Welcome to Palmerston EMC!

Palmerston EMC is made up of people from various walks of life.  A somewhat traditional church, we reflect a small town personality with strong family ties.  Agriculture and agricultural related business employ a large portion of our congregation, while some of our people are self-employed or work in industry, service or government.  We are a practical, service oriented congregation with a heart to see God’s work in Palmerston move ahead. We have a strong desire to worship and serve God, to reach out to our community, to grow spiritually and to see new people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

You are welcome to join us!

PLEASE NOTE:  On Sunday, September 7th, we kick off our fall programs and switch our service time back to 10:30 AM.

Canadian Bible Engagement Study

read bibleIn 2013, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in partnership with the Bible League of Canada, the Canadian Bible Society, The Gideons, Open Doors, Wycliffe and a few others, released the results of a survey that asked Canadians about their engagement with and belief in the Bible.

It is important for Canadian Christians to understand the results of this survey as it applies to our culture. But the results of this survey are also a wake-up call for Canadian Christians.

One line stood out above all of the others in the report of the survey. It is this line: “The Bible engagement of self-identified Christians as a whole is not very different from Bible engagement of Canadians generally.”

Brothers and sisters, this should not be so!

There are positives. People who read the Bible regularly are 6 times more likely to attend church regularly, and 10 times more likely to consider the Bible God’s Word.

13% of Canadians and 23% of Canadian Christians agree that the Bible is relevant to daily life.  That is encouraging! Those who believe that the Bible is relevant to daily life are over 10 times more likely to read the Bible frequently and are four times more likely to attend church weekly.

The Bible engages and changes lives! But we as Canadian Christians need to be setting the example and leading the conversation.

For more information about the survey, please go to: http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/

Here are the survey result files:
CBES Executive Summary
CBES Full Report

Let me encourage you my friends: be engaged with the Living and Active Word of God!

Ezekiel 9-12: The First Commandment

Ezekiel 9-11 is a dire set of chapters. They describe the way in which God was going to bring judgement on Jerusalem. It is important to remember that these chapters are all part of the vision that begins in chapter 8, when God lifts Ezekiel and takes him to Jerusalem and shows Ezekiel the abominations that the people were doing with idols. In the vision Ezekiel sees in chapter 8, God shows Ezekiel increasing degrees of abomination done by the people of Jerusalem, their own elders among them.

The four abominations are:

  1. worship of the idol of jealousy (possibly the Asherah that Manasseh had set up in 2 Kings 21/2 Chronicles 33)
  2. the worship of animals with incense intended for use in worshiping God
  3. A woman mourning for Tammuz. Tammuz was a Babylonian god of food and vegetation. Part of worship to him involved a period of mourning when the days grew short and winter set in. It was believed that Tammuz died during this time and the women would mourn for him as they waited for his return from the underworld in the spring.
  4. 25 men bowing to pray to the sun in the inner court of the temple, a place that was designated for priests to pray to God\

These abominations all break the very first commandment God gave to Israel: You will have no other gods before me; and because of these abominations God is bringing judgement on the city and the nation, judgement that includes the removal of his presence in their midst. These passages remind us that God is holy, and his holiness cannot stand to be in the presence of sin and abomination.

We know that God has covered over our sin with the blood of Jesus, and because of that we are able to have a relationship with God. For that we are eternally grateful. But we must also be careful that our hearts remain wholly and only God’s. Israel’s great sin was that their hearts were divided. They thought they could worship God but then have a little foreign religious influence on the side and everything would be ok. That divided heart got them in trouble.

God promises Ezekiel: “I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh so they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances and practice them.” God’s desire was to remove their divided heart and give them one single-minded heart instead, a heart for following God’s statutes and ordinance. We must pray that we have such a heart.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel 13-15

Ezekiel 5-8: Shocking

When was the last time you were truly stunned by something?

