Daily Reflections July 26, 2017
In a modern-day court hearing, an offender is brought before the judge and the laws he has broken are read. After his actions are held up before the law, the defendant receives his sentence. Understandably, one should be made aware of his transgression so that he can understand the justice in his punishment. In today’s text, God speaks through Jeremiah and puts the kings of Judah on trial. In verse three we are told what God requires of the leaders of His people:
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3 ESV)
Do justice and righteousness. Live in right relationship with God and in right relationship with your fellow man. Interestingly, this command in Jeremiah is the essence of the entire law that God gave the Israelites. Jesus attests to this when he was asked about the law:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)
God required His kings to live in obedience to His law. If they lived rightly in relationship to their God and their people they would prove to be excellent rulers.
But God included a warning as well. In verse five we read:
But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. (Jeremiah 22:5 ESV)
This is no idle warning. The rest of chapter 22 describes how God brings His judgement upon three kings from this family: Shallum (otherwise known as Jehoahaz), Jehoiakim and Coniah (otherwise known as Jehoiachin).
Shallum was taken into exile and eventually died in Egypt. Jehoiakim selfishly used extortion to force his people into unfair labor. He thought that expensive buildings crafted with richly colored cedar would set him apart as a great king (v15). He failed to understand that truly great kings are recognized, not for their treasure, but for the quality of their care for God’s people (v16). The verdict for Jehoiakim’s wicked reign is death. Furthermore, God declares that his body will not receive a royal burial but will instead be treated like a dead donkey – thrown out of the city like garbage.
Coniah, Jehoiakim’s son, refused to learn from his father’s failure. As a result, God’s judgement was that Coniah would be sent away into exile and the signet ring would be removed from his hand. The signet ring was used to seal official documents. It was a sign of nobility and its removal represented the removal of Coniah’s kingship. He is also described as childless which, taken with the removal of the signet ring, is an emphatic way of stating that this wicked, family line would no longer put a successor on the throne.
Later chapters will point forward to the coming of the righteous King, but there is no such promise in today’s text. The comfort we find here is simple: God will not tolerate those who shepherd His people with corruption. Every wicked king who has deceived himself into believing that he is above reproach will one day stand before the perfectly just Judge. Every wrong will be held to account. Thanks be to God.
Pastor Levi denBok
The disciples still don’t get it. Back in Mark 6:30-44, Jesus fed 5000 men with five loaves and two fish. Once again a crowd of 4000 has gathered and again, Jesus has compassion on them. We would expect the disciples to say, “Jesus, do it again; you know, that multiplication miracle...” After all, they had witnessed an amazing miracle. However, they fail to trust in Jesus’ power.
And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mark 8:4 ESV)
Aren’t we like that as well? Though we might have experienced the provision of God yesterday, we forget it today. Doesn’t worry show us that we have failed to trust in Jesus? We simply need to admit our need and bring it Jesus; He has the solution to every problem.
Crossing over the Sea of Galilee Jesus and his disciples were met by a group of hostile Pharisees. They demanded Jesus prove his divine authority with a cosmic-sized sign, like fire from heaven. Jesus refused, exasperated at their persistent unbelief. On route to the other side, the disciples discussed their lack of food. We ask, ‘Why would the disciples worry about bread, when the Bread of Heaven, who fed 9000 people, was in the boat with them?’
Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? (Mark 8:17-19 ESV)
The disciples were still confused. Jesus warned this hard-hearted group about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. Leaven, a symbol of evil, spreads to infect the whole. This leaven was false teaching, hypocrisy, and pride. Unchecked, it would lead the disciples astray and therefore needed be purged from their hearts.
Mark 8 is a turning point. Jesus led a blind man outside of the village of Bethsaida and healed him. Bethsaida had been given ample opportunity to believe, but refused (Matthew 11:21-24). This “two-step” healing miracle demonstrated that though the disciples could partially see, Jesus would lead them out of their unbelief and give them full sight.
Jesus and his disciples then travelled to the region of Caesarea Philippi where he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” This discussion was leading up to the clear announcement of what would soon take place in Jerusalem. The first part came easier for them.
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29 ESV)
They confessed their faith in Jesus, but the second part, his impending rejection, death and resurrection, stunned the disciples. It was unthinkable that their ‘conquering Lord and Messiah’ would be killed. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him (Peter was in turn rebuked as an agent of Satan). Do you hear that? So sure was Peter of Jesus being wrong about this that he, a sinful man, would dare to oppose the one he’d just confessed as the Son of God! This protest was born, again, out of a hardness of heart. They did not understand the relationship between suffering and glory. They also figured out, as his disciples, that whatever happened to Jesus, would happen to them. A cross for him meant one for them. At that point they realized the high price of being a disciple of Jesus. It was easy to follow Jesus as long as it was about the miracles, but now the path of discipleship would be one of self-denial and suffering (verses 34-38).
Associate Pastor Jody Cross