Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

Category: Bible (Page 1 of 74)

Watch Over Them For Good

August 4 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 22-24 and Psalms 34

We see a shift happening in the book of Jeremiah right around Chapter 24. Just as soon as the people of God have gone into captivity as a result of their sin, God is already revealing His plan to get them out of there and back to where they belong. “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:5-7)

70 years was the appointed time set for the nation to be in Babylon and as we continue to read we will see that God looked after His people there and revealed Himself to them there. The people who listened to God while in captivity prospered. God placed some of them (Daniel and friends – Esther and Mordecai – Ezekiel the prophet – Ezra – Nehemiah and all the other Governors and Prophets) in great positions of honor and authority in the nation of Babylon where they had been taken. God visited several ruthless Babylonian rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius who were reigning over Israel during those years. These men were all transformed by the power of the Lord and the people of God often prospered under them.

What brings great comfort to me is not so much that the sin was judged but that even in this sentencing to captivity, God’s purposes and plans were redemptive. The reason for the captivity and judgment was to save the people from the sinful lifestyles they had chosen. Sounds like the world today – held captive by sin and brought to our knees in “Babylon” so that we can come home to God. This corrective, redemptive heart of God is also seen in the Church – “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11)

When God corrects, it is as a parent corrects – when God passed judgment on Israel and Judah it was in the hope that they would repent. Even Nineveh’s judgment (Jonah 4:11) was cancelled when they turned back to the Lord. No, even the judgments of God are loving and for our good!

Questions:

1. Give another example from Scripture where God showed His “love” by passing judgment on a given situation.
2. Give an example from your own life where the “discipline” of God saved you from yourself.

Day After Day, Month After Month

August 3 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 19-21 and Psalms 33

Day after day – week after week – month after month – year after year – this man, Jeremiah, repeated his message using slightly different phrasing and somewhat different illustrations. THE MESSAGE, HOWEVER, REMAINED THE SAME:

· “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.” (Jeremiah 19:3)
· “I will devastate this city and make it an object of scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds.” (Jeremiah 19:8)
· – “and say to them, This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.” (Jeremiah 19:11)
Here then was a simple monotonous constant message – God is against you because of your sin and rebellion. He is going to bring destruction on you and take you into exile. REPENT!

The response of the people was just as predictable – “When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the LORD’s temple.” (Jeremiah 20:1-2)) Month after month and year after year, the people and leaders of the people ignored this one-track-mind negative orator. Yet destruction WAS coming. It was rather like the days of Noah. It was somewhat like the days of Lot. It was much like the years when God was judging the inhabitants of the land of Canaan and was leading Joshua to take that land away from the people who had desecrated it. This time however, the tables were turned. It was the people of God – those who had built their nation on the principles of God that were in rebellion and about to be judged.

I know that the judgments of God for this earth have only just begun and that He is still in the business of watching over the earth and wanting to bless the nations that do right, live right and judge righteously. God LOVES “rightness” in the moral sense. He is of course also interested in His Church and his individual sons and daughters doing what is right. This however is no hardship for us. We know His burden – it is easy. We know His cross – it is light. God so fills us with grace that when we are living “RIGHT”, we are speaking our native language and are doing what our born-again nature leads us into. Praise God for His unspeakable grace.

Questions:

1. Give another Scriptural example of God giving people plenty of warning before taking action to judge their sin.
2. Give an example of the grace of God in action – helping someone to be “holy” in the midst of a wicked situation.

God’s Emotions

August 2 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 16-18 and Psalms 32

Notice at the end of these verses how Jeremiah lashes out against the people who have not listened to him and have threatened him. “Listen to me, O LORD; hear what my accusers are saying! Should good be repaid with evil? Yet they have dug a pit for me. Remember that I stood before you and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them. So give their children over to famine; hand them over to the power of the sword. Let their wives be made childless and widows; let their men be put to death, their young men slain by the sword in battle. Let a cry be heard from their houses when you suddenly bring invaders against them, for they have dug a pit to capture me and have hidden snares for my feet. But you know, O LORD, all their plots to kill me. Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.” (Jeremiah 18:19-23)

These are very harsh and vindictive statements from the lips of Jeremiah, the man of God, but they do illustrate something. If a servant of God like Jeremiah can have such strong feelings of judgment when the people reject him, then maybe this can help us understand the strong emotions expressed by the Lord Himself. Why should the Lord not have emotion when His people continually turn their backs on Him? When the Lord was trying to describe His own hurt feelings to Jeremiah – the anger He felt – judgment the people deserved – Jeremiah probably never really connected emotionally. However, when he too was rejected and threatened by the same people, he lashed out violently. Interesting how it’s sometimes only when we connect with God through human experience that we fully begin to understand His heart. Fast forward to the New Testament and we find a new and better way to deal with rejection – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43-44) These kinds of attitudes can only be obtained through the power of the Holy Spirit.

