The Repayment God Renders

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 51-52

“Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon…For this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance, the repayment he is rendering her.” – Jeremiah 51:1, 6

“Because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.” – Jeremiah 51:11

“I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 51:24

“Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘Behold I will plead your cause and take vengeance for you.'” – Jeremiah 51:36

“For the Lord is a God of recompense; he will surely repay.” – Jeremiah 51:56

Five times in this one chapter Jeremiah says the Lord will take vengeance upon and repay Babylon for her evil by destroying her.

Should we believe Jeremiah when he says the Lord does these things?

No.

Why?

We are not to listen to Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets.

Because God told us to believe Jesus. And, Jesus says otherwise.

We are to listen to Jesus, and Jesus alone.

This is the whole point of the story on the mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17 and Mark 9.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even 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 therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48

What Jesus said hear is in direct contradiction to what Jeremiah says about God. Because we are to believe Jesus above everyone and everything else, we cannot believe Jeremiah.

Was Babylon Israel’s enemy?

Yes.

Was Babylon persecuting Israel?

Yes.

Jeremiah was prophesying that God would destroy Israel’s enemy and persecutor.

Jesus said you have heard that. But, I say to you, Love your enemies.

Therefore, the correct response was for Israel to love and pray for Babylon. This is how Israel would be sons of their Father in heaven.

Okay, so Jesus calls us to do this. But, how do we know that’s what God was really doing even though Jeremiah said otherwise?

Because Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

How are we perfect like God?

When we love and pray for enemies. We are to do that because God does that. When we love and pray for our enemies, we are sons of God because we are living out God’s nature and character. God is love for the enemy.

God does not take out vengeance on his enemies. God does not repay the enemy for their evil. Unless you consider doing good to and loving the enemy as taking vengeance and repaying.

So, what do we make of Jeremiah’s statements?

He was wrong.

He had an incomplete view of God.

We don’t need to make it any more complicated than that.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Up to this time, only Jesus had seen God. And, therefore, only Jesus could make God known.

Jeremiah had a veiled view of God.

Speaking of reading the Old Testament, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”

Jeremiah did not see God, at least not clearly. Therefore, what Jeremiah wrote had a veil over it. Jeremiah’s writing could not give a clear picture of God. The only way that what Jeremiah wrote can give a clear picture of God is for the veil to be removed.

The veil is removed when we turn to the Lord, when we see Jesus Christ crucified, because Jesus Christ crucified is the true, full, and complete revelation of God. This is why Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom at Jesus’ crucifixion.

So, what is the repayment that God renders?

Good.

Love.

To everyone.

A Deeper Look at Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Babylon

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 50

“Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.'” – Jeremiah 50:2

Later, in verse 38, Jeremiah says that Babylon “is a land of images, and they are mad over idols.”

Babylon is an interesting city in the Bible.

It’s first mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as the beginning of the kingdom of Nimrod. Babel, or Babylon, literally means gate of the deity. We could think of its religion, idols, and images as the way mankind thought they could reach God.

Genesis 11:9 says, “Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of the earth.” Because of this, Babylon has come to mean mixture or confusion. But, the name is also here associated with the idea of departing as God dispersed the people over the face of the earth when he confused their languages.

The Hebrew word translated Babylon is used 261 times in the Old Testament. I find this interesting because 261 is 9 times 29. One of the meanings of the number 9 is visitation. The number 9 is also associated with the Holy Spirit and judgment.  The number 29 symbolizes departure as many times in the Bible when a person’s name is used it is associated with departure.

So, even in the first mentions of Babylon, which was originally the city of Babel, we the meanings of 9 and 29. God went down to visit the people of Babel. He judged their activities, confusing their languages and causing them to depart the plain of Shinar.

Revelation, which is chock full of symbolism, including the number of times words are used, uses the name Babylon six times. Six is the number of man. Therefore, we could also think of Babylon as the ultimate city of man. We would be in the ultimate city of man when the Holy Spirit (9) has departed (29).

What’s more interesting is that the only other way to multiply two numbers together and get 261 is 3 x 87. The number 3 symbolizes divine perfection.

What about the number 87?

Interestingly, two of the Hebrew words for idol have a numerical value of 87.