The one that sticks out in my mind the most happened when I was watching the season 2 finale of NCIS. It is one of two shows that I follow faithfully (yes, even pastors have their vices). I won’t give anything away for those of you who have yet to experience the full awesomeness of NCIS, but I was completely stunned for a couple of DAYS after that season finale. Just ask my wife.

As you read Ezekiel today, recognize that God instructs Ezekiel to use shock tactics in giving prophesies to the nation of Israel. These tactics would have certainly gotten the attention of his audience and left the people hearing Ezekiel stunned.

Let me explain. Ezekiel chapter 5. God instructs Ezekiel to publicly shave his head and beard with a sharpened sword (I can’t imagine the nicks he much have had afterward). Understand, there were very strict rules about hair and beards for the Jewish people (Leviticus 19:27, Deuteronomy 14:1) and even stricter rules for priests (Leviticus 21:5-6). Remember Ezekiel was a priest. For a priest to stand in public and shave his head and beard would have been scandalous and certainly would have gotten people’s attention.

Here is why: the shaving of your head and beard was a sign of humiliation, great sorrow or mourning. In this way, God was physically demonstrating to the people how he felt about the upcoming disaster that was going to fall on Jerusalem. God was in mourning over his people. What was going to happen to them, by the sword of Babylon, was breaking the heart of God.

Have you ever stopped to consider the lengths to which God goes to get our attention sometimes? Have you ever stopped to consider the depth of pain and sorrow God endures when we turn our back on him, live our lives as we choose and then suffer the consequences of our actions? While it is true that he never leaves us, it is also true that God will not (always) stop us from self-destructing (Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.)

One final thought about chapter 8. Have you noticed that when the going gets tough for the faithful remnant (we’ll talk about that topic a bit more in the days to come) those people who remain faithful to God despite what everyone else is doing, that God often shows up to them in special ways to keep them going. He did it for Moses when Moses was going to throw in the towel leading Israel. God did it for David after his sin with Bethsheba. And God does it here for Ezekiel. The burden of these prophetic messages of judgement must have weighed heavily on Ezekiel, but every once in a while God wild show Ezekiel His full glory as a way of keeping Ezekiel centered on God.

Remember, Ezekiel is all about having proper reverence for God, a reverence that comes as we fully appreciate God’s glory.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel 9-12

Ezekiel 1-4: Foreign Prophet

call of EzekielEzekiel was a man who brought words from God to the Judean Exiles while they were in Babylon. He was among the 10,000 citizens of Jerusalem who were deported when Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah in 598 B.C.; meaning that Ezekiel was living in Babylon almost 12 years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. Ezekiel was from a priestly family, but instead of serving God as a priest, Ezekiel received the call to be a prophet at about 30 years of age.

Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel is a bit unique among the prophetic authors because of his many uses of metaphors and imagery to get the attention of his audience. Ezekiel is also a lot like the book of Daniel in that spoke to Ezekiel through many visions, not merely by speaking to him. This is a bit important for us as readers because it explains Ezekiel’s use of imagery and metaphor to share God’s messages with his audience. As Ezekiel received, he also gave. But it also reminds us that God does not use the same types of people as his messengers nor does he use the same types of communication with everyone. Some of you reading this are visual learners, you see and understand things best in pictures. The book of Ezekiel should be right up your alley.

Ezekiel is also important because it reminds us that God is a God of visions. In Acts 2:17 Peter uses the words of the prophet Joel to explain the coming of God’s Spirit into the world. “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Ezekiel reminds us that God speaks in visions, and continues to speak in visions to people. I am afraid that the vast majority of Canadian Christians have lost their faith in this fact. Sure, we may say that we “believe” it but in reality we have no real expectation that it will happen. We don’t petition the Spirit to show us things and so we are not surprised when it does not happen.

