may have died on the cross, but he’s coming with a sword to kill all those who don’t believe in him.

Granted, in Jeremiah 47 and 48, God seems to be depicted as destroying the Philistines and Moab. God seems to be bringing his sword to destroy these people and shed their blood everywhere.

But, is that what God really does?

Does God curse people?

Is Jesus coming back with a sword to shed the blood of those who don’t believe in him?

No. No. And, no.

Let’s look at Jeremiah 48:10 and see what it is really saying in the light of Jesus.

THE WORK OF THE LORD

The “work of the Lord” is perhaps the key phrase in the verse.

The first time we read about “the work of the Lord” is Exodus 34:10. God says to Moses that Israel will see his work in regard to the covenant he is making with them. “The work of the Lord” here is related to the establishing of a people. And, God does this first by bringing them out, delivering them from their bondage.

The second time we read about “the work of the Lord” is in Deuteronomy 11:7. This is clearly a reference to the exodus of Israel from Egypt as the previous verses recount all the ways God worked to bring Israel out of Egypt.

In Psalm 28, “the work of the Lord” is contrasted with the work of the evil and the wicked. The wicked and evil oppress, enslave, destroy, and war. So, clearly “the work of the Lord” is the opposite of these things.

Psalm 46:8-11 says, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

The psalmist tells us to look at the work of the Lord and see how it brings desolation on the earth. Now, notice what the work of the Lord does. It makes wars cease. It breaks and burns the instruments of war. The desolation the work of the Lord brings comes not from war but from ending war.

How does God end war?

Jesus Christ crucified. God ends war not by killing but by dying. For, we are told to be still and know who God is. God says he will be exalted among the nations and in the earth. This is a clear reference to Jesus being obedient to death, even death on the cross, at which point God exalted him (Philippians 2).

Psalm 111:2 says, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” The rest of the psalm goes on to say that the work of the Lord is righteousness enduring forever, gracious and merciful, providing food for those who fear him, giving the inheritance of the nations, faithful and just, established forever and ever, and performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

Jeremiah 51:10 associates the work of the Lord with the vindication, the victory, God has brought about for us.

So, in the Old Testament, the work is Lord brings an end to our slavery to sin through an exodus, brings an end to death through Jesus’ death on the cross, and brings a victory over Satan that ends war.

The New Testament records Jesus doing exactly those three things.

1 John 3:8 says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Revelation 20:10 says, “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Interestingly, even though different Hebrew words for work are used, the phrase “the work of the Lord” is found eight times in the Old Testament. Eight is the number of new creation. So, the work of the Lord brings about a new creation. As the gospel of John starts “In the beginning,” John is telling us the story of Jesus, the son of God, who brings about a new creation.

We find “the work of the Lord” twice in the New Testament, both in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul tells us that we should be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” In the previous verse, Paul ties our “work of the Lord” to the victory we received from God through Jesus; defeat of death and sin. Then, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says that Timothy is doing the work of the Lord, which we know is Timothy preaching the gospel.

Therefore, in total the phrase “the work of the Lord” is found 10 times in the Bible. Ten is the number of orderly perfection. Orderly perfection is nothing other than righteousness. The work of the Lord is nothing other than bringing righteousness to creation, or making creation right according to its very good status when God first created it.

SLACKNESS

The work of the Lord is not to be done with slackness. The Hebrew word translated slackness means treacherous; slack, loose; slackly, negligently; slackness, indolence; fraud, deception. Slackness means lacking in completeness, finish, or perfection.

So, the one who goes about doing the work of the Lord in this manner is cursed. Galatians 3:7, 10 says, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham…For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse.” To do the work of the properly requires that it be done by faith. If one relies on the works of the law, then he is cursed because he has gone about completing the work of the Lord in the wrong way.

Of course, all man knows to do is attempt to complete the work of the Lord by relying on the law.

But, Jesus completed the work of the Lord the way that God wanted it completed.

First, Jesus only does what he sees God doing. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” Second, Jesus only did the will of the Father. In Luke 22:42, the night before Jesus was crucified, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

Jesus knew there was only one way to do the work of the Lord and that was the cross. He did not back down from that work. To do so would have been to do the work of the Lord with slackness. Jesus would not have complete the work of the Lord.

But, Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to complete at the day of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is faithful to complete the work of new creation he started in us. This idea is all over the New Testament, particular in Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5, and Hebrews 12.

CURSE

In Jeremiah 48:10, it seems that God is cursing the one who does the work of the Lord with slackness.

But, does God curse anyone?

Not if we listen to what Jesus says.

In Luke 6:27-28, 35-36, Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

Jesus tells us to bless and not curse in order that we can be sons of the Most High. We are to bless and not curse because this is this nature and character of the Father. He blesses and does not curse.

James 3:8-10 says, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

From our mouths come blessing and cursing. But, this shouldn’t be the case. It shouldn’t be the case because only blessing comes out of God’s mouth and we are to be like him.

So, why does Jeremiah say that the one who does the work of the Lord with slackness is cursed?

Recall that Galatians 3:10 says that all who rely on the works of the Lord for salvation are under a curse. All mankind has relied on the works of some sort of law, whether the law of Moses or those who by nature do what the law requires, for salvation. Therefore, all mankind is cursed, not by God, but by his own slavery to sin, death, and Satan that prevents from them from coming to God.

But, Galatians 3:11-13 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather, “the one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

God did not curse us. He became a curse for us to free us from the curse we were under.

