August 22; It’s Morning

Lamentations 3-4

Jeremiah is feeling old. He sees his wrinkled skin, considers his brittle bones and his toothless grin, and says, “All my splendor is gone and all I had hoped from the Lord.” I am going to my high school class reunion in a couple weeks. I hear you, Jeremiah.

But the prophet isn’t consumed with his failing body because he is vain. This chapter comes after his description of the devastation of God’s wrath on the people. Jeremiah feels helpless, useless in their situation.

But then Jeremiah changes his focus. He turns to the Lord. He was able to say things like:

Because of God’s great love we are not consumed, his compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (3:22-23)

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. (3:25)

For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men. (3:33)

I figure if Jeremiah, being feeble and discouraged, could have such faith and confidence in God in the middle of the famine and war, then I certainly can have the same faith and confidence in God in the middle of whatever situation I am facing. Because God’s faithfulness IS great. His mercies ARE new every morning.

And it is morning.

August 21; The Reality

Psalms 102, 120, 137; Lamentation 1-2

Jeremiah looked at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple in ruins, his neighbors and friends either dragged away into captivity, or starving in the streets. And he was sad.

Yes, he’d warned them that God was going to punish them if they didn’t repent. And when they refused to stop sinning, I’m sure it came at no surprise to the prophet that God did exactly what He’d said He’d do. But I don’t think even Jeremiah knew how bad God’s judgment would be.

I don’t think we do, either.

Most of us know there is a heaven and a hell. John, in his vision, tries to describe a reality more wonderful than we can imagine, an unspeakably amazing eternity with God. But Scripture also tells us there is another reality for those who reject God.

As unspeakably wonderful as heaven is, hell is unspeakably horrible. That reality without God is worse than anything we can imagine.  I just don’t believe any of us know how bad God’s judgment will be for those who die in their sin.

Read these chapters in Lamentations. Feel the despair, the loneliness, the utter hopelessness. See the filth and the horror. And know hell is an eternity much worse.

I think if we really allowed ourselves to get a glimpse of the reality of hell, we wouldn’t go to bed tonight until we shared Jesus with our loved ones, with passion and urgency. Jeremiah’s heart was broken by the suffering he saw in the people who had refused to obey God.

Dear God, break my heart over the same reality.

August 20; Sin’s Debt

Jeremiah 52; Psalms 74, 79, 85

Today’s Scriptures continue with the Babylonian captivity, and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. God’s disobedient children were being punished. The psalmists asked God for mercy because the hand of God was heavy on them.

God will always punish disobedience. There has never been a time, nor will there be a time, when God gives His creation a free pass. Every disobedient thought or action, every sin committed comes with a death sentence. Every sin.

I think sometimes people think that when a person becomes a Christian, God cancels our sin debt, somehow erases the ledger so we stand before Him guilt-less, just as if we’d never sinned. But I don’t think that’s the case.

When I look at the cross I know my sin debt wasn’t just canceled. It was paid for by the Savior who painfully shed His blood, and died to pay the price my sins deserve.

I love Psalm 85. God forgave us and covered our sins, but He did it with Jesus’ blood. He set aside His anger toward us and directed it to His Son instead. His unfailing love granted salvation – but it cost Him a great deal.

His peace is ours, but not because we are sinless. It’s ours because we are forgiven. The sin I committed yesterday doesn’t just disappear when I ask God to forgive it. It’s a sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

If I can tell myself God simply erases my sins when I ask for forgiveness, I don’t feel quite as bad about sinning. I mean, I use erasers all the time. No big deal.

But if I remember that sin cost Jesus great physical suffering and death, that lie or that jealousy or that dirty thought takes on a different meaning. It becomes a very big deal. It makes me ashamed to have contributed to Jesus’ suffering, and I don’t want to be a part of it any more.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. (Ps 85:10-11)

Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. (verse 7)

But may we never forget what that salvation cost Jesus, may we never take for granted that our sin debt was paid for us on the cruel cross of Calvary by Someone who wasn’t guilty.

I pray you know Him and have accepted what Jesus died to give you. He took the punishment you deserve for every sin you’ve ever committed. You sin debt is paid in full. Please accept it.

