I was about to finish up chapter five of Jeremiah when something caught my eye. Maybe it was because I have been feeling somewhat overwhelmed lately by all the corruption in government. The news stories I've been hearing left me asking the age old question, "Why do the wicked prosper?"
So I asked the Lord that question and he immediately showed me the verses below as well as a few more verses that have made me realize that while those in powerful positions think they can get away with anything, they really can't. Ultimately, they all will answer to God one day.
In my last post about Jeremiah, I discovered what God had to say about religious leaders who taught false doctrines and practised deceit. But the Lord wanted to answer my question about the wicked in government before I moved on and this is what He showed me:
‘For wicked men are found among My people,
When it came time for the Israelites to be punished and taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, it is clear who was actually being punished. It wasn't the poor, the weak or those who could not defend themselves. It was those who had the power to make a change, to lead the people - the rich, the powerful, (those in government) the priests and the prophets. As 2 Kings 24:14 indicates, only the poor were left in the land after Nebuchadnezzar invaded. So the land was cleansed of the wicked.
I could write story after story about the levels of government corruption that take place all over the world today. Those in positions of power, who have the ability to do right by the people they govern, have continually abused that power. They have no fear of God, and like the verses above suggest, "they excel in deeds of wickedness".
As the days draw closer for Jesus return, those who currently hold positions of leadership in government will have much to answer for. They may not realize it yet, but their time is coming. God affirms this in Psalm 37 and He reminds us not to fret about wicked people. Jesus encouraged us to pray for them and so we should, since it is very clear that the Lord will punish them.
The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
This week I am starting a new thing I like to call Monday Meditations. I invite you to add links to your website/blog that are devotional in nature, so that we might all encourage one another. Today's meditation or devotional is a poem I wrote some years ago during a time when I was purposely being quiet before the Lord. Rather than coming before Him with all my worries and prayer requests, I deliberately sat still and just listened - waiting for Him to speak. This poem is the result of that time of quiet reflection.
If I close my eyes and remain perfectly still
will I be able to shut out the noise of the day?
The barking dog across the street?
My neighbour's children yelling?
The drone of the dishwasher?
Be STILL and know that I am God.
How can I be still enough to hear You, O Lord?
My mind is always racing.
Thoughts pop into my head,
random ideas that beg to be chased down.
I am still, but there is too much noise.
How do I HEAR you O Lord?
Do I keep repeating Your name like a mantra?
Will humming work, or scented candles?
Do I search the Scriptures looking for signs
that You are speaking only to me?
How do I HEAR you?
BE STILL and know that I am God.
Is it in the waiting?
How long do I give you before You will speak?
One hour? Two?
I have waited, yet I do not hear.
BE STILL and know that I am God.
I stepped outside and my ears were overwhelmed
with noise from cars, children, dogs and lawnmowers.
It is hard to focus inside my house.
It is equally hard outside.
And then I heard You.
A still small voice.
A gentle breeze that caressed my face.
The leaves rustling in the trees,
blowing a sweet sound of praise.
A sunbeam piercing through a cloud,
landing on my face with a warm, gentle kiss.
Subtle touches that fill my heart
till it is close to bursting with joy!
No audible voice, but a presence that is unmistakable.
It is not the stilling of my mind or the sounds around me
that enable me to hear you.
I hear You because I have pursued You
and You love to be pursued.
So, I will seek you in the morning and in the evening.
I will talk to you throughout my stress-filled, noisy, busy days.
And I will hear You because
I am Your child and You are my God, my Father, my Saviour.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
Please share your devotional website/blog links below. Let us encourage one another in the Lord.
people. I shudder to think of how I once made my best friend sit down at the dining room table and read the Bible aloud with me. I was 17, and a first-class idiot.
We had just moved to a new city for the fourth time (my parents moved every year during my highschool years) and I knew no one. The friends I did pick up along the way were a mixed bunch. Some liked to party and drink (a lot) and others were the same way, only they called themselves Christians because they believed in God and had "youth group meetings" and "Bible studies". I couldn't actually differentiate between the two groups as far as their lifestyles went, so I joined those who liked to study their Bibles like me, because I was pretty sure my unsaved friends were getting sick of me always talking about Jesus. But, much to my dismay their belief in God was only that. They believed, but they weren't about to change their lives for Him. Some of them did, but the majority just kept on partying and drinking. I began to think it was okay to be like I was before I knew Jesus, so I would read my Bible, learned lots of stuff, continued to share with those who didn't know the Lord and yet - not make an impact on anyone. Why? I was still living as an unsaved person. Taking my cues from the "Christians" around me.
I didn't know what being "born again" actually meant.
Then, one day I finally met a different kind of Christian. Someone who was committed to God in all aspects of their lives and I started taking my clues from this person on how a Christian was supposed to behave. Unfortunately, I didn't realize, due to my young age and my lack of Scriptural knowledge, that this person was too legalistic and I became afraid to speak my mind or do anything really, without feeling judged for it. I continued to read my Bible, discovering new insights and comparing Jesus' life to how people behaved at my church. But kept these insights to myself. And I became horribly confused on why Jesus' life and attitude were so different from my fellow church goers.