How did this happen?

Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for us. Jesus bore our sin in his body while he hung on the cross. As we beat him and crucified him, Jesus bore our sin. He became a curse as we cursed him with our evil and wickedness, with our attempt to reach God through our own work.

So, in the first half of Jeremiah 45:10 it looks like God is doing the cursing, Jesus reveals that is just the opposite. God is not cursing anyone. Rather we cursed Jesus. But, through his willingness to be cursed by us, he redeemed us from the curse of the law.

And, we something very similar happening in the second half of Jeremiah 48:10.

SWORD

“Cursed is he who keeps his sword from bloodshed.”

It seems that God is saying that we should use our swords, literal, physical swords, to shed blood and bring about his kingdom. Otherwise, we are cursed. There are many that read this passage just that way.

But, we just saw how Jesus transforms the first half of Jeremiah 48:10. And, in the light of Jesus, the second half of Jeremiah 48:10 is transformed as well.

Ephesians 6:17 tells us that “the sword of the Spirit…is the word of God.” And, the word of God is Jesus. We see that in John 1:1-2, which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

So, in the second half of Jeremiah 48:10, we should see the sword as Jesus.

BLOODSHED

The sword is not to be kept from bloodshed. But, this does not mean that God is going to wield Jesus to shed the blood of his enemies. Instead, God’s sword, Jesus, has his own blood shed.

We never see Jesus in the gospels shedding blood. But, we do see Jesus’ blood shed by our evil and wicked ways.

God not keep Jesus, his sword, from having his own blood shed because it would have gone against his very nature.

God is love. And, we know what his love is like because Jesus laid down his life on the cross. We know what God’s love is like because Jesus shed his blood to redeem us. This is God’s very nature, his very being.

CURSE

And that brings us back to the one who is cursed again.

If God had kept Jesus, his sword, from having his own blood shed, then God would have gone against his very nature. But, to go against God’s nature is to be cursed.

If Jesus, the sword of God, had refused to drink the cup before him, if he had refused to go the cross and have his own blood shed, then he would have gone against the will, the very nature and being, of God. Jesus would have been cursed by keeping back from the cross instead of becoming a curse for us by bearing our sin, our curse, on the cross.

This one scripture shows that we should never apply the Old Testament to understand God’s character. Instead, we need to apply God’s character to discern the truth of the Old Testament.

This can only be done through the crucified Christ who tears the veil over the Old Testament and shines his light upon it.

What Is the Disaster God Brings?

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 44-46

“And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” – Jeremiah 45:5

Jesus is the image of God, the radiance of God’s glory, the exact imprint of God’s nature. Jesus, and Jesus alone, reveals to us the true character of God. Therefore, we must understand and interpret everything about God in the Bible through what we know about Jesus.

So, in the verse above, God says, “I am bringing disaster upon flesh.”

Does that reconcile with what Jesus reveals to us about God? Does Jesus ever bring disaster on anyone in the gospels?

Obviously, Jesus does not bring disaster on anyone in the gospels.

So, what are we to make of this statement – “I am bringing disaster upon all flesh” – that is attributed to God?

The Hebrew word for disaster is ra’ah. It means evil, wickedness, depravity, misfortune, disaster.

Right away there should be some cognitive dissonance in our mind when the Bible says that God is bringing evil, wickedness, depravity, disaster on anything. For, in Luke 18:19, Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Since God alone is good, and not only is he alone good but he is only good, the statement “I am bringing disaster upon all flesh” should immediately cause discord in our mind that needs to be reconciled. For, how could a God that alone is good and is only good bring disaster, evil, wickedness, or depravity on his very own creation, which when he was finished making it he declared it very good?

Ra’ah is used 313 times in the Old Testament.

The first use of ra’ah is in Genesis 6:5, which says, “The Lord saw the wickedness [ra’ah] of man was great in the earth, and the every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Where does wickedness, evil, disaster, depravity come from?

Man, because every intention of the thoughts of his heart is evil. And, verse 6 tells us that the wickedness that came from man’s heart grieved God.

If evil, wickedness, disaster, and depravity, then would God respond in kind by bringing a flood to wipe out man?

Absolutely not. For, this would violate the character and nature of God that Jesus was the image of and the exact imprint of. In Matthew 5:44-48, Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends the rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You there must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

God loves his enemies. He returns good for evil. Therefore, God did not cause or bring the flood, at least in the sense that we think of those terms cause and bring.

In Jeremiah, ra’ah is used 90 times. This is nearly one third of all the uses in the entire Old Testament. And, Jeremiah uses ra’ah nearly three times as much as any other book of the Bible. So, if we want to understand the statement “I am bringing disaster upon all flesh,” then we really need to understand what Jeremiah means.

Jeremiah 18:11 says, “Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.'”

Here we see that the disaster God is shaping is a plan that he has devised. This was plan was designed to cause us to return from our ways and correct our ways and deeds. The disaster caused devised was meant to turn us from evil for, as Genesis 6:5 said, wickedness and evil and disaster came from our hearts not God.

In Jeremiah 17:14-17, Jeremiah offers a very interesting prayer related to the disaster God is said to bring.

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. Behold, they say to me, ‘Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come!’ I have not run away from being your shepherd, nor have I desired the day of sickness. You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face. Be not a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. Let those by put to shame who persecute me, but let me not be put to shame; let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed; bring upon them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction.”

If ever there were words in the Old Testament that could be attributed to Jesus, then these are those words.

