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?

Standing for justice

To Follow Jesus

My 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 38: 1-13 (NIV-UK): (Jeremiah thrown into a cistern.) “Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.” And this is what the Lord says: “This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.”’

Then the officials said to the king, ‘This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.’ ‘He is in your hands,’ King Zedekiah answered. ‘The king can do nothing to oppose you.’

So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, ‘My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.’

Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.’ So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace.

He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, ‘Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.’ Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.”

I think this episode in Jeremiah’s life must have been one of the lowest points of his ministry, in terms of the obvious isolation and desperation he must have felt, when he was put in a cistern and he sunk deep down into the mud.

Perhaps, it is in this type of situation, when it appears that there’s no human help available and we are left to face the darkness and cold alone, that we turn child-like to our Father. It is, at this point, when all we have left is our trust in the dependable and solid love of God, that we experience true freedom and an incomprehensible joy (even when we are knee deep in the muddy problems of life).

Selwyn tells us: ‘One of the officials, Edeb-Melech, an Ethiopian, hears of Jeremiah’s plight and pleads with the king to let him save Jeremiah. … I think it is safe to say that Ebed-Melech feared God more than man. He alone among all the palace officials stood against the murder plot.

It is noteworthy, that because of this he was spared when Jerusalem fell. (Jeremiah 39:17-18): ” … I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.”

How many have the courage to speak up when we see injustice being done? Do we slink into the shadows or do we stand up for God and for justice?’

We can also see from the above verses that the king was fairly weak in exercising his authority, if it meant that he was going against popular opinion. As we hear the king say: ‘The king can do nothing to oppose you.’ And, in tomorrow’s study, we will again see that king Zedekiah lacked moral strength.

I think that this type of situation is common in the western world; political leaders show strength when their actions are aligned with popular opinion, however, they often fail to do the right thing, if the majority voice opposition.

Sadly, some church leaders misuse 1 Peter 2:13, ‘Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.’ This verse does not mean that we submit to human authority and do nothing when that authority clearly fails to deliver justice for all.

We should be like Edeb-Melech, who went to his king and pleaded for the reversal of a royal decision, because it was the right thing to do (in God’s eyes). His action was later vindicated, when God saved him from death because of his trust.

The Jews, at the time of Jesus, had instituted a lot of laws to do with sacrifices, purity and vows, which were upheld by the human authorities at that time. Look at Mark 7:1-13). Yet, Jesus voices his criticism of those laws, and indirectly, the authorities who enacted these laws. We should do the same, if the same conditions apply.

In general, we should submit to human authorities; however, this does not mean we should say or do nothing, when these authorities go against God’s commandments. All these issues must be taken to Jesus, in prayer, in order to seek His assistance to discern, when it is the right time to petition those in authority to repeal unjust laws or policies.

Your view?

God’s absolute justice

I really like these verses taken from those set, for reading and meditation,1 Peter 2:11-12, 21-25, NLT: “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners (of this world)” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. …

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered.

He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.”

One reason why these verses stand out for me – is that I’ve come across these same verses, in a number of different ways, over the last few weeks – perhaps I’m being told something and just a little slow in discerning what that is. 🙂

Another reason, why these verses are so good; they tell us that we are not the natives of this world; we are ‘aliens and strangers’, and we are called to abstain from sinful desires. Some people may say – to justify their sinful ways – ‘this is the way God created me’. God did not create anyone to live a life of sin – He died, so that you could be free from the bondage of sin and death. Sin, is that serious – our God died on a cross – to free us from its chains.

Yet, another reason – while saved from our sins, we are reminded that we must not continue in our old sinful ways – we are called, to be good. We must continually strive to obey Jesus’ commandments  – to love, as He does.

Finally, these verses also support Selwyn’s conclusion: “When we get hurt, our natural (and sinful) reaction is to hurt the one who has hurt us. We cry out for justice – ‘I have been hurt, now let the one who hurt me, be hurt too.’ That is the only perspective our ‘human’ nature knows. Christ’s attitude, however, was to transfer the whole matter into the hands of God and trust Himself and everything to Him who judges fairly. … God’s absolute justice heals wounded spirits (and hearts).

On that final day, perfect absolute justice will be delivered; all those who have caused suffering, in the public eye – or behind closed doors, will answer for their actions – before the throne of the one, true and just God. Those, who are His children – trust in His absolute justice!

Any comments?