Jeremiah 5-13

Jeremiah 5-13…False confidence.

Paying attention to only part of what God says always gets us into trouble. Today, for example, we routinely hear people confess, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Many who do this, however, then affirm that one can be saved apart from Christ. Such individuals might confess that even a professed atheist will go to heaven as long as he treats others kindly. These people pass over the fact that in His love, God sent His only Son as the one way of salvation for the world (John 3:16; 14:6). In not heeding all that Scripture says about divine love, they reach false conclusions about the exclusivity of Jesus.

Modern people are not the first to read God’s Word selectively. Today’s passage records Jeremiah’s famous sermon against those who trusted in the words “this is the temple of the Lord” (Jer. 7:3–4). The threefold repetition of this phrase could indicate the ultimate confidence the Judahites placed in possessing the temple. Or, it could mean the words formed a mantra the people spoke whenever Jeremiah warned them of divine wrath. Either way, the Judahites thought God’s choice of the nation and His placement of the temple in Jerusalem meant He would never allow the city to fall. This selective reading of Scripture, however, ignored the Lord’s purpose in choosing Judah.

The Lord chose the children of Jacob to be a holy nation (Ex. 19:6), and failure to keep His covenant would bring about the ultimate penalty of exile (Deut. 28). Professing faith in the covenant Lord of Israel and having Abraham as one’s forefather were not enough for salvation; the people had to possess faith in the Almighty and demonstrate it via love of God and neighbor. Thus, Jeremiah told Judah that they had to care for the destitute (evidencing love of neighbor) and abandon other gods (evidencing love of God) to be preserved from destruction (Jer. 7:5–7). Dr. John L. Mackay comments, “The Temple guaranteed them nothing if they were living lives of rebellion” (Jeremiah, vol. 1, pp. 301–302).

We do not gain the righteous status by which we are justified and given citizenship in His kingdom by obeying the Lord. Faith alone in the promises of God alone avails for justification, which is fulfilled as we trust in Christ alone (Rom. 3:21–26). But the signs that we have justifying faith are repentance and a good-faith effort to follow the Lord. Judah forgot this in Jeremiah’s day, but they should have known better. After all, the people’s possession of the ark at Shiloh in the days of Eli was no help to the impenitent (Jer. 7:8–15; 1 Sam. 4).

 

Advertisements

Isaiah 61-63

Isaiah 61-63…The Servant of the Lord

The Messiah must come as the ideal Israel, fulfilling Israel’s vocation to be a light to the world, dying an atoning death for His people, and rising again to rule creation in perfect righteousness (Isa. 9:6–7; 42:1–7; 49:1–7; 52:13–53:12). Isaiah 61 reinforces this point in its first-person description of the one who comes “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” (61:1–3). Although some commentators have said otherwise, the speaker cannot be the prophet himself. Isaiah nowhere else describes himself in such lofty terms or in a manner that ascribes the same kind of authority to himself as the preacher here. More importantly, there are numerous conceptual similarities between the figure of Isaiah 61:1–3 and the messianic figure described elsewhere by the prophet. Consider, for example, the parallels between the preacher of Isaiah 61 and the Davidic king of Isaiah 11. The Spirit of the Lord rests upon both individuals (11:2; 61:1). Righteousness adorns the Son of Jesse in 11:5, and in 61:3, the preacher’s work effects righteousness in the people. Both figures speak words of immense power (11:4; 61:2).

We have, then, in Isaiah 61, what one commentator describes as the “climactic representation” of the Servant of the Lord. This Servant is the ideal Israel, the Davidic Messiah who frees His people not only from the captivity of human enemies but that of sin and death. In so doing, He gives eternal beauty to His own (61:3).

Isaiah 61:3 indicates that one result of the Messiah’s work is to make His people “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD.” This is an image of permanence, of life in God’s presence forever. John Calvin comments, “There is no other way in which we are restored to life than when we are planted by the Lord.” If we trust in Christ, we are planted in righteousness forever, and will be preserved by His hand for the sake of His eternal glory.

Psalms 101-118

Psalms 101-115…Christ in the Old Testament.

“What do you think of the Christ?” In guiding the Jerusalem leaders to contemplate this question of eternal weight, Jesus turned to the authority of what is written “in the book of Psalms,” specifically Psalm 110 (Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:40– 44), and asked a question childlike in both simplicity and profundity, the answer to which plunges one into the unfathomable wonder of the incarnation of God: How could David refer to his son as Lord? This probing question was but the application of what Jesus would later declare, that He Himself is the object of all the Scriptures of the Old Testament, summarizing their threefold division in Luke 24:44 as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” with the Psalms standing as the summary representative of the Writings.

That much of the Psalms concerns “the Christ” was (and is) commonly accepted; the New Testament’s glorious proclamation is that Jesus is this Christ, the long-expected “Anointed One” of whom these Scriptures speak. And so we read of Peter, who, after quoting two psalms, declared to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost: “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). We read of Paul, too, who reasoning from the Scriptures (again, the Old Testament), demonstrated that the Christ had to suffer and rise again, saying, “This Jesus, whom I preach to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:2–3). The apostles, to be sure, drew heavily from the Psalms for their inspired testimony regarding the person and work of Christ. The book of Hebrews, for example, is woven together by psalms, showing us that Jesus is the “son of man” of Psalm 8 who was made “for a little while lower than the angels” through the incarnation but now has been crowned “with glory and honor” through His resurrection and ascension (Heb. 2:5–9). Matthew’s gospel unveils the Psalms as key to Jesus’ own self-understanding, Satan quoting Psalm 91 to Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6) and Jesus, upon the cross of agony, sifting His suffering through the sieve of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). That He meditated often on the Psalms, and upon what they spoke concerning Himself, is evident in how Jesus summarized His suffering and exaltation with the lines of Psalm 118:22: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Matt. 21:42; see also Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7).