Jesus put his trust in the Father to heal and to save him on the cross. The Father was the praise of Jesus’ lips. He always point everyone to the Father.

Those around Jesus constantly derided him about the words he spoke. In particular, while Jesus was on the cross the people mocked him and dared him to prove that all the words he spoke, even the words that he could raise the temple in three days, were actually the words of God. They dared him to come down from the cross and prove that his words were truly from the Lord.

Jesus did not run away from the being the shepherd of God’s people. Jesus did not turn away from the cross but marched steadfastly towards it. Yet, Jesus did not desire that day of sickness as he asked God to take away the cup that he was to drink three times in the garden of Gethsemane. Yet, Jesus said not his will but the Father’s must be done.

Jesus knew that God was not a terror to him. The Father would not ever do evil to him. And, Jesus knew that the Father was his refuge in the day of disaster. What else could this day of disaster be other than the day of Jesus’ crucifixion?

Jesus asked that those who persecuted him would be put to shame. Not to punish them, but to get them to return from their own evil ways. Isn’t this what we see in Acts 2 after Peter preaches the first sermon about how the people gathered had crucified the Messiah and the people were cut to the heart? They were put to shame for what they had done.

So, Jesus prays that God would bring upon his persecutors the day of disaster and that they would be destroyed with double destruction. Again, the day of disaster can be nothing other than the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. And, that disaster was designed to cause his persecutors to return from their own evil eyes. It was the evil ways of Jesus’ persecutors, not the people themselves, that he asked the Father to destroy with double destruction.

Jeremiah 45:5 that I quoted at the beginning of this post was spoken to Baruch the son Neriah by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah is a type of Jesus as we saw in his prayer from chapter 17.

Baruch means blessed. And, Neriah means Yahweh is a lamp or the lamp of the Lord. Baruch the son of Neriah then is one who is blessed by the lamp of the Lord. Jesus is the lamp and the Holy Spirit is the one that comes forth from the lamp to bless.

So, Jesus says to one who is blessed by the lamp of the Lord, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give your life as a prize of war in all places to which you go.”

How did Jesus do this?

How does he do this for us?

How does Jesus bring disaster upon all flesh?

Jesus is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. He has always been the lamb of God that would be crucified for the cross is the way that we know God’s love.

Peter says in Acts 2:23, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

Remember, In Jeremiah God said he shaping disaster and devising a plan against us to get us to return from our own evil ways. This is just what Peter says.

But, who carried out the plan?

Who carried out the actual evil and wickedness on the day of disaster?

“You crucified and killed [Jesus] by the hands of lawless men.”

We carried out the disaster. We did the evil and wicked act of crucifying God.

But, God’s plan was that when we saw this, when we truly understood what we did Jesus, it would shock us out of our evil ways so that we would become peacemakers with Jesus.

Further, Roman 8:3-4 says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

This is how Jesus brought disaster upon flesh. On the day of disaster, his day of crucifixion, Jesus’ body was made to be sin for us. He bore in his body all the evil, wickedness, depravity, and disaster that man could dish out. And, then he condemned sin in the flesh.

Yes, God and Jesus truly did bring disaster upon all flesh. But, not the way we would think at first glance or by reading the mere letter of words. To truly understand the disaster God brings, we have to go deeper with the help of the Holy Spirit.

On one side of the disaster that Jesus brings, Jeremiah says, “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.”

This foreshadows what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Don’t seek the great things, the things of this world. Instead, seek the kingdom of God. Seek life, God’s life, for that is the kingdom.

On the other side of the disaster that Jesus brings, Jeremiah says, “But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all the places to which you may go.”

For our life to be a prize of war, there had to be a war fought and won. Jesus fought and the won the war with Satan, sin, and death on the cross. Through the day of disaster, Jesus gives us our life as a prize of war.

But, only if we return from our own evil ways.

Therefore, in Luke 9:23-24, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

When we see the truth of the day of disaster, the disaster that God brings, we pick up our own cross, we lay down our lives, we return from our evil and wicked lays, so that we can love as God loves and be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Yes, God brings disaster.

But, he does it by dying.

Obey the Voice (Not the Book) of the Lord

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 40-43

“And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord. And they arrive at Tahpanhes.” – Jeremiah 43:7

The phrase “the voice of the Lord” showed up quite in today’s reading.

In Hebrew, the voice of the Lord is qol Yahweh. The phrase qol Yahweh is found 47 times in the Old Testament.

The first time we read of “the voice of the Lord” is in Exodus 15:26. God says he wants Israel to diligently listen to the voice of the Lord.

But, in Deuteronomy 5, Israel fears hearing the voice of the Lord directly, thinking they will die. So, they tell Moses to go near to God and hear what God has to say. Therefore, Moses should go near to God and hear what God says. Then, Israel we will hear what Moses says and do it.

This is very important and foundational point in the Bible.

God wanted a people that would listen to his voice.

Israel didn’t want to hear God’s voice directly. Instead, they wanted Moses to hear God’s voice. Then, Moses could speak to them and later generations could read what Moses wrote.

Of the 47 times “the voice of the Lord” is found in the Old Testament, 19 of the times refer to Israel not obeying the voice of the Lord. Interestingly, the number 19 symbolizes faith and hearing in the Bible (see here). In this particular case then, the 19 times that Israel did not obey the voice of the Lord in the Old Testament symbolizes their refusal to hear God’s voice and their consequent lack of faith.

