Day 165: Two Prayers

Jeremiah 13-15; John 17

Key Verses

Jeremiah 14:20-21
We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,
and the iniquity of our fathers,
for we have sinned against you.
Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
do not dishonor your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.

John 14:3
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

In today’s reading, Jeremiah continues to faithfully preach God’s words to Judah. He warned them of Babylon’s invasion (chapter 13) and he described the drought that would ensue (chapter 14). Then God, knowing Jeremiah’s compassionate heart, told him not to pray:

The Lord said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:11-12).

Jeremiah was devastated.

Have you utterly rejected Judah?
Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
so that there is no healing for us? (Jeremiah 14:19)

Jeremiah prayed for the people anyway! He repented on behalf of the nation. He asked God to remember His covenant. Just as Moses and Samuel had interceded for the people, Jeremiah asked God to save the people for His name’s sake (Jer. 14:20-21). But God would not relent. His mind was set on judgment. It was the only way to bring true repentance from his people.

Then Jeremiah’s life went from bad to worse. The people of Judah began to treat him as a debtor and his life was in danger (Jer. 15:10). Jeremiah cried out to God, accusing Him of abandoning him just as He had abandoned Judah. But God would not be accused of wrongdoing! He condescended to Jeremiah and assured him…

I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,
declares the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless (Jeremiah 16:20-21).

God would not cast off His faithful. We learn from Jesus’ high priestly prayer that God is passionate about the lives of his disciples. He keeps them, He guards them, He sanctifies them, and most of all He loves them.

As we read Jesus’ prayer in John 17 – we can have confidence that, unlike Jeremiah’s prayer for Judah, God listened to Jesus’ prayer for us. We are his children, and He keeps us, He sanctifies us, and most of all, He loves us!

Day 164: Hope and Assurance

Jeremiah 11-12; John 16

Key Verses

Jeremiah 12:1-2
Righteous are you, O Lord,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart.

John 16:33
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jeremiah begins Chapter 11 with more of God’s complaints against Judah. They have broken his Covenant – the Covenant he made with His people after he rescued them from Egypt. After the law was given and the people were about to enter into the promised land, Moses reminded them of the Covenant. Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. Even after Judah watched Israel fall – they still did not heed Jeremiah’s warning that the curses of Deuteronomy 28 were soon to fall upon them as well.

The people of Judah hated Jeremiah’s message, and men from Jeremiah’s hometown conspired to kill him but the Omniscient God warned Jeremiah and vowed to protect His word and His prophet (Jer. 11:19-23).

We find Jesus, in the beginning of John 16, also warning of trouble to come. He warned his disciples that they will suffer persecution. It would seem that walking in obedience is not an easy road!

I think we can resonate with Jeremiah when he complains to God in the beginning of Chapter 12 that it doesn’t seem fair when the evil ones prosper in this world. Jeremiah asks, “How Long?” How long before we see justice? How long before you make things right? How Long?

God rebukes Jeremiah and warns that things will get worse before they get better – but God’s final word is never one of wrath for His covenant people. He promises in 12:14-15 that after his people are scattered – he will pluck them up and have compassion on them.

This was Jeremiah’s hope. But we have a hope that Jeremiah wouldn’t see in his lifetime. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples about a joy that would come after sorrow  (John 16:16-22) – they didn’t understand that he was speaking of his death and resurrection. But we know. We know the joy of his resurrection and the hope of his return. We have the Helper to guide us into all truth and give us the strength to persevere through the sorrows of this world.

Day 163: Abiding in the True Vine

Jeremiah 9-10; John 15

Key Verses

Jeremiah 9:23-24
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

John 15:1-2
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

The Old Testament uses the vineyard or vine as a symbol for Israel – especially in the book of Isaiah.

In today’s passage from John, Jesus begins chapter 15 by saying that He is the True Vine. In other words, Jesus is the True Israel. Isaiah 5 describes God as the Vinedresser – planting his vineyard and hoping to yield grapes…

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines […]

What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:1b-2a, 4)

Israel was a vine which yielded wild fruit. We know from our readings in Jeremiah that Israel was an apostate people – whoring after other gods and ignoring the warnings of invasion.

John contrasts the fruitlessness of Israel with the fruitfulness that comes from abiding in Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

Abiding is a mysterious and difficult concept. It involves consistent seeking, repenting, praying and obeying. It is a dependence on Jesus for everyday living. Jesus says that abiding is mutual, “abide in me and I in you.” It is the partial fulfilling of the promise made throughout the Old Testament, that God will dwell with his people. As we abide in Christ and He in us, He makes his dwelling in us. This promise will find its ultimate fulfillment in the new earth as He will make his dwelling place with man. In other words, today, He dwells in us through the Spirit, but in the new earth – we will see Him face to face. Oh Lord, hasten the day…

Day 162: Saved from the Last Day

Jeremiah 7-8; John 14

Key Verses

Jeremiah 8:18-19
My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

John 14:26-27
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah grieves over the hard-heartedness of his people.

