Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Ask where the good way is and walk in it … and you will find rest for your souls!"

Day #221

Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 1 - 6 …

Jeremiah was a young man called to be "Jonah" to his own people ... to pronounce God's coming judgment on a nation that had turned away from their God.  Israel, the northern kingdom, had already been defeated by the Assyrians … now it was Judah's turn, and Babylon was about to do the same to them.  The cause of God’s judgment was obvious:  God had "divorced" unfaithful Israel, and now says, "Her unfaithful sister, Judah, had no fear and also went out and committed adultery" (3:8).  "Has a nation ever changed its gods?  ... But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols" (2:11). It is incredible when you look at all that God had done for Israel and Judah to see their unfaithfulness to their God.  No other "god" of any other nation had remotely done what Yahweh, the Great "I AM," had done for His chosen people.  The gods of the nations were dumb idols!

God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (1:5).  God sent Jeremiah to confront Judah with their sin, and when Jeremiah, like Moses before him, says, “I do not know how to speak” (1:6),    God promises that He will put His words in Jeremiah's mouth (1:9) and promises to be with him through whatever struggles he faces (1:19).  That's God's promise to all whom He sends to call others to repent.  It is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one.  Calling people to repent seems to be a thing of the past in many churches and Christian circles today.  "Everybody sins," people say, "but God loves everybody!"  That's not what GOD says, but that is what some who claim to speak for Him are saying.  It is a recipe for disaster!

God says, "My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (2:13).  What a picture of the foolishness of sin that turns people away from the one true God and moves them to worship idols.   Jeremiah’s message from God to Judah continues, “‘Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the LORD, the LORD Almighty" (2:19).    God says, "Only acknowledge your guilt - you have rebelled against the LORD your God!" (3:13).

The unfaithfulness of Judah had been established.  ‘Like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,’ declares the LORD" (3:20).  Jeremiah cries out to Judah, "Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us.  We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers, from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God" (3:25).  Without question, judgment is coming!  Chapter 6 reveals God's intent:  "I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in" (6:11).  God is angry with the prophets and priests who declare that there is peace, when there is no peace (6:14).

Doesn't this sound familiar in the visible church today?  "God doesn't see your sin" ... or "God doesn't notice your sin" ... or "God has changed His mind about your sin" ... so people declare and seem to believe!  Our culture declares that things have changed, that we understand things better now, that the Bible is not relevant to our society, that we need a new way of looking at things.  But GOD says, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But YOU said, 'We will not walk in it'" (6:16).

This is a message for the church today, for those who take the name of the Lord, the God Almighty.   He hasn't changed.  He really has not changed! God offers forgiveness to those who confess their sin and who desire to turn from sin to obey Him.  "'If you will return, O Israel, return to ME,' declares the LORD!" (4:1).  "Break up your unplowed ground ... circumcise your hearts ..." (4:3-4).  "O Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved" (4:14).  Repent!  Repent!  Repent!!

They would not ... so God, in His wisdom declares, "This is what the LORD says, 'The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely ..." (4:27).  As Jeremiah pronounces judgment, yet God says, "Yet even in this day ... I will not destroy you completely" (5:18).  In all of this, what is God saying to Judah, and what is He saying to us?

God is saying that unfaithfulness, spiritual adultery, will not be tolerated - then and now!  Sinning without feeling any guilt and refusing to turn from sin to follow the way of the Lord will reap judgment - then and now!  God is the living water ... Jesus Himself declares that He IS the Living Water ... and to exchange the living water for the polluted water of idols is utter foolishness and will reap its own reward - then and now!

The only difference is that Judah was called to look forward to the promised Savior ... we know who He is!!  A remnant would be saved from Judah and a remnant will be saved front the world today.  Will you be one of them?  ARE you one of them?  The message of Jeremiah is still being proclaimed today. Are you willing to hear it and to respond in faithfulness to the God of salvation?  It is not enough to speak of God's love and then go on sinning. God's love calls His people to repent, to turn from sin and to seek righteousness.

Heed God's call and come to Him, confessing your sin, seeking His forgiveness and desiring His power to transform you, from the inside out, by the power of His Spirit and His Word.  It is true that Jesus receives you as you are, but if you are truly one of His sheep, He will not leave you the way He found you!  "Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened" (by sin), Jesus called, "and I will give you rest ... and you will find rest for your souls!" (Matthew 11:28-30).

"Heavenly Father, I confess my sin before You, my Creator and my God.  You are right when You judge.  Yet, O LORD, I long to be pure and holy before You ... that the desires of my heart would be what YOU desire.  Thank You for Your call to repentance, Lord.  I hear Your voice and I long for Your rest - to rest from my sin and to find rest in YOU!  Oh my soul, I have found the good way!  Now, O LORD, help me to walk in it and to experience Your empowering grace.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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