In the book of Jeremiah, “the voice of the Lord” is used 11 times. Over and over, Israel asked Jeremiah to bring a word from the Lord, saying they would obey it. Then, when Jeremiah brought that word, Israel refused to obey. The number 11 symbolizes chaos, rebellion, and disorder in the Bible. So, Israel’s refusal to obey God’s voice ultimately led them into exile and out of God’s presence.

In today’s reading, Israel ended up going to Egypt even though the voice of the Lord told them not. Israel ended up in Tahpanhes, which means “head of the age” or “beginning of earth as we know it.”

Who does the Bible say is the god of this age?

Satan.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” When we refuse to listen to God’s voice, our minds are blinded and we are deceived by Satan. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says this happens because the veil over the Old Testament has not been removed and we still read it literally instead of listening to the Spirit, who is God’s voice speaking directly into our hearts.

What was the beginning of the earth as we know it?

Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” The earth was disorderly and empty. Darkness was over it. Israel going to Tahpanhes is a picture of our lives as being without form and void, shrouded in darkness, when we do not listen to God’s voice.

And then Jesus shows up.

Luke 9:35-36 says, “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”

Why was Jesus found alone?

Because even though Peter, James, and John originally saw Moses and Elijah next to Jesus, Moses and Elijah disappeared. In other words, God said you are to listen to my voice. My voice is Jesus. So, I will make Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. Jesus eclipses them both. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). And, Jesus shines so brightly, that you cannot even see Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets anymore.

In Matthew 5, Jesus repeatedly says, “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you.”

How did Israel hear that it was said?

They didn’t hear it first hand from God. Remember, back in Deuteronomy they refused to hear God’s voice. So, Moses heard from God and wrote it down. The law was written in tablets of stone. So, when Jesus says, “You have heard it was said,” he is referring to the scriptures that were written down. This is how Israel heard what Moses said.

Again, this was how Israel heard what Moses said.

But, here’s Jesus, God in the flesh. And, he says, “But, I say to you.” Jesus is God speaking to directly to us. Jesus is God’s voice that we are to listen to. This is what God always wanted – a people that would listen to his voice. Not a people that reads dead letters in a book that are covered by a veil.

Interestingly, there were many that refused to listen to Jesus, the voice of the Lord, and preferred reading what Moses wrote in a book. They still wanted to read the tablets of stone. That’s still the case today.

How do we hear God’s voice today?

Not through the Bible.

We hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit.

Instead of reading what was written on tablets of stone, God writes on the tablets of hearts through the Spirit, the voice of Jesus that is ever present with us.

Jesus through the Holy Spirit is the living and active word. This is the voice of God in us that we are to obey. This is the voice that brings alive the written word. Indeed, without this voice within us, the written word is unintelligible.  Without this voice, the written word is dead letters and a ministry of death and condemnation.

Scripture can only be understood through the voice of the Lord in our hearts. We hear God’s voice and he interprets scripture for us (Luke 24). It doesn’t work the other way around. We don’t read scripture for it to interpret God’s voice for us.

This is why the Holy Spirit is needed to be our teacher. And, we have no teacher except Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Finally, recall that the voice of the Lord was used in reference to disobedience 19 times. And, that the number 19 symbolizes faith and hearing.

Therefore, Romans 10:16-17 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

The word of Christ is living voice, the Holy Spirit speaking in our hearts. It is to be heard because someone is preaching, speaking, the gospel, the god news.

Let us listen to Jesus, the voice of the Lord. It is he we are to obey. Not the words of a book.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Jesus in Zedekiah and 4, 9, 10, and 11

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 37-39

“In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it. In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city.” – Jeremiah 39:1-2

Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. He was appointed king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon who had also given him the name Zedekiah. Zedekiah’s original name was Mattaniah.

Mattaniah means gift of Yahweh. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Luke 1 and 2 shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of this scripture. Jesus is the gift of Yahweh.

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, is a type of Satan. Interestingly, it was when he was attacking Jerusalem that he made Mattaniah king and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Zedekiah means Yahweh is righteous. It was not until Jesus was attacked by Satan in the wilderness that Jesus was revealed as the righteousness of God and the king that would establish God’s kingdom on earth. For, it was after Jesus was attacked by Satan in Matthew 4 that he began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus was born king and lived for 30 years as the gift of Yahweh whose government was upon his shoulders. But, it wasn’t until Jesus was attacked by Satan, in effect revealing to us that Jesus was more than the gift of Yahweh. Indeed, Jesus was the righteousness of Yahweh, the king who would set things right.

So, what about the numbers 4, 9, 10, and 11 mentioned in Jeremiah 39:1-2?

The number 9 symbolizes a number of things. One meaning of 9 is finality. It is the last of the single digits. Also, throughout scripture, the number 9 speaks to judgment and the gifts or fruit of the Spirit.

The number 10 symbolizes the law. It is also considered a perfect number. And, as such, the number 10 symbolizes orderly perfection.

Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Zedekiah in the ninth year and tenth month of his reign as a sign of the testing of the fruit and orderliness of Zedekiah and Judah. For, it is when we are under trial and persecution that is easily seen whether or not we have truly have the Spirit in us and are living a changed life for the Lord that is displaying all the fruit of the Spirit.

But, in this case Zedekiah and Judah were found wanting. Therefore, in the 11th year, 4th month, and 9th day of his reign, the walls of Jerusalem was breached and the enemy poured into the city.

