John T. Willis

Friday, December 10, 2010

Out Of My Bondage

Paul writes in Titus 3:3-5:
"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy through the water of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit."

This tremendous passages inspired W. T. Sleeper to write the words of "Out of My Bondage," and George C. Stebbing to write the music in 1887. This song touches the hearts of all people. Here are the words:

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into thy freedom, gladness and light,
Jesus I come to Thee.
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus I come to Thee.
Out of earth's sorrows, into Thy balm,
Out of life's storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm.
Jesus I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into Thy blessed will to abide,
Jesus I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings of a dove.
Jesus I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus I come, Jesus I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold.
Jesus I come to Thee."

I hope this song will bless YOU.

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

John Willis

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Den of Robbers=Counterfeit Christians--Jeremiah 7:1-26

The third section of the book of Jeremiah is Jeremiah 7-10. In previous blogs, we studied the first section: Jeremiah 1; and the second section: Jeremiah 2-6.

The first paragraph of Jeremiah 7-10 is a "sermon" or a long "oracle:" Jeremiah
7:1-26. There is a counterpart of this in Jeremiah 26, which dates this in the beginning of the reign of king Jehoiakim of Judah, so some time between 609 and 605 BCE, since Jeremiah 36 refers to an event about Jeremiah which occurred in 605 BCE, in which Jehoiakim specifically forbade Jeremiah to preach in the Jerusalem temple.

Jeremiah 7:1-26 logically falls into three parts.

I. Jeremiah denounces the worshippers at the Jerusalem temple because they are counterfeit, false, hypocritical. Jeremiah 7:1-15.
a. Yahweh commands Jeremiah to preach at the "gate of the Lord's [Yahweh's] house," that is, the Jerusalem temple to the worshippers entered into the temple. 7:1-2.
b. Yahweh's message to the worshippers to Jeremiah is simple: "Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you [or I will let you dwell] in this place." "This place" may mean the Jerusalem temple or the land of Canaan. In Hebrew, the central phrase may mean: "let me [Yahweh] dwell in this place," or "I will let you dwell in this place." In my opinion, the second option is probably correct, because Yahweh through Jeremiah is announcing the impending conquest and overthrow of Jerusalem through the Babylonians. The worshippers were "very religious" about attending "church" regularly--AND YET, they were not living righteously in Yahweh's eyes. Thus, Yahweh commands them to "amend" or "change" their ways and their doings. 7:3.
c. The REAL issue is "TRUST." "Trust" in and of itself is insignificant. Rather, "the OBJECT of TRUST" IS significant. These "religious" worshippers "trust" in the wrong things. Their WORDS are deceptive: "This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord." This statement obviously indicates gestures: The worshippers were gesturing or pointing toward the altar of burnt offering, the table of showbread, the lampstand or menorah, the altar of incense, the veil, the Holy Place, the Most Holy Place, the ark of the covenant, and other portions of the temple. These worshippers "trusted" in the temple and all its contents. They "trusted" in external acts of worship--RATHER than "trusting in Yahweh." 7:4.
d. Yahweh through Jeremiah specifically explains that "true religion" is made up of "acting justly one with another, not oppressing the alien, the orphan, and the widow, not shedding innocent blood [that is, mistreating or oppressing other people], and not serving or worshipping any god except Yahweh. Then Yahweh promises that he will dwell with his people in the land of Canaan that he gave long ago in the time of Abraham [see Genesis 13:14-18]. 7:5-7.
e. Yahweh through Jeremiah denounces these religious worshippers because they "TRUST in deceptive words," clearly explaining: these worshippers "steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods" [listing FIVE of the TEN commandments in Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21], AND THEN go to church, and say: "[WHEW--WE JUST BARELY MADE IT IN TIME TO START CHURCH WORSHIP] We are safe!" But AS SOON AS the worship service is over, they go right back to their sinful ways of living. 7:8-10.
f. Yahweh through Jeremiah calls the temple [the church building] a "DEN OF ROBBERS." "Robbers" steal possessions, then "high tail" to a hiding place where they feel they will be safe. MANY Christians do the very same thing. They live an ungodly life, then "high tail" to church, thinking they have hidden their lives and thus they are safe. The problem is: "God IS WATCHING." God knows the hearts and lives of everyone. Hebrew 4:12-13. 7:11.
g. Yahweh through Jeremiah draws a striking comparison between Shiloh and Jerusalem. In the days of Eli and Samuel, Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli committed serious sins against Yahweh. Consequently, Yahweh sent the Philistines to overthrow the Israelites and kill Hophni and Phinehas in battle "on the same day."
1 Samuel 2:11-36; 4:1-11. In a similar way, Yahweh announces that he will punish the people of Judah through the Babylonians because of their counterfeit hearts and lives. Just as Yahweh destroyed the temple in Shiloh, NOW he will destroy the temple in Jerusalem. Just as Yahweh destroyed the North Israelites [Ephraimites] in Samaria in 721 BCE under the Assyrians (2 Kings 17), NOW he will destroy the Judeans in Jerusalem in 587 BCE. 7:12-15.

