John T. Willis

Friday, June 10, 2011


All of us want to improve. God certainly wants all of us to improve. Life is built around making choices, decisions, determinations. Thus, by the very nature of life, we must all choose THIS rather than THAT. God summons us to CHOOSE a better way of life. Here are a few texts that remind and inspire us to do BETTER.

Proverbs 8:11:
Wisdom is BETTER than jewels,
and all you may desire cannot compare with her." See further Proverbs 16:16"Wisdom" is something quit different from knowing information intellectually. James
3:13-18 provides a wonderful description of TRUE WISDOM.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace."

Proverbs 15:16:
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
than great treasure and trouble with it.
Values are of utmost importance. Fearing God is much more valuable than amassing wealth. See also Proverbs 16:8.

Proverbs 15:17:
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is
than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
Our food and possessions are not nearly as important as our feelings and behaviors toward other people.

Proverbs 16:19:
It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor
than to divine the spoil with the proud.
Arrogant people ignore and think evil of the poor. God loves the poor, and desires that we follow his example.

Proverbs 27:5:
Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
In order to help one another, we must be honest. To do this, it may be painful, but the godly choice is to confront a friend who does wrong.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls anddoes not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Living alone is detrimental to life. We all need friends who will support us in all experiences of life: to congratulate us when we do well; to pick us up off the ground when we fall on our own.

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

John Willis

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Judean Master Re-enslave their Released Slaves--Jeremiah 34

Jeremiah 34-39 contain accounts of events which occurred in the days of Jehoiakim
(609-598 BCE)and in the days of Zedekiah (598-587 BCE). A study of Jeremiah 34-39 shows that these events are NOT in chronological order. Rather, these chapters are arranged in order to communicate great theological truths. As we enter into these chapters, Jeremiah 34 relates TWO events during the time that Nebuchadrezzar II and the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem from 589 to 587 BCE. This blog discusses these two events briefly.

I. Yahweh through Jeremiah tells Zedekiah that Zedekiah and the Judeans will fall to the Babylonians and go into exile or captivity. Jeremiah 34:1-7.
a. The composer of the Book of Jeremiah dates the event related in Jeremiah 34:1-7 is during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. 34:1.
b. Yahweh through Jeremiah tells Zedekiah that Yahweh will GIVE Jerusalem into the hands of Nebuchadrezzar II and the Babylonians. The Babylonians will carry Zedekiah and many of the Judeans into Babylonian exile. He promises that Zedekiah will not die by the sword, but die in peace in Babylon. 34:2-5.
c. The composer informs the hearers that the fall of Jerusalem is near because only the fortified towns of Lachish and Azekah are still fighting at the time.
34:6-7. [For additional study and information, archaeologists have excavated part of Lachish and discovered 18 Letters, which now are available in English].

II. Zedekiah made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to release their slaves. They do this, but approximately a month later, they re-enslave the slaved they had released. Jeremiah 34:8-22.
a. The composer relates Zedekiah's covenant to release the slaves, and the officials and people do this. 34:8-10.
b. Later, the people re-enslaved their released slaves. 34:11.
c. Yahweh through Jeremiah declares that Yahweh had commanded God's people to release their slaves after seven years. This appears in Exodus 21:1-11; Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Jeremiah 34:14 quotes Deuteronomy 15:12-13 reminding the hearers about God's law on this point. The ancestors of the Judeans did not obey this command, and now the Judeans living in the days of Jeremiah are not obeying this command.
d. In punishment of the disobedience of God's people about God's law concerning releasing slaves every seven year, Yahweh declares that he is bringing the Babylonians against Jerusalem, and bring "sword, pestilence, and famine" on God's people, overthrow Jerusalem and the Judeans by the Babylonians, and take them into Babylonian exile. 34:17-22.

God's people are stubborn. They claim they love God and serve him, but in their lives, they are disobedient. Ultimately, God punishes people when they continue to live in sin.

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

John Willis

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Of whom shall I be afraid?

