Average or excellent?

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Hebrews 11:32-40 (NIV-UK):“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword.

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated; the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

I knew the overall story of Jeremiah, and could recall some detail. But, this journey over the last two months has been quite remarkable; I’ve a fresh appreciation of God’s fantastic patience with His rebellious people and Jeremiah’s long-term loyalty to God.

It’s interesting that one of the most popular verses in the Bible (besides John 3:16) comes from Jeremiah. It’s Jeremiah 29:11, which is: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Perhaps then, we can truly say that Jeremiah was indeed a ‘Poet of Hope’.

Here’s what Selwyn had to say: “Having spent two months reflecting on the prophecy of Jeremiah, what is our conclusion? Surely it must be this – when life seems humdrum, routine and unexciting or we feel overrun by life’s circumstances and situations, there is hope. … We can opt for the average or we can pursue excellence. Excellence does not always mean the exciting or the adventurous. It means doing God’s work faithfully, industriously, and without cutting corners. …

Has the Word of the Lord come to you? Has Jesus spoken into your life and given you clear direction concerning the path He wants you to go? Then go for it – and never give up. Doing the work of God faithfully is the excellence He looks for. The Word of God is your strength. Give Him praise and honour and glory.”

We live to faithfully follow Jesus and to give God glory. In John 15:7-9, we hear Jesus say: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”

Do you have any final thoughts on this issue of Every Day with Jesus? What is the main impression that you gained from this study?

A strange ending

 

 

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text (two excerpts) for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 52: 1-5, 27b-34 (NIV-UK): “Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eleven years. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.

Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. …

So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews; in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem; in his twenty-third year, 745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all.

In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honour higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.”

Let’s first start with some of the material that Selwyn has written.

“The book of Jeremiah ends in a slightly unexpected way, with the story of King Zedehiah,” and some details about the fate of Jehoiachin. Yet, there is no mention of Jeremiah.

“I found myself wondering as I came to the end of these meditations: why doesn’t the book end as it began with some reference to Jeremiah? … But then it occurred to me – the book is not so much about Jeremiah as about God’s Word that came to Jeremiah. So this closing chapter is very appropriate, as it shows how events turned out exactly as predicted in God’s Word.

The divine Word has always been fulfilled, is always fulfilled, and will always be fulfilled. Nations come and nations go but God’s Word endures forever. Hold firmly to it!”

A couple of comments; I noticed in the above verses, that the inevitable consequence of constant rebellion against God is the terrifying fact that, in the end, He will thrust unrepentant sinners from His presence.

Yet, how do you warn people about their terminal condition, if they don’t even believe in our holy God’s existence?

The other thing I noticed was the small number of people who were carried into exile – they were truly a small remnant of Judah’s population. And, as we read about the disastrous outcome that fell upon the rebellious people – their fate is even more startling when the fact sinks in – that they were from God’s chosen nation!

How much more, should we, His chosen people, be especially carefully to obey His commands and live by His Word, when we see what happened to His beloved nation?

I’m often amazed about how many people ignore the ‘tough’ words of Jesus in the Gospels; true, some of His harshest words are to be found in His parables, but they still indicate His attitude, for example, Luke 19:26-27, we hear Jesus say: “‘He replied, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.”’

Selwyn is right when he says: “God’s Word endures forever. Hold firmly to it.” In these last days, we should also add – “Don’t water down the truth of His Word to make it easier for the lazy and evil to claim that they honour Jesus, by the way they live.”

Any comments?

A tale of two cities

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 51: 58-64 (NIV-UK): “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Babylon’s thick wall will be levelled and her high gates set on fire; the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing, the nations’ labour is only fuel for the flames.’

This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon – all that had been recorded concerning Babylon.

He said to Seraiah, ‘When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, “Lord, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate for ever.” When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, “So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.”’

The words of Jeremiah end here.”

As we should know, this prophecy has been fulfilled – the city of Babylon has never been rebuilt.

I found this insight by Selwyn to be worth considering: “Someone has described the Bible as ‘a tale of two cities’. It centres on Babylon, the symbol of pride and Jerusalem, the symbol of peace.

