Big Words of the Christian Life: Illumination (Part 1)

June 20, 2019 at 9:32 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 1 Comment
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Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalm 119:18

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

I Peter 2:9 (emphasis added)

Every person comes into this world (which is a dark world, spiritually speaking) in a state of spiritual darkness himself. God’s truth is present in the world and it is the only source of light. Jesus is the Light of the World, but the existence of light – alone – does not bring about spiritual vision or the comprehension of truth. In order for light to be effective, there has to be the ability to see. Blind eyes have to be healed and spiritual blindfolds have to be removed. This can not be done by physical force, nor by debate, nor by fleshly enticement. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration when it happens – when an unbeliever becomes a believer. When a lost person gets saved – when someone who has been born only once (physically) gets born again (spiritually) – the Holy Spirit opens His eyes to the Truth.

That part of illumination is purely a gift of the Spirit. We do not cooperate with it, any more than a thief who is sneaking around a dark house hiding from the cops cooperates with being exposed once they shine a spotlight right in his face, but there is an aspect of the doctrine of illumination which does involve our cooperation – after we are saved.

Illumination is the Holy Spirit’s work in giving spiritual sight to unbelievers, and thereafter teaching believers the Scriptures, helping us to understand them, and empowering us to apply them to our lives.

I. Illumination Indicts Iniquity

It exposes, and makes us aware of, our own sin.

Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

Psalm 90:8

We often have trouble seeing our own sin, or understanding the pervasiveness of it. We are like fish who do not understand they are wet because “wetness” is all they have ever known. We are very accustomed to darkness – until we become of aware of how God sees our sin. Nothing is done in secret from His point of view. Once His spirit illuminates our self-awareness, we recognize our guilt and our terrifying position before a righteous Judge.

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Proverbs 6:23

God’s Word shows us our true condition, and the condition of the world around us. We should be convicted when we read the Bible, but not merely convicted. We should also find hope: reproofs and instruction.

Light helps us see what’s around us, but it also shows us safe paths to take and ways of escape from trouble.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

John 3:19-20

We need the Holy Spirit’s help to come to the light. It hurts our eyes. It shocks us. It throws us into a state of shame or embarrassment. BUT… if we will come to it instead of running away from it, then illumination will expose, and make us aware of, our own sin. It will give us insight into our spiritual nature. It will allow us to discern the sins of others and sin in the world.

II. Illumination Initiates Interest

Evil needs a covering, or an excuse, or a rationalization. People don’t want their deeds exposed along with their motives.

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:21

Those who have been illuminated by God, and who come to the light, want their deeds to be manifested – to be made known – but isn’t this a form of pride, of bragging, of showing off? No, it’s a way of glorifying God – because only His light has made it possible to do these types of deeds and it is obvious they are wrought in God. They are His good works, really, merely done THROUGH us. We are not light sources; we are light reflectors. We’re not the electricity running through the wires; we’re the bulbs: the diffusers of God’s glorious light.

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:79

God’s light gets us moving – it “motivates” us to make peace, to try to help reconcile people to God. Most people, whether they admit it or not, have a nagging sense that they live under the shadow of death – the awareness that life will end relatively soon and judgment awaits. God’s light puts death in the shadow of God’s glory instead of vice versa.

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

II Corinthians 4:4

A physical blindfold can be removed by force, but mental and spiritual blindness, like physical blindness, requires supernatural intervention.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 4:5-6

God, in Christ, has illuminated our hearts and minds, but not just for our “enlightenment.” (I prefer the term “illumination” over “enlightenment” because of the baggage and selfishness associated with Eastern mysticism, and to avoid connecting it to the historical period known as the “Age of Enlightenment.”) He has given us His light and placed it in our formerly darkened hearts so that we can shine it into other blind hearts and minds.

Illumination creates in us a desire to read and study God’s Word. Illumination attracts us to God’s Truth.

III. Illumination Implements Instruction

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination does not stop when a believer receives the gift of salvation.

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.

