Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 44:24-47:7; 2 Timothy 2:22-3:17; Psalm 94:1-23; Proverbs 26:6-8
Human beings are fragile creatures susceptible to making mistakes. God knows this. He doesn’t expect miracles from us. But He does want us to follow Him and only Him. He wants this solely for our benefit because He knows what a mess we’ll make of things if we don’t. It wasn’t their imperfections that caused God to destroy Israel and Judah. It was their following after false gods (Jeremiah 44:24).
In modern-day culture we don’t have physical, carved idols we worship. Instead we worship self. We think we are “all that” and don’t need God. Albeit in a different way, we’ve eliminated God from our lives. And the penalty for that it eternal separation from Him for eternity. Notice that the Judeans who insisted on following their false gods would never be let back into the Promised Land (Jeremiah 44:27). Similarly, anyone who dies without having a relationship with God through Jesus will not enter heaven.
In Jeremiah 45 we read about Baruch, who had helped Jeremiah by writing down the prophecies he (Jeremiah) received from God. Apparently Baruch had suffered because of this and was overwhelmed by his emotional pain (Jeremiah 45:3). Following God is not easy. It comes at a cost. It seems Baruch had big plans for his life but he never got to realize those dreams. Instead, God gave Him something much better – eternal life (Jeremiah 45:5).
Whatever the world has to offer – no matter how big or how shiny – is temporary. When the game is over it all goes back in the box. Your hearse won’t be pulling a U-Haul. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 that “few” people will follow Him. Too many people will chase after the temporary and perishable things the world has to offer at the expense of something glorious and permanent. That isn’t a wise decision.
The next few chapters of Jeremiah prophesy defeat for several nations. Chapter 46 discusses two defeats that Egypt will suffer. The first would be the battle of Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2). In this battle Egypt came to the aid of Assyira against start-up nation Babylon. Leading the Babylonian forces was then-Prince Nebuchadnezzar. it was this battle that put the proverbial nail in Assyria’s coffin and launched the Babylonian empire. The Bible doesn’t give all the details of this battle. But we know it happened due to numerous artifacts in museums around the world including the Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle, housed in the British Museum.
Approximately 40 years later Nebuchadnezzar, now King, would conquer Judah via the siege we’ve been reading about and then move down to Egypt bringing that sovereign nation under Babylonian control (Jeremiah 46:13-24). Anyone who thinks the Bible doesn’t record verifiable events (as I used to think) doesn’t have a leg to stand on. When I learned that the Bible records specific facts that are corroborated by outside evidence, I changed my mind about the Bible. As famous economist John Maynard Keynes said “When the facts change, I change my mind.” That is the logical thing to do.
When we are young we are tempted by sex, fame, power, and money. But these are mirages. They are death traps. Its very telling that Paul warns Timothy to “flee” or “run” from these youthful pleasures (2 Timothy 2:22). He doesn’t say to “walk” away or to “turn” away. But to run, indicating just how much influence they can have on us. If we don’t get off to a good start when we are young, it can be hard to turn our lives around.
But we all pursue something. If we aren’t going to pursue these things we need to replace our pursuits with something else. These should be righteous (godly) living, love, and peace. Its also helps if we spend time with others living this way (2 Timothy 2:22).
One of the hardest things for me is to tolerate difficult people (2 Timothy 2:24). I don’t work well with people who are arrogant and who bully others (me). Frankly, I don’t want to be patient with people like this. But God tells me to so I need to try.
Is there a verse in the entire Bible that sums up our current culture better than 2 Timothy 3:2? I don’t think so. People are lovers of themselves. They are boastful and proud. They scoff at the notion of God and consider nothing to be sacred. They are unloving and unforgiving with no self control – seeking nothing but pleasure. That sums up our world. Couple these verses with the one before it in which Paul says that this description will characterize the “last days” (2 Timothy 3:1) and we can see why we are very close to Jesus’ second arrival on this earth.
During this time any one who wants to live a quiet life honoring Jesus will suffer while evil people will succeed (2 Timothy 3:12-13). This is certainly true. For example, I decided to write this blog back in January as a simple way to study the Bible and honor God. In return I’ve received all kinds of harassing emails and tweets, including death threats, by people who don’t love God and apparently have nothing better to do than hassle those who do.
People such as this, who are working hard to remove God from society, may think they are doing the right thing. God will let them win the battle. He will win the war (2 Timothy 3:13).
Exercise breaks our muscles down and causes them pain. This results in a body that is stronger and able to endure even more next time. The trials of life serve the exact same purposes on our minds and spirits. God will send us through tough times. But just like using proper form at the gym, we have to handle difficult situations correctly – without whining or complaining but instead keeping our eyes on Him – if we are to come through them successfully (Psalm 95:12-13).
This answers the ubiquitous question that people utter in an effort to question the existence of God: “Why does God let bad things happen?”. The answer: “To make us better”. If you avoid going to the gym you won’t get any stronger. If you avoid going through the trials of life you won’t get any wiser.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.