In the New Testament, the disciples worry when Jesus says he’s going away. Thomas and Philip quiz Jesus. They ask him to show them where He is going. They just don’t understand.

In the Old Testament, God berates the people for worshipping in the temple with hearts void of devotion.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? (Jeremiah 7:9-10)

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches the disciples that obedience is evidence of devotion to the Father:

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21).

In the Old Testament, God promises Judgment: Utter destruction of Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, Jesus prepares to receive the Judgment.

We are no better than the people of Jeremiah’s day. Look no further than Jesus’ crucifixion for evidence that we also deserve Judgement.

One difference is that we have the Helper (John 14:26), the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in us and convicts us of the Truth and empowers us to repent. We still have the choice to obey or disobey – but the Spirit also works to sanctify our character so that we are better able to obey.

There will be another Judgment. The Final Judgment on the Last Day. A far greater Judgment than Jeremiah wept over in the final verses of Chapter 8… And here’s the truth, I deserve that Judgment. Yet, because of the gracious, loving-kindness of God – He poured out judgment on His Son instead of me. I don’t understand that kind of love, but I’m grateful for it.

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

-2nd verse from “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townend

How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

Day 161: Motivated by Love

Jeremiah 5-6; John 13:21-38

Key Verses

Jeremiah 5:1
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jeremiah 5-6 concludes a series of sermons Jeremiah probably gave during Josiah’s reign (3:6). Chapter 5 opens with God asking Jeremiah to find one man who does justice – one man who seeks truth – so that He might pardon him. And Jeremiah can’t. The people are so absolutely corrupt that not one person could be found. God laments…

How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this? (Jeremiah 5:7-9).

God desires to pardon his people – but what good would that serve? When he blesses them, they despise him. Even in judgment, there is grace, for God could never utterly destroy his people. God says twice in these chapters that he would destroy but “not make a full end” (5:10; 18). He will preserve a remnant. A remnant of people from whom the Promised One would come.

The Promised One… Jesus, betrayed by his own disciple. Jesus, abandoned by his closest friends in his darkest hour. Jesus, taking the punishment for our apostate selves, accomplished what Israel could not – perfect obedience motivated by love for the Father.

Not motivated by duty, or self-preservation – but by love.

God sent Babylon to destroy Judah because he loved them. God sent his only son to die on our behalf because he loves us. Even Jeremiah was motivated by love – love for God and love for his brethren.

Jesus – in the face of betrayal – gave his disciples a “new” commandment – a commandment to love as Christ has loved.

How does Jesus love us? Not in a sweet, sentimental way – but in a sacrificial – other seeking – sort of way. This is the sort of love God calls us to. This was the sort of love Jeremiah was called to. And even though we are not called to be prophets as Jeremiah was, we are called to love our neighbor sacrificially… so the world will see – that the world might be saved!

…Now if I could only practice what I write! Lord, help me to love others as you love me. Please pry my eyes off of myself and help me see the broken and lost – and give me compassion – and the grace to love them well.

Day 160: A Humble King

Jeremiah 3-4; John 13:1-20

Key Verses

Jeremiah 3:12-13
“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the Lord your God.'”

John 13:3-5
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Servitude. Is that a characteristic you would expect from God? This is the same God that spoke the world into existence. Are we to expect the mighty, sovereign, all-powerful God to be a servant?

According to traditional Jewish teachings, Jesus, the Messiah, was not supposed to come into the world to wash people’s feet and then die. No. That was a servant’s job. That was a criminal’s job. That was not the Messiah’s job.

But was it? The people didn’t understand this crucial part of God’s character… humble servitude.

What motivated Jesus to wash the dusty feet of his disciples? Humility. It was also humility that motivated God to condescend to the stiff-necked Israelites. In today’s passage from Jeremiah, most of Chapter 3 was God’s invitation to exiled Israel to repent and be forgiven. After all of the Baal worship, child sacrifice, and faithless living, God was still willing to forgive the penitent heart. We do not serve a Haughty God. No! We serve a Humble King.

Where is their room for pride in the presence of this God? His sheer power should cause us to tremble in fear. But his humility causes us to wonder – and to repent – and… to worship.

Humble King

Day 159: The Final Prophet

Jeremiah 1-2; John 12:20-50

Key Verses

Jeremiah 1:18-19
“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

John 12:23-25
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

We begin Jeremiah today and will spend the next 23 days in this book, the longest book in the Bible!

Jeremiah prophesied during the most tumultuous period of Judah’s history. He began his ministry halfway through the reign of Judah’s last good king, Josiah. Jeremiah continued prophesying through the reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. These last evil kings of Judah looked to Egypt and Assyria to save them from the dominant Babylon. We know from our readings from 2 Kings, that God gave them over to the Babylonians as his judgment for their apostasy. Jeremiah was God’s mouthpiece during this grievous period.