Further, Isaiah 9:6 says “For to us a child is born, to us a son if given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Here one of Jesus’ names is Everlasting Father, which has a numerical value of 87.

And, speaking of his servant, Jesus, God says, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11) “I am the Lord,” our savior, has a numerical value of 87.

Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the divinely perfect image (idol) of God that saves us from our slavery to the idols of Babylon.

Revelation 18:4 bids us to come out, or depart, Babylon. It is by beholding Jesus Christ crucified, the divinely perfect image of God, that we are able to depart Babylon and its false idols and images. Speaking of Jesus’ death on the cross, Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities [the idols and images of Babylon] and put them to an open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

Another interesting fact about Babylon is that 169 out of 261 uses of the word in the Old Testament occur in the book of Jeremiah. This is more than five times the number of uses in the book with the second most uses of Babylon.

Why is 169 an interesting number?

The number 169 is 13 x 13. That is the only way to multiply two numbers together and get 169. The number symbolizes rebellion and depravity. It is often associated with Satan in the Bible. In the Bible, squaring a number often intensifies its meaning. Revelation 18:2 says, “She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt of every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Indeed, Babylon is the dwelling place of everything that leads us away from God. It is truly the city of intensified rebellion and depravity.

I mentioned that the forerunner to Babylon was Babel, which is where God confused the languages of the people.

Jeremiah 50:2 says, “Babylon is taken.” The Hebrew word for taken is used 120 times in the Bible.

Coincidence?

In Acts 2, God reversed his visitation to Babylon that resulted in a judgment that caused the people to depart the plain of Shinar when the Holy Spirit visited the 120 disciples in the upper room. Those 120 disciples received from the Holy Spirit tongues of fire that allowed them to speak the languages of the Jews gathered from around the world. These 120 disciples were the first ones sent out to regather the Jews from every nation. In effect, God was regathering those that had their languages mixed at Babel by the 120 disciples that declared the great things God had done. Indeed, Babylon was taken.

In John 21, Jesus stood on the shore and asked the disciples if they had caught any fish. They said no. So, Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. Verses 10-11 say, “Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full or large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.”

Jesus told his disciples they would be fishers of men. The number 153 symbolizes the disciples’ catch of men from all the Gentile nations. Notice that even though the disciples would catch many men the net would not break. None would be lost.

So, we have 120 representing the regathering of the Jews as the Holy Spirit spoke through the disciples with tongues of fire reversing the midex languages of Babel. And, we have Jesus’ disciples, fishers of men, catching 153 fish representing the salvation of the Gentile nations that were in bondage to Babylon and its idols and images.

Add together 120 and 153 and we get 273.

How many times is the word Babylon used throughout the entire Bible?

273.

Coincidence?

I think not. And, this is likely connected to one mention of the number 273 in the Bible.

Numbers 3:42-47 says, “So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the Lord commanded him. And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, you shall take five shekels per head.”

The Levites were the priests of Israel. Every believe today is priest and part of God’s royal priesthood. Instead of taking the firstborn males of Israel, God would take the Levites, of which were there 22,000 (Numbers 3:39). The number of firstborn over and above the number of priests, 273, would be redeemed with five shekels of silver. Five is the number of grace. Silver is the metal of redemption. So, the extra 273 firstborn males, symbolizing all the Jews that the 120 would regather and the 153 Gentile nations from which none would be lost, are redeemed by the grace of Jesus as he works through his royal priesthood, the believers, the church.

Are all the confluences of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Babylon just coincides?

I would argue they are not. Rather, these connections are the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the scriptures.

Indeed, Babylon has fallen at the hands of the image of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Restores the Ammonites to Good Fortune

TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 49

“Concerning the Ammonites. Thus says the Lord: ‘Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad, and his people settled in its cities?’…But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 49:1, 6

God seems to bring a lot of terror, horror, death, and destruction on the various peoples in the prophecies of Jeremiah 49. Therefore, Jeremiah 49:6, which says that God will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, really caught my attention. For, it shows that God was not out to literally, physically destroy the Ammonites. If he was, then there would have been nothing left of the people to restore.

