The Days Will Come

March 19, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

Jeremiah 30:2

Jeremiah Chapters 27-29 appear to be grouped together under the theme of Jeremiah’s battle against the false prophets. Chapters 30-33 seem to be grouped together as promises of restoration. They are yet another turning point in the Book of Jeremiah, and are in stark contrast to the vast majority of what comes before. They are intended to give comfort, encouragement, and hope to the future generations after the purging and refining which would take place in the years of the exile and captivity. The purpose of having Jeremiah record these in a “book” (a scroll that held official records or a document containing important information) written by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, was so that God’s Words could be preserved and read years later by people who would look back and see God’s prophecies and the fulfillment of His promises.

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

Jeremiah 30:3

“The days will come” indicates that this was a promise for both Israel and Judah, and, though it is not a circumstantially identical promise for Christians today, it is certainly a “principle-promise” that we can claim. “Days will come,” whatever you are going through today, if you are a Christian, that will “come to pass,” because they did not “come to stay.” If you ever find yourself “trapped,” “stalled,” “stuck,” remember that God is the Deliverer. Your “captivity” may consist of “days,” but new days WILL come – and those days are in God’s hand, and He will bring a blessed change when the time is right. We must “wait upon the Lord” in both senses of the word “wait:” look to Him patiently and expectantly AND serve Him while we wait.

Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:

Jeremiah 30:6-8

There is some strange imagery here, but the reference to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and to a future heir of David reigning as king in Verse 9 lets us know that this prophecy is going beyond even the return of the exiles after 70 years, all the way to the time of the appearance of the Messiah.

There will be men acting like pregnant women in labor, clutching their groins in pain, white-faced, but Verse 7 says “he SHALL be saved out of it” (emphasis added). God will break the yoke and break the chains, and the only one they will be serving is God Himself, which is what they (and we) were created to do.

Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:16-17

Israel and Judah, which had been punished severely by their enemies, would see God punish those who had punished them. Note the poetic justice: the devourers would be devoured; the spoilers would be spoiled; the predators would be preyed upon. This is often God’s way. It’s not “karma” – some impersonal cosmic balancing scale. No, it’s personal – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, with what measure you mete, it shall be meted unto you. What you sow, that’s what you’ll reap. Be careful how you treat others.

God is zealous for His own name. The nations called Judah and Israel “Outcasts.” They had been “cast out” by their God, but God will not allow His name to be mocked forever. As Christians we ought to be accustomed to the role of outcasts in society, but we need to remember that we are accepted by God in Christ.

Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

Jeremiah 30:18

There are so many great promises and images of restoration in Jeremiah Chapter 30. Not only would the people be restored to safe homes, but in many cases their restored homes would be rebuilt right on the “heap” of the wreckage of the old ones. The new houses would be better houses, higher houses. If you’ve got some wreckage in your past, you probably never want to see it again, but don’t discount the possibility that God may give you a victory right on top of it, and that He might even use that wreckage as part of the foundation of your future blessings or future ministry.

The Slave (His Owner and Overseer)

December 4, 2012 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 13 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Slave

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

The people of Zion were considered to be outcasts, and part of what led to them being outcasts was that they had been taken into captivity. They had been enslaved by another nation.

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.

Jeremiah 30:10 (emphasis added)

Being called a slave has a negative connotation in society today. One sibling says to another, “Could you go to my room and bring me my shoes,” and the reply comes back: “I’m not your slave!” Therefore, it might sound strange to us when someone invites us to become God’s “slaves.” The most common word in the Bible for a slave is “servant.” Historians estimate that in New Testament times approximately one-third of all the inhabitants of Greece and Italy were slaves. There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Many of the first believers in the New Testament were slaves. Slavery in the United States is illegal today (unless you count some of the housewives or church custodians I know!) But when it comes to being a slave, or a servant, there is no shame in being a servant of the Most High God.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

I Corinthians 7:22

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Romans 1:1 (emphasis added)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

James 1:1 (emphasis added)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

II Peter 1:1 (emphasis added)

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Jude v. 1 (emphasis added)

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

Revelation 1:1 (emphasis added)

Even the Old Testament saints carried this designation:

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 15:3 (emphasis added)

I want to look specifically at the account of a man named Onesimus, who was a slave in the earthly sense and a slave in the spiritual sense. He is found in the Book of Philemon. The Book is called “Philemon” not because it was written by Philemon, but because it is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon. Philemon was a Colossian believer who owned a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus ran away. We don’t know the reason why. It may have been because he had stolen something from his master, or it may have been because Philemon, as a Christian, had become too lenient on him, and Onesimus took advantage of the situation to plan his escape. Philemon made his way to Rome, which would have been a good place to hide, but there he encountered the Apostle Paul, who led him to Christ.

