October 18

Jeremiah 31:27–32:44

It’s tough to follow sometimes, as Jeremiah goes from judgment, to mercy and grace beyond measure, and then back to judgment again in the remainder of chapter 31.

The Jews had a maxim:

Jeremiah 31:29 (NKJV) “…the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

In other words, the children were suffering for their parent’s sins. But God set them straight.

Jeremiah 29:30 (NKJV) “But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.”

We can’t blame it on our parents, or ancestors, every person must assume personal responsibility!

Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a powerful prophecy of the New Covenant that God would make with Israel – and not only Israel, but with any and all who would be willing to enter in. Jesus spoke of this New Covenant (Luke 22:20) and it’s something the writer to the Hebrews mentioned frequently (Hebrews 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24). This covenant would not be written on tablets of stone, but on the tablets of our hearts. This covenant would not be temporary and according to the law, but it would be eternal and according to faith.

In Jeremiah 31:35-37 we hear the Creator God telling us that just as the moon, the sun, the stars, and the waves are all within this “covenant” of creation, so also is Israel in this special covenant of redemption, this nation will remain!

Jeremiah 32 might be summarized in one verse:

Jeremiah 32:42 (NKJV) “For thus says the LORD: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.’”

Again, and again we hear God’s Word of judgment for the abominations of the nation, and that Babylon would be God’s instrument of judgment – so we also see woven within the very “sentences” the amazing grace of how Israel would return to the land  and eventually return to the Lord.

Jeremiah 32 finds the prophet locked up in prison. It’s the fourth year of the reign of Judah’s final king, Zedekiah, before the judgment of Babylon upon Jerusalem. Jeremiah has been imprisoned for telling the truth, that they would not escape the hand of the Chaldeans.

And then something interesting happens. Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel comes to visit him in prison, letting him know about family property that was for sale, was Jeremiah interested? Jeremiah knew that this was the LORD who had already told him about the proposition of property. As Jeremiah buys the friend for seventeen shekels of silver it would be another vivid lesson for everyone to see (the word would spread of Jeremiah’s purchase) that God would indeed bring the people back to the land.

Jeremiah 32:15 (NKJV) “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.’”

As you carefully read through Jeremiah 32:16-23 you realize how this man knew God in an accurate and personal way, how God is all-powerful, abounding in love, and yet perfectly holy. How God had worked on behalf of the children of Israel, granting them the land, and yet they did not live lives of gratitude – they did not love God in return. Jeremiah was keenly cognizant of who God is and the heartless history of Israel. He knew extreme judgment was coming, followed by amazing grace. Jeremiah prayed all this, and God answered in the affirmative.

Jeremiah 32:26–27 (NKJV) “Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 27 ‘Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?’”

God would indeed, keep His promise, and bring this nation back to the land, back to Him, because there’s nothing too hard for the LORD!

What God has done and will do for Israel, may be something you need in your life personally, or maybe it’s a loved one or a prodigal you’re praying for. Nothing is too hard for God. There may be days of disappointment and even discipline, but keep praying, keep waiting on the Lord. Notice the work He’s about to do:

Jeremiah 32:37–41 (NKJV) “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. 38 They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. 41 Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.”

1 Timothy 3:1-16

The call to the position of a bishop (pastor, shepherd, overseer) is a call to genuine holiness. If the leaders aren’t right with God, where will they lead the people? Jesus told us in Matthew 10:24-25 that a disciple will inevitably end up like his teacher. We can never lead anyone farther than we’ve gone, and it’s for that reason, we pastors have a heavy responsibility to follow hard after our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course we notice that this calling is a calling of character-first; as a matter of fact, the only skill required in this list of sixteen things, is that he must be able to teach. I have a hunch that often times, when we do a search for pastors, we sacrifice the other traits at the altar of the fact that this guy might be a good teacher – we need to be so careful! There are fifteen other things mentioned in this passage alone. Paul tells Timothy that it’s perfectly fine to want to be a pastor, but we must aspire to be a blameless example to the flock and  lead our family well. I like what Sandy Adams said, “The first place to live the Christian life is at home. If your Christianity does not work at home, don’t try to export it.”

