Daily Reflections July 7, 2017
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, helps us see sin and its effects more vividly. And in so doing, the depth of our own sin without the grace of God is shown through the story of Israel’s rebellion. In this chapter, we are confronted with the imagery of God’s beloved people prostituting themselves. Deceived into thinking that they would find better loves, they abandoned God. But instead of finding a more favourable spouse, they ended up on the street corner offering themselves to anyone who would come by. And instead of love, they were ravished - continually raped, used, and abused. False idolatry, seeking lovers outside of God - this always leads us to emptiness, slavery, and destruction. We are fools if we relent to show sin as anything less than vile.
The graphic nature of sin causes many to pause, as it should. However, Jeremiah continues by stating that hardened sinners are not easily deterred. Israel, the northern kingdom, whored after other gods and God issued “her certificate of divorce” in sending her away into the hands of the Assyrians in 722 B.C. He hoped that she would grow weary of her spiritual adultery and return, but she persisted. Judah, the southern kingdom, heard the warnings and watched as this unfolded. Like God pleaded with Israel, He pleads with Judah to learn from Israel’s sin and stay faithful. Sadly, Judah shamelessly followed the same path as Israel. This shows that our natural inclination and desire to run to other gods overpowers the warnings of sin’s consequences. Isn’t that a main theme that runs the course of the Old Testament? Warning after warning is given, yet mankind rebels anyway and faces God’s wrath. More is needed than an object lesson of the effects of sin.
Now what? If this is the state of a person in spiritual adultery, how does one return? Starting in verse 12, Jeremiah gives some insight on how one comes home. He tells them to proclaim “return!” He uses a form of “turn” or “return” eighteen times in this chapter. God is calling for repentance and return. It reminds me of the open arms of the father to the prodigal son. God realizes that it is impossible for man to return to him by his own volition. So, he says in verse 14,
“I will take you, one from a city and two from a family and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:14b-15).
God not only gives a general call but also an effectual call. He doesn’t sit idly, he goes out to get his people and puts them into the care of good shepherds. How does a person return from spiritual adultery? Repent and have faith in God. Believe that he will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. This is how all people are saved—faith and repentance, Old Testament and New.
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
In Matthew 17, we read the amazing story of Jesus’ transfiguration. In this story Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and reveals to them his glory. The physical appearance of Jesus is instantly changed and we are told:
“His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:2)
In his transfigured state he was also joined by Moses and Elijah. To cap this entire experience off, a voice from an overshadowing cloud proclaims,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5)
Readers of Matthew’s gospel will instantly note that most of these words were already spoken of Jesus at his baptism in chapter 3:17. On this occasion, however, the voice also commands the three disciples to listen to Christ.
This is a very interesting addition in light of what we read in the previous chapter. It was in chapter 16 that Jesus began to tell his disciples that his messianic vocation included suffering, death, and resurrection. This was not something that the disciples were willing to listen to, as can be clearly seen by Peter’s response in verse 22. Peter is rebuked for this response and Jesus then goes on to further explain that those who wish to follow him must be willing to accept the same fate. A chapter break might make us think that Matthew’s gospel has moved on to other topics, but this is not the case. This is made even clearer in the gospel of Luke, where we are told that Jesus is discussing “his exodus, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:30).
All of this points us to the conclusion that the transfiguration of Christ was ultimately for the benefit of the disciples. It was a reiteration to them of what they should have already known, namely, that Jesus is the Son of God and that the last days have been inaugurated in his ministry. We know that this latter point was a concern of the transfiguration story not only from Luke’s gospel, but also by the disciple’s questions as they walk down from the mountain with Jesus.
We might now ask how this story is significant for us today. At the very least, the transfiguration account should remind us that Jesus is the beloved Son and as a result, he deserves our complete obedience. Many people today want to limit Jesus to being just another teacher or failed religious leader. That Jesus died is a stumbling block for many (1 Cor. 1:23), but we are reminded here that this was always the good plan of God. Furthermore, in a roundabout way, we are also reminded that we can have complete trust in the Word of God. In 2 Peter 1:16-21 we find Peter’s own reflection on this experience and his conclusion that even greater than a mountaintop experience with God is the sure witness of the prophets. Let us, therefore, be eager readers of the Scriptures as we wait in hopeful anticipation for the return of the beloved Son.