Thus, the New Testament continually uses the book of Psalms to fix our gaze upon the excellencies of Christ, upon the majesty, beauty, and glory of the One who through His humiliation and exaltation reigns over the nations, leading them to the heavenly Mount Zion so that, lost in wonder, love, and praise, they may proclaim eternally the glory of the triune God.

2 Chronicles 31-33

2 Chronicles 31-33…Jesus is our representative.

The books of Chronicles were written to the Israelites after the Babylonian exile to show them what they needed to do to have their kingdom restored. In this section of 2 Chronicles, we read of Manasseh, an Israelite king who was so wicked that God eventually sent him into exile in Babylon. While in Babylon, Manasseh repented and was restored to his throne. Here Manasseh is being used as a representative for the nation, specifically Judah, for this was later the experience of the whole people when they were exiled into Babylon for their sins (2 Kings 25). The Chronicler is telling the ancient Israelites that if they repent just as Manasseh did, they would be preserved in their restoration after Babylon and regain their kingdom.

Israel as a whole failed after returning from exile, but the principle of representation ensures that the Son of David can fulfill Israel’s mission and thus the mission given to Adam. Thanks be to God that this Son of David (Jesus) represents us as well. Because Jesus stands in our place before the Father, what can be said of Him can also be said of us. Jesus’ record is clear of sin and full of righteousness, and this is what the Father sees when He looks upon us in His heavenly courtroom. This is an essential truth of the gospel, and it assures us that we are free from the penalty of sin if we are in Christ and that we need not fear approaching the Lord with all of our hopes, fears, and needs.

2 Kings 11-13

2 Kings 11-13…God is slow to anger.

Sometimes God’s grace of salvation shows up in unexpected places as well, and today’s reading gives us an example of just that. These chapters recount the story of two evil kings of Israel, Jehoahaz and Jehoash. Both received the same indictment: “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD,” and both continued Israel’s pervasive idolatry. As a result, the nation of Israel suffered for its disobedience: the Arameans persisted as a thorn in Israel’s side, oppressing them continually.

Yet in the midst of this oft-repeated cycle of sin and idolatry, surprising moments appear when the kings softened and God’s grace and mercy showed through. Jehoahaz, we are told, unexpectedly sought the LORD’s favor. The response? Seeing their great suffering, “The LORD listened to him” and sent a deliverer (this could also be translated as “savior”) to rescue them (13:4-5). Is this not God’s gracious way? In the midst of humanity’s oppression under sin and death, God sent the ultimate Savior, Christ, to rescue us.

Then there was Jehoash, the second wicked king. Hearing of Elisha’s impending death, the king went to him in tears over the coming loss of God’s prophet in Israel. The response? Through Elisha, God demonstrated the hope of salvation and life. First, Elisha declared the arrow of victory and the three-fold defeat of the Arameans was soon fulfilled. Then came the strange resurrection of a dead man through Elisha’s bones. Both episodes illustrate God’s ability and willingness to extend life and grace to His people, if only they would turn and ask.

Deuteronomy 17-19

Deuteronomy 17-19…Laws on Israel’s Kings, and a new prophet like Moses.

The king was required to carefully study the law of God, and apply it to his life. It is not enough to have Bibles, but we need to use them daily as long as we live. The king’s reading was useless if he did not practice what he read. We too must obey God’s word, as mere agreement with it is not obedience.

God promises to Israel that he would “raise up a prophet like you from among their brothers.” Jesus would save sinners by becoming human like us, taking on flesh, and perfectly fulfilling the law. His human component takes on just as much importance as His deity. We needed someone to live a holy life in our place, and God’s wrath needed to be exhausted for sin. All the more reason for us to esteem him highly, because His rescue of us came at a great cost. Also, knowing that God’s wrath is set on those who don’t submit to Christ as Lord, we should be fervent in evangelism.

Exodus 17-19

Exodus 17-19…God brings about water from the rock, Jethro visits Moses, and God instructs Moses at Mount Sinai.

The Rock is one of the titles of Jehovah (Deut. 32:15). In 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, we read that the Rock (of Horeb) was Christ. Christ would stand in our place, the place of the accused, and bear judgment for the sins of His people. The rod is a symbol of judgment—in this case, divine judgment, for Moses was God’s representative. By the rod, Jesus was smitten, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) from sin. In the same way, by the smiting of the rock at Horeb, water flowed forth, just as the Holy Spirit flows forth from Christ to nourish and equip His church. And so, in the Old Testament, we see this beautiful picture of God’s grace in the salvation of His people, for He stands in our place so that by His wounds we will be healed.

In Exodus 19, Moses gives us an inspired account of what happened at Sinai when the Israelites arrived. God made His presence known on the beginning of the third day, descending as fire and enveloping the mountain in lightning, thunder, cloud and smoke (vv. 16–19). This was truly an awesome sight, and it was meant to remind the people that the God who set them free was no deity to be taken lightly. Other passages of Scripture tell us that angels were also present (Galatians 3:19), their submission to the Lord being a further indication of His glory and power. God’s holiness is also demonstrated in His appearance to the people at Sinai, as the need for the people to be purified is stressed. They are also forbidden to touch the mountain lest they be destroyed (Exodus 19:9–15).

Our need for a Savior is woven throughout these chapters. Each day, we need to be laid low, humbling ourselves before God in repentance, and esteeming Jesus greatly. The more we grow in our understanding of the massive chasm between God and us because of our sin and His holiness, the more we’ll love Christ. If we believe in Him for any other reason, we’ve missed the entire point of Christianity.