By the time I met my husband I had already begun a singing ministry. I had decided to continue with my Bible studies and voice my discontent through my songwriting. When we relocated and found a church home we inadvertently stumbled into the most legalistic church I'd ever been in. And I felt smothered. People would actually chastise me for raising my hands while singing worship songs. Oh, my! I was not only feeling smothered, I was becoming depressed. For a long time (at least a good 15 years) I would "learn" what it meant to be a Christian from critical, judgemental people. People who were quick to think the worst about you, would spread gossip and lies behind your back and basically do everything Jesus had explicitly told them not to do.
I began to hate going to church.
I buckled down, continued singing and ignored those who "hated" my exuberance during worship. And finally new people began coming to my church. Christians who showed me the love of God and accepted and encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. They prayed with me, loved me and encouraged me to study my Bible, because it was through my Bible that I would truly learn what God was like and what He expected from me. This was when I began to grow in the Lord.
And I began to change.
It took a while, I'll admit, before I started to change. I had been so long with critical people that my spirit had become damaged. But I finally began to morph into the person I was when I first came to know the Lord. Someone who loved the Scriptures and wanted to dig deeper into them, letting the wisdom of God change me from the inside out. I finally began to accept that my quirkiness was something God built into me and I shouldn't have allowed others to silence me.
My love of Scripture and the desire to share what I learned was a gift God had given me when He first filled me with His Holy Spirit. And all the stuff in between (life in general with all its ups and downs) had all been God ordained. My incurable disease, my loss of my singing voice, a fall down a flight of stairs that left me disabled, cancer scares and more - all of it - was to help me grow and change into the person I am now. Someone with faults. Someone God has forgiven and is using despite those faults. A sinner saved by grace.
My mother in-law was a very wise woman. She once told me never to place your trust in people, because people will always let you down. Place your trust solely on the Lord. Let your Bible and God be your influencers. I'm glad I finally listened to her.
So, what about you? Where are you in your journey with God? Are you letting the Holy Spirit lead you, or are you letting other people determine who you will become?
I've been studying the book of Jeremiah and landed on chapter five today, and it struck me how similar the times of today are to what Jeremiah and his people went through. For example, in the opening of this chapter God tells him to go throughout the streets of Jerusalem to look for an honest man, someone who speaks the truth and executes justice. If Jeremiah finds such a man, God will pardon the people. Like Sodom and Gomorrah during Abraham’s time, the people had once again descended into immorality. Their worship of God was forsaken in exchange for the lusts of the flesh. God was openly mocked and even those in charge of the spiritual well-being of the people had fallen away. They now worshipped false gods and in this chapter the Lord reveals to Jeremiah his plans for Israel. It would be their defining moment in history, because God's plans for Israel included destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. He was sending King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who would keep them captive in his land for seventy years.
But Jeremiah believed that if he went to the right people (the chief priests and rabbis, those who were in charge of the spiritual well-being of the Jewish people), he could convince them to repent and thereby stave off God's judgement. God even said, "Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her" (Jeremiah 5:1). But Jeremiah could not find anyone (even among the priests) with those requirements. Jeremiah 5:5-6 tells us their "transgressions were many and their apostasies numerous."
While this was written about the Jews thousands of years ago, today we seem to have come full circle once again. The world in general has turned away from God, and those in positions of spiritual leadership are turning a blind eye to sin and apostasy and in some cases are even encouraging it. The tragedy is when these leaders try to appease the world rather than obey God. Many churches today are dangerously close to abandoning God and Scripture for what “feels good” or “seems right.” For example, preachers like Rob Bell, Tony Campolo and others, are disregarding the Scriptures that condemn immorality (in particular homosexuality). They are throwing out the Bible and saying it is no longer relevant. Bell recently declared that, “The church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense." Preachers like Bell and others who seek to please men rather than God, are leading people away from the love of God, not to Him, because they are urging people to believe their words rather than God’s Word. Those preachers who teach a prosperity gospel, or those who claim it is okay to sin because grace covers everything, are also leading people down a slippery slope toward their destruction.
In my book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today, I talk about the church of Pergamum. Jesus said of this church, "Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16). He was talking about the Nicolaitans, whom He hated. They put themselves forward as believers in Jesus Christ and, at the same time, practiced black magic, offered sacrifices to the numerous idols in Pergamum, were sexually immoral, and were teaching new believers that all this was okay with God. Jesus warned them to repent or He would deal with them personally. This is also a warning for our time.
The House of Israel and the House of Judah had both dealt treacherously with God. They lied to the people and said God would not harm them. They told them misfortune would never come on them and that they would never see sword or famine. They said these things and believed these things, simply because they were “God’s chosen people”. And so they mocked the prophets God sent to warn them about their impending doom, going so far as to say they would harm the prophets who proclaimed harm was coming to them (Jeremiah 5:13).
The Jewish people believed in their hearts that God would never harm them because they were His “chosen people”. They were unprepared for the destruction that was about to come upon them. Even though God sent them prophet after prophet to warn them. They suffered in captivity for 70 years because of their disobedience. If God is the same today, yesterday and forever, why do Christian leaders (and those they deceive) think He will suddenly change His mind about sin? Why do they think because they "have Jesus" they are safe from God's wrath? They are openly disobeying Him, encouraging sexual immorality, teaching false doctrines and leading others to do the same.
The Jewish people were warned about their impending doom through prophets like Jeremiah. They were urged to repent. It's time for those who are on the "politically correct" and "tolerant" bandwagon to stop seeking the praise of the world and repent before destruction comes on them as well.
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)
The above verse is probably the most familiar verse in the Bible. On Sunday mornings in many churches it is the final benediction or blessing before people leave the service. On the Sabbath (Saturday) in synagogues around the world, this particular blessing is also used as a way to end the service. However, it doesn't stop there, but is also carried on into the home. For example, on Friday night when the Sabbath starts, parents say this blessing over their children. Today, Jews who are in attendance for morning prayers will have this blessing said over them by the rabbis.
Do you remember when Spock would say, "Live long and prosper" when addressing someone in the Star Trek universe? Leonard Nimoy (the actor who played Spock) was Jewish, and it was from the rabbis in his synagogue that he first saw the sign of the spread fingers. In fact, he told a story where, as a young boy, he was admonished never to look at the rabbis while they were saying this prayer. Why? According to Jewish tradition, the Divine presence would shine through the fingers of the priests as they blessed the people, and no one was allowed to look out of respect for God. Interestingly, the symbol of the spread fingers is the letter Shin in the Hebrew alphabet, which is the first letter in Shaddai (El Shaddai means the All Sufficient God) and it is the prayer above where the priests/rabbis would spread their fingers.
But what is so special about this blessing in particular? This blessing is said in Jewish traditions a number of times. For example, besides being used as a benediction, it is used during Jewish weddings when the couple stand under a chuppah (a canopy), where they would be blessed by their parents or the rabbi in attendance. It is also used during the circumcision ceremony (brit milah) when a baby boy is eight days old. So there are many ways the blessings is used, but it began with a command from God to Aaron (Moses brother) that it was to be a blessing from God said over the people of Israel. Originally, it was said only by the priests (the kohanim) of God, but nowadays it is accepted that people will use it as a blessing on their loved ones.
So let us look at this verse closely, because I want you to be able to grasp the important significance of such a blessing. One thing I want to stress is that the priests were not giving their own blessing. This was a blessing from God Himself. The priests/rabbis were merely the means in which to transmit this blessing. This is confirmed by the verse immediately following the blessing. "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them" (Numbers 6:27).
There are three parts to this blessing:
The Lord Bless You and Keep You
What does it mean "to bless"? The word bless in Hebrew conveys the idea that our weaknesses are strengthened by God's strength. In fact, the root word for bless is barukh and means to kneel, or humble ourselves as an act of adoration. So in our weakness we kneel before God and He blesses us, or strengthens us through His mighty power. The blessing above when said as a benediction at the end of a service is meant to convey the idea of sending us out into the coming week with the strength of God resting on us. To accomplish what we cannot do on our own, because we are weak.
Most Hebrew prayers begin with Barukh atah Adonai, "Blessed are You Lord," which reminds us of God's power and strength, at the same time humbling ourselves before Him. So, Numbers 6:24-26 does not mean that God is humbling Himself, it means He is imparting His strength to us by passing on His blessing of strength. And the first verse goes further. Not only is God blessing us with His strength but He is "keeping" us within His care. 'Keep' in Hebrew is shamar and means to "keep, watch over, guard or protect." So these first words of blessing from God mean, quite simply, that God is blessing us with His strength and watching over us. This does not mean we will never experience tragedy. It simply means God's eye is upon us, watching over everything we do and blessing us as we carry out His work here on earth.
The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You, and be Gracious To You
The Lord said in Exodus 33:20 that no one could look at Him at live (survive). So what does it mean when He wants to "make His face shine upon us"? This is an incredible statement from the God of creation to His children. 'Face' in Hebrew is paniym and it has a variety of meanings, like "favour, countenance, presence or person". So in this blessing from God, He is making His presence or favour shine upon us. God's Holy Spirit, is an ever present light within our hearts that searches out and knows us intimately. Nothing can be hidden from Him. 'Gracious' in Hebrew is chanan and means "to show favour or mercy." So, the second half of this blessing is God bestowing His light or presence upon us and showing us His mercy or favour.
The Lord Lift up His Countenance Upon You, and Give you peace
The same word for face is also the same word for countenance. So what is the difference here? Picture a father lifting his child up into his arms and gazing lovingly upon him. That is what God our Father is doing here. He is lifting his face, his countenance upon us with that same kind of love. And what does a father who loves his children want for them above all else? Peace, contentment, joy, good health. This blessing from God is an amazing example of how He views His children. How can anyone who believes in God therefore, not reciprocate with complete adoration and praise to the One who blesses us so freely? The next time you hear this benediction in church let the importance of who this blessing is from wash over you. It is not just something the minister or priest says as the end of the service. This is a blessing from God above, meant for His children. Receive it with joy and thanksgiving and take it with you throughout the week, remembering that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are His child and He loves you very much.