Daily Reflections July 5, 2017
Understanding the historical backdrop of Jeremiah’s ministry will help to shed more light on this amazing book. For today’s purposes, I want to draw your attention to verse 3.
It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. (Jeremiah 1:3 ESV italics added)
Take special note of those nine words at the end of verse 3. Jeremiah’s ministry will end with his people being carried away in chains to Babylon. By all worldly standards, his life and calling will end in complete failure.
And yet, Jeremiah’s ministry served exactly the purpose that God had intended. The Israelites were living in rebellion. They had neglected their covenant agreement with God and they seemed to believe that His blessing would remain, despite their disobedience. God was about to bring tribes from the North to execute His judgement, and Jeremiah’s warning served to inform the people of the reason for this punishment.
For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. (Jeremiah 1:15-16 ESV)
Jeremiah’s is a bleak mission, to say the least. He is essentially called to preach repentance to people who won’t repent so that they will be without excuse at the time of their judgement.
Isaiah’s ministry was difficult too, but at least Isaiah witnessed the repentance of Hezekiah where God went on to destroy the Assyrian army overnight. Jeremiah would experience no victories. He would call people to turn from their sin for his entire lifetime and he would see absolutely no fruit. No wonder he is referred to as “The Weeping Prophet.”
This is a good reminder for us. Isaiah and Jeremiah were equally faithful ministers. One saw “success” for a season and the other did not. Both trusted in the same God, preached the same Word of God, even to the same nation of God, but with different responses.
It is possible that your life will look like Jeremiah’s. Your friends, families, coworkers and neighbors may ignore you to their dying breath. You might proclaim the truth faithfully only to watch your nation embrace every brand of sinful debauchery. That could very well be your calling.
But if that is your calling, then I hope that you will take the ministry of Jeremiah to heart. He didn’t see worldly “success” but he was faithful to the task God put before him. He didn’t stop preaching. He didn’t stop praying. He didn’t stop weeping. He pleaded for souls even as they, one by one, persisted in their damning rebellion. And now Jeremiah is in glory, because he trusted God in the midst of what was most certainly crippling, daily defeat.
Don’t give up. The results are not ultimately in your hands. Don’t fall back in the midst of discouragement. Be faithful with the task that God has put before you and remember that, no matter what results you see in this life, a life of obedience leads to the ultimate victory.
Pastor Levi denBok
In Matthew 15 we see Jesus confronting the Jews, teaching his disciples and ministering to the needy. Jesus rebuked his hypocritical accusers with the sword of truth, and extended mercy to the lost with displays of his power.
A coalition of Jewish leaders from Jerusalem came to confront Jesus about his disciples’ lack of observance of ceremonial laws, particularly, washing before eating. (This hand washing activity was not a part of Moses’ Law, but strictly a human tradition). This “sacred” tradition of the Jews, originated, so they said, from Moses, and was passed down to the elders as oral tradition. Eventually this was written down and became known as the Mishnah. These blind guides (verse 14), honoured man’s law, above the Law of Moses, God’s law.
In response, Jesus shot back, accusing them of their serious violation of the real Mosaic Law. They were failing to provide for their parents, thus violating the fifth commandment.
“And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? (Matthew 15:3 ESV)
The Jews employed clever manipulations to skirt their obligation to provide for their parents; they cited the tradition of “corban”, that is, a gift devoted to God. Basically, this meant that they would not be obligated to care for their parents for they had tagged their goods as belonging to God and thus not available for personal interests.
Jesus confronted them, quoting Isaiah 29:13, calling them hypocrites. He labelled their religious practices as useless.
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-9 ESV)
This pharisaical spirit is still among us in the form of legalism (works based religion), traditionalism (elevating tradition above the Word of God) and hypocrisy (the pretence of being something you are not).
What Do We Learn From This Chapter?
We see here the battle to reach those who trust in their “religion”. Will we confront the religiously proud with salvation through Christ alone? No one is saved because of works done in righteousness, but according to God’s own mercy.
We see here the battle between external observances and heart integrity. Will we serve with godly motives? Will we worship God from the heart? How tragic to live your entire life religiously, sincerely, yet find out too late that the offering was all in vain.
We see here the battle between tradition and truth. Will we exalt God’s Word as our supreme authority of truth? If we will not love and obey the Word of God, we will be led astray into moralism. We will be proud of our religious observances but we will receive the judgement of God, not his commendation.
We see here the battle to understand that defilement originates in our hearts. Will we seek a cleansed heart? If a clean heart is not behind our offering of worship, it is all vanity.
Jesus offers mercy to all who will come to him with a contrite heart and tremble at his Word. However, he brings judgement to all whom in pride trust their own righteousness. He feeds the hungry, frees the captives and heals the broken, yet he rebukes the arrogant.
Above all, seek to honour the person of Christ, by loving the Word of Christ, worshiping the name of Christ and doing the works of Christ, from a sincere heart.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 ESV)
Associate Pastor Jody Cross