Again, the number 9 speaks of judgment and the fruit of the Spirit. Here we see Zedekiah and Judah failing to display the fruit of the Spirit.

The number 4 symbolizes the creation.

And, the number 11 symbolizes chaos and rebellion.

Here we see the failure to display the fruit of the Spirit allowed the walls of Jerusalem to be breached so that all of creation was in chaos and rebellion to God as it was under control of Nebuchadnezzar as a type of Satan.

Jerusalem was the city of God, the center of creation. Therefore, more personally, we can think of Jerusalem as a picture of our hearts. When we fail to display the fruit of the Spirit under persecution it should be evidence to us that our hearts are not submitted to the orderly perfection of God and the law he is desiring to write on our hearts. Therefore, our hearts are able to be breached by the enemy, sending us into chaos and rebellion against God.

Paul speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Indeed, in Jeremiah 39:6, it says Nebuchadnezzar “put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon.”

1 John speaks to this as well. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.” And 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

However, while Zedekiah was the nast natural king of Judah, we know have a supernatural king of Judah, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in John 12:31-32, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

It was on the cross that Jesus judged the world and the ruler of it, Satan, casting him out. In this, Jesus freed us from our bondage to sin, death, and Satan. All our enemies were defeated.

Further, Jesus gave us another helper, the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our salvation and inheritance. The Holy Spirit makes us sons of God. He dwells in us so that we display his fruit and the orderly perfection of the law God has written on our hearts.

Now, when we face persecution, we can display the fruit of the Spirit and not be found wanting. This brings an end to the chaos and rebellion that the whole creation was under.

The entirety of Romans 8 speaks to this. Specifically, Romans 8:18-23 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Jesus Is the Risen Promise

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 33-36

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” – Jeremiah 33:14-15

In this passage, the promise that God has said he will fulfill is linked with the righteous branch that will spring up for David. In verses 17 and 18, the Lord reminded Israel that he had promised that David would always have a man sitting on his throne and that the Levitical priests would have a man in God’s presence.

Of course, we know that Jesus is the righteous Branch, the son of David, that sprang up to always sit on the throne of David. The very first words of the New Testament speak to this. Matthew 1:1 says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In Luke 1:32-33, the angel that spoke to Mary confirmed this, saying, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And, Jesus is the man in God’s presence for the Levitical priests. Five times Hebrews says that Jesus is a “priest forever.” Hebrews 7:27-28 says, “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”

But, for me what gets really interesting in Jeremiah 33:14-15 is the statement “I will fulfill the promise.”

The Hebrew does not say promise. Rather, the literal Hebrew says “the good word,” which is what some translations say. In other words, we could think of this as the good news or the gospel. In effect, God is saying, “I will fulfill the gospel.”

However, while fulfill may be an appropriate translation of the Hebrew word qum, that is not what the word literally means. And, the literal meaning may help us see Jesus even more clearly in this passage. For the word qum literally means to rise, arise; get up, stand up; to come to fruition. And, quite often in the Old Testament, qum is used in regards to rising up against opposition.

Perhaps, quite literally what is saying here is that he will raise the good word, the good news, the gospel, Jesus Christ.

What is Jesus raised from?

Death.

What is Jesus raised in opposition against?

Death. And, Satan.

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

What is Jesus raised to?

The throne in heaven where he rules as king on God’s throne and the heavenly tabernacle where he serves as priest forever.

Ephesians 4:9-10 says, “In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”

And Philippians 2:8-9 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”

The form of the word qum in Jeremiah 33:14 is often translated by the Greek word egeiro in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Egeiro means rise, raise up, get up, awaken, stir up.

Jesus uses this word in Matthew 26:32 when he says, “But after I am raised [egeiro] up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus uses egeiro to refer to his resurrection. And, the word is even translated resurrection in Matthew 27:52-53, which says, “The tombs were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised [egeiro], and coming out of the tombs after his [Jesus] resurrection [egeiro] they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

In 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul lays out the gospel that he preached to the Corinthian church, Paul uses the word egeiro, raised, some 19 times.

Paul says that the gospel, the good news, he preached was “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised [egeiro] on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And, in verse 23, Paul again says Jesus is the firstfruits.

This is significant because when Jeremiah 33:15 refers to Jesus as “a righteous Branch” the Hebrew word for branch literally means shoot or what is sprouting. In other words, Jeremiah more literally says that Jesus is a righteous sprout, or firstfruits.

In 1 Corinthians 15:16-17, Paul says, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and your are still in your sins.” But, as I just mentioned, Paul says in verse 20 and 23 that indeed Christ has been raised. Therefore, we can be assured that we will be raised too.

God has indeed raised the good word, Jesus. Therefore, the good news, the gospel, has been proclaimed. God has raised Jesus and he will fulfill his promise to raise us too. Death will be defeated.

Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 1:20-21, Paul says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Jesus is the risen the promise, the risen good word from God.

Satisfied with God’s Goodness

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 31-32

Speaking of the time after Jesus’ crucifixion, God says in Jeremiah 31:14 that “my people shall be satisfied with my goodness.”

Why is it at this time that we will be satisfied by God’s goodness?

In the Old Testament, God is depicted as both good and evil. Yes, we see many good and wonderful things associated with God. But, we also see many evil things – wholesale destruction of cities, commands to rip babies out wombs, etc. – ascribed to God.

So, will we be satisfied with God’s goodness because he will stop doing those evil things and only do good things to us?

