August 7 — Eternal Bliss — Isaiah 64-66. We leave Isaiah today as he points us toward the end of time. The creation of “new heavens and a new earth” (65:17; 66:22) seems to be a mixture of looking at our future eternal destiny in heaven as well as the closer future Millennium on earth where people die (65:20) and there are still sinners, yet “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together” (65:25). Both will be wonderful experiences enjoyed by all of God’s people, including us Gentiles who belonged “to a nation that was not called by my name” (65:1), yet a people who are “humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (66:2).
August 8 — Jeremiah — Jeremiah 1-2. Jeremiah was a suffering prophet (“They will fight against you”—1:19). God set him apart for this uncomfortable task even before he was born (1:5) but encouraged him: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (1:8). He preached for 40 years through the reigns of the last five kings of Judah—from Josiah, the last of the good kings, to Zedekiah, under whom the Jews went into exile in Babylon (see chart). The last king sought Jeremiah’s advice but refused to take it. Josiah apparently did listen and heeded Jeremiah’s message. Jeremiah began his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (1:2) and the king’s massive religious reform began five years later. Jeremiah contains messages that apply to us as well, like his warnings for people who “have changed their glory for that which does not profit” (2:11), and “I will bring you judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned’” (2:35).
Dates of Events in Jeremiah
(from ESV Study Bible)
|Under Josiah (627–609 B.C.)||1:1–19 3:6–6:30|
|Under Jehoahaz (609) and Jehoiakim (609–597)||7:1–34 25:1–38 26:1–24 35:1–19 36:1–32 45:1–5 46:1–28 47:1–7 48:1–47|
|Under Jehoiachin (597) and Zedekiah (597–586)||20:1–22:30 24:1–10 27:1–22 28:1–17 29:1–32 30:1–31:40 32:1–44 33:1–26 34:1–22 37:1–21 38:1–28 39:1–18 49:1–39 50:1–51:64 52:1–34|
|After the Fall of Jerusalem (586)||40:1–42:22 43:1–44:30|
August 9 — Painless Lessons — Jeremiah 3-4. One of Jeremiah’s main purposes was to record the terrible political and spiritual events of his time. He also repeatedly spoke to Jews and Gentiles of God’s willingness to restore those who would repent. In today’s reading, he surprisingly begins with already-conquered northern Israel—the remnant of Jews left there as well as those who were deported. Then, even though “her … sister Judah saw it … Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore … committing adultery with stone and tree,” their manmade idols (3:7-9). So, after warning Judah, the prophet called Israel to repentance: “Return, faithless Israel … for I am merciful, I will not be angry forever” (3:12). At least a remnant responded positively: “Behold, we come to you, for you are the LORD our God” (3:22). Oh, that we would learn painlessly from the negative consequences of others’ sin and remain true to God without drifting away!
August 10 — Limited Patience — Jeremiah 5-6. Here are the Big Ideas in Jeremiah to look for, submitted by one of our readers: 1) Jeremiah warns God’s people to return to God and repent. 2) Judah’s idolatry will result in judgment and punishment. 3) God will make a new covenant with his people. 4) Ultimate trust must be found not in earthly things but in God. We certainly see #1 and #2 in today’s reading. Like most people around us, the people of Judah were living in la-la land, an unrealistic dream world. They said of God’s warnings, “He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us” (5:12). They cried, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (6:14). They didn’t take God’s Word seriously: “They have not paid attention to my words … they have rejected it” (6:19). They missed out on the good that God wanted to give them (5:25) because they did not fear or tremble before the powerful creator of the world (5:22). We also sometimes fail to take the instructions and warnings of Scripture seriously. Never excuse sin by thinking “He will do nothing”!
August 11 — Weeping — Jer. 7-9. Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet” because of his desire to “weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people” (9:1). Earlier he said, “my heart is sick within me” (8:18), and “I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me” (8:21). He was probably also heartsick because his messages went unheeded. God told him in advance that this would happen: “So shall you speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (7:27). That is very bad news for a preacher or teacher. Only Baruch and Ebed-melech in chapter 38 are mentioned as having appreciated him or his message. Many people around us today don’t appreciate our message of salvation through Christ, but although it may cause us grief, we are to continue to proclaim the Good News and pray for change.
August 12 — Empty Idols — Jer. 10-12. Amid the description of the emptiness of idol worship in chapter 10, is inserted several wonderful contrasting statements about “the true God … the living and everlasting King” (10:10): “Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due … there is none like you” (10:7); “It is he who made the earth by his power … and by his understanding stretched out the heavens” (10:12); and “Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the LORD of hosts is his name” (10:16). There are also figurative idols today that urge us to place them higher than the true God, like the reasoning of human philosophy, the alternative explanations of origins from scientists, and the entertainment industry’s presentation of pleasure as the highest value. People won’t appreciate our stand for God against these false idols. Even Jeremiah’s brothers (12:6) and other people from his hometown of Anathoth threatened him: “Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, or you will die by our hand” (11:21). Let us, too, be willing to stand for truth against a threatening majority.
August 13 — Required Repentance — Jer. 13-15. God’s patience with Judah finally ran out. Fifteen years before Josiah became king of Judah, Manasseh led the people into the deep sins of idolatry and child sacrifice (15:4). There was reform during Josiah’s reign, but now, probably under Jehoiakim, Judah had returned to their sins. “They have loved to wander … therefore the LORD … will … punish their sins” (14:10). “You have rejected me, declares the LORD; you keep going backward” (15:6), and “they did not turn from their ways” (15:7). God even told Jeremiah, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people” (14:11) because their show of worship was only superficial. Even pleas for them from Moses and Samuel would not be answered (15:1). Is real repentance necessary before God will save someone? Absolutely.