Day 176: Opposition, pt. 1

Jeremiah 40-41; Acts 4:1-22

Key Verses

Jeremiah 40:12
then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance.

Acts 4:11-12
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”

As Jeremiah watched Jerusalem fall and was marching as an exile to Babylon, he was given a reprieve – the opportunity to return to his beloved Jerusalem and be protected by the Babylonian-appointed governor, Gedalia.

Life was good for the remaining Judeans under Gedalia’s leadership. The small remnant was allowed to sow the many fields that were abandoned. They gathered in “great abundance” (Jer. 40:12).

But there was an uprising of those from the royal line of Judah that would not accept God’s plan for welfare. They opposed God’s will and murdered the Babylonian governor, Gedalia.

Why? Why do we have to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting in the ways of God? We’ll read tomorrow that this initial opposition was the catalyst for the complete destruction of the small remnant in Judah.

Peter and John also faced opposition in today’s reading from Acts. Once again, the opposition comes from the Jewish elite, the ruling leaders of the Jewish council. They questioned Peter and John concerning the healing of the lame beggar… “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

This was the same ruling council that conspired to kill Jesus, had him arrested, and held clandestine night trials – convicting Jesus to death. These men were certainly not sympathetic to the new Christian cause!

But this did not deter Peter from boldly proclaiming the truth!

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well” (Acts 4:8-10).

Wow. Peter was bold. The council warned them not to preach or teach at all in the name of Jesus. How would Peter and John react in the face of such opposition? We’ll read tomorrow that they would turn toward God instead of oppose God as the small remnant of Judeans did.

God’s ways are always best, and typically, amazing things happen when you follow God despite opposition… But we’ll read more about that tomorrow :)

Day 170: Power to Break the Yoke

Jeremiah 27-29; John 20

Key Verses

Jeremiah 29:11-12
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

John 20:18
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

God often commanded his prophets to be living “word pictures” to his people. In Jeremiah 27:2, God told Jeremiah to: “Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck.” Jeremiah wore the wooden yoke as a sign to the people that they would endure the yoke of slavery under Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

We have a yoke as well. Our yoke is spiritual – the yoke of sin – which leads to death.

Some time later, Hananiah the prophet broke Jeremiah’s yoke and declared the people free from the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Hananiah was a false prophet and had no power over the yoke of slavery.

In John 20, we see the Only One who has the power to break the yoke of slavery. He appears first to Mary, and then to the twelve. He has broken the heavy yoke of sin and death and given us a new yoke…one that is easy and light.

Jeremiah, in Chapter 29, sends a message from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon. He takes away any hope that their stay will be short. Seventy years – the people would be in Babylon – and Jeremiah encouraged them to settle down and seek the welfare of the city.

But Jeremiah also gives a message of hope to the exiles – a message that is relevant to us today, as we too are spiritual exiles living in a foreign land. He reminds the people in Jeremiah 29:11-12 of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love in the loving promise of a “future and a hope.”

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we, too, have a future and a hope. He has rescued us from the yoke of slavery. He has plans for us, and these plans are good…He is our hope!

Day 169: …that I may relent

Jeremiah 24-26; John 19:23-42

Key Verses

Jeremiah 26:3
“It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent.”

John 19:30
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

What a heavy passage. This is the fourth time I’ve had to write about Jesus’ death. I think John’s account is the saddest to me because John wrote as an eyewitness. He was the only disciple – that we know for certain – who was there, watching as Jesus died.

John’s description of Jesus’ mother standing by her son’s cross – it’s just heartbreaking. And Jesus’ care for his mother as he entrusts her to John is heart-wrenching.

John sprinkles evidence throughout his eyewitness account that everything happened according to Scripture…the division of Jesus’ garments, the soldiers casting lots, the offering of vinegar, the unbroken bones and the piercing of His side… they were all done in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

Jeremiah 24-26 goes backward in time… he begins with Nebuchadnezzar taking one of the first groups of exiles back to Babylon. And then in Chapter 26, Jeremiah “flashbacks” to the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign where he stands in the temple and begs the people to repent so that God’s impending judgment might be averted. Listen to the people’s response…

And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

At first, it seems like Jeremiah might be killed by the same type of angry mob as Jesus was… But by God’s grace, the people came to their senses and determined not to kill Jeremiah – so that they might not “bring great disaster upon themselves.”

