Daily Reflections August 23, 2017
The writings of the Prophets are so incredibly helpful. They teach us about what happened historically, but they also provide the backdrop that explains why history unfolded as it did.
This text in Jeremiah 52 recounts a historical narrative of what took place when Babylon overthrew Jerusalem. This story is one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history; their city is surrounded by the Babylonian army. In siege warfare, the opposing army would encamp around the city’s walls to prevent any food from entering in. The people within the city would slowly starve and eventually would be forced to surrender.
“On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.” (Jeremiah 52:6 ESV)
At this point, the city was breached and the men of the city fled through the city gates. These men were overtaken along with King Zedekiah; the grizzly details of the King’s punishment only become more devastating as they are pondered. His sons were brought before him and were slaughtered as their father looked on. Then, after having witnessed that awful tragedy, his eyes were plucked from their sockets.
In the book of Leviticus, we read about the care and precision that went into the preparation of every item that went into the temple. Every plate, bowl and spoon represented something of God’s relationship with His people. It would have been shocking to hear these same items listed as the Babylonians threw them into the pile of plunder that would be carted back to Babylon. The temple – the physical representation of God’s presence among His people – was burned to the ground.
This is the punishment that was meted out against the people of Judah. It is strikingly severe, and we might even be tempted to question the justice of God, were it not for the preceding 51 chapters in Jeremiah. These same people mocked the prophets who brought warning from God. They put their trust in foreign nations rather than turning to God. They worshipped idols and regressed further and further into paganism, all the while convincing themselves that they were pleasing to God.
Jeremiah 52 is devastating and it is not merely a fable or an allegory - the events recorded here happened in human history. This people had thumbed their noses at God and they believed that He would sit idly by. They called themselves the people of God, yet proceeded to live wicked lives that were marked by self-reliance, compromise and prayerlessness. And we see in today’s text a glimpse into the judgement that this kind of living will receive. What’s more, the events recorded here pale in comparison to Jesus’ description of the judgement of hell.
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 ESV
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok
The Psalms lay bare the desperate human condition and the ensuing emotions. Psalm 31 as a lament expresses DEEP personal distress, yet affirms a DEEPER confidence in the God of steadfast love. It serves as a prayer of trust for those in the midst of any kind of difficulty, severe or otherwise. It begins with a cry for deliverance:
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! (Psalm 31:1 ESV)
In the crisis, David despaired of life itself (verses 9-13); he had nearly lost all ability to continue. Regardless of what was happening without and within, he declared,
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (Psalm 31:14 ESV)
David’s reflex was to trust in the Lord. God is not merely a destination we resort to when trials arise, but a place of permanent residence where the righteous continually live. God does not merely GIVE us refuge, he IS our refuge. When we build our lives upon him and his Word, we will remain unshaken in the storms of life (see Matthew 7:24-25).
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me. (Psalm 31:3 ESV)
David firmly trusted his loving Shepherd, for he KNEW his covenant-keeping God. God is faithful to his promises, faithful to his children, and committed to the honour of his name. Because of this, and in the presence of his enemies, David fully entrusted himself to God’s care,
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. (Psalm 31:5 ESV)
Of course we cannot read these words and miss that they were the final words of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46 ESV)
Jesus was God’s surrendered, obedient servant who came to our rescue; he died in agonizing pain on the cross to pay the price for our ransom. Therefore we can commit ourselves into the hands of God, into his sovereign care and wisdom, knowing that he works ALL things out for our good and for his glory.
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! (Psalm 31:15 ESV)
David’s delivering God (Psalm 31:7-8) is the Great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14) who sees our afflictions, knows our struggles and delivers us (Exodus 2:24-25, 3:7-8). Do you believe the Lord sees and knows your issues? Do you believe he is ready to help? Do you trust him enough to commit your life and trials into his faithful hands?
It should be noted, the Lord does not instantaneously solve all our problems. Faith is a lifetime of commitment and abandonment to the living God. Therefore we are called to endure, to trust God in the midst of circumstances that at times give little evidence of relief. We might be uncertain of outcomes, but we are not uncertain of God. We will not be put to shame when we call on him.
God will preserve you even when your faith is frayed and you feel like you are at the end of your rope. Don’t lose heart. The Lord your God in whom you trust will give you grace in your distress to love him, fear him, and be courageous as you wait for him!
Associate Pastor Jody Cross