  1.  A couple more oversight type of thing to help us as we begin this journey through Ezekiel;
    the main thrust of what Ezekiel has to say to the exiled Judeans (and all of us) is to remember to give God the reverence he is due. Ezekiel explores this in three ways: by talking about God’s glory, God’s throne and the honour due God’s name. Watch for these themes as you are reading.
  2. The structure of Ezekiel very much focuses on the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s pronouncements up until the destruction of Jerusalem (chapters 1-24) are about judgement and destruction as a result of Israel’s sins. I know, you may be thinking: “We just read all that destruction stuff in Jeremiah, why is God giving the same messages all over again.” Remember that the two prophets had two completely different audiences. Jeremiah was talking to the kings and people in Judah and Jerusalem while Ezekiel was talking to the people already in exile in Babylon. After Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel’s messages change into a pronouncement of a future hope, first by assuring the Jewish exiles that judgement would also come upon other nations for their sin (chapters 25-32) and then by proclaiming the future restoration of God’s people (chapters 33-39) and a renewed community (chapters chapters 40-48).

As you read through Ezekiel take time to enjoy the imagery, the pictures and descriptions of God. Remember, the main to point of the book is to remind us to be reverent toward God, to stand in awe of him. One of the ways Ezekiel does that is to describe God and his character to us.

Christian pastor Ken Baugh wrote: “I wonder if my familiarity with God has caused me to treat Him too lightly. I know that God is my loving heavenly Father and that I am His adopted son through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. I know that I am forgiven of my sin and saved by His grace. As such, I know that I will one day be with Him for eternity. But I wonder if this familiarity has undermined my reverence for God. Therefore, instead of taking God the Father for granted, I need to be reminded of His holiness and awesome power. In short, I need to be more reverent.”

There is so much I could say on this topic and I think this is going to be the focus of my sermon on Sunday so I will save the rest for that venue. But as you spend time in the book of Ezekiel over these next couple of weeks, take time to ask the question: do I show God reverence?

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel 5-8

Jeremiah 46-48: Prophesies

Jeremiah 46-51 fulfill part of Jeremiah’s prophetic mandate from Jeremiah 1:5, where God calls him to be a prophet not just to Judah but also to other nations; in these chapters the specific nations of Egypt, Philistine and Moab.

As we embark into these chapters, some comments from the Holman Old Testament commentary on Jeremiah, written by Fred Wood & Ross McLaren, are useful. I’m going to paraphrase their thoughts.

Did Jeremiah only write these prophesies down, or did he proclaim them to the nations in question? Other Old Testament prophets were certainly sent to proclaim God’s words to the nations they were talking about. Jonah is the easiest example of this to call to mind. It is entirely likely, given Jeremiah’s vocal ministry to Judah, the he not only penned these prophetic words but also traveled to the nations to deliver them in person.

Second, what is the point of these prophesies? Wood and McLaren offer three thoughts here:

  1. In speaking these words, Jeremiah makes it very clear that God is a holy God not only for Israel but for all of the nations; and because of that the nations were responsible to him for their deeds.
  2. These messages to the foreign nations were a comfort to the people of Judah and others who heard them. Most of these nations had been enemies or abusers of the Jewish nation at one point in time or another, so it was comforting to know that God was going to hold them accountable for their evil.
  3. These prophesies were not just judgmental. They were also intended to show to the nations in question that they were also included in God’s redemptive plan for humanity. Remember that God promised to bless all of the nations in the world through Abraham and his offspring.

My final point is one of my own. Notice as you are reading these words that it is not just the nations and their leaders that are going to be punished, but also the foreign gods. Remember back to the Exile, when God led Moses and Israel out of slavery to Egypt, God made it very clear that he was bringing judgement on the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12 if you need a refresher). God is not only out to correct humanity, but to prove that the other things we worship instead of God are empty, impotent vessels in light of the one and only Almighty One. We would be wise to take this council to heart, for there are indeed modern gods that we bow the knee and offer worship to.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 49-50

Jeremiah 41-45: Ask and Ignore

Have you ever had someone come to you and ask for advice, but then go on to completely ignore that advice?