Psalm 112:4

Those who are “upright” – who stand before God in Jesus’s imputed righteousness – are given light to know God more and more, in ever-increasing measures. I mentioned earlier that believers participate in it, but it is still a gift of God’s grace and compassion, and it is for the purpose of directing us toward righteousness.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Isaiah 8:20

Illumination is about understanding and applying the Word of God. It is not about feelings, fantasies, or fables. It is not about private personal promptings. The Holy Spirit inspired the same Scripture for everybody to read, and He illuminates it for each person to study on his/her own with a goal of reaching a common, mutual, and CORRECT comprehension of it. The Holy Spirit gives greater understanding to those who obey what they have already been shown.

Next time we will see that illumination imparts insight.

The Command, Calling, and Consequences of Following the Christ

June 17, 2019 at 10:06 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus is often referred to as “Jesus Christ,” but Christ is not Jesus’s last name. If Jesus of Nazareth even had such a thing as a “last name” during His earthly ministry it would have probably been something like “Jesus Ben Joseph” or “Jesus Bar Joseph,” “ben” or “bar” meaning “son of.” Most of the people Jesus encountered would have thought Him to be merely the son of Joseph, rather than the Son of God. “Christ” is more of a title than a name. Jesus was the Christos, which was the Greek term for the Hebrew “Messiah.” He was “anointed” with the grace of God. The title “Christ” tells us that He is divine, but that He was also the prophesied human Savior, from the seed of Eve and Adam, descendant of Abraham and Jacob (renamed Israel), prefigured by Moses, of the line of David, who would qualify for David’s earthly throne while at the same time being David’s Heavenly Lord.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

John 1:42

This is how Peter got the name by which he would become known.

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

John 1:43

Why was such a pedestrian, seemingly-lackluster recruiting pitch so effective? A request or even a command to “follow me” has never been in short supply in the world among those who would seek to use others for profit, fame, power, even companionship, benevolence, or team-building. The typical response to an unadorned “follow me” would be: “Why?” “For what?” “Where?” “What’s in it for me?” or even “No.” The secret to Jesus’s success with this method though, I believe, is not in the “follow.’ The key is in the “Me.” A God-revealed understanding of Who Jesus is makes the “follow” almost superfluous and unnecessary as a command. When the eternal Son of God, the Savior of mankind, the Creator of the universe, the deliverer of your nation, reveals Himself to you, and you truly grasp the import of Who He is and what this revelation means, how could you NOT follow Him? How could they not become literal “disciples” – people who walked around behind a “Master” or Rabbi, an itinerant teacher, listening and learning, and trying to imitate Him? He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: a path, a person, and a purpose.

Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:44-46

Nazareth was a disreputable place, ordained as the birthplace and hometown of Jesus, perhaps in order to prepare Him in His childhood for a life of mockery, rejection, and humility.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

John 1:47

It’s possible that Jesus was making an ironic statement when He referred to Nathanael as being without guile and therefore a true Israelite, since the Jewish people have historically been stereotyped as being especially shrewd in their business dealings, but He was also referencing those who would believe the truth about Jesus as being the true descendants/heirs of Jacob, and therefore Abraham. The true Israelites are manifested by faith in the Messiah rather than by their birth and ethnicity.

The Insidious Appeal to Superficial Excitement

June 14, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Back in the hey-day of the so-called “seeker sensitive movement,” churches tried all sorts of embarrassing promotional methods to “reach people where they are.” Programs (disguised under the name “outreach” in many cases), modeled on successful business-growth strategies, were instituted to try to make church services as innocuous and “un-church-like” as possible, so that lost people would feel entertained or a least comfortable enough to attend. Numbers went up, but true conversions and sanctification did not.

This strategy has now been denounced by some of its key founders, but it has not died completely, and it has been adopted in surprisingly subtle and devious (and patently unbiblical) ways. One area where it has recently seen a resurgence is in so-called “survivor” or “recovery” start-up ministries. These ministries are often led by a charismatic individual with some type of character-scandal in his past that would disqualify him from leading a sound Biblical church. A good example of this is a man named “Pastor” Greg Locke, whose rants I often see posted on the social media accounts of otherwise discerning Christians. I used the scare quotes around “pastor” because I don’t believe he’s qualified to be an actual pastor, having left his wife for his church secretary. Locke has hit on a successful formula, though. Using what appears to be his cell phone, he often makes vain “selfie videos,” with his face close-up in the screen, touching on hot-button political or cultural issues like gender-neutral bathrooms or millennial kids who badmouth their own parents. He is absolutely fanatical in his devotion to President Trump, and thereby appeals to a group of people who love conservative politics as much as or more than Jesus.