One of the most pervasive problems in human life, individually, in the family, in the church, in the city, in the state, in the nation is NEGATIVE FEAR. Hence, the Bible is filled with REMINDERS: DO NOT FEAR. Here are a few reminds to encourage every reader:

1. Psalm 27:1-4
"The Lord is my light and my salvation;
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh--
my adversaries and foes--
they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that I will seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple."
If we can only FOCUS our hearts and our lives on God through Jesus Christ, ALL dangers fade into insignificance. OUR GOD is more powerful than any and all enemies and forces and dangers.

2. As Joshua and the Israelites approached the challenge of crossing the Jordan River to the west and encountering the Canaanites living in the land, Yahweh encouraged them in these words:
"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous . . . Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you. . . . Be strong and courageous; DO NOT BE FRIGHTENED OR DISMAYED, for the Lord your God is with you WHEREVER YOU GO." (Joshua 1:5-9).
It would be difficult to be in challenging circumstances more difficult than Joshua and the Israelites. When we face difficulties and dangers, we MUST trust in God alone.

3. Mark 4:37-40 relates the well-known story about a storm that arose on the Sea of Galilee.
"A great windstorm arose, and thewaves beat in to the boat, so that the boat was already beings swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, 'Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?' He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, 'WHY ARE YOU AFRAID? HAVE YOU STILL NO FAITH?'"
Life is filled with storms of all kinds. We cannot avoid them. Let us trust God each day.

I hope this will be a daily encouragement for YOU wherever YOU are and whatever YOUR circumstances might be.

Share YOUR experiences and escapes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Yahweh will Heal Sick, Feed Sheep, Restore the Davidic Dynasty and the Aaronic Priesthood--Jeremiah 33

Concluding the hope oracles in Jeremiah 30-33, there are three hope oracles in Jeremiah 33. Essentially, these oracles contain repetions of Yahweh's promises already presented in Jeremiah 30-32. But Jeremiah 33 portrays additional metaphors and details.

I. Yahweh will heal the sick. Jeremiah 33:1-9. This oracle is very similar to 30:12-17.
a. The composer informs the hearers that this oracle occurred when Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard. 33:1. 37:21 refers to this event.
b. Yahweh has "made," "formed," "established" the earth. He is all powerful. 33:2.
c. Yahweh summons his audience to pay attention to his promises. If his hearers will call upon Yahweh, he will "tell them great and hidden things they had not known." 33:3. Yahweh then reveals TWO future events that will occur for Yahweh's people.
1. Yahweh will send the Chaldeans=Babylonians into Judah and punish God's people severely because they have forsaken Yahweh and gone after other gods. 33:4-5.
2. After punishing his people, Yahweh will "heal" his people. He will "restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel," and rebuild them as they were as first. 33:6-7.
d. Yahweh promises he will "cleanse" and "forgive" his sinful people who repent. Then "all the nations of the earth" will see the prosperity of Jerusalem and God's people. 33:8-9.

II. Yahweh will shepherd his scattered sheep. Jeremiah 33:10-13. This oracle is similar to 31:10.
a. At the present time, God's people in exile are depressed. They cry out: "It is a waste without human beings or animals." Life is "desolate." 33:10.
b. But Yahweh declares with enthusiasm that He is about to change this situation completely. "Once more," people will hear "the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices ofthose who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord." 33:11.
c. In this desolate waste, Yahweh will raise up shepherd to rest their flocks, and flocks will pass under the hands of shepherds as they count each one. Yahweh is the great shepherd, who leads his flock into green pastures. See Ezekiel 34. 33:12-13

III. Yahweh will restore the fallen dynasty of David and priesthood of Aaron. Jeremiah 33:14-26.
a. As throughout the Book of Jeremiah, Yahweh's messages are for and about North Israel and Judah, not Judah alone. 33:14. Recall 30:3-4; 31:31; 33:7.
b. Like 23:5, Yahweh again announes he will raise up "a righteous Branch to spring up for David" to maintain justice and righteousness among God's people. Zechariah 3:1-10; 6:9-15 clearly state this "righteous Branch" is Zerubbabel, who rebuilt the Jerusalem temple. 33:15.
c. The new name Yahweh will give is a word play on Zedekiah, which means: "Yahweh is righteousness." The new name is: "Yahweh is our righteousness." 33:16.
d. Yahweh promises David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, AND the levitical priests shall never lack a man to offering burnt offerings and other sacrifices. The first two successors are Zerubbabel the grandson of Jehoiachin and thus prince, and Joshua the descendant of Aaron through Zadok. 33:17-18.
e. Yahweh solemnly promises he will not break his covenant with the Davidic dynasty and the Levitical priesthood. Yahweh will INCREASE the offspring of David and Aaron. 33:19-22.
f. Yahweh declares that although things look very bleak for his people, Yahweh will establish his covenant with North Israel and South Judah, and Yahweh will prevail through them. 33:23-26.