Maddening right? That is exactly the situation Jeremiah finds himself in today as we resume following him through the fall of Judah. What’s left of the leadership of Judah approaches Jeremiah and asks him to ask God what they are to do now that the nation has begun to fall apart. Should they stay and endure the trials of the Babylonian invasion or should they run away and find somewhere else to live?

Seems like a good question to ask God. God, what path would you have us walk moving forward. It’s the kind of question we should all be asking God on a pretty regular basis. It is a question that Jeremiah seems pretty interested in asking for them, and it is a question that he seems pretty dedicated to finding God’s answer to. Jeremiah 42:7 tells us that Jeremiah spent 10 days in prayer over this question. When was the last time you spent 10 days petitioning God for the answer to a question? I can honestly tell you that I don’t think that I’ve ever spent 10 concerted days asking God about something. This is a challenging piece of scripture about dedication to prayer that we all could learn from I think.

After 10 days Jeremiah comes back to the leadership and gives them God’s answer: if you stay and endure the punishment I have instructed Babylon to enact on Judah, I will not demolish you, but instead I will relent and rebuild you. BUT, if you instead run away to Egypt the sword of Babylon will follow you there and you will die in Egypt. (I’m paraphrasing here obviously)

This is the direction that the people had asked for…but for some reason that is not explicitly stated in these verses, they reject Jeremiah’s words; even accusing him of lying to them about God’s direction. Although their reasons are not explicitly stated, it is not hard to guess that their rebellious hearts were just too far from God to hear the truth of God’s voice.

Chapter 44 then goes on to complete the story of God’s judgement against the people who flee to Egypt instead of staying in Judah, a punishment he fairly told them about through Jeremiah in chapter 42.

Put yourself in both places in this story. First put yourself in Jeremiah’s position: how much and how hard do you petition God for answers to questions for yourself or for other people. Spending 10 days in prayer seems like such a shocking thing in our day and age. If we learned that someone had spent 10 days in prayer over something, we might be tempted to sake two subtle steps to the left lest we catch whatever crazy they have. The reality is that all of us should be petitioning God that strongly.

Second put yourself in the position of the people and consider this: have you ever stopped to consider what it feels like to be a leader, spiritual or otherwise, and have people completely reject your advice, guidance or council? Can you imagine how Jeremiah felt when the Judean leaders responded to his words like that? I know what it feels like to have people do that. It is demoralizing, frustrating, depressing..and it really makes you wonder what the point of being called by God is.

I had a conversation with a Presbyterian pastor friend the other day who has been in pastoral ministry for many more moons than I have. One of the topics that came up in conversation was the change in attitude that people have for pastors. When he started ministry there was a certain respect afforded to the pastor because he was called by God to bring God’s Word and direction to the church (just like Jeremiah was to Judah). But over the years, that respect has diminished. It even shows up in our language. We no longer talk about pastors being called to a church, we talk about pastors being hired by a church. We no longer talk about pastors as spiritual leaders, they are instead CEOs or managers of a non-profit organization. Even the use of contracts for pastoral ministry reflects this shift in thinking.

I even know of a pastor who recently was informed by his Worship Committee what they would and would not be doing. Since when does a ministry committee dictate to the pastor the direction they will or will not follow? It sounds an awful lot to me like what the Judean leaders did to Jeremiah in these chapters.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for pastoral dictatorships (1 Peter 5:3 warns against this). The pastor is not the only person who hears God’s voice or receives God’s direction for the church. BUT the New Testament makes it very clear that God directed the creation of the pastoral office through the giving of his gifts through the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 4, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5, Acts 20:28, etc.) and called people to that ministry (Hebrews 5:4).

UPDATE: I will add one other comment sparked by a conversation with a gentleman I know: respect for the pastoral office is expected, except when the pastor is obviously not fulfilling his spiritual obligations. If the pastor is not following closely behind the Holy Spirit and does not cling to the expected mandates of the pastoral office, then of course the expectations for respect fly out the window.