II. Yahweh abruptly turns to Jeremiah and forbids Jeremiah to pray for his people because of their sins. Jeremiah 7:16-20.
a. THREE times, Yahweh specifically COMMANDS Jeremiah: (1) Do not pray for this people; (2) Do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf; (3) Do not intercede for them. Yahweh declares: "FOR [BECAUSE] I will not hear you." "YOU" in verse 16 is singular. This makes clear that Yahweh is speaking to Jeremiah. WHY would Yahweh forbid Jeremiah or anyone else to pray FOR others? This context indicates that Yahweh will not honor or respond to the prayers of people who are "hard-hearted." 7:16.
b. Yahweh gives this explanation to Jeremiah: God's people are not worshipping and serving Yahweh, but OTHER GODS of various kinds. Specifically, Yahweh NAMES "the queen of heaven." Jeremiah 44:15-30 also deals with the worship of the queen of heaven. Scholars debate about WHO "the queen of heaven is." But whoever she is, this is some deity other than Yahweh. 7:17-20.

III. Yahweh sarcastically invites worshippers to participate in mere external acts of religion. Jeremiah 7:21-26.
a. Jeremiah responds to Yahweh's prohibition in 7:16-20 by inviting the worshippers at church [here the Jerusalem temple]: "ADD your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh." 7:21. The entire context suggests that this invitation is sarcastic, like the invitation in Amos 4:4-5:
"Come to Bethel [a sanctuary in North Israel]--and transgress;
to Gilgal [another sanctuary in North Israel]--and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices EVERY MORNING,
your tithes EVERY THREE DAYS;
bring a thank offering of leavened bread
and proclaim freewill offerings, PUBLISH THEM
for so YOU love to do, O people of Israel!"
The expression "ADD your burnt offerings" in Jeremiah 7:21 is equivalent to "bring your sacrifices EVERY MORNING" in Amos 4:4. These worshippers ASSUME religion has to do with QUANTITY, not quality.
b. Yahweh makes a sharp contrast between bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices AND obeying Yahweh. Many "religious" people are "stubborn" in heart and life against God. This idea is similar to Paul's contrast between baptism and the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1:17 [see the context in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17]. There is a big difference between carrying out an external religious act and obeying God from one's heart and life. 7:22-24.
c. Yahweh is about to punish his people, not because of a few recent sins they have committed, but because their whole history has been filled with opposing Yahweh persistently. "From the day Yahweh brought his people out of Egypt in the days of Moses until this day, the day of Jeremiah," Yahweh repeatedly sent "his servant the prophets" [including prophets like Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel] to bring them to Yahweh, YET they did not listen to Yahweh through his prophets, but "STIFFENED THEIR NECKS" and "DID WORSE" than their ancestors. 7:25-26.

It would be impossible to find a more RELEVANT message for the people of God EVERY DAY of life. LISTEN CAREFULLY to this message. Yahweh can change our lives if we will only listen to this message.

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

Monday, December 06, 2010

The DNA of Jacob

Jacob, the younger son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, is the name of the people of God, the people of Israel.

At birth, Isaac and Rebekah had twins. The firstborn was Esau, and the second was Jacob. When Jacob was coming forth from Rebekah's womb, he was taking by or holding on the heel of his brother Esau. This act of "taking by or holding the heel" means Jacob in Hebrew. Holding the heel is a gesture meaning: supplanting, deceiving, manipulating, taking away some possession from another person, cheating, etc. Genesis 25:26.

Throughout history, Jacob and all his descendants have the DNA of supplanting deceit, manipulation, cheating. NOTE:
1. Jacob manipulated Esau to get Esau's birthright. Genesis 25:29-34.
2. Jacob deceived his father Isaac to receive his blessing which belonged to Esau. Genesis 27:1-40.
3. The prophet Hosea denounces Jacob because of his deceit: Hosea 12:3: "In the womb he [Jacob] tried to SUPPLANT [deceive] his brother."
4. Jeremiah the prophet rebukes the people of God in his day, saying:
"Beware of your neighbors,
and put no trust in any of your kin;
for all your kin are SUPPLANTERS [deceivers].
and every neighbor goes around like a slanderer.
They all DECEIVE their neighbors,
and no one speak the truth;
they have taught their tongues to speak LIES;
they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.
Oppression upon oppression,
They refuse to know me, says the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:4-6).

We would all like to PRETEND that THEY are the people guilty of deceit, manipulation, cheating, etc. But we all know that each of us is guilty of this very problem. We all are recipients of this DNA.

God yearns for TRUTH--for a genuine heart and life. Let us pray fervently every day that God will help us avoid counterfeit, hypocrisy, deceit, manipulation. Above all else, may God help us be true and genuine.

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

John Willis