Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Judgment IS coming … but there IS hope!"

Day #104:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 11th

Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 12 - 16 …

There have been, and will be until Jesus comes, people who claim to know the one, true God, but whose hearts betray them.  Jeremiah says it again here:  "You are always on their lips, but far from their hearts" (12:3).  Recognizing that self-deception is a possibility, Jeremiah goes on to say, "Yet, you know me, O LORD; You see me and test my thoughts about You" (12:4).  It is as if to ask God to make sure you are not fooling yourself when you claim to be a believer.  Why is that important?

It is important because God was doing then what He has promised to do again in our day:  He was bringing judgment not only on those who refused to confess Him as God, BUT ALSO on those who took His name in vain (what the 3rd commandment is really talking about).  Within the nation of Judah there was a remnant who truly believed, who trusted and served the LORD, the God of their fathers.  But many, quite probably most, ignored God completely or went through the motions of their religion.  They had forgotten who they were … in fact, they never really understood!

So it is in churches across our nation and, I suspect, the world.  One evidence of this is the zeal people have in declaring their participation in and devotion to a particular denomination or institution.  Remember God's words through Jeremiah in our reading last week:  "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this:  that he understands and knows ME; that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).  Few people seem to understand that what is important is following Christ!

God said to Jeremiah, "I bound the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to me, to be my people for my renown and praise and honor, but they have not listened!" (13:11).  God threatened them with exile, with captivity, and they would soon be carried off to Babylon.  "All Judah will be carried completely away" (13:19).  "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil" (13:23).  As He had done before, God instructed Jeremiah NOT to pray for the well-being of this people (14:11).  Jeremiah responded by saying that the prophets were telling Judah that they would have peace, that nothing would happen to them.  God says, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name.  I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them" (14:14).

False prophets have been a problem throughout human history, and they are a problem today, not only outside the church but inside the church.  Jesus warned that it would be true and the apostles declared that it was already true in their day.  How can you tell a false prophet from a true prophet, sent from God?  A prophet is one who declares God's Word, who speaks God's truth to those gathered in His name, to those who claim to be His people.  Jesus gave us an easy way to tell if a prophet was speaking truth.  He told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to be their teacher and "When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (16:8).  Those who do not warn of coming judgment, who do not call sinners to repentance and who do not guide those who believe in the way of righteousness are false prophets!!  They are worthy of being stoned and in the end they, themselves, will be judged.

True prophets declare God's judgment, but also offer hope to those who truly believe.  "If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me …"  (15:19).  "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when … they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where He had banished them.'  For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers" (16:14-15).

While there are promises throughout the Old Testament of this future restoration, many miss it today.  God brought a remnant back to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity, but Jeremiah is pointing to something more than that.  He was pointing to TODAY and to a not-so-distant future.  The LORD, the Almighty One, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has brought millions of the descendants of Judah back to the land He promised to their fathers.  And there is an even greater fulfillment in the future, when Jesus returns and literally reigns in Jerusalem over the nations of the world.

The hope that is offered to many today is a false hope of peace with a "god" they do not know and do not worship from their hearts.  False religions and false gods abound in our world today.  But there is ONE Who is the Maker of the heavens and the earth.  As He revealed Himself through the prophets and apostles, and finally in His Son Jesus Christ, He uses His Word today as the "sword of the Spirit" to open the eyes of the blind and to seek and to save that which was lost.  Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ judgment is declared and salvation is offered to all who believe, who are born again by the very Spirit of God and who live as true prophets in this world, declaring God's truth to all.

May we be found so doing when He comes, for we, too, have been called to be His people, for His renown and praise and honor.  May we listen to His Word and do what it says, for His glory and our good.  Judgment IS coming … but there IS hope for those who truly believe.

"LORD God Almighty, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God!  I worship You today and praise You for Your faithfulness to those who call on Your name.  Continue Your work in me by Your Spirit and Word, that I will turn from sin and live in obedience to Your commands.  To do Your will is to obey Your Word.  Forgive my sins, Father, by the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I may not dishonor You, but live daily for Your glory and honor.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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