Yahweh's promises are always IMPOSSIBLE, INCREDIBLE, UNBELIEVABLE. BUT Yahweh always rises above what is inevitable to carry out his purposes. The hope oracles of Jeremiah should give all people HOPE and a FUTURE.

Share YOUR experiences and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, June 06, 2011

Lying, Deceit, Dishonesty, Trickery, Hypocrisy--Part VI

Hypocrisy is a fatal epidemic of religious people and churches. Unfortunately, this is a well-known fact, established and documented through all centuries. We human beings want to put on a good front in order to hide who we really are and do. A few reminders may alert us to this reality.

1. Matthew 23 contains a series of condemnations of the LEADERS of God's people, each beginning with the words: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, HYPOCRITES." A hypocrite is one who pretends to be one person when in reality he is another person. A classical example is Matthew 23:23-24:
"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, HYPOCRITES!
For you title mint, dill, and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith
It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.
You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!"
People are hypocritical because they have a heart problem. All of us take the easy road. It is easier to highlight the sin of another person than to deal with one's own sins and faults and failures.

2. Paul says to Titus:
"To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They PROFESS to know God, but they DENY him BY THEIR ACTIONS. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work." (Titus 1:15-16).
It is very easy to SAY one thing when one is THINKING and DOING something quite different.

3. According to Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus confronted the Jewish LEADERS of his day who reproved Jesus because Jesus's disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. Jesus replied: YOU are the ones who are hypocrites. YOU should support your elderly parents financially, but YOU claim you have already given your money to God. Jesus said:
"You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:
'This people honors me with their LIPS,
but their HEARTS are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.'" (Matthew 15:7-9; cf. Mark 7:7-8).
The quotation is from Isaiah 29:13-14. A similar text appears in Jeremiah 12:1-2.

Pretending to be one person when an individual is actually another person allows one to live for a while, but in time, God has a way of exposing the true nature of the heart and the person.

Share YOUR dreams and intentions and goals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Jeremiah's Symbolic [Sign] Act of Buying a Field at Anathoth--Jeremiah 32:1-44

In essence, the hope oracle in Jeremiah 32 is identical to the message of the hope oracle in 31:31-37 discussed in the previous blog on the Book of Jeremiah. The hope oracle in Jeremiah 32 falls neatly into three parts: 32:1-15, 16-25, 26-44.

I. Yahweh instructs Jeremiah to buy of field at Anathoth. Jeremiah 32:1-15.
a. The composer of the Book of Jeremiah dates the occurrence at which Yahweh comes to Jeremiah in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which is the same year as the eighteenth year of King Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon, that is, 588 BCE. 32:1.
b. More specifically, the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem [which occurred from 589 to 587 BCE--see 2 Kings 25:1-2; Jeremiah 39:1-2], and Jeremiah was confined to the court of the guard by King Zedekiah--see Jeremiah 37:21. Zedekiah had reproved Jeremiah for declaring that Yahweh will give Jerusalem into the hand of the Babylonians, Zedekiak will not escape but will go into Babylonian exile. 32:2-5.
c. While confined in the court of the guard, Yahweh appeared to Jeremiah and told him his counsin Hanamel would come to him and offer to sell Hanamel his field in the legal way practiced at that time. This occurred, and then "Jeremiah knew that this was the word of the Lord." 32:6-8.
d. Jeremiah legally signs his purchase of Hanamel's field at Anathoth int the presence of his secretary Baruch, and presented the open copy for everyone to see and stored the sealed copy in an earthenware jar to be preserved for the future. 32:9-14.
e. Yahweh declares that this "symbolic [sign] act" means: "Houses and fields and vineyards shall again the bought in this land"=the land of Canaan. This is Yahweh's assurance that He will bring back penitent faithful Israelites from Babylon to the land of Canaan. This is the same promise discussed several times in Jeremiah 29-31.