This is definitely a narrative with challenging things to ponder.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 46-48

Habakkuk 1-3: Question and Answer

I have had people ask me over the years if it is OK to question God. While I would say that making a habit of questioning God is probably not a good idea, especially if your questions are born our of doubt of God’s character, power or sovereignty. But scripture does show us that part of working through our faith is asking God questions. Habakkuk is a great example of this. The entire book describes how Habakkuk sees the situation in Judah and then wonders where God is in it all. What is truly wonderful about Habakkuk as a book is that God’s answers to the prophet’s questions are recorded for us.

Verses 1-4 find Habakkuk wondering why God seems to indifferent to everything that is happening with His people. The perversion of justice, the vicious enemy camped at their gate and God’s seeming indifference to their cry for help. In essence, Habakkuk is wondering when God was going to send a revival upon his people.

God answers this question in verses 5-11 when he explains that he is in deed at work in the nations, but not in the way Habakkuk wanted or expected. It was God directing and empowering the Babylonians, a godless and terrible people, to bring chastisement on Judah. God was in fact very concerned with the injustice, abuse of power and rampant sin in Judah, but his solution was not what Habakkuk wanted. Boice comments: “It would be like crying out to God about the state of the visible church in America and hearing that God is going to destroy it by a Communist invasion.”

This then leads  Habakkuk to express his confusion: how can a holy God use a wicked nation to punish his chosen people? This question is the remainder of chapter 1 as Habakkuk first explores God’s holiness (verses 12-13), the helplessness of the people (verses 14-15) and the haughtiness of the enemy (verses 16-17).

There is a pause here as Habakkuk waits for God’s answer. This is an important little side-lesson for us in our attitude towards God. We often will ask God a question, expecting an immediate answer. But Habakkuk shows us that we must develop an attitude of patience when waiting for God. He is not our own personal valet that comes when we ring the bell. God is the cosmic King who works in his own ways and in his own time. Our attitude in prayer must reflect this.

God’s second answer to Habakkuk is a bit convoluted. Basically, His answer to Habakkuk that there is no inconsistency in God using Babylon to punish his people, because in the end Babylon’s own sins will be exposed and punished. God was not condoning or endorsing Babylon’s activities, but was instead using them for a time. After that time, Babylon itself will be brought down by God. In the end, God’s people must live by faith in him and his control of history; a control that is laid out for Habakkuk as God explains his future judgement on Babylon based on its sins (verses 6-20). Those sins are: greed, injustice, violence, seduction/perversion and idolatry.

The real lesson for us in this section comes from Habakkuk 2:4. This verses has been called the great text of the Bible. It explains the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. It is the key to understanding the Gospel and Christians life. And it is the key for remaining faithful to God in times when we don’t understand why things are happening and where God is in the midst of it. We must live by faith.

But what happens when fear gets in the way of living by faith? That is essentially the heart of Habakkuk chapter 3.  There is a wonderful description of intense, bone-shattering fear in Habakkuk 3:16, a fear brought on by God’s description of Babylon’s invasion. We must all admit to feeling fear from time-to-time in life, but how to deal with that fear is the difficulty. Habakkuk’s response to fear is really key for all of us. Even in the midst of his fear, when nothing seemed to be right in life (Hab 3:17), we must rejoice in the God of our salvation, in the one who is our strength.

Boice writes: “What is it that makes this chapter (Habakkuk 3) so forceful? In my judgement it is the courageous way in which Habakkuk embraces all the calamities he can imagine and nevertheless triumphs over themin the knowledge and love of his Saviour.” (Boice; The Minor Prophets Vol. 2, Baker Books 1986, pg. 433)

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 41-45

Jeremiah 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chronicles 36: The end

Well, this is it. The chapters that describe the last days of the Southern Nation of Judah. Their last three disasterous Kings, the invasion of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

This is a sad bit of reading, but it is a bit of reading that we should take as warning. Although God is loving, merciful, patient and kind (all New Testament attributes that we fail to attribute to the Old Testament pictures of God, even though I have tried to point out that those attributes are very present in the Old Testament scriptures), we must also remember that he will only be ignored, disobeyed, rebelled against so long. Even in our New Testament grace soaked faith, we must remember that judgement and punishment WILL come at the end before God’s eternal Kingdom is established. Those who refuse God’s offer of mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ will face judgement, just as God acted out judgement here against Judah.