It was this statement that the Holy Spirit used to help me see Jesus in this passage. The Holy Spirit asked me

  • who were the Ammonites
  • why does the Lord ask if Israel has no sons and no heir
  • who was Milcom
  • who was Gad
  • what does it mean to restore the fortunes
AMMONITES

The name Ammon means a people or a great people.

But, where did this great people come from?

Genesis 19:34-38 says, “The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.’ So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.”

So, the Ammonites came from the incestuous relationship of Lot and his younger daughter.

And, for what purpose did Lot’s younger daughter sleep with her father?

“That we may preserve offspring from our father.”

The purpose of this incestuous relationship was to produce a son, an heir. But, as is seen throughout the Bible, there is nothing good that comes from inappropriate relationships that attempt to produce sons and heirs through their own strength.

The true son, the promised heir, a truly great people, can only come in fulfillment of God’s promise through his ways and plans.

HAS ISRAEL NO SONS AND NO HEIR?

So, the Ammonites came from an incestuous relationship in attempt to produce a son and an heir. Therefore, I believe this is exactly why the Lord asked the Ammonites, “Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir?”

We know that Israel does indeed have a son and an heir. The son and the heir is Jesus. Jesus is the offspring, the seed. Galatians 3:16 says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

So, is it possible that Israel has no son, no heir? If he does, then what happened to this son, this heir?

MILCOM

The name Milcom means their king or high king. Some have even believe it means the most high king.

Milcom is another name for Molech. Molech was the god of the Ammonites, their king, their high king, their most high king.

The Ammonites worshiped Molech in two primary ways. The first was through sexual rituals, which should come as no shock since the people were birthed from an incestuous relationship. The second was through child sacrifice, or passing children through the fire.

How would the Ammonites sacrifice their children?

They would create a metal statue of Molech with outstretched arms. They would then heat up the metal statue and place their children, typically their firstborn, into the arms of the statue to burn them alive, passing their children through the fire.

Why did the Ammonites worship Molech this way?

Because they believed Molech would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children. In other words, the belief was that passing their children through the fire they would have good fortune.

Molech is first mentioned in Leviticus 18:21, which says, “You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” Before Israel even inherited the promised land, God warned them that they should not worship Molech by passing their children through the fire.

The next mention of Molech is in Leviticus 20:1-5. As you read the passage pay particular attention to the bolded phrases.

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.”

According to Deuteronomy 23:3, the Israelites were not to marry an Ammonite. And according to Deuteronomy 2:19, God said, “When you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.”

But, some of the tribes of Israel did end up settling in the land of the Ammonites.

Care to guess one of the tribes?

Joshua 13:24-26 says, “Moses gave an inheritance also to the tribe of Gad, to the people of Gad, according to their clans. Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the Ammonites, to Aroer, which is east of Rabbah, and from Heshbon to Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim, and from Manahaim to the territory of Debir.”

Gad dwelled in the land of Ammon despite God’s command not to. And, notice that Jeremiah 49:1-6 includes the same cities listed in Joshua 13:24-26 as part of Gad’s inheritance.

As we will see, this is why God asks “Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad?”

So, Israel was not to dwell in the land of Ammon. And the tribe of Gad did.

And Israel was not to marry the Ammonites. But, they did. One important person in paticular

1 Kings 14:21 says, “Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah…His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite.” So, Solomon married an Ammonite. Interestingly, it was the son from this marriage that was the first king over the 10 tribes of Israel cut off from Judah.

God told the Israelites not to marry foreign women because they would draw Israel away to worship their gods. So, 1 Kings 11:7 says, “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.”

Hmm…Molech was worshiped on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

Where else was Molech worshiped?

Jeremiah 7:31 says, “And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I [God] did not command, nor did it come to my mind.”

Molech was also worshiped in the Valley of Hinnom, which is where the name Gehenna comes from. Gehenna was the trash heap outside of Jerusalem where trash was burned.

There is some disagreement as to the exact location of the Valley of the son of Hinnom, Gehenna. But, some believe it was on the eastern side of Jerusalem, which would make sense as Solomon’s high place for Molech worship was on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

Are you seeing why I highlighted the law in Leviticus  about passing of one of their children through the fire? Why the question might be asked if Israel has a son, an heir?

The mountain east of Jerusalem was the mount of olives. This was where Jesus sweated drops of blood as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified.

