A Pre-Church Sermon

October 2, 2019 at 6:40 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The events of Jeremiah Chapter 7 probably took place after the death of Josiah, and shortly into the reign of Jehoiakin. This was a new sermon – known as the Temple Sermon – where God sent Jeremiah to preach in what should have been the most unlikely place – the place where preaching should not have been needed – but really where it was the most needed.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD.

Jeremiah 7:1-2

Jeremiah stood at the entrance of the Temple, rather than inside. Imagine a preacher standing at the main entrance of your church on Sunday morning and preaching to the people coming in without the consent or authorization of your pastor before they even get to the auditorium where he is planning to preach.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.

Jeremiah 7:3

“Ways and doings” refers to the way they were living throughout the week – unlike the show they were about to put on inside the Temple.

Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.

Jeremiah 7:4

They superstitiously repeated the mantra, “the temple of the LORD,” but the part that was a lie was that they emphasized the place over the Person. They thought a temple was worth visiting, but did not care if the Lord was worth obeying.

Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 7:12

Jeremiah wasn’t authorized to drive them out of the Temple. He was limited to preaching, but he saw people bringing animals and grain and things to sacrifice, and he reminded them of what God thought about their so-called “sacrifices” and their so-called “offerings.”

For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.

Jeremiah 7:22-23 (emphasis added)

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I Samuel 15:22

But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.

Jeremiah 7:24 (emphasis added)

They weren’t listening to the Word of God. They were listening to their own hearts, which is an extremely bad idea, because because hearts not transformed by God are evil hearts. They like the false better than the true. They like fake gods better than the real God. They like fake prophecies better than hearing about the “old paths.” They like to “imagine” better than “obey.” They like to get “counsel” from the flesh or the world better than the Counselor who demands submission. I hope that you don’t want to go to a fake church. We all need to belong to a church where our fakery is called out and replaced by truth. We don’t want to get so deceived that we think we’re going forward with God when we’re really racing backward with the devil.

For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the LORD: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it.

Jeremiah 7:30

During Manasseh’s reign the idolatry had become so public and open that idols were actually set up in the Temple, and, even after Josiah’s “reforms,” people continued to worship idols in their homes, and perhaps secretly brought them into the Temple when they attended worship.

Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.

Jeremiah 7:16

The people were so far gone – reprobate – that God did not even want Jeremiah to pray for them.

Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?

Jeremiah 7:17

Jeremiah had seen how wickedly they behaved in their public dealings, but God revealed what they were doing in private also.

The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.

Jeremiah 7:18

The “queen of heaven” was Asherah (also known as Ishtar, from which the name Easter is partly derived), who was thought to be the queen of the “heavenly” area we call “outer space,” and, even though she was primarily a female cult deity, the fathers and the children were also involved in making little cakes shaped like a woman and ritually pouring out drink offerings to worship her.

Motivation for Evil

May 30, 2013 at 11:05 am | Posted in Esther | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Esther Chapter 3 introduces us to Haman. He was an Agagite, which probably means he was descended from Agag, king of the Amalekites, the long-time enemy of the Jews (I Samuel 15:8). God had declared war on the Amalekites and wanted their name wiped from the face of the earth because the Amalekites had attacked the weary followers of Moses who marched in the rear of the people (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Saul had disobeyed God in failing to annihilate the Amalekites, and he lost his crown because of it. The Amalekites were descended from Esau (like the Edomites). Haman is one of the most despicable characters in the Bible. The more you learn about him, the less you like him. At Purim, the Jews have a feast to celebrate the account of Esther, and every time Haman is mentioned they stamp their feet and shout, “May his name be blotted out!”

Mordecai wouldn’t bow to Haman, and Haman devised a plot to kill him and all the Jewish people.

In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.

Esther 3:7

Pur is the Babylonian word for “lot.” The providence of God gave the Jewish people a year to prepare for this horrifying event.

Perhaps some Haman-apologist out there could try to draw a parallel or revenge scenario with God’s decree against the Amalekites and Haman’s decree against the Jewish exiles.

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

I Samuel 15:3

And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.

Esther 3:13

However, we can see one big difference is that God’s people were prohibited from taking the spoils. Haman’s followers were commanded to take the spoils. This is an indication that the devil was involved (killing); the “world” was involved (profit); and the flesh was involved (Haman, and King Ahasuerus’s, pride).

And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.

Esther 3:8-11

The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

Esther 3:15

Mordecai’s behavior, actions, and appearance showed that he publicly stood for what was right, and that he had an attitude of repentance. We need this attitude today.

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;

Esther 4:1

He was able to get a message to Queen Esther. She wanted to send him some new clothes before inquiring as to why his clothes were torn and dirty. We must be careful of this when dealing with the needy. As Christians we should be quick to offer assistance without unrighteous judgment, but many times, failing to inquire about the cause for the need leads to enablement rather than true help.

Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.

Esther 4:8-9

Order in a Fallen World

June 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Ecclesiastes | 61 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). This does not mean, however, that God created Himself, for this would be an impossibility. God is self-existent and eternal. There has never been a time when God did not exist. Therefore, the statement, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes), is also true. God created everything out of “nothing,” in the sense that He did not find external matter outside of Himself which He then began to fashion and mold. No, He created everything that exists out of Himself, and in this sense He is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:16-17).