On an unrelated note, Psalms 32 gives us understanding concerning the intimate relationship we have with the Lord. The “me in them and them in me” relationship we share with Jesus is described by the Psalmist as he talks about “aching bones” and the hand of the Lord being “heavy upon” him because he had sinned. It’s only because of God’s intense love relationship with us that we would ever have a spiritual experience of this kind. Your conscience won’t give you a moment’s rest till you “confess your transgressions to the Lord”. Then forgiveness comes with “songs of deliverance”. The ultimate lesson learned here however is that we were not meant to “be controlled by bit and bridle” but by the glance of His eye – by the nudge of the Spirit of God. Re-read this Psalm if you have a moment and see the beauty of this love relationship we share with Christ.

Questions:

1. Give another Scriptural example of God showing intense emotion.
2. Have you ever experienced a “bit and bridle” kind of discipline from the Lord? – How about a “glance of the eye” kind of correction? Tell about it.

Illustrations From The Prophet

August 1 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 13-15 and Psalms 31

In the Old Testament, Prophets were often told to do things as object lessons in support of the prophetic word God had asked them to speak. These picture illustrations probably meant more to the general population than did all the long prophetic sermons these men would deliver. The “linen belt” in Chapter 13 is one such illustration. – “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.’ So I went and hid it at Perath, as the LORD told me. Many days later the LORD said to me, ‘Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.’ So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless.” (Jeremiah 13:4-7)

Priests always used linen when they were going to enter the presence of the Lord. It was considered the “holy” clothe in the Old Testament because it had properties of “breathing” and did not irritate the skin. Jeremiah wrapped one of these around his waist and declared that this was how God dealt previously with His people – considering them “holy” and wrapping them close to Himself. The belt however was not washed, and after some time became very dirty. The prophet then told the people that they too had not been “washed”, the cleansing that comes from repentance and turning their hearts faithfully to the Lord.

Next Jeremiah took the belt off and placed it out into the elements – in a crag in a rock where birds and little creatures could have at it – where the dirt, rain, wind, dust, and perhaps snow and mold could disintegrate, discolor and putrefy the belt till it was “ruined and completely useless”. Because of their own spiritual neglect, these people received the message that they too were being rejected by the Lord and would be ruined.

Throughout these doom and gloom prophecies we get the impression that all these things were happening to Israel because they continued to be obstinate and did not repent. We know enough of the character of God to know that if God can forgive Nineveh, he could certainly have forgiven Israel and not brought about the judgment that was prophesied. What was the problem then? It was the false prophets! They were all “prophesying” peace – peace – all is well – don’t sweat it – God is happy with us. Only one man was speaking the truth but no one would listen because of the “noise” being made by the false prophets.
In our day too, there are many “voices” that are not telling it like it is. People are distracted from God’s concern and heartache because they continually listen to voices that only want to satisfy the hearers. This is why we should keep ourselves in the Word of God and why we should learn to “turn off” voices that lead us off the path and purposes of God. Refuse to fill your minds with only the things that seem to feed your ego and lustful desires. Make sure you have a steady intake of the real heart of God.

Questions:

1. Name some other Biblical illustrations that Old Testament prophets used to illustrate a message from God.
2. Give an example of how God has spoken to you personally through an illustration.

The Customs Of The Peoples

July 31 – Today’s Readings – Jeremiah 10-12 and Psalms 31

Chapter 10 of Jeremiah paints a great picture of what God thinks (and what we should think) about the “gods” of this world – “For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (Jeremiah 10:3-5)

To this day, millions of people are enslaved in the worship of these “gods”. They cook for them, carry them, kiss them, rub their bellies, set them up in “shrine” rooms in their homes or restaurants, burn incense to them, dress them up, talk to them and in all other ways imaginable make fools of themselves. Why? Because they believe that there is power in the man-made god or a man-made religious philosophy. Indeed there are evil spirits behind the idolatrous images that people set up and worship, but CHRISTIANS SHOULD NEVER FEAR OR BE ALARMED by the so-called power of these gods for there is no life in them and we ought never to fear spirits because we have THE HOLY SPIRIT. Many Christians concern themselves with these things – some even fearing evil spirits or the people who would “curse” them. Do not fear these things – and never expose yourselves to things that would stir fear up in you (horror movies or sci-fi books that are designed to make you feel powerless and insignificant). Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. You are not powerless! You are not insignificant! You have been given power now that the Holy Spirit has come upon you. (Acts 1:8) As Winston Churchill once said during the Second World War – “the only thing to fear is fear itself”. Let me add my bit to this. Have great respect for what God thinks and what God’s opinion is. Never fear anything else – ever again. Think, for a moment of the young man, David, who faced the outrageously fearsome Goliath. Within himself, he was not a warrior, but he had confidence in a big, big God. Remember Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4:6-10 – “So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’ Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” Here was a man facing tremendous obstacles and yet having the confidence that he was more than able because of the power of the Lord. There is no place for fear when facing the gods or philosophies of this world – we need to foster confidence in God Almighty.

Questions:

1. Give an example from Scripture of people who feared and therefore failed.
2. Give an example from your own life where you needed to remind yourself to not fear in the face of difficulty.

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