Babylon, built on the site of the original tower of Babel, represents the kind of pride and arrogance that comes before God and says: ‘We can get along without You’. Jerusalem, the city of God, is standing today, Babylon may have gone, but its spirit is still with us.

However, as we see in the book of Revelation, one day that spirit of pride will be eradicated from the earth, and the new Jerusalem will be established. We live today in both cities: our physical life is in Babylon, but our hearts are in the New Jerusalem. So which one is uppermost in your life?”

There are many references in the New Testament to the New Jerusalem. In Hebrews 12:22-24a, we find this one: “You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.”

Perhaps, this is the best one, Revelation 21:2-3, I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

It’s a magnificent vision, one, which will be a reality for us – on the last day. Your views?

A message to the nations

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 46: 1-10 (NIV-UK): This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations:

Concerning Egypt: This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the River Euphrates by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: ‘Prepare your shields, both large and small, and march out for battle! Harness the horses, mount the steeds! Take your positions with helmets on! Polish your spears, put on your armour! What do I see? They are terrified, they are retreating, their warriors are defeated. They flee in haste without looking back, and there is terror on every side,’ declares the Lord.

‘The swift cannot flee nor the strong escape. In the north by the River Euphrates they stumble and fall. Who is this that rises like the Nile, like rivers of surging waters? Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers of surging waters. She says, “I will rise and cover the earth; I will destroy cities and their people.”

Charge, you horses! Drive furiously, you charioteers! March on, you warriors – men of Cush and Put who carry shields, men of Lydia who draw the bow. But that day belongs to the Lord, the Lord Almighty; a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes. The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood. For the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will offer sacrifice in the land of the north by the River Euphrates. … ‘

As I’ve been reading the Book of Jeremiah, one of its outstanding characteristics, I’ve found; is the poetry of the language. Even though it’s not in the original Hebrew, the poetic nature of Jeremiah’s writings can be clearly seen. The verses set for today’s reading are a good example.

Selwyn makes a number of good points: “Jeremiah had little opportunity to visit the surrounding nations, so in chapters 46 to 51, we see him preparing oracles or written talks for ten different nations and two nomadic tribes.

God’s primary intention in calling Israel into covenant with Himself was evangelistic. He wanted them to be a shop window through which other nations could look and see life being lived as God originally intended, and blessings that come from serving the true and living God. But as we well know, Israel failed to reflect the divine purposes.”

The same is true for us; those who follow Jesus, in accordance with His new covenant, should be a window through which other people can look and see life being lived as God intended.

In 1 Peter 3:15, we read: “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” That is, we should live our lives in such a way that it demonstrates the assurance we have in our future. Otherwise, what would make a person ask us, about our hope?

In addition, we have Matthew 5:14-16, where we hear Jesus say: You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are not to boast about what we do; but our faithfulness in following our Lord, should be evident to those around us.

Your view?

A boost to Baruch

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 45: 1-5 (NIV-UK): ‘When Baruch son of Neriah wrote on a scroll the words Jeremiah the prophet dictated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah said this to Baruch: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You said, “Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.”

But the Lord has told me to say to you, “This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”’’

Selwyn writes: “This, is the shortest chapter in Jeremiah’s prophecy, is chronologically out of order. It links with the events recorded in chapter 36:1-18. Baruch, you remember, was the scribe who wrote down Jeremiah’s words.

Clearly the scribe is upset. … It appears that Baruch had great hopes for himself and his own ministry, but now all those hopes were dashed. God speaks to him through Jeremiah and takes him to task for his negative thinking; but to sustain him, he is given a promise of personal survival.

This brief chapter is evidence of the fact that God comes to the aid of His servants and reassures them of the divine love and compassion. The heart of God’s message to Baruch is one that we need to hear today: take your eyes off yourself, and think more of the purposes of God for your life than of making a name for yourself. … True greatness in His kingdom is serving Him and others before ourselves (Luke 22:26-27).”

