Posts for April 2011
3 Posts found

Jeremiah 21.1-4, 13-14 – A couple of disconnected thoughts
Posted: 5 April 2011 in Jeremiah

“The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying, Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us. Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.

“Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations? But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.”

The first of the two passages quoted above serve as a reminder that God has a mind of his own, and that our prayers will only receive an affirmative answer if what we pray for is in accordance with his will. Prayer is not a magic spell, by which God can be made to dance to our tune. Instead it is the means by which we offer our humble supplications to the Lord of all Creation.

The final two verses quoted are illustrative of the fact that the God of the Bible is quite as prepared to punish his creatures as he is to utter a blessing upon them. A liberal theology which does not allow itself to be constrained by biblical revelation is quite likely to invent a God whose attitude towards his creatures is only ever indulgent, no matter how sinful their behaviour. Such a god is not the God of the Bible, and it is not the real God.

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Numbers 22-23 – God’s Immutable Will
Posted: 4 April 2011 in Numbers

“And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel…..”

Numbers 22-23 is really an extended essay on the immutability of God’s will, and the foolishness, of all human attempts to frustrate it.The story starts out (Num 22.13) with the king of Moab’s representatives being told that Balaam cannot curse Israel, because God has already determined to bless them. Unwilling to accept that answer, Balak then sends a second delegation, along with a bribe, to try and persuade Balaam to come anyway.

Eventually Balaam agrees, and after a not uneventful journey, he arrives in Moab to be greeted by Balak. He is taken to what Balak considers an appropriate location, sacrifices are offered, and Balaam goes off to commune with the Lord. God places in his mouth the words he is to speak, and he returns to Balak where he blesses upon Israel.

Naturally, Balak is not well pleased, and says so, but is told, once again, that it is God’s will to bless Israel, and Balaam can only do as he is commanded by God. After two more attempts to obtain a curse upon Israel, and having Balaam repeatedly pronounce God’s blessing upon them, Balak gives up the project.

The point of the story, of course, is that wisdom lies in conforming ourselves to God’s will, even when it shows signs of being something other than we would like it to be. God will always win in the end, and we can save ourselves the trouble of sinning against him if we behave as though we are creatures, and no gods.

Elsewhere (2 Peter 2.15-16 for example) Balaam gets it in the neck from other biblical authors, but that seems a bit unfair, given that it was Balak who persistently refused to submit to God’s will.

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Jeremiah 17.19-27 – God’s priorities and ours.
Posted: 1 April 2011 in Jeremiah

Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

If we were to compose a list of sins, in order of seriousness, then I suppose murder, theft and rape would be near the top, with sabbath observance somewhere further down.  And yet, Jerusalem is here being threatened with destruction because of a lack of sabbath observance. That would not seem to suggest  sabbath observance is near the bottom of God’s list of priorities.

It does not take much reflection to realise that we order our priorities in the way that we do, because we place our own welfare at the top, and anything which merely has to do with our duty to God somewhere near the bottom. A quick read read the ten commandments, on the other hand, soon reveals that it is our duties towards God that he places at the top of the list, with nothing being said about our duty towards one another until the fifth commandment. It ought, I suppose, to come as no surprise that God’s priorities differ from ours, because he is, after all, creator and Lord of the universe. Not unreasonably he considers it to be a serious disordering of creation when his creatures are negligent in their worship of him.

Lest the above passage fail to make the point sufficiently clear to us, there is a passage in Numbers where the death penalty is recorded as having been passed on somebody who violated the sabbath.

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