Saturday, 8 August 2020

Jeremiah 17:5-8 - Cursed is the one who trusts in man


“Cursed are those ...” One of Israel’s besetting sins was turning to idols, but to trust in men is equally bad. We are meant to trust in God. “And who depend on flesh for their strength”. These are frightening verses, for everything tells us to look to our own strength, to look to others for help. Yet God says that if we do this we are under a curse, we are under judgement. Now this does not mean we don’t do anything, it doesn’t mean we don’t look to others for help. Read the Bible! But where do we put our trust? For when we trust in ourselves or in others we take our trust from the Lord. The people who do trust in others will come to nothing, they will be like a bush in the wilderness, stark and abandoned.


Conversely, “blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him”. Such a person is like a tree planted by a stream (Ps 1:3), able to cope with anything. We should take the contrast between these two states, trusting in men and trusting in the Lord very seriously. The world and our flesh tells us to trust in man, to trust in ourselves. And it is very demanding, insisting that we do this. But it is those who trust in the Lord who will prove to be truly resilient.

Matthew 8:13 - And his servant was healed


The incident ends with Jesus telling the centurion that he can go and he will find that it has been done “just as you believed it would”. We have great difficulty with faith and healing. On the one hand there are parts of the church that really don’t expect Jesus to do anything about healing, apart from helping the medical staff. On the other hand there are some who say every sickness should be healed if only we have enough faith. I guess that many of us fall somewhere in between. To say that miracles and healing never happen is deeply unbiblical. They happen throughout the Bible. Moreover, Jesus is delighted when people come to Him in faith, and frustrated and disappointed when people do not believe. Yet in the New Testament we see that there were times when Paul was ill, and also when some of his co-workers were ill, and there is no criticism of this. So to say that every sickness will should always be healed is not that Biblical either. I don’t have a definitive answer to this, but will say something for us to think about. So often we treat healing as a law. That is, we treat it as if the Bible has added a commandment that says “if you are sick you must believe that I will heal you”. And, as with all laws, we cannot fulfil it, so we either ignore it (God please help the doctors) or pretend we have or can fulfil it when we cannot. Well, let’s stop treating it as a law. Instead take the issue that if we find faith arising in us then we can act upon it in all confidence. And faith is a gift from God, it is not an emotion that we manufacture ourselves. As I say, I don’t have anything like a complete answer.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Jeremiah 17:1-4 - Judah's sin is engraved with an iron tool


An iron tool was the means of engraving the most permanents of records. Sin was indelibly engraved in the hearts of the people of Judah, as it is with all people. The heart of man is where the problem lies, and all human methods of dealing with it are useless. Whether they be methods to change the individual, or whether they be methods of changing structures in society. The altars the people made were testament to this as well. The altars a man or a society builds are a symbol of how fallen we are. In our society abortion is the most prominent altar. We are so far gone that we consider it a human right to be allowed to kill life in the womb. We consider it inhuman to seek to stop abortion. We are so far gone.


And it wasn’t just the adults who were involved, even the children were involved as well. Increasingly we seek to involve children in the sexual depravity of our culture. Just look at some of the sort of teaching that is being brought into schools. So God would give all the wealth of the land away as plunder, even His own temple. God would abandon the land. It was the people’s own sin that had brought this about, so they would all be enslaved. The people had kindled the Lord’s anger, and “it would burn forever”. “But God would not do such a thing”, but God did do such a thing.

Matthew 8:10-12 - I have not found anyone in Israel with such faith

Elsewhere we will read of Jesus saying He was sent to the house of Israel (Matt 15:21-28), this incident shows that we should be careful in an over literal reading of such statements, for here Jesus answers the request of a Roman soldier, and highly commends him. Jesus knew that initially He was sent to Israel, but the ultimate goal was the whole world, and He responded to anyone who showed faith. Indeed, this man demonstrated more faith than anyone in Israel had done. It also shows that faith does not demonstrate itself in merely having the “correct doctrine”. This is not to say that doctrine does not matter, it most certainly does, but faith demonstrates itself in actions as well (James 2).


We then get Jesus telling good news and harsh news. He declares that many will come from east and west (ie from all the nations) and will have a full share in the kingdom of heaven, but many who are “in the kingdom” (ie the Israelites) will be thrown out. If ever we think we are in the kingdom automatically, or through birthright, we are badly mistaken. Notice two other things. First, He refers to the feast “with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. This goes right back to the beginning, it was always part of God’s plan to include people from all nations. We are not in the kingdom as second class citizens, we are not country members, we are fully in the Kingdom of God. Then look at the end, those who are thrown out to “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Now can we just get the main point Jesus is making, rather than have utterly stupid debates about annihaltionsim, eternal concious punishment, conditional immortality? If you are arguing about such things why don’t you go and do something useful with your life instead? The meaning is absolutely clear, being thrown out of the kingdom is an utterly terrible thing to happen, and one that we should do all we can to avoid. We all need to repent and believe.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Jeremiah 16:19-21 - My strength and my fortress


Jeremiah then turns again to the Lord, this time in faith rather than complaint. However, going to God with our complaints rather than going to men to complain about God is actually an act of faith. If we go to God with our complaints we know we will lose, that it is we who will have to change. Jeremiah is now changing his ways. First he declares that the Lord is his strength, his fortress and his refuge. When we run to God it is not just us doing something, the Lord Himself does stuff. 

And it is not just us who run to God. A time will come when the nations will come to God, confessing that the idols were useless. Mere trinkets made by men.

And what will God’s response be? He will teach the nations. And this will not just be words, it will be with power and might. Our God is a God of power. Then they will know that Lord is God. Now remember that at this time Babylon had many idols and was all powerful. She had no interest in worshipping the Lord. We can look at our society and it has no interest in knowing the ways of the Lord. But one day this will change, they will come to the Lord and to His people wanting to know the truth.

Matthew 8:8,9 - I tell this one go, and he goes

The centurion came to Jesus in humility, knowing that he did not deserve to have Jesus come into his house. Contrast this with the attitude of the religious leaders that is so often portrayed in the gospels. They considered themselves better than Jesus, they thought that Jesus should come to them on their terms. We should regularly ask ourselves if we are expecting Jesus to act according to our terms, or are we going to Him on his terms? He also went with faith, for he knew that a single word from Jesus would heal his servant. When we exalt ourselves we will find it hard to get on with Jesus, we will find it hard to believe. When we come in humility we will find that we get on very well with Jesus, and that our faith is much greater.

We then see how the centurion had come to such a position of faith. With his own position as one who gave orders to others, and he was also one who was under authority. In this position he gave orders to soldiers to do something and it was done. See how two people in the same position can go in very different ways. There are many people (we have probably encountered a few) in that position who would become arrogant and bossy. This man became humble. God can teach us through the circumstances of life if our character is right, is teachable and not proud. Jesus was under the authority of the Father, therefore on earth He had great authority, more authority than anyone else had ever had.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Jeremiah 16:16-18 - I will send for many fishermen


But this time of rescue lies in the distant future. In the immediate future many “fisherman” will be sent for, and they will be sent to catch the Israelites and take them into captivity. And they were to do this assiduously. Now compare Jesus’ call of Peter and Andrew and His promise to make them fishers of men. The fishermen of Jeremiah’s day would catch the Israelites and take them into captivity throughout the known world. Jesus’ fishermen will go into all the world cand catch men tp bring them into the kingdom of God. Why would this happen? Because of the sin of the people. Their sins were not hidden from God, He knew exactly what was going on. They had defiled both themselves and the land.