Whereas the original seeker-sensitive methods targeted the “unchurched,” this new variation goes after other churches’ members. They will try to lure away an existing church’s assistant or associate pastor, looking for someone who’s disgruntled, overly proud and stubborn, and resistant to the senior pastor’s authority, but still weaselly enough to make it seem like he’s getting a raw deal as he pouts off to adopt some sort of “co-pastor” title under the stronger, more manipulative leader of the new recovery ministry.

Once that has been done, the members of the assistant pastor’s former church will be systemically targeted and lured away into this new ministry. The method for convincing church members that the grass is greener is to make it seem like the new start-up ministry is more “exciting,” more “alive” than where they are. As I mentioned in a previous post, it helps if the leaders can claim special private revelations from God authorizing their behavior. Next, they will pull out the old “dead religion” card. “Is your church boring? We will really hoot and holler in our services! Does your preacher just preach from the Bible, trusting the Word of God, rather than raw emotionalism, to change people’s lives? Not us! Our preacher will run around, waving his arms, and even stand on a chair [ignoring the fact that he does it so predictably every time he preaches that it’s obviously staged for effect]. Look, we’ve dropped our former denomination’s name from our ministry title, because it carries ‘baggage’ in the minds of wishy-washy non-serving Christians! We don’t even use the word church in our name!”

This new ministry targets supposedly “hurting people in the pew” of other churches, so it has to really play up to the squishy “church-is-about-my-feelings” crowd. Sure, the terminology is dressed up in cliched Christianese, but it’s fairly easy to spot for anyone with Biblical discernment. Here are some examples:

1. “At our services, God will touch your heart.”
Number of times “touched my heart” is the Bible: 0

2. “At our services, the Lord will speak to your spirit.”
Number of times the Bible says that the Lord spoke to someone’s spirit: 0

3. “At our services the Holy Spirit will wrap his arms around you.”
Number of times in the Bible that the Holy Spirit wrapped His arms around anyone: 0

4. “At our services, the Holy Spirit shows up in a special way.”
Number of times the Bible describes the Holy Spirit in a post-Pentecost New Testament worship service as showing up in a special way: 0

5. “At our services the preacher gets a hold of God.”
Number of times the Bible describes a preacher getting a hold of God: 0
[What this really means is that the preacher starts his sermon by telling the congregation to open their Bibles to a Bible verse, but then goes on a long tirade or series of personal anecdotes without ever actually exegeteing the verse. He will also, for dramatic effect, claim that, “I’ve been working on a message for several days, but the Holy Spirit just won’t let me preach it. He just now gave me this instead…”]

 

 

 

It’s a formula that sadly works on many weaker church members, inducing them to leave a church with a high view of Scripture and the real transforming work of the Holy Spirit, for a fake sideshow of manufactured enthusiasm, featuring a carnival barker masquerading as a preacher, serving up heavy doses of people-pleasing pablum to folks who would rather be entertained than equipped to serve.

Is Cremation Allowed?

June 12, 2019 at 9:07 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Does the Bible say that cremation is allowed?

Answer: The Bible – to the best of my knowledge – doesn’t specifically forbid or authorize cremation. In the vast majority of instances, the bodies of dead human beings in Biblical accounts were buried, rather than burned, although there are a handful of instances of burned bodies in the Bible. Because the Bible offers no specific commands on the subject, I would not be comfortable in saying that cremating the body of a deceased loved one is a sin. Faced with a choice, and the ability to afford a burial, I would go with the burial, simply because – as stated above – it seems to have been the preferred method during Bible times, and because burying a body whole seems to more properly symbolize our hope of bodily resurrection, as emphasized in I Corinthians 15.

Having said that, it is also necessary to point out that there will be a bodily resurrection of believers whose bodies were cremated, were donated to medical schools to be used as cadavers, were blown to smithereens in turkey-fryer explosions, were completely decomposed, were melted in hot lava, were “sawn asunder” (Hebrews 11:37), and were eaten by sharks. How will God resurrect a body which has disintegrated and been blown by the four winds of the four corners of the earth? I have no idea, but it won’t be difficult, because – you know – He’s God.

