John T. Willis

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Be Like Your Parents

Evelyn and I are the parents of four children: three males and one female. They are all now 50 years of age or older. From the very beginning, we encouraged each of our children to follow God, NOT ourselves. We sincerely want to serve God, but we painfully KNOW in our heart of hearts, we frequently think, say, or do the wrong thing. Whenever this happens, we encourage our children--and everyone else--to follow God, not any human being.

This is the message of Psalm 78, for example. The psalmist goes through FOUR generations: the previous generation, the present generation, the following generation, and the generation yet unborn. He encourages his audience to reflect carefully on the lives of former generations:
"so that they should set their hope IN GOD [not themselves or anyone else],
and not forget the works of God
but keep his commandments;
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God" (Psalm 78:7-8).

Then, the psalmist enumerates SEVEN events during the history of God's people to call attention to the unfaithful ideas and actions of their ancestors: cowardice (verses 9-11), insensitivity (verses 12-17), doubt (verses 18-22), ingratitude (verses 23-32), hypocrisy (verses 33-39), stubbornness (verses 40-51), and taking God for granted (verses 52-58).

When the previous generation commits sins of various times, it is a catastrophe for the present generation to imitate these sins. Unfortunately, history has demonstrated that frequently we do just that: we repeat the same old wrongs. And when this happens, our lives are in jeopardy.

YES, we need to honor our parents and imitate them IF and WHEN they are faithful to God. But God is more important than our parents or other people. Our first commitment is to God alone. Psalm 78 is a tremendous reminder of this reality.

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

John Willis

Friday, December 17, 2010

There is a Balm in Gilead--Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Several voices appear in the next paragraph in Jeremiah 8:18-9:1. It is difficult to follow the twists and turns in this paragraph. This blog is an attempt to work out the thoughts here.

I. Jeremiah or Yahweh begin in Jeremiah 8:18-19.
a. Jeremiah or Yahweh declares his own feelings about his chosen people. Jeremiah or Yahweh has no joy, is full of grief, his heart is sick. This shows great concern for sinful people who are in the process of destroying themselves. 8:18.
b. Jeremiah or Yahweh reveal to the audience the thoughts of God's people:
Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?
These questions assume that the people of God are convinced that God is in Zion, that is Jerusalem, and thus in their midst--so they have no fear. 8:19a.
c. Yahweh cries out:
Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?
God's people SAY one thing, but DO another. This troubles God greatly. 8:19b.

II. God's People complain because they are suffering. Jeremiah 8:20.
a. The word "we" in line b indicates a group of people is speaking, in this context, the people of God.
b. God's people use a metaphor--spiritually, "the harvest is past, the summer is ended, but we are not saved." They expected deliverance from the Babylonians, but the Babylonians are breathing down their necks, about to destroy them.

III. Jeremiah or Yahweh repeats his deep feelings of hurt, mourning, and dismay because of the sins of God's people. Jeremiah 8:21.

IV. God is able and willing to deliver his people, but they refuse to return to him. Jeremiah 8:22-9:1.
a. The questions:
"Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?"
clearly assume a YES answer. There IS a balm in Gilead. There IS a physician there. God is the great physician, and his healing is available. Jeremiah 46:11 and 51:8 also use the metaphor of a healing balm. Apparently this was a healing medicine in Gilead in North Israel east of the Jordan. 8:22a.
b. What is the problem? The failing health of God's people is NOT because of the physician or the medicine. The problem is the people themselves. They are determined to turn away from Yahweh. 8:22b.
c. And thus, for a third time, Jeremiah or Yahweh cry out in mourning and hurt and weeping and dismay because God's people will not repent and turn back to God. 9:1

This is a wrenching text. Consider this often and carefully. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, December 16, 2010


In December 2003, a team of wildlife researchers found "a new species" on planet earth. The natives called this creature a kipunji or the Highland Mangabey, and experts now entitle this Rungwecebus kipunji, named after Mount Rungwe.

The kipunji is a species of Old World monkey living in the highland forests of Tanzania in Africa. This monkey is approximately three feet long and has long brown fur, which stands in tufts on the sides of top of its head. Its face and eyelids are uniformly black.

Experts have found approximately 1,100 individual kipunji monkeys. All the males emit a loud call somewhat like a honk-bark to coordinate spacing between different groups.