What is this world that we live in?

Have you ever wondered why God subjected Jeremiah to such hardship? Why did God even bother with the people??? God answers in Jeremiah 26:3, “It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent…”

All God wants is repentance. But the people refused to hear the truth. Their pride blinded them to their need for change.

Jesus died because of this pride – this hatred in every human heart for the truth. But Jesus also died to vanquish this pride and darkness found in every human heart.

Have you ever wondered why God subjected Jesus to such hardship? Why does God even bother with us??? God’s answer is the same as it was in Jer. 26:3:

“It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent.”

Day 167: Hope in a Broken Flask

Jeremiah 19-20; John 18

Key Verses

Jeremiah 20:11
But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.

John 18:12
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.

Picture the scene… Jeremiah acquires a clay vessel, a flask of some kind, and assembles all of Jerusalem’s civic and religious leaders to meet him at… the dumping ground. It would be like an unpopular preacher asking the mayor to meet him at the dump! And what was Jeremiah’s message? He holds up his flask and breaks it – and says that Jerusalem will be reduced to pieces and thrown away – like the piles of broken vessels that surrounded them. Great message, eh?

Hidden in the message of brokenness is a message of hope. For Israel points forward to Jesus. Yes, Israel would be broken – but only to bring forth repentance and restoration. Jesus is the true Israel. And he was broken for our sakes…

We also read of Jeremiah’s brokenness in Jeremiah 20. He was broken by his circumstances as he was captured and beaten. We read of his sorrow and anguish as he doubts his call and he doubts his God. Jeremiah’s struggle is but a whisper compared to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane – as the synoptic gospels say he prayed so fervently that blood dripped from his brow.

In today’s reading, we see the results of those prayers as Jesus stands – strong and sovereign – in the face of arrest. The soldiers can only approach him when He allows it. Even throughout Jesus’ multiple trials, He seems calm and determined. His purpose was to die, His purpose was to be broken.

Just as Jeremiah broke the flask, and Jerusalem was destroyed – so would Jesus be broken and destroyed so that we might be repent and be restored! There is hope in a broken flask. There is hope in Jesus!

Day 166: Clay in the Potter’s hand

Jeremiah 16-18

Key Verses

Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Yesterday, we read of Jeremiah’s complaint to God as the people of Judah sought to ruin his life and his message. God instructed Jeremiah, “If you return, I will restore you” (Jer. 15:19).  Jeremiah had a choice to make…side with God or side with the people? We learn from today’s reading that Jeremiah chose to side with God (Jer. 16:19).

Jeremiah’s proclamation of faith in the midst of turmoil gives him the strength to persevere and continue to obey God’s calling. Listen to his cry of faith…

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 (Jeremiah 17:14-17).

Jeremiah’s life was extremely difficult. Who could stand under such fierce and relentless opposition? On every side, people were seeking to kill him. God was truly his only refuge. And God proved himself faithful to Jeremiah.

Have you noticed the messages of hope sprinkled throughout the warnings of judgment? God promised to restore Israel in Jer. 16:15, and in Chapter 18, God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house. Here God reminded both Judah and Jeremiah that He is the Potter, and He can take a spoiled vessel and rework it to make it whole again. The Potter’s job is not to destroy, but to create. Sometimes, when a vessel is spoiled, the only way to make it whole is to tear it down and rebuild it. This is the picture of Judah. In the short-term, it is a message of destruction, but long-term, it is a message of restoration!

Jeremiah’s personal journey of faith mirrors this restoration story of God’s people. He is the potter. We are the clay – and as we surrender to the Potter’s hand, He reworks our spoiled, sinful hearts and He makes us whole!

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 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 123: David’s Eternal Throne

2 Samuel 23-24; Luke 21:1-19

Key Verses

Luke 21:5-6
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

2 Samuel 23:5
“For does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.”

2 Samuel ends in today’s reading. Chapter 23 begins with “David’s last words,” a poem reaffirming the Davidic covenant, the promise that his throne would be established forever.

