Jeremiah begins chapter 12 with a question – a common question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” The prophet wants to have a discussion with God about His judgments, how He’s running things. It doesn’t make any sense – it’s just wrong how the wicked seem to be “successful” and yet they’re so hypocritical. How long Lord? How long?
God’s answer to Jeremiah is fascinating. He doesn’t pamper the prophet. As a matter of fact the Lord tells him, it’s going to get worse. The Lord then turns the tables and asks Jeremiah a question:
Jeremiah 12:5 (NKJV) “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?”
Life would not be easy for Jeremiah and life would not be easy for Judah. God would judge the Jews, “…because no one takes it to heart.” (Jeremiah 12:11) They just wouldn’t get their hearts right in God’s sight. They refused to take the warnings to heart. God would use pagan nations to judge His people.
That wouldn’t be the end of the story however. God would restore His people and judge those pagan nations (Jeremiah 12:14-15). And then in His amazing grace God extends a word of salvation for the Gentiles, if they would call on the Name of the LORD individually, they could be saved eternally (Jeremiah 12:16).
Jeremiah 13 begins with two “illustrations.” The first is a sash that Jeremiah wears around his waist, but then takes and buries somewhere near the Euphrates river. After a period of time Jeremiah is commanded to return to the Euphrates and dig up the sash and use it as a visual. This is a picture of Israel and Judah, ruined and profitable for nothing. At one time God called this people and saved them so that they’d cling to Him like a sash around one’s waist…but now after so much sin, they had wasted their lives.
In the second illustration I see a liquor store of wine bottles, symbolizing the people – they were all drunk; they lacked any spiritual sense. The enemy then came in and started smashing those bottles to smithereens. God said, “I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.” (Jeremiah 13:14)
God called them to humble themselves. “Hear and give ear: ‘Do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken,’” (Jeremiah 13:15) including the people in the palace (Jeremiah 13:18) but they refused to change (Jeremiah 13:23), they refused to come clean (Jeremiah 13:27). Their wicked ways brought judgment…and Jeremiah wept.
Jeremiah 13:17 (NKJV) “But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.”
Jeremiah 14 covers the judgments of Judah in different forms. Up to this point we’ve read primarily about the Babylonians who would level the land, but leading up to that would be drought and famine and other such days of Divine discipline.
Jeremiah 14:7-8 sounds like a sincere prayer that would turn God’s heavy hand away, but it didn’t…for it was too late.
Jeremiah 14:10 (NKJV) “Thus says the LORD to this people: ‘Thus they have loved to wander; they have not restrained their feet. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, and punish their sins.’”
I’m reminded of that word we read back in the book of Isaiah, seek God before it’s too late.
Isaiah 55:6 (NKJV) “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.”
Am I seeking Him NOW, the way I should be? Am I listening to the warnings? Am I humbling myself, clinging to God, under the influence of the Holy Spirit? Or am I questioning God, complaining about my life? Friend, let’s trust Him knowing that even if the world’s cavalry was sent our way, because of Christ, we’ll be okay.
1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:8
We read in Acts 17 how Paul and the guys planted the church in Thessalonica during their second missionary journey. Considering the fact that Paul was there preaching and reasoning from the Scriptures for only three Sabbaths (Acts 17:2-3), it’s amazing to see the work God had done and all the theology (including eschatology) that the Thessalonians learned in such a short period of time.
It didn’t take long for things to heat up in Thessalonica, so Paul was sent away and went on to Berea, Athens, and then Corinth. While in Corinth he apparently received a report on the Thessalonian church that there were misunderstandings that needed to be addressed, so he wrote this letter somewhere around AD 52.
We read in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, that Paul was grateful to God for the Thessalonians and prayed for them always. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 mentions their faith, hope, and love, tell-tale signs of a healthy church. What an encouragement that must have been to Paul that their faith was followed by works, that those works were not done grudgingly, but lovingly, and that even though they had been afflicted and persecuted, they persevered with their anchor of hope. They knew Jesus was coming, that their future was bright.