I really enjoyed what Selwyn wrote today – we are always in need of being told what is the real purpose of our life; and, it’s not in pleasing our own human desires. (Except when our desires are aligned with God’s will.)

The prayer for today, is also excellent: “O God, forgive me when I focus in a self-centred way on what I have to give up to serve You. Help me to focus on what I have gained because I know You: real life in this world and eternal life to come. Thank You my Father. Amen.”

Today’s study was really to the point, and I found it to be very relevant for me, at this moment. What did you think of it?

Jeremiah’s last sermon

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation (I’ve posted two excerpts of the whole text.):

Jeremiah 44: 1-8a, 26-28 (NIV-UK): This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in Lower Egypt – in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis – and in Upper Egypt: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: you saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins because of the evil they have done. They aroused my anger by burning incense to and worshipping other gods that neither they nor you nor your ancestors ever knew.

Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, “Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!” But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods. Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.

‘Now this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: why bring such great disaster on yourselves by cutting off from Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant? Why arouse my anger with what your hands have made, burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? …

But hear the word of the Lord, all you Jews living in Egypt: “I swear by my great name,” says the Lord, “that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt shall ever again invoke my name or swear, ‘As surely as the Sovereign Lord lives.’ For I am watching over them for harm, not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand – mine or theirs.

Selwyn wrote the following in today’s study: “This is the last recorded scene in Jeremiah’s life. And it shows him doing what he had done for most of his life – speaking God’s Word to an antagonistic and rebellious people. But these people, like the others of their generation, were unwilling to hear what Jeremiah was saying.

One of the great principles of the Christian life is the further we drift from God, the more confused our thinking becomes and the more likely we are to perpetuate our mistakes.”

In the Old Testament, we read over and over again, God’s pleas to His people to keep their side of the covenant. He also clearly tells them what will happen if they don’t obey His commands. The outstanding component of His warnings, is His prophecy of destruction. Outstanding because, His Word always stood the test of time. [‘Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand – mine or theirs.’]

Given that God’s Word has been proven, right through Scripture, to be always true; you would think that we would listen carefully to what He has to say, especially in the Gospels. Yet, I feel, that this is not always the case; and the same mistake the Israelites made, is constantly repeated by some members of today’s Church.

Doo you agree?

 

Egypt – no refuge

To Follow Jesus

My (Shayne McCusker) notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 43: 1-13 (NIV-UK): “When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God – everything the Lord had sent him to tell them – Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, “You must not go to Egypt to settle there.” But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so that they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon.’

So Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers and all the people disobeyed the Lord’s command to stay in the land of Judah. Instead, Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers led away all the remnant of Judah who had come back to live in the land of Judah from all the nations where they had been scattered. They also led away all those whom Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan – the men, the women, the children and the king’s daughters. And they took Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah along with them. So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord and went as far as Tahpanhes.

In Tahpanhes the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘While the Jews are watching, take some large stones with you and bury them in clay in the brick pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Then say to them, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them.

He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword. He will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn their temples and take their gods captive. As a shepherd picks his garment clean of lice, so he will pick Egypt clean and depart. There in the temple of the sun in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.”’

This bit was the key part for me in today’s study: “When Jeremiah arrived in Egypt his first action was to bury some paving stones at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace and announce that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, would one day set up his throne on the stones that he, Jeremiah, had buried. He did, in 568-567 BC. So much for the great empire on which Johanan and his companions had pledged their hopes.

It is an object lesson for us. The things or people we trust may seem strong, but if they are not chosen by God they will end up letting us down. It’s sad, but so often true.”

In our time, people trust in science and the ability of the human intellect to provide answers to all of life’s problems. Yet, the world is in turmoil; and there are great differences in power and resources between the very rich and the poor. The best of human endeavours have failed to address the basic problems of poverty and sickness.

Yet, we the truth before us; love God and obey His commandments – stand on His firm ground – and we will share His peace and joy, for eternity.

Your view?

[The language used in Scripture is sometimes very graphic; I think this is a great example; ‘As a shepherd picks his garment clean of lice, so he will pick Egypt clean and depart.’