Will God do this – satisfy us with his goodness – because we believe the right way? That Jesus is the son of God?

But, if we don’t believe the right way, then we won’t be satisfied with God’s goodness because we will experience God’s wrath as he burns us in hell forever? In other words, we will get God’s evil side again?

The answer to these questions is no. We will not be satisfied with God’s goodness because he stopped doing evil to us – or even allowing evil to happen to us – because we believed the right thing.

The reason will we be satisfied with God’s goodness is because after the crucifixion of Jesus we will see God for who he really is. We will be satisfied with God’s goodness because we will finally know him as good and only good. We will be satisfied with God’s goodness not because he changed – now doing just good instead of evil – but because our perception, our understanding, our knowledge of God changed. That is, the veil that Satan used to block our understanding of God will have been removed so that we can see God clearly for who he truly is.

This – that God is good and only good – is exactly what Jesus came to reveal to us.

Jesus was asked by a rich, young ruler, “Teacher what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” In Matthew 19:17, Jesus answered, “Why do you ask about what is good? There is only one who is good.”

The man wanted to know about what is good. Jesus told him to forget about what is good. Instead, Jesus told the man to know that there is one, and only one, who is good. The question should not have been what is good but who is good.

Of course, Jesus was referring to God as the one who is good. God is good. In order for God to be good, the very essence of everything that is good, then he cannot be evil. Otherwise, God would not be good.

Because God is good, he can only do good. Therefore, in Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute yo, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God doesn’t do good to the good and evil to the evil because that is what each deserves. No, God only does good. And, his goodness falls equally on the good and the evil, the just and the unjust. Go outside and you cannot stop the sun shining on or the rain falling on you. These are unavoidable. And, so is God’s goodness.

In Matthew 6, in the same sermon, Jesus tells us to look at how God takes care of the creation, that the birds are fed and the lilies clothed. Jesus says that God takes care of the creation with his goodness. And, if God takes care of the creation with goodness, then how much more will he give his goodness to us? Therefore, just seek to know God.

Then in Matthew 7, again in the same sermon, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

We are evil. Yet, in spite of our evil hearts, we seek to give good things to our children. Jesus says this to contrast our evil hearts with God’s heart, which is good and only good. And, if our evil hearts know to give good things to our children, then surely God, whose heart is good, will give good and only good to his children.

This is what Jesus said over and over again during his ministry on the earth. Not only did he say it, but he demonstrated it as well. Jesus was continually healing and feeding all those that came to him. Acts 10:38 says, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

This must have been particularly mind blowing for the Jews because Jesus even healed non-Jews – the centurion’s son and the daughter of a Canaanite woman. The Jews viewed these people as evil and wicked. (Side note, what should that say to us today about how God treats the people we view as wicked and evil?)

But, the ultimate expression of God’s goodness towards us is the cross. Here, Jesus put on full display that God is good and only good. Even while we were killing Jesus, God in the flesh, we received only goodness from God. For from the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

If there was ever a time for God to something, anything, evil towards us, then Jesus’ crucifixion was that time.

But, it is this ultimate display of God’s goodness that can finally awaken us to the reality that God is good and only good. And, when Jesus Christ crucified does awaken us to the reality that God is good and only good it is then that we are satisfied with God’s goodness. It is then that we are filled with the knowledge that God is good. Period.

I Am with You to Save You

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 28-30

“For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 30:11

This is such a simple and all encompassing promise from God. But, it is one that we easily forget or move to the back of our minds.

Instead, we should keep this promise at the very forefront of our minds. This promise should be continually thought about and allowed to determine God’s character to us.

Whenever we think God is out to punish us or some group of people, we should remember, “For I am with you to save you.”

Matthew 1:21-23 says, “‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

Jesus came to save us from our sins. He was called to be Immanuel, God with us.

“For I am with you to save you.”

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The Word, Jesus, God himself, took on flesh and became like us to be with us. He dwelt in the very midst of us.

Why?

Not to condemn the world, but in order to save the world through Jesus.

“For I am with you to save you.”

Despite what we may think, Jesus did not come both to save some and destroy others. In fact, he stated this quite clearly.

John 10:10 says, “For the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Satan comes only to steal and kill and destroy. This is what he has done from the beginning. But, Satan, the ruler of this world has nothing in Jesus.

Jesus said in John 14:30, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me.” Or, “he has nothing in Me.” Or, “he has no hold over me.” Or, “he has no power over me.” In other words, Satan cannot get Jesus to do what he does. Satan cannot get Jesus to steal and kill and destroy.

That’s because Jesus came, and we could say he only came, to give life and life abundantly.

“For I am with you to save you.”

John writes about why and how Jesus came to save us another way in 1 John 4:9-10, 18.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected with love.”

God is love. He made his love manifest. That is, God made his love appear. He made it visible. God did so by sending his son, Jesus, into the world to be with us. He sent his love in Jesus that we might live through Jesus. That is, God sent Jesus that we might be saved.

We didn’t love God. But, he loved us. How do we know? Because God sent Jesus to be the means of forgiveness (the root of the Greek word for propitiation simply means gracious, merciful). God’s forgiveness, his love, was put on full display through Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This love, the love of God that Jesus was sent to us to put on full display, has no fear in it. In fact, this perfect love casts out fear. That’s because fear has to do with punishment. We fear being punished. But, if you fear, then you are not matured in the ways of love. If you fear, then you have not yet fully known God’s love.