And Sometimes Y

June 10, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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In elementary English, children learn that the vowels are A, E, I, O, U… “and sometimes Y.” In a previous lesson I looked at the “vowels of hell.” In addition to the devil’s “kingdom” being a.ctual, e.nergetic, i.ntelligent, o.rganized, and u.nited, I will now add that it is “sometimes y.oked.”

Yoked means attached. The kingdom of Satan is sometimes attached to a lost person (possession), or, as pointed out by Jesus, in some cases it is attached to a “movement.”

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.

Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah was that he was swallowed by a fish or a whale, and vomited up on dry land. When he preached, people repented. Jesus told the crowd that their generation was evil because they were seeking signs when the greater-than-Jonah was right there in front of them!

For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

Luke 11:30

Jonah was “buried” and “resurrected,” in a sense, but Jesus is greater. He actually died and actually come back to life.

The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Luke 11:32

There is a “movement” today which is sometimes (“sometimes Y”) yoked with satanic influence. This movement says that you don’t need to accept that Jesus is real unless you are seeing signs and wonders. Those of us who recognize this error in the charismatic and the “Word Faith” prosperity movement have to be careful, too, though, that we don’t fall prey to Satan’s influence in more subtle ways:
-“I lost my job, so what’s the point of continuing to go to church?”
-“I’ll start praying, but I better see some results.”

Let’s not be part of what Jesus called a “wicked” generation.

The Competition

June 7, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In a previous post I looked at the importance of the word “for” which begins the well-known verse, John 3:16. There is another “for” which continues building on these ideas in the next verse.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:17

In what sense will Jesus – Who we know has been given all authority in Heaven and in earth, including the authority (Matthew 28:18: “all power”) to judge and condemn (Acts 17:31) – not condemn? Answer: In the sense that those who do not believe on Him are condemned already.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

After cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, and after His encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside.

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 3:22

This makes it sound like Jesus was personally baptizing people, but:

(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

John 4:2

It seems likely that Jesus authorized His Disciples to baptize new converts, but did not actually do the baptizing with His own hands. The Apostle Paul often left the actual baptizing to others as well (I Corinthians 1:14).

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, fulfilled, but also exceeded, the Old Testament types which pointed to Him.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

John 3:25

Jesus had exceeded the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple water pots when He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He had exceeded the Old Testament locations of worship as the meeting place between man and God as demonstrated when He cleansed the Temple. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of the necessity of the water-spirit birth as He preached to Nicodemus. Now a specific group of Jews, possibly led by one man, questioned John’s practice of baptizing for ritual cleansing those who were already Jewish by birth, custom, and faith, and, as a part of their challenge, they saw an opportunity to try to drive a wedge of division between John the Baptist and Jesus.

And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

John 3:26

The phrase “all men come to Him” is a provocative exaggeration. Obviously not “ALL” men were going to Jesus, nor had “ALLmen gone to Him instead of John, but the numbers were changing. Jesus’s ministry was growing and John’s was shrinking.

How competitive are you? Just as one spouse is often introverted and the other extroverted; just as one is often neat and the other messy; just as one is often extravagant and the other a tightwad: often the Lord will put together one competitive spouse and one who could care less about “winning.” Do you love to win? Do you hate to lose? Are you happy for others when they succeed where you have failed? Does it bother you that people might think poorly of you in comparison to someone else? Somebody thought that John the Baptist might experience a couple of these reactions when confronted with the rising influence of Jesus’s ministry over his, so they decided to confront him about it.

Competition is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Sporting contests just aren’t much fun unless both sides are trying to win – to beat the other side. However, as shown in I Corinthians, competition in Christian ministry can be a dangerous and damaging thing. Soulwinning is not a contest. Who has the “best” Sunday School class probably should not be a competition. But human nature, which since the Fall has a strong bent toward pride, likes to be first, to get attention, to get credit, to feel superior – so you can’t look at this group of Jewish instigators and think, “Did they REALLY suppose John the Baptist would be jealous of Jesus??” Even reading it today, we catch ourselves thinking that we couldn’t totally blame him if he was – but remember:

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 7:28

Jesus didn’t say this about John as a form of flattery. Here was John’s response to the suggestion that Jesus was better than Him:

