Recovering hope

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 29:1-14 (day one) 
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to give you hope and a future.” (v 11) We call it recovery.  Life destroyed by addiction–drugs, alcohol, porn–and brave, broken people turn to face the pain and regret and find a way to start over.  Are there rules for doing so?  Does God have a word for us when we “hit bottom”?  Yes!  Help came to the people of Judah in the form of a letter.  They had been conquered and captured and carried away into exile, but Jeremiah was not letting go!  He became the voice of hope for recovery.  Psalm 118:18 says, “The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”  Jeremiah speaks this same balanced view.  Consequences do come.  Painful.  Real.  Mercy is even higher.  May the Lord give us grace this week as we read these hopeful words and communicate them to others.


Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (Day Seven)
“PERHAPS when the people of Judah hear about the disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness.”  (v 3)  A very hopeful word.  Hope full.  Made possible by the mind and mercy of God.  Even when judgment is decided, even when past experience suggests futility,  God allows the possibility that people will turn away from sin.  Perhaps if Jeremiah wrote the prophesies on a scroll, if the people could be reminded again by the rereading.  We see the same patience of God in our day.  “The Lord is not slow about His promise. . .but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)  So, no guarantee that your friend would listen if you tried again to talk of faith.  No certainty that he would accept an invitation to Bible study.  But, perhaps!


Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (Day Six)
“So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch. . .and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire.”  (v 32)  I like Jeremiah.  Respect him for his tenacity.  Even with the Lord’s warning that he would be ignored (chapter 1) it still must have been difficult for this very sensitive man to press through the disappointments so regularly and ruthlessly hurled his direction.  He was, however, undiscouraged.  (In his choices and obedience, if not his emotions.) When they ignored his preaching, he wrote the message on a scroll.  When he was restricted from the temple, he sent Baruch to read the words.  When the King burned the scroll, he patiently and resolutely produced a second copy.  What does it take to discourage you, friend?  Do disappointments cause you to cease your service or look for an easier path?

The Word of the Lord

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (Day Five)
How many times have we read “The Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah (me)” so far in this book of the bible?  My calculations are 26.  What great comfort it must have been to Jeremiah for the Lord to continually guide and shape His thoughts, ministry, and message.  How clearly, during these moments of chapter 36, he must have understood where the real strength and power of “The Word of the Lord” resides.

“The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. ‘The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.’ The life is in the speaking words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful.- A.W. Tozer

The Word

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (Day Four)
Even in today’s world, the thought is often the same…if we just take away the Bible, the people will not hear about Jesus.  Jeremiah was obedient to write down every word that God had told him concerning Judah.  He dictated the Word to Baruch who faithfully wrote them on the scroll.  The hope was that when the people of Judah heard the words, they would repent and turn from their sinful ways.  When the words were read, there were some that were moved by them…they were in fear (v. 16).  It was the leader, the King, who must respond in repentance in order to lead the nation.  King Jehoiakim thought he could eliminate the message of the scroll by just destroying the scroll.  What he would learn was that the Word of God is not dependent upon the paper it is written on.  The power is in the Word itself.  The places in today’s world where the Word is spreading quickest are the places where it is illegal to own a Bible.  The power is in the Word!


Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (Day Three) 
“When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear.”  When people do not fear God, there is no terror that cannot be carried out by the mind of man.  Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, someone who knew a thing or two about terror, said, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”  The fear of God is not a life lived in terror of the Deity.  Rather, it is a life lived under the righteous frown of the One who will call us to account for every terror that comes from within us.  If we will fear God, we will be careful with those whom he has created.

Word of God, Across the Ages

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (day two)
The power of the written Word has always been a great strength of our faith.  In this chapter we read of the Lord commanding Jeremiah to write it all down.  The Lord knew that these words would have great impact on those who read them, then and now.  The prophet Isaiah writes: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:11)  It is troubling then to read of the king’s reaction upon hearing the scroll read back to him.  Ultimately, however, whose name do you know better the Prophet Jeremiah who was obedient to the Lord, or King Jehoiakim the irreverent man who burned the scrolls?  God’s Word is a powerful tool.  Perhaps this is also a motivation to use to continue to write down the things the Lord speaks to us.  We may never share them as the prophets or apostles did, but we can gain strength from re-reading how God continues to speak into our lives.

Different responses to the Word of God

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 36 (day one)
Two different men. Two very different hearts.    2 Kings tells the day that the Law was read to King Josiah.  He torn his clothes as a symbol of grief.  He commanded his servants to inquire of the Lord for the possibility of mercy.  “Because great is the wrath of the Lord against us because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book.”  (2 Kings 22:13)  A different response from Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 36.  As his servants read him the same words (the words that he and his nation had systematically ignored) Jehoiakim took a knife and sliced away columns of writing that he then placed in the fire for burning.  “The king and all his attendants who heard these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.”  (v 24)  “This is the man to whom I will look, to him who is humble and contrite, who trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)  God help us!

Does God punish?

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 11:18-23; 12:1-6; 17:14-18; 20:7-18 (day seven) 
“Behold, I am about to punish them!  The young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters will die by famine.”  (11:22)  It is an idea often denied in this permissive generation.  We do not imagine a God who punishes people for their moral choices.  We doubt or deny the certainty of consequences, either positive and negative.  Gradually the conviction has eroded away that 1) there is a God, 2) He is morally good, 3) He holds people responsible for their choices. It is not a new problem.  People in Jeremiah’s day said, “He will not see our latter end.”  (12:4)  Like moderns, they imagined a morally absent and generally tolerant God.  One who did not judge behavior nor shape outcomes.  Jeremiah warns them to turn from such thinking.  They refuse and miss the offered mercy.  “Vengeance is mine, I WILL repay”, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19) What do you believe, friend?  What have you taught your children?

Prayers for justice

Re: Verse reading – Jeremiah 11:18-23; 12:1-6; 17:14-18; 20:7-18 (day six) 
“O Lord Almighty. . .let me see your vengeance upon them.”  (11:20)  Jeremiah is not alone.  The Bible records MANY prayers for the wicked to be brought to justice, made to experience the vengeance of God. Revelation 6:9-10 is another example.  “I saw the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and they cried out, ‘How long , O Lord. . .will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood?’ ”  To reconcile these prayers with the prayer of Christ on the cross (“Father, forgive them”) various approaches have been employed.  Perhaps the best is to remember that justice is a permanent part of God’s character and righteousness.  His anger toward all who are unholy is not unholy.  It is not wrong for his people to pray for judgment to come.  Higher still for us to pray for mercy which comes through repentance and faith.  One prayer is good.  The other is even better.