And, I would dare say that if you think God is out to punish, that God will torment people in everlasting fire for all time, the worst punishment anyone could imagine, then you have not matured in God’s love.

God’s love is to save, not punish.

“For I am with you to save you.”

In Beginning the Reign of Jesus

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 25-27

“In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord.” – Jeremiah 26:1

When we look into Jeremiah 26, we see that it is describing the beginning of the reign of Jesus.

How so?

The name Jehoiakim means Yahweh raises up or the Lord will set up.

In John 12:31-32, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Jesus is the one that Yahweh raised up, which refers to his crucifixion. Jesus’ crucifixion was the judgment of this world and the time that the ruler of this world, Satan, was cast out. It was at the cross that there was a change in rulership of this world. The cross was the beginning of the reign of Jesus.

The name Josiah has several meanings, including the despair of Yahweh, Yah supports, or Yahweh heals (among others).

For God, allowing his son to be crucified by his own creation had to bring despair to him. The cross was even a place of despair for Jesus. We get a glimpse of this in Psalm 69:20-21, which says, “Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Indeed, Jesus was offered sour wine to drink just before he died.

Jesus was continually healing people throughout his ministry. Acts 10:38 says, “He went about doing good and healing all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” But, our ultimate healing came when Jesus was crucified. This is why Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Throughout the rest of the chapter, there are many parallels between Jeremiah and Jesus. The word Jeremiah was to give was in hopes that every one would turn from his evil way. Jesus started his ministry by saying, “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Part of the word Jeremiah was to give was that if Israel would not repent of their evil deeds then the temple would be made like the house of Shiloh. Shiloh was the first place in the promised land that the tabernacle was set up and therefore where God’s place rested.

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Greek word for dwelt literally means tabernacled. Jesus tabernacled among us and through his tabernacling among us we saw the glory of the Father.

Then, in John 2, Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple. John 2:18-19 says, “So the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'”

Of course, Jesus wasn’t speaking about physical temple, but his body. Jesus is saying that his tabernacle, his physical body, would be destroyed just like the tabernacle in Shiloh if the Jews did not repent of their evil ways. Therefore, Psalm 78:60-61 says, “He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe.”

In Jeremiah, the priests and officials said that Jeremiah deserved the sentence of death for the word he was bringing.

Mark 14:58-59 says, “‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”‘ Yet even this their testimony did not agree.” At Jesus’ trial, the word he gave was brought up about him destroying his temple and raising it three days later. “And they all condemned him as deserving death.”

Jeremiah even prophesied that if they put him to death then they would be bringing innocent blood upon themselves.

After Judas betrayed Jesus, he took the 30 pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders. Judas said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4)

So, that Jeremiah 26 is all about the lead up to the cross, the beginning the reign of Jesus. For, while Jesus was born king, he was exalted to the throne after his crucifixion.

Therefore, Philippians 2:8-10 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

Justice and Righteousness: Is Not This How You Know Me?

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 22-24

“Is not this how you know me? declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 22:16

How do we know God?

This is a very fundamental question for every Christian.

However, I think many Christians get this question confused with another related, but not the same, question.

That second question is how do we know about God?

We can know about God, really anyone for that matter, but reading an account of them. We can know about anyone in history by reading an account of their works. The written account of someone’s works is the testimony of what they have done.

This is exactly the role that scripture fulfills in regards to God. Through scripture we can know about Jesus and about God. This is precisely the role that Jesus gives to scripture in John 5:39-40, which says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

The scriptures witness about eternal life, who is God. But, the scriptures do not allow you to know eternal life himself. Jesus said you can know about me, about God, about eternal life, through the Scriptures. However, if you want to know him, the Father, and eternal life directly, one-to-one, in relationship, then you must come to him.

Essentially, Jesus said you cannot know God by the scriptures. You can know about him, but you cannot know him.

Many Christians fail to see the distinction between knowing about God and knowing God. Therefore, many Christians don’t understand that we can and should know God apart from the Bible. Dare I say that Jesus even insists that we know God apart from the Bible.

For, there is a world of difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing about God leads us follow strict rules and regulations, which if you break those strict rules and regulations you are evil and wicked and out of fellowship with God, perhaps even condemned to everlasting torture. Knowing about God leads us into forcing others to adhere to our strict moral code without producing any real transformation in our own lives.

However, knowing God leads us into a relationship of self-sacrificial love with the God of all creation through Jesus that transforms our very hearts and minds so that love we love our enemies with the same love that we have for God and our friends.

So, I believe it is possible, and necessary, to know God apart from the Bible.

But, what that does that look like?

Jeremiah 22 helps us see how.

The lead up to God’s question “Is not this to know me?” begins to reveal how we know God apart from the Bible.

“Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? The judged the cause of the poor and the needy; then it was well. Is not this how to know me? declares the Lord?”

We know God by doing justice and righteousness. But, justice and righteousness are not adhering to strict moral codes, rules and regulations. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 4:3, 6-10.

“In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world…And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather be known by God, how you can turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!”

When we know about God we follow the elementary principles – rules and regulations of how to please God – of the world. But, once we know God, we are no longer a slave to those elementary principles.

And, it is the Spirit of Jesus who God has put in our hearts who takes beyond these elementary principles to practice true righteousness and justice. Jeremiah tells us that the justice and righteousness we should practice is judging the cause of the poor and the needy. We don’t judge them in terms of right and wrong as in a court of law. Instead, we judge them as in need of our care and support, our love.