I hope you notice that even at the end, even during the reign of King Zedekiah, God was offering the people a way out. Submit to Babylon and you will not be completely destroyed. But even this warning goes unheeded as Zedekiah joins with Egypt and the other nations to oppose the Babylonian invasion…an opposition that was doomed to failure from the beginning.

It is interesting to note that Babylon destroyed Judah in stages. After military victories, they took the learned, the gifted, the wise, the military and the craftsmen and deported them to Babylon (this is likely when Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were taken to Babylon). A nation is in pretty dire straights when the cream of the crop is removed. Those people were then “integrated” into Babylonian culture. They were given jobs, put in positions of leadership, adopted into the Babylonian army. They learned the language, studied their philosophy, were given their clothes to wear, their food to eat. They became Babylonian. In the process, Babylon got stronger.

Then, after the nation had fallen, Babylon would bring in foreigners to fill the fallen nation, people already familiar with Babylonian culture, religion, commerce. So the conquered nation slowly became Babylonian. It was a brilliant means of expanding their culture through conquest and cultural expansion.

But let’s be clear about something. Babylon did not destroy Judah. Judah destroyed Judah from the inside out. A British political leader named Richard Cobden once remarked “Every great nation fell by suicide.” Both Judah and Israel committed suicide by allowing spiritual and moral decay. Their rebellious hearts, their disobedient ways, their refusal to follow God led to their destruction. Babylon was merely the tool God used to strike the final blow.

It is a warning for us to make sure we are not allowing the same decay into our own lives and hearts.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Habakkuk 1-3

Jeremiah 32-34: Land purchase

Why on earth did God tell Jeremiah to buy land in Judah?

Let me set the scene. Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonian army, and had been under siege for about 18 months at this point. Jeremiah is under house arrest in Jerusalem because of his prophesies that detailed the destruction of Jerusalem, despite Zedekiah’s repeated attempts to bully Jeremiah into changing is prophesy…Zedekiah obviously had not idea how prophesy worked. There was literally no hope for Jerusalem at this point and like shareholders in failing companies today (think Blackberry), people were looking to dump their land. Unfortunately, war and invasion tends to ruin housing prices and no one was buying.

It is in this context that Jeremiah’s cousin comes to him and offers Jeremiah a piece of land in their home town of Anathoth. God instructs Jeremiah to go ahead with the transaction, instructing Jeremiah to make sure that every “t” was crosses and every “i” dotted properly in the transaction to ensure its legality.

Jeremiah obeys, which is one very important characteristic that Jeremiah models for us continually (why else would he walk around with a yoke on his neck in chapter 27). But after the transaction is completed, Jeremiah does return to God and say: “Why did you have me purchase land that will soon belong to Babylon?” (Chaldeans are Babylonians by the way in case your translation uses that name).

God answers Jeremiah in chapter 32 verses 26-44.  Basically, God says that although the people had provoked him to anger and he had sent punishment upon them, he was not bent on their complete destruction. Punishment was not his last message, instead there will be a time when God will gather the scattered people not just from Babylon but from every place that they had been driven (referencing the exiled Northern nation of Israel as well as the other Israelites who fled to other nations to escape the invading armies). This re-gathering would be a time of joy and prosperity for the returning exiles. At that time, land would once again be bought and sold, vineyards planted and crops harvested.

At that time, Jeremiah’s completely legal land transaction would be unsealed, and his descendants would have land that was rightfully theirs.

That my friends is the real lesson of chapter 32. Jeremiah obediently acted on God’s instructions, knowing that his obedience was, essentially, not going to gain him anything. He would be long dead before the land he purchased was valuable or usable by any Israelite. But he believed in God’s promises and invested in a future he would never get to experience or benefit from.