Could it be that in order to get to the mount of olives that Jesus would have had to pass through the valley of Hinnom, Gehenna?

Could it be that this is all a picture of Jesus being offered as the firstborn to Molech by the Israelites who intermarried with the Ammonites for their financial prosperity?

Could it be that this is why Jeremiah says that Milcom dispossessed Gad?

Who is Gad?

GAD

We saw above that Gad was one the tribes of Israel who settled in the land of Ammon.

Gad was both  a son and an heir to Israel, making the initial questions in the prophecy of Jeremiah somewhat ironic.

Gad was the seventh son of Israel. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection.

The name Gad means good fortune for when Zilpah, Leah’s servant, gave birth to Gad Leah said, “Good fortune has come.”

But, the nature of this good fortune is interesting. That’s because the root word of the name Gad means to cut or invade. So, in a sense, the name Gad means good fortune that comes through a cutting or an invasion into the body.

Isn’t this what we see happen to Jesus?

John 19:34 says, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” In verse 37, John says, “And again another scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced.'”

Jesus was the lamb slain, pierced, from the foundation of the world. As Acts 2:23 says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plant and foreknowledge of God, you crucified ad killed by the hands of lawless men.” It was by Jesus’ crucifixion, his piercing, that our good fortune comes.

It was God’s plan to that Jesus would be pierced for our good fortune. But, notice back in Jeremiah 7:31 that God said he had never commanded or conceived of a son being burned in the fire. That was not his plan for the son and heir of Israel even though the Ammonites and the Israelites who followed Molech with them dispossessed Gad, the true good fortune God planned to bring.

In fact, it never occurred to God to pass his son through the fire. Leviticus 18:21 says to do profanes the name of the Lord. And, if God would never do that to Jesus, then he would never do that to any of his other children. This rules out God burning anyone in hell for eternity. Yet, with this belief still so prevalent today, it is clear that the Ammonite spirit is still with us. But, this belief profanes the name of the Lord.

So, it is through Gad, the spiritual perfect son that was pierced, that good fortune comes. Therefore, it is interesting that the name Gad appears 72 times in the Bible.

Luke 10:1 says, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”

Why did Jesus send ahead these 72 men?

To proclaim the good fortune, the good news, the gospel that Jesus was going to bring to every town he went to.

Why was the good news to be proclaimed?

So that every town would know that Jesus is Lord. In Ezekiel, the phrase “they shall know I am Lord” occurs 72 times. See Ezekiel: 72 “They Shall Know I Am Lord”s.

FORTUNE

Even though the Ammonite spirit passes Jesus, the son of Israel, the heir, God’s son, his firstborn, through the fire, at the end of this prophecy God says he will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites.

In Hebrew, the word translated restore literally means return or turn back. It’s the word we associate with repentance.

The word translated fortune has some interesting meanings. It means both captivity and fortunes. It means carrying off to captivity, imprisonment; turn one’s fortune. And, it means an exile, or figuratively, a former state of prosperity.

The Ammonites passed their firstborn children through the fire to Molech to ensure their financial prosperity. But, by the son that was pierced, the true son, the true heir, God will bring repentance and restore the true prosperity of the Ammonites.

We who were exiles will not longer be exiles. We will be carried off to captivity to God. Perhaps this is what Ephesians 4:8 means, which according to Young’s Literal Translation says, “Wherefore, he saith, ‘Having gone up on high he led captive captivity, and gave gifts to men.'”

The Hebrew word translated fortunes is used 31 times in the Old Testament. The number 31 is spelled lamed aleph. Lamed means authority and aleph means strength. These are the two Hebrew letters that spell El, the most simple name of God. El is the strong authority. El is the strong authority, the fortune, that we are restored to.

Further, the number 31 symbolizes the fortune we are restored to is to be offspring, children, of God. The son in the house is the heir with the authority of the birthright.

John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

And, Jesus said in John 8:34-36, “Truly, truly, i say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Praise God that Jesus sets us free from the Ammonite spirit. While we worshiped Milcom and dispossessed Gad, our true good fortune, “Israel [read Jesus] shall dispossess those who dispossessed him.”

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.”