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:27

This may seem to you, in the cold analytical light of merely academic Bible study, to be something of a “duh” statement. In a universe ruled over by a sovereign omnipotent God, OF COURSE we only get what He gives… and we don’t get anything He DOESN’T give us, but does this (true) maxim hold a central place in our minds “all day, every day?” Possibly not. Otherwise we would never get jealous, and we would always only rejoice when something good happens to HIM or HER, and something “bad” happens to ME. Jeremiah 9:23 and I Corinthians 4:7 remind us to ask: “Why do I glory in wisdom or might if they are only gifts?” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

John 3:28

Although John was known as the Baptizer, he could call anyone who had listened to his preaching as a witness to answer the question: “What has been the main thrust of my ministry? What I am all about?” If honest, they would have had to answer that John’s main message was: “The Messiah is coming, and He’s now here, and I’m not Him.”

This would be a great motivation in our evangelism. Any time we go to visit someone who does not know Jesus we can tell them, “I’m the one who came to see you, but I didn’t come to tell you about myself, and I want you to meet someone else that I hope you will soon know, love, worship, and obey. You will like Him a lot better than me, and that’s exactly what I want!”

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John 3:29

Can you imagine the best man at a wedding trying to steal the bride, or being angry once the couple says their “I do”s? John’s job was almost done, and he had done it in a great way. He had been successful. His mission was fulfilled, so he was full of joy. That’s why we mustn’t read the next verse as melancholy resignation:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30

John was not bummed out. He was stating a fact, and he was celebrating the accomplishment of a great momentous occasion.

The Lord Our Righteousness

June 5, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Josiah reigned for 31 years and had been relatively good king. Three of his sons and one of his grandsons were the last four kings of Judah, but they were all wicked. Jehoahaz (also known as Shallum) only ruled for three months before the Egyptian pharaoh (Necho) took him to Egypt where he died.

For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place; He shall not return thither any more: But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.

Jeremiah 22:11-12

Jehoiachim (also known as Eliakim or Johoiakim) ruled for eleven years before he died.

Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 22:18-19

Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah or Coniah) ruled for three months before Nebuchadnezzar conquered him and took him to Babylon where he died.

As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.

Jeremiah 22:24-25

Zedekiah, the last king, saw Jerusalem destroyed. The Babylonians killed his sons and then blinded him. He died in Babylon, too.

Out of the survivors of the Babylonian conquest, though, Jeremiah promised a Messiah.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

Yahweh Tsidkenu means “the Lord our Righteousness,” and He would be a king descended from King David who would execute judgment and justice in the earth, but how would that be a comforting promise? A righteous king and a just judge would punish the unrighteous, and that’s exactly what we are. The comfort is found in the word “OUR.” This king would somehow clothe us with His righteousness, and, even more to the point, He would BE our righteousness. He would execute justice upon Himself in our place, and transfer to us His righteousness, effectively trading places with us until the wrath of God against us was satisfied. We know Him more particularly as Jesus Christ. What a Savior!

Surrender or Die

June 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah Chapters 21-24 are not necessarily in chronological order after the time of Jeremiah’s life and ministry that have been described in the immediately preceding chapters, but they show that the kings of Judah during Jeremiah’s time WERE aware of his ministry. Around 588 B.C. the Babylonian army surrounded Jerusalem. King Zedekiah had attempted to secure an alliance with Egypt, but when he did not pay tribute to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was provoked into invading.

The king sent for Jeremiah, probably desperate for hope that Yahweh would intervene and rescue, but Jeremiah remained consistent, prophesying only judgment and wrath.

Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

Jeremiah 21:4-5

The King and the officers would be captured and executed, but many people could survive by surrendering.

And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

Jeremiah 21:8

Note that obeying God is the way of life – the only way. Going any other way – disobeying God – is a way of death, and there are a million “other” ways.

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

Jeremiah 21:9

The sword, famine, pestilence (disease), and surrender had been previously given as choices, although none of them were “good” choices. All these were in keeping with the curses of the Deuteronomic covenant, but those who would go go out and fall down (surrender) before the Chaldeans would at least be spared. They would give their “life for a prey” – they would give up their freedom in exchange for continuing to breath. Surrender to God’s Word and His will would result in mercy. Rebellion against God and refusal to surrender to Him would mean conquest by earthly enemies who would delight not in mercy, but in subjugation, punishment, humiliation, and death. God does not want a partnership with rebels. He wants pride-destroying capitulation and total dependence on Him.


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