Jeremiah explained this further earlier in chapter 22. In verse 3, the Lord commanded the king and his servants, “Do justice and righteousness.”

What did this justice and righteousness entail?

  • “deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed”
  • “do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow”
  • “nor shed innocent blood in this place”

Doing justice and righteousness is taking care of the disadvantaged. Doing justice and righteousness is providing for those that have been taken advantage of and despised by the rest of the world.

And God says, “Is this not to know me?”

Therefore, we know God apart from the Bible by doing justice and righteousness in the same manner and character that God does it. And, God does by delivering people from their oppressor who has robbed them, doing no wrong or violence to anyone, particularly the stranger and the weak, and not shedding innocent blood, which in a true Biblical understanding goes far beyond physically murdering them.

In virtually identical language, Jesus tells us the same thing. Taking care of the needy is how we know God, or as Paul said, how God knows us.

Remember, in Jeremiah 22 God was speaking to the king on the throne and his servants. Now listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-40.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothes med, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when we did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”

These righteous, by caring for the outcast, the poor, the hungry, the broken, and the naked, did true righteousness and justice to the disadvantaged. And, by doing this righteousness and justice to the disadvantaged, they did it to Jesus. Therefore, they knew Jesus. These righteous didn’t just know about Jesus from the scriptures. These righteous knew Jesus and God by their practice of true righteousness and justice.

At the close of the sermon on the mount, which details all the ways that true righteousness and justice are displayed in loving our enemies, Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

There will be many that in effect say, “But, we practiced all the elementary principles of this world. We did all the religious sacrifices that the Bible says.” And, Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you.” In effect, Jesus is saying that religious practice only leads you to knowing about him. But, it doesn’t lead you knowing him and him knowing you.

So, we can, even must, know God apart from the Bible. Jeremiah and Jesus tell us how – by practicing true righteousness and justice, taking care of the disadvantaged in society. It is then the actual act of righteousness and justice that we truly know God.

 

The Way of Life is Surrender

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 18-21

“And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war.” – Jeremiah 21:8-9

Jeremiah prophesies that there are two ways we can go – the way of life or the way of death. These two ways are polar opposites. They have nothing to do with each other.

The way of death is to stay in the city and die by the sword, by famine, or by pestilence.

The way of life is to go out of the city, surrender to the enemy who is persecuting you, and gain your life as a prize of war.

These are the words of Jesus!

How so?

In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In this verse, Jesus presents to the two ways. One is the way of Satan, which is to kill and destroy and is therefore the way of death. The other is the way of Jesus, which is to give life and is therefore the way of life.

In John 10:17-18, Jesus elaborated on what the way of life looks like, saying, “For this reason the Father loves me, because i lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus presented us with the choice of the way of life or the way of death. He said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Looking back to Jeremiah, to save your life was to stay in the city, in Jerusalem, to fight for your earthly kingdom, your rights, your possessions, etc. But, to stay in the city and fight, which is what the Jews wanted to Jesus to do, is to die at the hand of the enemy by the sword, famine, and pestilence. If you try to save your life by fighting, by war, by the way of the world, then you lose your life. You will die spiritually.

But, if you lose your, then you will find it. Based on what Jesus said in John 10:17-18, to lose life is to voluntarily lay it down. Losing your life means you give up your earthly kingdom, your rights, your possessions, etc. You voluntarily lay it all down. But, in this case, you spiritually come to life.

In Jeremiah, losing your life is going out of the city and surrendering to the enemy. Therefore, notice what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Where was Jesus crucified?

Outside the city. Jesus went outside the city and laid down his life. He surrendered to the enemy. But, this was the victory of Jesus because he had both the authority to lay down his life and pick it up again.

And, Jesus asked us to follow him. He asked us to follow him outside the city and take up our own cross. Jesus asked us to voluntarily surrender to the enemy and lay down our lives.

How else can we love our enemies but by surrendering our lives to them?

Why don’t we do this?

Because we fear that by surrendering our lives – our pride, our will, our kingdom, our rights, our possessions – we will die. We fear we will end up with nothing.

Paul explained clearly that there is no need for this fear that if we voluntarily surrender to the enemy that we will die. In fact, Paul said it was just the opposite.

“For if we have been united with him in a death life his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus did not crucify himself. He surrendered, willingly, to his enemies, and was crucified by them. But, he was resurrected.

We are to do the same. We are to follow Jesus and be united with him in his death. We are to lay down our lives, to surrender to the enemy. We don’t crucify ourselves, but we are crucified with Jesus. And, if we die a death like Jesus’, then we will certainly be raised in a resurrection like his too.

In Jeremiah, it says that those who outside the city and surrender will gain their life as a prize of war. In the Hebrew, “a prize of war” is just one word. It means booty, spoil, goods that have been plundered.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:29, “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus, has fought the strong man, the enemy, the Sata. Jesus won that war on the cross. By winning the war, Jesus freed us from our bondage to Satan. And, Jesus plundered the goods, our very lives, that were in Satan’s house, Satan’s kingdom.

So, there is the way of death, the way of killing, which is the way of Satan. This is the way of fighting for what is ours. This way leads to death.

And, there is the way of life, the way of dying, the way of surrendering, which is the way of Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life. This is way of voluntarily surrendering everything we have to be united in the death of Jesus so that we can live a resurrected life like he lives.

This is when the last enemy, death, has been truly been defeated.