The book ends with David purchasing the threshing floor on which the temple would one day be built…

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (2 Samuel 24:24-25).

Fast forward to today’s reading in Luke – and there we find Jesus – in the temple – teaching the values of the Kingdom.

Jesus is the son of David standing in the city of David in the temple that was rebuilt on the very site that David sacrificed to the Lord. How amazing is that?

And what was Jesus teaching? That the temple would be destroyed. Consider this… What was the purpose of the temple? The temple was where the priests led the people in worship through the sacrificial system. And the temple was where the presence of God dwelled.

Can you see how Jesus’ final sacrifice and resurrection made the need for the temple obsolete? Do you think David could have imagined the future? The splendor of Solomon’s temple being destroyed and rebuilt and then desecrated by the moneychangers of Jesus’ day and then ultimately, David’s heir would sit on the eternal throne and because of His suffering and atoning death – open the way to the Holy of Holies to all people from all nations?

Never could David have imagined anything so terrible and wonderful! And neither can we imagine the wonder of the end of the age when Jesus will come again and make all things new!!! There will be no sun, for his glory will give light to the world. There will be no temple because the dwelling place of God will be with man. There will be one King – who will reign in peace forever!

Yes, David’s throne is established forever… in Jesus!!!!

Day 121: An Eternal Hope

2 Samuel 19-20; Luke 20:27-47

Key Verses

2 Samuel 19:1-4
It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

The bible is definitely not escape literature! On the contrary, it painstakingly characterizes the dark and light of real life… 2 Samuel is real life at its grittiest. We see David go from valiant to broken and his kingdom go from strong to divided. Today’s reading starts with an undercurrent of rivalry between Israel (the northern tribes) and Judah to the south… and ends with the gory details of Joab murdering Amasa.

This is the world we live in. A world filled with terrorist bombers and extreme poverty. A world where governments murder refugees and starvation abounds. It’s ugly. The bible doesn’t ignore the harsh reality of life in this world.

But in the midst of the ugliness, Jesus offers hope.

Today’s reading from Luke 20 finds Jesus in the middle of Passion Week. The religious leaders are trying to trap him into incriminating himself. They think they are so clever, but it’s impossible to outwit Jesus! And right in the middle of Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees is a nugget of hope!

Jesus teaches that the Patriarchs of the faith – Abraham, Isaac, and David – are not dead – but alive with God, “for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:36).

This world is not our final destination! Just like Abraham, Isaac, and David, we are bound for resurrection after death – so that we might live in the new heaven and the new earth in perfect communion with God.

In other words, we need an eternal perspective to persevere through the mire of this life. Our eyes must be focused on the future – where there will be no more pain and no more sorrow and no more death… only life eternal that will never be marred by sin!

Day 120: Our Only Hope

2 Samuel 17-18; Psalm 63

Key Verses

Psalm 63:1
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you.

Psalm 63:6-8
…when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

There are times in life when it is so hard and the pain is so overwhelming, that God is the only sure hope in your life. When David wrote Psalm 63, he needed relief from the relentlessness of his circumstances. Many scholars believe he wrote this Psalm in the midst of fleeing from Absalom. Whether or not this is the case, Psalm 63 depicts a desperateness that would have characterized David during this time in his life.

These chapters in 2 Samuel illustrate God’s gracious provision for David. David was so broken that he truly did not have the means to help himself. God provided a spy network of faithful allies to warn David of Absalom’s plans. And God strengthened David’s army’s resolve to protect him from being killed in battle. Even Joab, David’s commander, understood better than David, the threat that Absalom posed and killed Absalom in spite of David’s fatherly wishes.

Do you see David’s complete brokenness? I sense that he knows that his sin has caused all of this turmoil – and the weight of the burden has become too much. David’s grief at the end of Chapter 18 is magnified by the unresolved nature of his relationship with Absalom. David had no chance to make things right with his son. The regret is all-consuming.

Even in such dark and difficult circumstances, we have a hope to which we can cling. David knew this Hope and I believe this Hope carried him through his darkest nights.