II. Jeremiah responds to Yahweh's instructions by prayer. Jeremiah 32:16-25.
a. After giving the deed of purchase for the field at Anathoth to Baruch, Jeremiah prays to Yahweh, essentially going over Yahweh's works and words. 32:16.
b. Jeremiah extols Yahweh for his mighty works in the past.
1. Yahweh's creation of the heavens and the earth. Hence, it is obvious: "NOTHING is too hard for YOU." 32:17.
2. Throughout all centuries, Yahweh has demonstrated his STEADFAST LOVE. This is a clear reference to Yahweh's portrayal of himself in Exodus 34:6-7. 32:18-19.
3. Yahweh overthrew the Egyptians and brought his people Israel out of Egypt in the days of Moses. 32:20-21.
4. Yahweh brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan to conquer the Canaanites and possess the land. 32:22-23a.
5. But the Israelites did not obey Yahweh. So Yahweh has punished his people for several decades. 32:23b-d.
c. Finally, Yahweh has sent the Babylonians into the land of Canaan and is now besieging Jerusalem, as he had often warned. Now, Yahweh has brought "sword, famine, and pestilence" on his sinful people, and has now given God's people into the hands of the Chaldeans=Babylonians. 32:24.
d. But now, through Jeremiah, and in particular in the present chapter, Yahweh has promised that Yahweh will deliver the penitent exiles in Babylon to return to the land of Canaan and buy fields. 32:25.

III. Yahweh repeats the thoughts of Jeremiah's prayer, assuring Jeremiah that Yahweh will overthrow the Babylonians and bring penitent Israelite exiles from Babylon to the land of Canaan. Jeremiah 32:26-44.
a. Yahweh responds to Jeremiah and assures him that NOTHING is too hard for the Lord. 32:26-27. Recall Jeremiah's prayer in 32:17.
b. As Yahweh had often announced in previous oracles of Jeremiah, Yahweh repeats that he will cause the Babylonians to overthrow Judah and Jerusalem and carry many Judeans into Babylonian exile. This is because God's people have "done nothing but evil in Yahweh's sight." "The princes, the priests, the prophets, and the people" have all rebelled against Yahweh and turned to Baal and other gods. They went so far as to offer their children as sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molech= Milcom. 32:28-36.
c. After 70 years in Babylonian exile, Yahweh promises he will "gather" his penitent exiles from Babylon, and "bring them back" to the land of Canaan. 32:37.
d. At this point, Yahweh repeats the SAME PROMISES stated in 31:33-34. Note this careful comparison, which further verifies the thought described in the previous blog on the Book of Jeremiah.
1. The people of Israel will be Yahweh's people, and Yahweh will be their God. 32:38--just as in 31:33c.
2. Yahweh will give his people "one heart and one way"--32:39, the same thought as "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts" in 31:33b.
3. Yahweh will make "an everlasting covenant" with his people North Israel and Judah--32:40, the same thought as "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah" in 31:31.
4. Yahweh will "plant" the returning exiles IN THIS LAND=the land of Canaan "in faithfulness." 32:41. This terminology is marriage language--see Hosea 2:19-20, and thus recalls the statement "though I [Yahweh] was their husband," in 31:32c.
e. Yahweh concludes by reassuring Jeremiah and his penitent faithful exiles that Yahweh will overthrow the Babylonians, bring his penitent exiles back from Babylon to the land of Canaan, and "restore the fortunes" of his people. Like Jeremiah purchasing the field of his cousin Hanamel, after 70 years, "fields shall be bought" in the land of Canaan. 32:42-44.
A careful study of Jeremiah 32 supports the correct meaning of 31:31-37, and earlier promises in Jeremiah 30-31.

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

John Willis