Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"As God has said, so it shall be ..."

Day #224

Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 17 - 21 …

That the prophets declared the coming wrath and judgment of God upon Israel, Judah and the surrounding nations cannot be denied.  That these people and nations all deserved God's judgment cannot be debated.  So do we!  Whether reading through the Old Testament or the New Testament one finds the inevitable testimony that God will pour out His wrath in judgment upon mankind for our utter contempt for and rebellion against His reign.  In the history of Israel before the birth of Christ, and in the history of mankind since, the words written by Jeremiah so long ago stand true throughout the centuries:  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (17:9).  We see the consequences of our sinful actions all around us every day, but we cannot “fix” ourselves!

From the beginning, God established a cycle of six days of labor and one day of rest.  The “Sabbath” (rest) day not only gave mankind a "day off" from work, but it reminded people that God was their Creator.  It was not only about keeping a day holy, it was about being a holy people, a people who lived with and for God.  God spoke through Jeremiah, saying, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. … but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in HIM" (17:5,7).  The contrast is evident, in life … and in death.

It is important to see the connections God makes between the words of the Prophets spoken to Israel and the words of the Apostles spoken to us.  "O house of Israel," Jeremiah writes, "can I not do to you as this potter does? ... Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand" (18:6).  When the people in the days of the Apostle Paul, as in our day, challenged God's right to judge some and to show mercy to others whom He has chosen, Paul writes, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:21).

God says, "I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you.  So turn from your evil ways …" (18:11).  "I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.  For they have forsaken me …" (19:3-4).  God was very specific about the judgment He was going to bring upon Judah, as He had brought upon Israel.  Jeremiah took no pleasure in bringing this message, but he says, "If I say, 'I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,' His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in, indeed, I cannot" (20:9).

So it is today for those called to declare God's Word to our "wise" and modern world.  The Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles speak with one voice, warning of the judgment to come.  Still, as we have seen before, the false prophets declare peace.  Those who would gather all religions together into a large "interfaith" gathering "for the common good" bring judgment upon themselves and all who listen to them.  They are as guilty as some in Judah who attempted to mix the worship of the true God with the worship of foreign gods and who actually sacrificed their children on their altars.

Some sent word to Jeremiah asking him to inquire of the Lord as Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, began his attack.  They said, "Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us" (21:2).  Really?  You ignore the LORD and worship other gods, and then you want HIM to deliver you??!!  But God says, "I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath" (21:5).  Still, God provided a way out … but not the one they were looking for.

"Tell the people, 'This is what the LORD says:  See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.  Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague.  But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he will escape with his life.  I have determined to do this city harm and not good'" (21:8-10).  As Moses had offered a choice in Deuteronomy 30:11-20, a choice between obedience or disobedience, so now God offers this choice to the people of Judah.  Blessing or curse lies in a choice … but the problem is, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (17:9).

Without the Spirit of God and the new birth, no one can or will choose obedience.  We need a Savior and we need a new heart.  Praise God for the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, through which we receive BOTH!!  As God has said, so it shall be!  All mankind shall face the just judgment and wrath of God, our Creator, and only those who are washed by the blood of Christ will be saved.  Salvation by grace through faith is our only hope … but it is a sure and certain hope.  If you rest in your own strength and try to fight the enemy using your own power, you will certainly be destroyed.

God has set before us the way of life and the way of death!  Which have you chosen?  Which will you choose?  The evidence of being born again is faith and obedience.  Through faith in Jesus you must receive Him as the perfect sacrifice for your sin and trust in Him alone for forgiveness and life.  And by the power of His Spirit who has given you new life, you will desire to please God above all else, confessing your sin, desiring to turn from it (repent) and pursuing holiness.  Do you see this evidence in your life?  Praise God! For it is His gift of grace.

If now you long for a new life and new hope in the LORD, draw near with confidence, knowing that it is He Himself who is drawing you to come to Him … and He will never turn you away.  As certainly as He will carry out His judgment upon those who reject Him, He will save all those who humble themselves and come to Him in the Name of His Son, Jesus.  So let it be written … so let it be done!

"O LORD, our God, Your holiness demands judgment upon those who reject You, who turn away from You to other gods of their own making, and who disobey Your Word.  Thank You for Your grace in Christ Jesus, that through faith in Him we can come boldly to Your throne, confessing our sin and trusting in Your forgiveness!  To YOU be praise, glory and honor, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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