Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 49:23-50:46; Titus 1:1-16; Psalm 97-98:9; Proverbs 26:13-16
Jeremiah delivers more prophesies to nations and cities surrounding Israel in our reading today. We know these cities and nations used to exist from historical artifacts. We also know that, with the exception of Damascus, none of them exist today. We’ve never heard a news story about the nations of Elam or Hazor. They were wiped out just as God said they would be.
One bright spot in these prophesies is Jeremiah 50:4 in which God says that after Babylon is destroyed the people of Israel and Judah will return home. The common strategy of conquering nations back then was to forcibly remove the smartest and most talented people from their land and take them back to the conquering nation.
This served two purposes. It benefited the conquerer by having more bright people in their society. And it also weakened the conquered nation and kept the remaining people under control. Some of the prophets we have yet to read, including Daniel, wrote from Babylon after being exiled from Judah.
But God promised to destroy Babylon which He did by sending Persia against it. After Persia conquered Babylon, its king, Artaxerces, allowed the Jews to return home. We read about this when we read the books of Nehemiah and Ezra earlier this year. This fulfilled the prophecy recorded by Jeremiah here in Jeremiah 50:4
Notice the reason God gives for destroying these sovereign nations: they loved their idols and did not love God (Jeremiah 50:38). Human beings are sinful creatures. We lie. We steal. We are arrogant. The list goes on. God knows this. But God didn’t destroy any of these nations for these reasons. He destroyed them because they didn’t acknowledge Him.
The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other god before Me” (Exodus 20:2). When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). All our other sins stem from not loving God. Just like we can’t get cured of a disease if we don’t go to a doctor, God can’t heal our brokenness if we don’t have a relationship with Him.
So God sends warnings to nations who blatantly disregard Him. If they don’t respond the warnings get “louder”. If all else fails, He will destroy them. He does all this in the hopes that its citizens will be humbled and turn to Him. Its only at this point that can He fix all the rest of the things that are wrong with us. After all, Jesus’ first command to His disciples wasn’t an order to “Change!” it was a request to “Follow?” First we have to follow God. Then He can turn us into better people.
In the opening line of Paul’s letter to Titus he calls himself a “slave” of God (Titus 1:1). The Greek word Paul used is “duolos” which is the word used for someone who was a slave by choice. Obviously, someone would work for someone else only if that employer treated him well.
Christians, being slaves to God, have an “owner” who isn’t intent on mistreating us, as some would conclude when they read the word “slave”. We voluntarily put ourselves under God’s authority because we know that He can, and will, take great care of us. The Biblical concept of being God’s “slave” is nothing like the modern-day concept of slavery. I know a lot of people who reject the Bible because they misunderstand this.
God’s word is all about truth. God wants us to understand the truth about Him, the truth about us, the truth about life. This truth teaches us how to live and also gives us confidence that we have eternal life (Titus 1:1-2). Notice that eternal life was always in God’s plan. Even before the earth was created it was God’s intention to create people so that we could live with Him forever.
Have you ever wondered by Jesus came to earth at the time He did? He came at “just the right time” (Titus 1:3). Evil as the Roman Empire was, its existence actually made it relatively easy to spread the Gospel. The Roman Empire covered a large land area (pretty much all of modern Europe, most of the Middle East and north Africa) and at this time was enjoying the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) so it was pretty safe and easy to get around. There was also a common language used throughout the empire – Greek – so that documents didn’t have to be translated and people from different areas could communicate verbally.
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