Paul himself was a prisoner at Rome, but he had a certain amount of freedom to spread the Gospel, and apparently he treasured his relationship with Onesimus. The name “Onesimus” meant “useful,” and the name “Philemon” meant “one who kisses.” If you have ever been made a little uncomfortable by a fellow church member who was little too touchy-feely and huggy-kisssy in his greetings to you at church, you may be surmising that this was the real reason Onesimus ran away!

Despite bearing the name “useful,” though, as a runaway slave Onesimus turned out to be anything but useful to his master. Conversely, as a servant to God, Onesimus became extremely useful. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to make something of a play on words about this in his letter:

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

Philemon v. 1

Onesimus escaped from his own bonds, and ended up helping Paul – and the work of the Lord – in Paul’s bonds.

Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

Philemon v. 11

Paul wrote to Philemon as if to say, “Old ‘Useful’ was useless to you, but he’s been useful to me – he’s finally living up to his name!”

Whether someone is a slave (servant) to Christ, or whether someone was an earthly slave with an earthly master – and Onesimus was both – three main things determine a slave’s “usefulness:”

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.

See, before Onesimus was saved by Jesus, he wasn’t just owned by Philemon. He was in a greater bondage than the bondage of earthly slavery. Just like you and me, he was a slave to sin, and in a sense he was owned by Satan.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

I Peter 1:18-19

If you are truly a Christian, that means you were “redeemed.” “Redemption” is the act of purchasing a slave out of slavery. There is a price that was paid for your redemption. It wasn’t a monetary price, and it certainly wasn’t your own good works. Redemption in Jesus Christ doesn’t cost us anything, but it is not free. The price of redemption for the unforgiven sinner, the slave of Satan, is the precious blood of Christ. As the once-popular hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

A slave owned by the devil, bound with the cords of sin, is completely useless to the work of the Lord, but a servant of God, rightfully purchased, set free, and then lovingly owned by the One Who created him in the first place, is very useful.

2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

An overseer is under a slave-owner, but over the slave. An overseer is responsible for watching a slave work on an everyday basis. A slave knows who his owner is, but he knows his overseer personally. Before Onesimus was saved, when he was a servant in the household of Philemon, he had an earthly overseer. After he met the Apostle Paul, and became converted, Paul in a sense became his “overseer.” As servants of God – even though we serve Him directly – He has placed overseers over us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

As an earthly slave, Onesimus betrayed his overseer by running away, and maybe worse.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

Philemon v. 18

But as a servant of God, Philemon was a great blessing to his overseer.

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Philemon v. 13

Next time we will see that the obligations of a slave also determine his usefulness.

The Addict (His Characteristics)

October 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, Jeremiah, Outcasts of Ministry | 18 Comments
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This is the beginning of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

What is an outcast? It is someone who has been excluded, or who does not “fit in.”

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

An outcast is someone who has been expelled or driven out – someone whom nobody seeks after or wants to be around. In Jeremiah 30:17 God sent words of comfort to Zion – the people of Jerusalem who were then in captivity. The other nations were calling them an Outcast. No one was inquiring after the Temple or the holy city. Why had God allowed them to reach this condition – to become “outcasts?”

Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.

Jeremiah 30:15

Their incurable sorrows were caused by their incurable lusts – their sinful desires. God knew their hearts, and He observed their actions, and they were “addicted” to sin.

The first of the three “outcasts” that I want to talk about is the “addict.” To call someone an “addict” has a negative connotation in society today. There are all kinds of addicts. Many of the things that we could become addicted to, according to Scripture, are clearly wrong. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, fornication are common examples. There are other things that may not be clearly wrong, but are still sources of addiction for many people: TV, radio, internet, junk food, coffee. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I myself struggle with a serious addiction. I am addicted to fried chicken and green Kool-Aid.

fried chicken

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/green-kool-aid.jpg?w=273

There, I’m not proud of it, but I admitted it. Go ahead and judge me…! All kidding aside though, I am aware that addiction can be a very serious problem, and I’m thankful for those who have come up with ways to combat addictions. Sadly, though, most of the ways our society treats addiction deal more with treating the symptoms than eradicating the source, and I am afraid we are fighting a losing battle. A true addiction can only be cured by a changed heart.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Romans 7:18-19

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…

Romans 7:24-25

The only solution to beating a sinful addiction is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once He has set us free, we are to follow the ways the Bible sets forth for not getting involved in our old addictions again.