Every pastor and evangelist always wonders if the professions of faith are genuine. In Thessalonica, Paul knew it was indeed the work of the Lord. The Gospel didn’t arrive in word only, but it came in power, the personal power of the Holy Spirit working through men who had also been legitimately touched by God…there was deep conviction.
The Thessalonians followed in the footsteps of Christ, and His ministers in that they were also afflicted for the truth…but they held to their joy. God did such an amazing work in the Thessalonian church that the Word spread to the surrounding provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. Their testimony went before them and others heard how these people had turned from dead idols to serve the living God.
Wow! What an awesome work the Lord did there in Thessalonica! May He do the same today, through us. May it truly be the Lord, His Word, His power, His Holy Spirit. May we change in such a radical way that the word of our testimony spreads like wild-fire.
When it’s a genuine work of God, of course we know the devil is going to come against us and fight us tooth and nail, but we don’t lose heart. We have that hope as an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19). Jesus is coming and He will deliver us, not just temporarily, but eternally.
As we go through the book of 1 Thessalonians, you’ll notice that every chapter ends with the mention of the Lord’s return. It’s good to live in the light of Jesus’ eminent return.
Many people would classify 1 Thessalonians 2 as a chapter for pastors. In this section Paul speaks of his code of conduct and care for the congregation in Thessalonica – all rooted in the fact that he had been given a pastor’s heart. I always tell people that, “A shepherd’s work can never be done without a shepherd’s heart.”
God truly did a work in Thessalonica; their coming there was NOT in vain. This in spite of the fact that prior to Paul’s arrival in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:16-17:9). The way I see it (at least in part) is that God did a great work in Thessalonica, because He had already done a great work in Paul and Silas!
By the grace of God, the opposition and persecution didn’t slow ‘em down even one iota…they just kept preaching the Gospel boldly. Their message was accurate, their motives were pure; they didn’t preach to tickle ears or appease men, all they wanted to do was to please God. They didn’t flatter for selfish reasons, they weren’t greedy for gain, they refused to touch the glory or use their position to push people around (even though they were Apostles of Christ). They were gentle, as a good mother is towards her children, and another maternal characteristic they manifested was not only did they give them the gospel, they gave them their lives (wow), they truly loved the people (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
This Psalm was obviously written during Israel’s exile. It breaks your heart to think of all the suffering, death, and blood that was shed when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and leveled the Temple.
Israelite bodies left out in the open for birds to feast on. The shame, the pain…and it was lingering so long. The northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah had forsaken the LORD to serve other gods, and they were now paying the price. The Psalmist prays and he wonders, “How long?”
Psalms 79:5 (NKJV) “How long, LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?”
The Psalmist didn’t just ask questions though – he also acknowledged the sins of the nation, pleading for mercy and forgiveness, for God to defeat Israel’s enemies (he still believed), and he commendably did ask for the right reason – for the glory of God’s name (Psalm 79:9).
They were prisoners who were groaning (Psalm 79:11) but at the same time they were growing (spiritually). Many a soul has been saved in “prison” – a time to think, to search, to ponder and appreciate true freedom.
Even in the midst of such horrible circumstances, the Psalmist knew, Israel belonged to God, they were the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 79:13).
Proverbs 24:30–34 (NKJV) “I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; 31 And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. 32 When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; 34 So shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.”
We see the same truth in Proverbs 6:9-11 and similar principles frequently in the book of Proverbs. Our laziness will eventually be evident to all. Let’s get up and go. Let’s work hard and obediently for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Proverbs 10:4 (NKJV) “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
Proverbs 12:24 (NKJV) “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”
Proverbs 13:4 (NKJV) “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”
Jon Courson said, “Your dreams will never come true until you get out of bed.”
Nathaniel Howe, “The way to be nothing is to do nothing.”
Martin Luther, “If I rest, I rust.” (Some rest is good, but not too much)
This work ethic not only affects us physically and financially, but also spiritually. For that reason Paul pushed Timothy:
2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Fatigue is a part of life. It’s been said that the world is run by tired people.
Allow me to close with the epitaph of James Albery: “He slept beneath the moon, he basked beneath the sun; he lived a life of going-to-do, and died with nothing done.”
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.