The kipunji are limited to seven square miles of forest in two isolated regions, and thus are an endangered species. The kipunji are more closely related to the baboon (genus Papio) than the other mangabeys in the genus Lophocebus.

Scholars anticipate that by the year 2050, biologists will discover at least 2,000 new mammal species worldwide.

This "new creature" is a tremendous discovery. But far beyond this, our Creator repeatedly reveals his awesome amazements and surprises.

I hope and pray that YOU appreciate God's work and will worship him daily.

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

John Willis

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Teacher on the Ice and the Migration of Birds--Jeremiah 7:27-8:17

After Jeremiah's sermon at the temple about the temple in Jeremiah 7:1-26, Yahweh turns to Jeremiah and tells Jeremiah to announce to the people of God in Judah that Yahweh is about to punish his sinful people in Jeremiah 7:27-8:17. This falls into four pericopes or paragraphs.

I. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to announce to the people of Yahweh that Yahweh is about to punish them because of their sins. Jeremiah 7:27-8:3.
a. "YOU" in Jeremiah 7:27 and 28 is singular [thus Jeremiah] and "them" is the people of God in Judah. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to speak to the people of God, but they will not listen. So, Yahweh tells Jeremiah to tell these people that they are to cut off their hair and lament, because Yahweh is about to punish them. 7:27-29.
b. Jeremiah proclaims Yahweh's message in Jeremiah 7:30-8:3. Yahweh explains to his people that they have committed serious evils or sins: they worship foreign gods on the high places in Judah, and they burn their sons and daughters by fire as sacrifices. Therefore, Yahweh will punish such sinful people. 7:30-34.
c. Yahweh will spread the bones of the princes [kings, officials], priests, prophets, and people of Judah before the sun as punishment. 8:1-3.

II. The primary sin of the people of Judah is "unnatural response to God's love." Jeremiah 8:4-7. Yahweh through Jeremiah uses two illustrations or figures to communicate this truth.
a. In West Texas, we often have ice storms during the winter. I can remember a time when I was trying to get to my office walking on the ice, and I fell. Immediately I looked around to see if anyone saw what happened. Then I felt around to see if I broke any bones. Then I gingerly got up. Then I gathered up my scattered books. Then I tried to move on to my office without falling. WHY did I do this? ANYONE WOULD DO THE SAME THING--except God's people. Jeremiah 8:4-6. "When people fall, do they not get up again?" [Of course they do]. "WHY THEN has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?"
b. In the spring and in the fall, many birds migrate through West Texas. We enjoy watching the geese, the yellow-headed blackbirds, and many others to migrate. All migratory birds "instinctly" or "naturally" migrate. "BUT MY PEOPLE do not know the ordinance of the Lord." Jeremiah 8:7.

III. Yahweh condemns the wise, the priest, and the prophet in God's people because they are FALSE. Jeremiah 8:8-13.
a. Yahweh now specifically turns to rebuke "the wise"--scribes whose responsibility to teach and explain God's law, God's word. But they are "false." Therefore, Yahweh will punish them. 8:8-10a.
b. The problem is a heart problem--GREED. The wise, the priest, and the prophet "is greedy of unjust gain." MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Wealth--this is a basic human problem--including the people of God. Yahweh will punish everyone who is greedy. 8:10b-12.
c. Yahweh wanted to gather his faithful people, but he finds no grapes or figs, so he will punish them. [Recall the same metaphor in Jeremiah 5:1; 6:9]. 8:13.

IV. God's people respond to Yahweh's message and confess their sins, and Yahweh declares he will indeed punish them. Jeremiah 8:14-17.
a. The plural words "we" and "our" and "us" indicate that NOW the speakers are the people of Judah to whom Yahweh had previously been addressing them in 7:27-8:13. They themselves admit: "We have sinned against the Lord." 8:14-15.
b. Yahweh vividly describes the invading enemies, the Babylonians. The Judeans can hear the snorting of the horses in the north at Dan, the neighing of their stallions. Yahweh is about to let snakes loose among the people to destroy them. 8:16-17.

When God's people gradually develop into a sinful habit of life, God's only option is to punish his people in the hope of saving a remnant eventually. This is essentially the message of this text.

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

John Willis