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:2

Once you have trusted Christ, you may replace your worldly addictions with the things of God. Are you involved in Christian ministry? Is your family? Most of the things that come to mind when we hear the term “family activities” are worldly activities, but families can and should minister together. And even if you are not part of a ministering biological family, you definitely need to be part of a local church family.

Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God…

I Chronicles 29:3

Most of the time addictions are something bad, but the Word of God speaks of one who had the right kind of addiction. In I Corinthians Chapter 16, the Holy Ghost, through the Apostle Paul, is writing the closing of His first letter to the Corinthians, and He singles out a few individuals who are positive examples to the believers.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

I Corinthians 16:15

The Holy Spirit of God says, of all the things in the world that you could be addicted to, if you’re going to be addicted, here’s what you need to be addicted to: the ministry of the saints.

Here are some of the characteristics of a person who is an addict:

1. His addiction becomes visibly apparent.

You will see this with people who are addicted to certain types of drugs. In the area where I live addiction to crystal meth is epidemic. The judges in the courts of my district have gotten so adept at spotting crystal meth addiction that they can usually tell just by looking at a litigant’s teeth as she stands before the bench. Another example is people who suffer from alcoholism getting the “shakes” when they go too long without a drink.

I Corinthians 16:15 tells us that Stephanas was known. Because he was the first person converted to Christianity in Achaia, he was known to God, but it is because he was addicted to the ministry of the saints that he was known among the other Christians. Worldly addicts are known for selfishness. Christians who are “spiritually addicted” should be known for ministry.

2. An addict is a burden on his family.

As you read this, do you have a loved one for whom you regularly pray to be delivered from addiction? Most of us do. If you belong to a church with a bus ministry or a children’s outreach ministry, how many children in your children’s church or Sunday School services shed tears every week during prayer request time over their parents’ addictions? Not only was Stephanas addicted to ministry, but his household was, too – his entire family. What do they say about the House of [insert your last name here]? Worldly addicts bring shame to their families, but addiction to ministry will spread to your whole family, bringing blessings instead of shame.

3. His addiction is a drain on resources.

Could a forensic accountant examine your checkbook and your bank statements and your household budget and be able to determine where your heart is? Are there entries for tithes and offerings – for missions giving – for love offerings? Or would those entries be outweighed by your entertainment budget? Do you spend more on entertainment – cable TV, internet service, movies, and restaurants – than you give to the work of the Lord? A gambling or drug or shopping addiction will quickly create problems with your finances. But an addiction to ministry…

I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.

I Corinthians 16:17

The legacy of Stephanas, the ministry addict, was that he supplied that which was lacking. The worldly addict takes away that which is needed, but the ministry addict provides that which is missing.

4. His addiction makes him difficult to be around.

What’s the worst part about being around an addict? Often, addicts have a variety of unpleasant symptoms that go along with their addictions: bad breath, body odors, slovenly appearance. But the outward signs of addiction are not the worst things about it. Maybe the worst thing is that their addiction comes first. If you’ve been around someone with a desperate addiction, you know that they tend to want to talk about nothing other than their addiction. Unless the listener is a fellow addict, he probably doesn’t have a lot to add to a conversation about gambling or pornography. The nature of most addictions is that they make the addict very self-centered. However, a person who is truly addicted to ministry is somebody that most people will like to be around. Ministry addicts have an attitude of “what can I do for you” instead of “what can you do for me.” This is what the Apostle Paul had to say about Stephanas:

I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus… For they have refreshed my spirit and yours…

I Corinthians 16:17-18

Stephanas was the kind of person you would have been glad to see coming. You wouldn’t have had to check your wallet, or hide the women and children. If you were feeling low, he was the type that would lift your mood, refresh your spirit. When the Bible says he was a minister to the “saints” it doesn’t mean that he polished the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul and St. Mary, or that he lit candles for previously deceased Christians. It means that he looked for ways to take care of the needs of other believers – living believers – brothers and sisters in Christ – and he did it to the glory of God. He was excited about it, and he did it with a smile on his face.

Are you addicted to ministry? Do you look for opportunities to be a blessing to others? As a Christian, I should strive to be a blessing, not a burden.

Next time, I will compare the signs of worldly addiction with the signs of ministry addiction.


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