To be blameless means that no accusation will stick. In my opinion the “husband of one wife” means that any divorce while being a Christian, disqualifies him from ever being a pastor. To be temperate speaks of the fruit of self-control. Sober-minded points to the fact that he is Biblically wise, he prays and thinks things through. He lives the life, he’s a people-person, able to teach, not a drinker of alcohol, not violent, not greedy for money or the things money can buy; gentle, easy to get along with, not an arguer, not covetous; he’s content, he leads his house well as a loving leader with godly influence (Paul makes sense, if the guy can’t manage his house well, neither will he be able to manage the church). A pastor can’t be a novice for a number of reasons – to really see one’s character takes time – but Paul points to the fact that the man might get prideful, because he sped past the others…we need to be patient in the appointment of pastors.

Paul also gives the qualifications for deacons; this is a sphere of Christian service that differs from that of a pastor, you get a “visual” of this in Acts 6:1-7. Deacons are simply servants; they’re not necessarily called to teach or counsel per se, they might serve tables, they have time to do more menial tasks, administrative aspects of ministry – really anything that has to do with serving the Lord and His people that differ from that of a pastor. We notice in the passage in Acts 6 and here in 1 Timothy 3 that even the most menial aspects of ministry require ministers that are holy.

Should we give people the title of Pastor or Deacon? It appears so, but we must not get caught up in the title. I like to tell people that we’re not into titles, but we are into tasks! I’ll never forget the day I became a husband, a father, a pastor. These were titles that I previously did not possess…but now I do. It’s important to know my God-given roles and responsibilities, I must not bear the title, unless I’m willing to do the task.

Paul wrote this letter in case he was delayed in coming to them, instructing them on how they should conduct themselves in the church. In one sense, the church is the house of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth!

What an awesome summary 1 Timothy 3:16 is, of the mission and ministry of Jesus…God was manifested in the flesh (John 1:1, 14).

Psalm 88:1-18

We’re not sure on the exact background to this Psalm, but it’s one of the few Psalms that doesn’t end on a good note.

Reading this Psalm takes me back to the physical ailments, prayers, and complaints of Job.

Heman was on the verge of death, near the grave, in the lowest pits; he felt God’s wrath and affliction heavy upon him. Even his friends were far away in every respect:

Psalm 88:8 (NKJV) “You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out.”

I sigh as I consider the many who felt this way (and still do today) in the hospital, on oxygen, or on a ventilator, in this season of Covid.

Heman prays that God would hear him. In spite of the fact that he saw no relief in sight, he kept praying. He called and cried out daily to the LORD (Psalm 88:9).

His entire life was apparently tough, even from his youth (Psalm 88:15), but he just kept praying:

Psalm 88:13 (NKJV) “But to You I have cried out, O LORD, and in the morning my prayer comes before You.

This is a heartbreaking Psalm to read, but we know that there are many out there who feel this way. May they do as Heman did – keep praying, my friend, let’s keep praying and never lose heart (Luke 18:1).

Proverbs 25:20-22

Proverbs 25:20 (NKJV) “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”

It’s cold, but they take away your coat?

You’re looking forward to a carbonated drink, but it’s flat, when you needed that carbonation to help you with your upset stomach. Bummer.

Neither are helpful or good. They didn’t have coca-cola back then, so this is most likely a reference to a sodium carbonate which was found naturally in Egypt, but neutralized with vinegar.

Proverbs 25:20 (NLT) “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.

Obviously, these would be insensitive and inappropriate songs.

Proverbs 25:21-22 (NKJV) “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Amplified Notes, “This is not to be understood as a revengeful act intended to embarrass its victim, but just the opposite. The picture is that of the high priest (Leviticus 16:12) who, on the Day of Atonement, took his censer and filled it with “coals of fire” from off the altar of burnt offering, and then put incense on the coals to create a pleasing, sweet-smelling fragrance. The cloud or smoke of the incense covered the mercy seat and was acceptable to God for atonement.”

In Romans 12:19-20 Paul quotes this Proverb and adds the following:

Romans 12:21 (NKJV) “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Pray for your enemy, love them, be nice to them, you might make a friend and even win them to the Lord!

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.

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