What a powerful lesson for us to learn, a lesson that Jesus teaches us when he prompts us to store up treasure in heaven instead of treasure on earth (Matthew 6). A lesson that Paul and Peter reiterate when they instructs us to live our lives as foreigners and strangers in this land, keeping firmly fixed in our minds that our citizenship is in heaven (Ephesians 2, 1 Peter 1:17 & 2:11). It is this lesson that the author of the book of Hebrews is drawing our attention to in Hebrews 11 when he talks about the men and women of the Old Testament who “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance”

There is so much talk today about retirement plans and making sure that you have enough put away for your future. Allow me to humbly ask if you are paying at much attention to your spiritual investments and your spiritual inheritance as you pay to your pension plan.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 35-37

Jeremiah 30-31: From dark to light

I’m sure there have been times when you have been in a dark spot in life and you wonder when or how it will end. Nothing seems to go right, everything seems stressed, all of your hard work just seems to get you further into trouble instead of out of trouble; the thought may even cross your mind that you have somehow been cursed (by God or a vindictive person).

As we have seen throughout our study of Jeremiah so far, there are definitely times when God uses circumstances and other people to discipline his children. The author of Hebrews writes: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” Like any good, loving Father, God reaches out to correct us from time-to-time. Unfortunately, I have noticed that adults take correction and discipline much worse than children do. It’s almost like we reach an age when we think we are above correction, that it is somehow below us to be disciplined.

There is a very strong Biblical teaching on discipline that extends all through scripture. In fact as you read through the Bible, it becomes clear that if were to be SELF-disciplined (as Paul writes about in 2 Timothy 1:7 and 1 Corinthians 9:24 (among others) then the need for God to discipline us would decrease dramatically.

Whether we are in a place where God is disciplining us or simply in a spot of difficulty in life, it can feel like there is no end in sight. Certainly the people of Israel and Judah must have felt that way. Exiled, definitely under discipline by God, struggling to find food, a safe shelter to live in and, above all, loosing the place they called home. When would it end?

Essentially Jeremiah 30-31 is a declaration of when it would end, how it would end and what God would do after it had ended. It is a declaration of the good things that God would bring upon the nation after the time of discipline was over.

We are promised similar things in 1 Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 22. The challenge for us, and for Israel in the time we are reading about, is to look forward to those promises and hold fast to them even in shadow of the current circumstances, disappointments and discipline. Always in scripture, challenge and discipline are painted in the light of the promised outcome.

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

That seems like a good place to end for today.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 32-34

Jeremiah 26-29: God’s servant

Have you ever stopped to consider that you may be acting as God’s servant and agent even when you were not aware of it, or possibly even a willing participant in it? That might sound a bit off, but after reading today’s chapters I can’t shake the feeling that God works in spite of our willing participation.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because of what God says about Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. “I have place all these lands under the authority of My servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.” Let’s be clear about something here, good old King Neb was no holy man. He was a military tyrant bent on conquering the known world.

Whether or not we want to face them, these references to Nebuchadnezzar as God’s servant raises some pretty challenging questions. God intentionally uses a foreign nation with no ties to Yahweh as God to destroy his people. Is this fair? The difficult answer is yes. Remember my friends, God is sovereign. He commanded, pleaded and warned his chosen people to return to him, to stop with their idol worship and commit themselves wholly and only to God. They refused that guidance and command. As my theology professor used to say: “You can’t say ‘No, Lord'”.

Here’s a difficult truth: these chapters should disturb us. The reality of sin, rebellion and disobedience, and God’s ultimate reaction to all of that should disturb us! But God acts according to his good purpose and always according to his plan. That is why you may be God’s instrument in a situation, even if you are completely unaware of how God is using you.

In my mind, that means we must be always careful to be seeking out God’s will and paying attention to how the Holy Spirit wants to use us.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 30-31

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