We read of Jeremiah’s calling in Chapter 1… God’s sovereignty is center stage as he tells Jeremiah in vs. 5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Consider the weight of Jeremiah’s calling. He was to preach against sin to a hard-hearted people. He was to warn of the impending judgment. And mixed throughout the prophecies of judgment, were promises of hope and renewal.

In his role as a prophet, Jeremiah was a precursor to Christ.

In John 12, Jesus was not delivering messages of judgment – but preparing to receive the judgment on our behalf…a judgment so great that he asked to be saved from it…

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? (John 12:27)

He endured the cross willingly for our sake! He rescues us from the judgment of the last day. His great love compels us toward obedience, and He is our hope and source of renewal! He is the Final Prophet – setting us free from the power of sin and death!

Day 158: Restoring and Redeeming

Lamentations 3-5; John 12:1-19

Key Verses

Lamentations 3:24-25
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

John 12:12-13
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Lamentations 3 is a poem whose main character has suffered greatly. Listen to some of the words he uses to describe his afflictions…
“rod of his wrath, darkness, broken bones, besieged, bitterness, walled me in, heavy chains, shuts out my prayer, cower in ashes…”

He attributes his suffering and afflictions to God. He names God as his judge. And then he says this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

How in the world could a man who has suffered so grievously under the hand of God speak of his mercies and steadfast love?

These are probably the most well-known verses in Lamentations. But rarely do we consider the context. Just before these verses, the man speaks of the humility of his heart. His soul is “bowed down.” The suffering has changed his heart. He is humble and penitent. There was a purpose for the pain.

Also, through his changed heart, he is able to understand and trust more deeply in God’s Covenant promises. Listen to what he writes later in the chapter:

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:31-33).

This man is encouraging the suffering exiles of Judah to remember God’s Covenant promises. God has only punished the people because his patience did not result in repentance. As suffering works in their hearts to produce repentance and humble dependence upon their God, God will both restore and redeem the nation!

We see the Eternal King of this nation in today’s New Testament reading… riding into the restored Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. He, too, would suffer – giving his life to redeem His people. And He too would rise to say…

His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning!

Somehow the man depicted in the poem of Lamentations 3 found a way to remember both the pain of suffering and God’s faithfulness. We must trust that God has a purpose for our pain… His purposes involve restoring and redeeming!

Day 157: God’s Good Plans

Lamentations 1-2; John 11:45-57

Key Verses

Lamentations 1:16
“For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my spirit;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.”

John 11:57
Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Lamentations is an anonymous eyewitness account of the fall of Jerusalem. It is also a masterpiece of Hebrew literature.

The first two chapters have 22 three-lined stanzas forming two acrostic poems. Each stanza begins with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet – 22 letters in all.

The historical record is made personal by the imagery in Lamentations. The author’s lament is a poignant addition to the account in 2 Kings…

My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babies faint
in the streets of the city (Lamentations 2:11).

Meanwhile, we read in John of the Pharisee’s plot to kill Jesus. Both Old and New Testament readings are dark and seem void of hope, but even in the darkest of hours… God is sovereign. His sovereignty gives us hope in our darkest moments – that God’s plans are restoration plans… God’s plans are resurrection plans… God’s plans are good plans!

Day 156: From death to life

2 Kings 24-25; John 11:18-44

Key Verses

2 Kings 24:11-13
And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold.

John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Today we read of the death of Judah. We read of the siege, the hunger that ensured, the slaughter and the exile. We read of the burning of the Temple and the lists of all of the temple furnishings carried away by the Babylonians to be sold as scrap metal.

It was all destroyed… The city of David, Solomon’s Temple – Jerusalem in all its glory was abandoned and smoldering. Would there ever be hope again? All that remained was grief and the hell of living in exile.

What happened to the promise to David made back in 2 Samuel 7:16, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” Did God break his promise?

We know the answer. The author of 2 Kings ends the book with a glimmer of hope – the news that King Jehoiachin still lived – and within him lived the seed of David – the seed of the Promised One – the seed of Jesus.

Jesus came and taught us that the way to life is through death. This is the way of the Kingdom of God… “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). This is God’s work – to defeat the power of sin and to bring life out of death.

Even in Jerusalem’s darkest hour – as she smoldered and sat desolate – there was hope. For “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Psalm 113:7).

Jesus, showed his power over death as he raised Lazarus from the grave. He asks us the same question he asked of Lazarus’ sister, Martha…

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Keeping up with the Kings

  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat), Ahaziah (killed by Jehu), Queen Athaliah, Jehoash (only surviving son of Ahaziah: good), Amaziah (good), Azariah (Uzziah, good), Jotham (good), Ahaz, Hezekiah (good), Manasseh, Amon, Josiah (good), Jehoahaz, Eliakim/Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea