Read Jeremiah 18:1-11
Many times when we see the verse above we are drawn to the beauty of knowing that God is shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Philippians 1:6 affirms that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."
This is something that gives me great comfort, because despite all my flaws and my sins, my Heavenly Father has committed to making me into the person He knows I can be. He has designed each of us with a purpose in mind. In the picture above, the potter is designing a vessel that has a purpose. Whether it is to be a decoration or a jug to hold flowers and water, only the potter knows. When it is complete, the potter will make the necessary finishes that will decide how it is to be used.
We are much the same way. Our heavenly Father knows our purpose and He knows when we will be completed for that purpose. He also, like the potter, realizes when something needs to be fixed. We are either not learning, growing in our relationship with Him, obeying Him, or simply not hearing Him, and like the potter, He has to take drastic measures with us and start over again. Sometimes, the moulding and shaping is for our benefit. He sees the end result. He knows our future and we have to trust that whatever happens in our lives is ultimately according to His purposes.
This is what happened to Jeremiah's people. They had forgotten their purpose, that they were chosen by God to be an example to the nations of how a holy people are supposed to live. But instead, they exchanged God for the false idols of the nations that surrounded them and they forgot about God and fell into sin.
The following verses show us that God doesn't just deal with individuals but He deals with nations the same way.
"Oh, house of Israel can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. Look, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it."
Notice that while these verses are concerning Israel and their coming judgment (they would go into captivity in Babylon for seventy years), God also addresses any nation or kingdom. The Bible tells us that it is God alone who puts people in positions of power (Romans 13:1-2; Daniel 2:21) and as the verse above suggests, because He is the potter, if a nation does not repent of its evil He will pluck it up, pull it down and destroy it - IF it is a nation He has spoken against to destroy. The key is that He will relent of any disasters He intends to bring upon them if only they will repent.
While the verses above resonate with many individuals in that we recognize God is our "Master Potter" and we are the clay, imagine what could happen to our great nation if our leaders recognized God's sovereignty as well. At least one very special and significant nation is currently doing that today. Israel's leaders are urging the Jewish people to read through the Bible, the whole Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. They are returning to the Word of God and recognizing God's sovereignty over them as a nation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off the new school year in Israel by encouraging children to rediscover the Word of God and Biblical roots of their Jewish heritage.
“First of all, the study of the Bible,” he said in August. “Knowledge is a critical word. We want to give it [knowledge of the Scriptures] to every child in Israel, Jews and non-Jews as one, religious and secular. This is the basis of the new world, and the basis of Israel as a strong nation in the world.”
Will the people of Israel listen to her leaders? I pray they do and as a nation submit themselves once again to the Master Potter. Imagine the blessings that God will pour out on them if they did so. Imagine how great our nation could be if our leaders humbled themselves before God as well and acknowledged God's sovereignty over them. One day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. May it be so! Come Lord Jesus come!
Read Jeremiah 17:1-13
My mother in-law was a very wise woman. She would often remind us never to put our trust in man, but to put our trust in God, who always keeps His promises and will never let you down. In today's reading, Jeremiah says something similar and relays from the Lord this stern warning about those who put their trust in man:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
As I read those words it made me think of "words" in general and who we listen to, because those whom we give an ear to tend to influence us the most. In particular, I'm thinking about those who call themselves preachers, speaking on behalf of God, and do so either through television, books, or from the pulpit in their churches on Sunday morning. Their words often times become our "words of wisdom" and we take them as gold. Yet many times we don't look at those "words" closely enough to see how they align with Scripture. We inadvertently trust in the man (or woman) who preaches them and end up making that man or woman our strength. Pithy sayings become our new mantra, such as this one from Joel Osteen, "We were old sinners - but when we came to Christ we are not sinners anymore." Nice words, that "sound" scriptural but aren't. Yet, our beliefs and convictions become aligned with each new book released by these celebrity preachers, and slowly but surely, without ever realizing it, our allegiance to God is replaced by trusting in man's word rather than God's Word. As the verse above suggests, "flesh" becomes our strength, because we are relying on what we can do or say to make change happen in our lives.
By now, many in the evangelical community recognize those who are false prophets/teachers/preachers. We know that the prosperity gospel is wrong, the grace doctrine is wrong and the name it and claim it doctrine also goes against scripture. We know and recognize the names of those celebrity. preachers whom we need to stay clear of, people like - Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and others, who preach false doctrines contrary to the Word of God. Most of us know by now that the Word of Faith community has strayed greatly from the Word of God. Unfortunately, many are still putting their trust in these celebrities to their own detriment. I have said it before, those who follow after false preachers will suffer the same fate God has in store for those who teach false doctrines (2 John 1:10-11). They are like the verses above suggest, cursed. They will never grow in their relationship with God, because they have never fully trusted in Him, instead preferring to lean on the "wisdom" of man. Relying on positive, upbeat messages that encourage people to use their words to speak into existence a better reality. Word of Faith preachers encourage people to put their trust in themselves (man) rather than in God and His Word. Unless they repent and turn back to God and trust in Him again, rather than false promises from false teachers, they will be like unsalted land - uninhabited - without God or His Holy Spirit.
But what does God say about those who trust in Him?
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
What happens when you trust in God and His Word, when your hope is in God alone and not in the false promises of man? You are like a tree planted by the waters, ever growing in the Lord, never ceasing to produce fruit in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. An intimate relationship develops through trusting in God and reading His Word. And when we place our hope and trust in Him, we are rewarded by His Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Jesus says we are to abide in Him as He abides in us in order that we might bear much fruit - just as the verse above suggests. To continually abide in the Lord, we must be reading His Words!
If you want to know God, His character, His likes and dislikes, what He expects from us, it is all laid out for us in the Bible. Our faith is built on the Word of God. When we abide in it daily we grow in our faith and our relationship with God. This is where our trust should be placed and where we can find truth for living. Abide in the Word of God for it is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12)
What happens when you ignore God, turn against His gracious gifts to you and start doing “your own thing”? You fall. And you fall hard. Why? Because you have, whether you know it or not, said in your heart, “I can do whatever I want.” Pride goes before a fall and that is exactly what happened to the kings, priests and prophets (all who were mighty) in Jeremiah 13.
In Jeremiah 13:1-14 God tells Jeremiah to get a linen sash and put it around his waist, but not to put it in water. He then speaks to Jeremiah a second time and tells him to take the sash and put it in a hole near the Euphrates. After many days, the Lord tells Jeremiah to go retrieve the sash and Jeremiah discovers that it was ruined.
Jeremiah stated it was “profitable for nothing.”
The statement that it was “profitable for nothing” may seem confusing because in our view a sash’s only use is as an adornment. But the Hebrew word for sash is 'ezowr which in the KJV is translated as "girdle", which is more accurate, as the “sash” Jeremiah wore around his waist was a garment that went beneath his other garments and was next to his skin. The garment actually went from the waist to mid-thigh. So when Jeremiah says it is profitable for nothing, he means it could not protect his skin at all for it was ruined. So how does God turn this into a lesson? He tells Jeremiah that this would be how He (God) would ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
But God wasn't done there. He went on to imply that every bottle in Israel would be filled with wine and that the people would say to Jeremiah, "Well, of course they will be!" Their pride was evident in this answer because they believed in their wealth and more importantly, their pride caused them to trust in it. But God followed that up with this, "Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land—even the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness! And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,” says the Lord. “I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.”’”
Now, it wasn't Jeremiah who needed a lesson in how angry God was with His people. As far as Jeremiah was concerned his people deserved whatever they had coming to them. In fact, in Jeremiah 12, he prayed that God would lead them like sheep to the slaughter. So, he was not surprised at God's anger and was in fact, just as angry. So what was the tipping point? What lessons did God's people need to learn?
Three Reasons Why God Got Angry
The sash represented the house of Judah and the house of Israel and how the Lord wanted them to cling to Him. They were to be His people, for renown, for praise, and for glory. That was their special purpose.
As Christians we also have a special purpose. A mission to go into all the world, making disciples and baptizing them in the name of Jesus, sharing his message of salvation. So I wondered, if God got angry at His chosen people because they refused to listen to Him or His words, will He not do the same with us if forsake His Word and refuse to listen Him? It is alarming how many church leaders today are turning from the belief that the Bible is the unerring Word of God and encouraging their congregations to believe the same thing. Just as the priests in Jeremiah's time encouraged the people to turn from God and His Word, so are some church leaders today doing the same thing. Why are they turning from their once strongly held beliefs that the Bible is infallible and "God-breathed"? Because they don't want to be seen as intolerant to a certain sector of society. They have failed to realize that it is possible to love other people and associate with them without agreeing with them on everything. I have friends and family that I love who smoke - which I hate. But I'm not going to take up smoking to appease them and I'm not going to stop loving them because they smoke. On the contrary! It is possible for people to agree to disagree on any number of subjects. Not so with some mainstream and evangelical churches today. Many believe they owe apologies or need to repent because of what God's Word says about homosexuality in particular. They are actually apologizing for what God said in His Word! The audacity that takes boggles the mind. So they are refusing to acknowledge God's Word and following after the dictates of their own hearts. That's two things Christian leaders are doing that were the same as in Jeremiah's time. Will they start worshipping other gods as well? Sadly, some already have and I believe it will only continue to escalate as it did in Jeremiah's time, until Jesus comes again.
Pride goes before a fall. Jeremiah's people forsook God's Word and His ways so that they could follow their own hearts. They were, like today's Christians, proud of how forward thinking they were. If the lessons learned in Jeremiah are not heeded by the church, we may soon find ourselves in the same situation.
This morning when I woke up I began thinking about my study in Jeremiah. I am using as my guide, the New Inductive Series by Precept Ministries founder Kay Arthur. When I first began the study I was thinking it would lead me into the same theme that Kay found - Listening to God in Difficult Times. But the Lord has taken me in a completely different direction.
I began to notice after chapter three, that the Lord was showing me how the warnings from God through Jeremiah to his people apply to the people of this century. These warnings given centuries ago to the Jews are eerily similar to events transpiring today. And that is not a coincidence. The Bible wasn't preserved for over 2,000 years merely to entertain us with its stories. It is filled with words of wisdom, history, the plan of salvation, lessons and commandments on how we should live, and most importantly, how God expects us to live in light of His presence.
But one thing I keep seeing during my studies is how history is prone to repeat itself. Just as the people in the past were sinful, so is this world today. But will God deal with us the same way He dealt with people during Jeremiah's time? Most of the lessons I'm learning during this study seem to be saying yes. But sadly, it seems no one is listening.
Have We Forgotten the Past?
In 2 Chronicles 6 we read a lovely prayer from King Solomon as he dedicates the newly built Temple in Jerusalem to God. Immediately after his prayer this happened:
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,“He is good. His love endures forever.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. - Jeremiah 8:1-4)
God had just made Himself known and His glory filled the temple. Yet, it was this same temple that Jeremiah would stand at the gates of (see Jeremiah 7), hundreds of years later, warning the people that destruction was about to come upon them. Why? Because they had forsaken God and disobeyed Him.
But how did the people get so far off track, from seeing the glory of God to not being afraid of Him and not caring at all if they offended Him? It was because of their leaders. Incredibly, disobedience toward God and sinning against Him started first with King Solomon, the one who built the temple to honour God, whom God appeared to twice. - 1 Kings 11
And it continued on with his children and grandchildren.
In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. - 2 Kings 16:1-4
The king led his people into sinning against God. And it didn't stop with Ahaz. It continued with Manasseh. "He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger. - 2 Kings 21:6. He built altars to foreign gods and put them in the temple of God. You can read about all the evil he did in 2 Kings 21. In fact, if you go to Biblegateway.com and type in the words "did evil" you will get a list of all the kings who led their people into sin.
How Does This Relate to us Today?
Look at our leaders. What are their values? Where do they stand as far as God is concerned? What about the world in general? We don't have to look far to see how ridiculous things have become: Donald Trump, an egotistical, narcissistic, racist maniac is running for president of the United States and God's people (Evangelical Christians) are supporting him. This isn't just evil, it's crazy! Why wouldn't they support Ted Cruz or Mark Rubio, who have both professed belief in Jesus as their Saviour? Both of these men know their Bible. They know their God. Donald Trump "says" he is a Christian, yet it is clear by his behaviour that he is anything but. Donald Trump is a modern day Herod and the only reason Christians are favouring him is because they are no longer listening to God. If he is by some horrible twist of fate, EVER elected president, history will repeat itself and America will have its very own Herod the Great ruling over them.
Think it can't happen? How do you think Obama got elected? The people didn't listen to God and God said, "Fine. Here 'ya go. Here's the leader you wanted so badly." And then He stepped back and watched Obama destroy not only the inner workings of America, but the reputation of America. All because the people wanted a new king (1 Samuel 8:1-20). When people ask for unreasonable things, sometimes God gives them what they ask for just to teach them a lesson.
Obama has destroyed relations with Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East, and he openly welcomed terrorists into the White House! He played a game of cat and mouse with the American people. Pretending to be a Christian to get votes and then showing his true colours when he was elected. And he didn't do it once - he did it twice! Donald Trump is ALREADY showing his true colours and yet against all reason, people are supporting him. And those Christians who have not fallen sway to a deceiving spirit are shaking their heads in disbelief. People are actually starting to fear Donald Trump might be elected as President. Think it can't happen? As a Canadian I am still stunned at our change in leadership.
Our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he admires China's Communist dictatorship, echoing his father, Pierre Trudeau, who not only claimed communist leader Fidel Castro as a friend, but also deeply admired mass murderers Mao Tse Tong and Joseph Stalin. History shows that Pierre Trudeau was the one who liberalized Canada's laws on divorce, abortion, and homosexuality. Following in his father's footsteps, Justin is a huge supporter of gay rights, he also says yes to murdering babies and wants to make abortion clinics more accessible to women. In addition, he is in the process of allowing medically assisted suicide. So while he isn't personally burning children as sacrifices to Ba'al, his approval and encouragement of both of these practices show us that, like his father, Justin has rejected the Bible and God, by couching it with the words "equal rights."
These things are just the tip of the iceberg and are only about the leaders on this side of the world. Don't get me started on what is going on in Europe. One thing is certain, our world is on a downward spiral, whose leaders are setting the course of our demise and God will wait only so long for a nation to repent before He acts.
God warned the people, speaking through Jeremiah saying:
This warning rings true for us today. Our leaders have forced God out of schools, government, and businesses. They have consistently, as Anne Graham Lotz once said, "Shaken their fist at God." But we don't need to follow our leaders into immorality. We don't need to believe what they believe. We can stand firm in our convictions and believe in and continue to trust in God and follow Him and this is something we must do!
God will be patient for only so long and then He will act. Will you be ready?
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
Did you know that the number one Bible verse of 2015 was John 3:16? That did not surprise me at all as it is the one verse in the Bible that perfectly describes how much God loves us. Last week I shared a poem on being still enough to hear God. This week, by looking at John 3:16 closely, I think we can accurately know the heart of God.
For God So Loved the World
World in Greek is translated as "kosmos" and there are eight different meanings for its biblical usage. Below are three meanings that really stood out for me:
God's greatest creation is not just us, but the entire universe that surrounds us. We know from the first chapter of Genesis that everything created by God was deemed "good". He loves this world He created. So we should take care of it.
Earth is just one of the ornaments that decorates the heavens in this vast universe God created, but we have the incredible privilege of being the only planet where the human family was created. A family that God loves. A family devoid of colour, sexual orientation, religion - anything divisive. You see, to God we are all the same, because despite what we might look like on the outside, on the inside we all have the same parts. And He sent His son for the ENTIRE human family because He loves ALL OF US.
GOD'S LOVE IS SO VAST AND SO DEEP THAT HE CARES EVEN FOR THOSE WHO ARE HOSTILE TOWARD HIM.
That He gave His one and Only Son
This is the single reason why we can be confident that God loves us. He sent His only son into this world because of His divine love. How vast is His love? The Apostle John makes it very clear in the following verses:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).
WHO WAS THE WORD?
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
JESUS WAS THE WORD!
In other words God came down to earth in the form of a man - Jesus - and walked among us. Why? Again - His love was so great for us that He gave up His heavenly abode in order to walk among us - to teach us the right way to live. This is like the stories of old, when a King desired to walk among His subjects to find out how they really felt about him and to grasp what they were going through. Now think about that for a minute. GOD DID THAT FOR YOU AND ME!
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7, NKJV).
That Whoever Believes in Him Shall Not Perish But Have Eternal Life
Let's keep this in context - God gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him - in Jesus - shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 4:24 says, God is spirit, and it is because of the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are able to have communion with the King of the universe. But, those who reject God's gift of eternal life with Him, are making a conscious decision to lose access to God. To die in their sins. To reject God's saving grace. To reject His very promise to save them from themselves. These are people God loves and they are the reason He came to earth, so that no one would perish.
THIS IS THE HEART OF GOD!