Jeremiah 43.1-11 – Pride & its consequences
Posted: 2 August 2010 in Jeremiah

And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words, Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there: But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon. So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to dwell in the land of Judah.

At this point the rebels depart into Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them.

Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brickkiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword.

In Genesis 3, pride is identified as the original sin, from which all other sins flow. Here it is on display again. Through the good offices of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s will has been made known to what remains of the Jewish establishment, following the fall of Jerusalem in 587BC. They are told that they must remain in Jerusalem, where they can expect to become the captives, and later the servants (slaves) of the Babylonians.

Being members of the former political elite, this news does not fall lightly on their ears. So, man being what he is, they decide that what they have heard is not God’s will, and that (funny enough) God’s will is identical to their own. So they try to make their escape into Egypt which (along with Judah) was in a state of rebellion against Babylonian rule.

However, God now speaks to them again, and this time they learn what the result of their disobedience will be. That, when the Babylonians invade Egypt to bring it to heel (in 568BC), they will die by the sword.

The moral of this story is that the will of God cannot be frustrated by the machinations of men, whose own best interests always lie in submission to God – no matter how much we may wish that his will for us was something other than it is.

No comments

2 Kings 9.5-8 & Isaiah 55.8-9
The death of Ahab & his family
Posted: 31 July 2010 in 2 Kings, Isaiah

“And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain…. and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:”

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The first thing to cross the mind of somebody after reading those verses from 2 Kings might be that the sentence pronounced by God is pretty tough on the descendants of Ahab – especially as it appears to violate a principle set out in Deuteronomy 24.16: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers.”

However, for me a couple of thoughts flow from this. The first is that Deuternonmy contains a principle set forth by God for us to obey. It is not supposed to constrain the sovereign freedom of God.

The second thought is that we need to take on board the warning contained in the verse from Isaiah – God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. It needs to be remembered that it is God, not us, who is the sovereign Lord and Judge of all creation, and it is God, not us, who disposes all things according to the good pleasure of his own will.

God is the Lord, we are his creatures, and it is simply not for us to question his actions.

No comments

Mark 2.21-22 – The authority and divinity of Jesus
Posted: 30 July 2010 in Mark

No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.

I sometimes hear Christians ask, where in the New Testament does Jesus claim divinity? I will admit that, until very recently, I would not have believed that such a thing could be asked by Christians. One answer to the question, however, that is that Jesus claims divinity in numerous places in the Gospel of John. It must be admitted that references to his divinity are less explicit in the synoptic gospels, but even there they are still to be found, and the above passage is one such.

Jesus at this point in Mark is clearly announcing the arrival of a new covenant, and a setting aside of the Mosaic Covenant (new cloth – old garment; new wine – old bottles). In first century Judaism, claiming the authority to say such a thing would have bordered on blasphemy. Nobody would have been able to say it unless he was either insane, or knew himself to have the necessary authority. At the very least he would have needed the authority of a prophet. Here, however, there are none of the theophanies, at Mount Sinai, or at the burning bush, which Moses witnessed when the Old Covenant was being announced. Instead Jesus needs no such special revelations from God, because he is here speaking with the authority of God Incarnate.

Earlier in chapter 2, the scribes and Pharisees were scandalised when Jesus forgave the paralysed man his sins, again on his own authority.

No comments

Job 9.1-4 – Suffering & Man’s dealings with God
Posted: 29 July 2010 in Job

Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

We are privileged to know the ultimate the ultimate cause of Job’s suffering, because it is revealed to us in chapter 1 of the book of Job. But Job himself does not have access to that information, and the reason he has to suffer in this way is beyond his comprehension. Yet, at least in these few verses, he seems to know, in a way that modern man does not, that it is impossible for us to justify ourselves before God. Nor can we, except with the grossest impertinence, presume to sit in judgment upon our Creator.

It is not long, of course, before Job moves on, and starts doing precisely what he has just said man cannot do – and is duly upbraided by God from chapter 38 onwards. We would, most likely, all do the same. But Job’s first instinct is correct, and we must believe that whatever befalls us is serving God’s purpose in the grand scheme of things.

No comments

Matthew 25.31-46 – The Last Judgment
Posted: 28 July 2010 in Matthew

Clicking on this italicised passage will open the full text in a new window.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats…..

I have seen this passage referred to as “The Great Surprise” rather than “The Last Judgment.” The point being that both groups appear surprised when they learn of the respective verdicts being passed upon them. The sheep are not conscious of having done anything to merit salvation, and, conversely, the goats are not conscious of having done anything to merit condemnation.

The implication is that we do not here have a religion where salvation is to be achieved through works, but rather one where it has to be achieved through the grace of God. Were it otherwise, the sheep would be conscious of having earned their salvation through their many good works, whereas the goats would be unsurprised to learn that they were finally to receive their comeuppance, because of their lack of good works.

Instead, without the sheep realising it, God has wrought in them a docility to his will, and the works which are pleasing to himself. The surprise of the goats, on the other hand, is at least partly to be accounted for through the realisation that attempts to earn their own ticket into heaven have not, in fact, succeeded in doing so. They were not conscious of their utter dependence upon God.

No comments