King Solomon, in his wisdom, understood more about the eternal nature of God than most of us, but even he could not truly fathom its depths.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-17

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 Solomon moved from looking at the natural order of life and things in nature, and he began to look at man’s institutions to see if there is anything man has organized under the sun that is not vanity.

1. Government

God has ordained government for the purpose of making society more peaceful than it would otherwise be, especially in a sinful world. However, human beings have been given the “charge” or “stewardship” of earthly governments, so, naturally, earthly governments are corrupt.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Ecclesiastes 4:1

2. Economy

Solomon sees one man who is hard-working, but who has no time for anything but work.

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

This man is working just to keep up with the neighbors. He is motivated by envy.

Then Solomon sees another man who enjoys the pleasures of life, but is lazy and does not work.

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

This person is too lazy even to provide for himself! He’s like one of my old friends who used to say, “I just love hard work – I could watch it all day!”

Finally, Solomon finds a man who is more balanced.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

This man doesn’t have both hands full, but he’s not empty-handed either. The Bible teaches that a balanced life is important.

Then Solomon addressed the pros and cons of working alone versus working together

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It’s strange to me to think that we live a world with something like 7.7 billion people in it, and yet supposedly one the greatest mental health problems is loneliness. If you ever feel lonely, you can call my house and I’ll put you on speaker-phone. I have a wife and a five year old daughter, and it’s hard to be lonely in the middle of constant talking! But, seriously, God has put something in us that cries out for companionship – for togetherness – for fellowship. Social workers and child abuse experts will tell you that newborn babies in a neglectfully dysfunctional environment, who are not held, and who are kept in cruel isolation for long periods of time, have some of the worst problems and mental disorders later in life.

A summation of Solomon’s view on companionship in labor is that there is vanity in working for the wrong reasons, but it’s better to work hard than to be lazy, and that many hands make light work and lighter hearts.

3. Church

We would expect vanity and corruption in man-made institutions such as government and economy, but we should work hard to keep it out of our church congregations. There is no place for vanity in worship.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Keep thy foot = watch your step. Don’t take going to church lightly. When you get there, put more emphasis on listening to what God is saying to you, than on telling others what you want to say. We are guilty of “the sacrifice of fools” if we come to church and make an outward show of worship while we have unconfessed sin in our lives. It’s the sacrifice of fools because we are fools if we think we can deceive God.

… to obey is better than to sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I Samuel 15:22

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:2

This is a reminder to us to be reverent before God, and to take worshiping Him seriously.

Lord, I thank You that life is emptiness and vanity only from the perspective of “under the sun.” Please help us to keep our focus on things above (Colossians 3:2) – things that are good and edifying and Godly – and keep us from becoming preoccupied with the things of this world. Help us to put away our idols. If we can’t do it, Lord, tear them away. They’re only hurting us, anyway, by keeping us from You. In the Name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

Setting Up Your Own Place

October 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saul was the first earthly king of Israel. Samuel was the prophet told by God to anoint him.

Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

I Samuel 15:1-2

The Amalekites were enemies of God. They had picked off the stragglers when the Israelites were in the wilderness.

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

I Samuel 15:3

God sees what people are not able to see, and He always does what is right and best. In His providence, His command was to kill them all.

And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley. And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

I Samuel 15:4-9

Saul decided to keep, and not to kill, the “best” and the “good” and the “king.” He may have tried to rationalize this decision, but it is clear that his motives were not right, and, regardless, it was an act of disobedience.

Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

I Samuel 15:10-11

Samuel stayed up all night praying for Saul and the people, just as he had promised he would.

And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.

I Samuel 15:12, emphasis added

Saul “erected” a monument to himself. (Pardon me for being crude, but, despite those inappropriate pharmaceutical commercials that come on during sports programs, this episode of Saul’s is what I think of when I hear the term “erectile dysfunction.”) God gave him the victory. Saul killed everything small and worthless, but he kept the biggest, best, and most important. This is a picture of how we too often deal with sin. We’re tough on the “little things.” We don’t get drunk. We don’t use curse words. We try to be nice to our wives. But we spare the “king” of sin from our wrath: for some of us it might be pride, or some form of idolatry, or simple disobedience. We take control of our own lives, forget that anything good we’ve been able to do is because of God, and we erect a monument to ourselves.

Saul lied to Samuel:

And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?

I Samuel 15:13-17

Samuel accuses Saul, and it’s as if he’s saying, “God made you the king of God’s people, and you erected a monument to yourself?”

And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?

I Samuel 15:18-19, emphasis added

You may see yourself as doing something for God, when in His eyes you are just being greedy and lustful.

And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

I Samuel 15:20-23

Rebellion is like witchcraft. It is misplaced fear. It is misplaced consultation. It is self-worship. Stubbornness is like idolatry because it’s disobedience. It’s placing our own desire over what God desires.

Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

I Samuel 15:32-33

Sin can’t be handled by just poking around at it. Like cancer, it should be exposed to the scalpel and cut out completely, or it might spread.


Entries and comments feeds.