 

August 19; It’s Not About The Rags

Jeremiah 34:1-22, 39:1-18; 2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 13:15-21

The king couldn’t escape God’s wrath. The most powerful man in the country had no defense against the hand of God, even with his strong army fighting for him. Zedekiah tried to run, but he was captured, his children killed right before his eyes, then his eyes were gouged out of his head, and he was thrown in prison.

God had repeatedly warned King Zedekiah, but he continually refused to repent. He ended up paying a high price for his disobedience.

However, an employee of the king, a Cushite named Ebed-Melech was saved by God. Do you remember Ebed-Melech?

We met him in Jeremiah 38. He’s the man who rescued Jeremiah out of a cistern, where the prophet had been left to die by Zedekiah’s thugs. Ebed-Melech thoughtfully provided rags to be used as cushions under Jeremiah’s armpits so Jeremiah wouldn’t be cut to shreds as Ebed-Melech lifted him up out of the well by a rope. He not only saved Jeremiah’s life, he did so with a great deal of kindness and consideration. I like Ebed-Melech.

Now here in Jeremiah 29 we hear God promise Ebed-Melech he will be rescued himself. But not as a reward for being considerate to Jeremiah. God said:

I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declared the Lord. (29:18, emphasis mine)

I am reminded that no amount of thoughtful, kind, or sacrificial deeds can buy my salvation. No one had more to offer than King Zedekiah. No one had more resources at his disposal. Ebed-Melech, just a regular guy, was saved because he trusted God.

And, dear one, trusting God is what will save you and me, too.

August 18; The Branch Has A Name

Ezekiel 31:1-18; Jeremiah 32:1-33:26

God had made a covenant with the Jews. That convenient was so strong, God said it couldn’t be broken unless someone could take the control over day and night from Him. The covenant was this: David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne, and the Levites would never fail to have a  man burning sacrifices before God.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 33:14)

Then God described Jesus! We who live after the cross know that the Branch has a Name. The Lord our Righteousness is Jesus Christ. One Man, both king and priest, sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us.

And He isn’t going anywhere! He is the eternal King and Priest. The fulfillment of God’s promise to His people.

One man, one sacrifice for all.

One Savior. Jesus!

August 17; Confidence

Ezekiel 25:1-17, 29:1-16, 30:20-26; Jeremiah 37:1-38:28

Where do you go for counsel? Where do you find your confidence? Who do you trust?

Israel had gone to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, for protection from the Babylonians. They had put their very lives in the hands of this great army, and felt secure in the power of the Egyptians to defeat their enemy.

God was not happy about that. In fact, He was about to show Israel how strong Egypt wasn’t. “Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 29:16)

God was going to destroy Egypt. He was going to pull the rug out from under Israel. Then where would Israel be?

I think we could learn something from this, don’t you? In this day and age of self-empowerment and positive thinking, where people are told to believe in themselves and have confidence in their own power, God might be telling us to be prepared. He just might pull the rug out from under us, too.

God wants us to put our confidence in Him. Not ourselves. Not our spouses. Not our church. Not our good works. Him. Just Him. And He won’t be ok with being our back-up.

God can, and does, make sure we know He is the Sovereign Lord by destroying our sources of confidence outside of Himself. Even if He has to bring us to our knees.

Where do you go for confidence? I hope it’s not Oprah, or Joel Osteen, or some self-help guru telling you how wonderful you are. I pray your confidence is in God alone.

If you’re trusting anyone or anything else, be prepared to watch that thing destroyed right before your eyes. God wants you to trust Him. We need to trust Him.

August 16; Umm…NO

Ezekiel 23:1-9, 24:1-27; Jeremiah 21:1-14

King Zedekiah wanted Jeremiah to ask God if He was going to help them against their enemy. God’s answer? “Umm…NO.”

That’s the thing. So often when we find ourselves in trouble, we cry out to God, “Help me! I need a miracle!” And sometimes God’s answer is “No. You want to live life on your terms, fight your enemy on your own strength.”

What I notice about Zedekiah’s request is the absence of a confession. God was using the Babylonians to punish Israel for sin, and the king didn’t seem to think it was necessary to repent of that sin. Now I’m wondering if I don’t do the same thing.

I need to remember that repentance comes before answered prayer. Repentance comes before God’s blessings. If I want to hear God say, “Yes,” I need to ask Him on His terms.

After all, He’s God.