John T. Willis

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Searching for One Righteous Person [Part II]--Jeremiah 5:20-6:15

Yahweh had told Jeremiah and his associates to go through Jerusalem thoroughly in search of just one righteous person--Jeremiah 5:1-19. In this blog, the search continues. Jeremiah 5:20-6:15 falls into four sections or paragraphs.

I. The people of Yahweh respond UNNATURALLY to Yahweh's love. Jeremiah 5:20-24.
a. Jeremiah 2:11-13 uses the metaphor of a thirsty traveler, and Jeremiah 2:32 uses the metaphor of a bride who forgot her wedding dress. "But [Yet] my people" stand in bold contrast to a "natural" or "appropriate" response to Yahweh's love.
b. Now, Jeremiah uses the metaphor of the tide. All people know that the tide rise to a certain point daily, then fall to a certain point daily. This is not accidental. This is what Yahweh does:
"I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,
a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass" (5:22).
The rise and fall of tides is "natural." BUT THIS PEOPLE [Israel=Judah=the people of God] do the "unnatural" or "inappropriate" thing: they "have a stubborn and rebellious heart, they have turned aside and gone away"--5:23. The REAL PROBLEM is always the heart.
c. In light of this, Yahweh calls his chosen people "foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but do not see, who heave ears, but do not hear." 5:21. "In their HEARTS," they do not "fear [reverence, respect, honor] Yahweh," the ONLY GOD who gives rain and gives harvests. 5:24.

II. The People of God oppress the Poor. Jeremiah 5:25-31.
a. Specifically, Yahweh states the sins of his chosen people. God's people, not wicked pagans or non-Christian, but God's people:
1. Take away the possessions of other people. 5:26a.
2. Catch human beings like catching birds. 5:26b.
3. Increase their wealth by stealing the possessions of other people. 5:27.
4. Deal with other people unjustly. 5:28a.
5. Oppress orphans and do not defend the rights of the needy. 5:28b.
b. Consequently, Yahweh will punish his sinful people. Everyone is guilty. The prophets [preachers] prophesy falsely, the priests [religious leaders of all types] rule over others oppressively, and God's people love to join in the injustices of the prophets and the priests. 5:29-31.

III. Yahweh announces that the Foe from the North will come quickly. Jeremiah 6:1-8.
a. To warn the people that danger was near or approaching, a designated individual would "cry out," "blow a trumpet," and/or "raise a signal" or flag to let all the people know that any enemy army was on the way. Here "EVIL=PUNISHMENT= DESTRUCTION looms OUT OF THE NORTH." 6:1. The same figure appears in 1:13-16; 4:5-6; 6:22; 13:22. 25:8-9 identifes "the foe from the north" as the Babylonians.
b. Yahweh compares the coming of the Babylonians with shepherds who brings their flocks from afar and surround Jerusalem=Zion. The enemy soldiers tell each other to prepare for war: Let us attack by night, and destroy Jerusalem's palaces. Yahweh commands the Babylonians to "cast up a siege ramp against Jerusalem." Jerusalem must be punished because of Jerusalem's oppression of the needy and poor and helpless; the orphans and widows. 6:2-6.
c. Jerusalem keeps her wickedness, her violence, fresh like a well keeps its water fresh. Thus, Yahweh must punish Jerusalem 6:7-8.

IV. BUT, Yahweh makes one final attempt to find just one righteous person so he might deliver Jerusalem. Jeremiah 6:9-15.
a. Yahweh has sent Jeremiah and his associates twice already to find just one righteous person in Jerusalem, but to no avail. Jeremiah 5:1-5. But Yahweh still hopes they might find just one righteous person in the city. He uses the figure of a grape-gatherer. The grape-gatherer goes over the grapes. But perhaps he has missed a few grapes. So he goes over the vineyard again to find just a few grapes so he might glean them. But this also is to no avail. 6:9.
b. The REAL PROBLEM is the hard-heartedness of the people of God. "Their ears are closed, they cannot listen." So Yahweh must punish this stubborn, rebellious people. 6:10.
c. Yahweh has used tremendous restraint. But now, it is too late. He will unleash his wrath on his sinful people. He will punish the children, the young men, the husband and wife, the old, the aged, their houses, their fields, their wives, all the inhabitants of the land of Judah. 6:11-12.
d. Yahweh will punish his people: from the least to the greatest, from prophet to priest, all the people, BECAUSE EVERYONE is greedy for unjust gain, deals falsely, say "Peace, Peace" when there is no peace, acts shamefully, commits abomination; they are not ashamed, they do not know how to blush. 6:13-15. The sins of God's people have become a way of life. They have made oppression and violence a HABIT of life. Hence, all that is left for Yahweh to do is punish his sinful people, the very people Yahweh had chosen to be his faithful people.

There is a serious, powerful message for all of us human beings. This is a message of love--tough love--redeeming love.

What are YOUR responses about this message? Share YOUR ideas and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, November 07, 2010

God's Amazing Choices

According to the Bible, God has made many amazing choices. These choices are amazing in the sense that they do not make sense to us human beings. Here are a few examples.

1. God chose the tribe of Judah--Psalm 78:68.
Of the twelve tribes of Israel, why did God choose Judah. Psalm 78:67 says God did "not choose" the tribe of Ephraim? Why Judah and not Ephraim? One might ask the same question about every tribe.

2. God chose Jerusalem--1 Kings 11:32, 36.
Of all the cities on earth, why did God choose Jerusalem? Why not Samaria or Shiloh or Bethel or Dan or Babylon or Nineveh or New York City or Abilene, Texas? One might ask the same question about every tribe. Ezekiel 5:5 says Yahweh has set Jerusalem as the "center [navel] of nations." Why has God made this choice?

3. God chose Saul--1 Samuel 10:24.
Of all the people in Israel, why did God choose Saul to be the very first king? Why not Abner or Samson or Gideon or Abimelech or someone else? Why did God make this choice?

4. God chose David--1 Samuel 16:6-13; Psalm 78:70.
Of all the sons of Jesse, why did God choose David? Why not Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, or someone else? Samuel the prophet thought Eliab was the best choice. Why did God make this choice?

This leads one to two very significant choices relevant to us.

5. God chose Israel--Isaiah 41:8.
A very old jingle reads:
How odd of God
To choose the Jews.
Why did God choose Jacob=Israel rather than Esau=Edom? Malachi 1:2-3.

6. God chose Christians=the Church of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; 1 Peter 2:9-10.
Why did God choose Christians?

Here are a few thoughts about this for reflection and discussion.

A. God is ARBITRARY. God's choices are HIS OWN BUSINESS. God does not choose a person or a people or a thing BECAUSE a person is rich or powerful or wise or RIGHTEOUS. ALL human beings are sinners--Romans 3:23.
Psalms 115:3; 135:5 declare:
"Our God is in the heavens;
It is futile for us human beings to try to "figure out" WHY God made his choices. God is God, and he always makes the right choices, even when we do not comprehend when and why he does this.

B. God demonstrates his wisdom and power.
God's choices of the Israelites [Jews} and the church show his wisdom and power. Put it this way:
If God can save the Israelites or the Jews, he can save any people on earth.
If God can save Christians or the church, he can save any people on earth.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 once again:
"Consider your own call, brothers and sisters,
not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
But God CHOSE what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God CHOSE what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God CHOSE what is low and despised in the world, things that are not,
to reduce to nothing things that are,
so that no one might boast in the presence of God."

REAL LIFE is NOT about US. It is ALL about God. Let us turn our hearts and our eyes away from us, and look UPWARD to God, our Creator, King, and Master.

Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis