Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Jerusalem’

All Gone

At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.

And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.

And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.

~~ II Kings 24:10-12 (KJV)

This reading talks about the greatest dispersion of the children of Israel. King Nebuchadnezzar took prisoner all the assets of Judah.

He took the king, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and all the officials. He took the gold implements and treasures from the temple. He took all the fighting men in the army. And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Nebuchadnezzar took control of the ruler and the political structure. So the civil authority was under Nebuchadnezzar’s control.

He took all the gold implements for worship from the temple of Solomon. And the religious activity was under his control.

He took all seven thousand of the army, so there was no military force for him to contend with.

And he took all the craftsmen and artisans.

Whoa! Why would he want the artisans and craftsmen?

Our God is a creator. He gave man the gift of creativity. That creativity is most active and expressed in the work of artisans and craftsmen. But when these artisans and craftsmen create, they sometimes reflect the root of God that is in them. Their works point to the greatness of God.

But Nebuchadnezzar didn’t want the people of Judah remembering their God or continuing to worship Him. Therefore he took all the craftsmen so that they would be occupied only with the commissioned pieces that Nebuchadnezzar wanted made. They had no artistic freedom to create their pieces as God inspired. And there was no one left in Judah to create either.

He left only the poorest people of the land, those without money – and perhaps without talents or skills. He robbed the land of those who could make it shine – who had the heart and the wherewithal to make things better.

But God had promised that Judah will be restored.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.   ~~  Jeremiah 30:17 (KJV)

And it was so.

Our nation today is being usurped by the forces of evil. We have watched as the government is being taken over by lying, cheating, immorality and general evil.

Churches are being forbidden to speak the truth of God in fear of an accusation of bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and hate.

And creativity has been lured away by the phantom of riches and fame which have been usurped by wickedness in all its forms.

We must remember that God can restore, but we must do our part to speak out, to let our voices be heard, to quit cowering before the assumed powers of the world.

We need to remember that God is sovereign.

No matter what the world may take from you, God can restore. Nebuchadnezzar took it all, intending to wipe out Judah entirely — but God restored.

Father, God,

No matter what the world does to us, remind us that You are the restorer. You can take the broken heart and heal it. You can take the ruined family and restore it. You can take the broken spirit and help it soar and sing. Help us to soar and sing Your praises at all times, no matter what else is happening around us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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Relationship

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. ~~~ Jeremiah 31:31-34

Today’s reading is full of promise – and personal accountability. After the diaspora,  God is going to restore Israel and Judah to the land of Canaan where He planted them in the first place.

This is to be a new covenant, not the same one He made with Abraham, nor the one He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

This covenant is no longer about ritual and sacrifice. It is about knowing Him. Each person is to have a personal relationship with Him.

They will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.

And He promises forgiveness, no longer remembering their sins. The descendants of Israel will only cease to be a nation in the eyes of the Lord if all the other things He created vanish from His sight. This means He has decreed Israel to be a nation in perpetuity.

The rest of us are wild shoots, grafted onto the cultivated plant. In effect, we are part of Israel and Judah – by God’s grace. Let us never forget the root that nourishes us. Let us remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Father, God,

We thank You for the grace with which you bestow Your blessings upon all those who believe in You. We are grateful for Your sending us Your Son that we might be reconciled to You. And we thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit through Whom we can know You better, more intimately.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Promises Not Kept

What You Fear Will Catch Up with You

42 1-3 All the army officers, led by Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, accompanied by all the people, small and great, came to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “We have a request. Please listen. Pray to your God for us, what’s left of us. You can see for yourself how few we are! Pray that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”

4 Jeremiah the prophet said, “I hear your request. And I will pray to your God as you have asked. Whatever God says, I’ll pass on to you. I’ll tell you everything, holding nothing back.”

5-6 They said to Jeremiah, “Let God be our witness, a true and faithful witness against us, if we don’t do everything that your God directs you to tell us. Whether we like it or not, we’ll do it. We’ll obey whatever our God tells us. Yes, count on us. We’ll do it.”

7-8 Ten days later God’s Message came to Jeremiah. He called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him, including all the people, regardless of how much clout they had.

9-12 He then spoke: “This is the Message from God, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your prayer. He says, ‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down, I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed. I feel deep compassion on account of the doom I have visited on you. You don’t have to fear the king of Babylon. Your fears are for nothing. I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do. I’ll pour mercy on you. What’s more, he will show you mercy! He’ll let you come back to your very own land.’

13-17 “But do not say, ‘We’re not staying around this place,’ refusing to obey the command of your God and saying instead, ‘No! We’re off to Egypt, where things are peaceful—no wars, no attacking armies, plenty of food. We’re going to live there.’ If what’s left of Judah is headed down that road, then listen to God’s Message. This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You’ll die there! Every last one of you who is determined to go to Egypt and make it your home will either be killed, starve, or get sick and die. No survivors, not one! No one will escape the doom that I’ll bring upon you.’

18 “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘In the same way that I swept the citizens of Jerusalem away with my anger and wrath, I’ll do the same thing all over again in Egypt. You’ll end up being cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. And you’ll never see your homeland again.’

19-20 “God has plainly told you, you leftovers from Judah, ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Could anything be plainer? I warn you this day that you are living out a fantasy. You’re making a fatal mistake.

“Didn’t you just now send me to your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to our God. Tell us everything that God says and we’ll do it all’?

21-22 “Well, now I’ve told you, told you everything he said, and you haven’t obeyed a word of it, not a single word of what your God sent me to tell you. So now let me tell you what will happen next: You’ll be killed, you’ll starve to death, you’ll get sick and die in the wonderful country where you’ve determined to go and live.”
Death! Exile! Slaughter!

43 1-3 When Jeremiah finished telling all the people the whole Message that their God had sent him to give them—all these words—Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah, backed by all the self-important men, said to Jeremiah, “Liar! Our God never sent you with this message telling us not to go to Egypt and live there. Baruch son of Neriah is behind this. He has turned you against us. He’s playing into the hands of the Babylonians so we’ll either end up being killed or taken off to exile in Babylon.”

4 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers, and the people along with them, wouldn’t listen to God’s Message that they stay in the land of Judah and live there.

5-7 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers gathered up everyone who was left from Judah, who had come back after being scattered all over the place—the men, women, and children, the king’s daughters, all the people that Nebuzaradan captain of the bodyguard had left in the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and last but not least, Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah. They entered the land of Egypt in total disobedience of God’s Message and arrived at the city of Tahpanhes.  ~~  Jeremiah 42:1-43:7   (MSG)

Although I generally study in King James, sometimes The Message puts it in plainer language for today’s readers.

The remnant of Israel left in the land was uncertain of their future, so they asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord for a word. They promised that whatever God said, they would do as He said. It was a promise. They made a vow. Whether favorable or unfavorable, they would do as the Lord said.

So Jeremiah sought the Lord and came back to the people with a word from God. But the people didn’t like what God had said, so they disobeyed the Lord. No matter that they had vowed obedience. God hadn’t said what they wanted Him to say, so they called Jeremiah a liar.

We cannot seek the Lord simply for an approval stamp for the plans we have already made. But that is exactly what the people did with Jeremiah. They wanted Him to say a particular thing, but He said just the opposite.

In this story, Egypt becomes a type of the secular world. Sometimes life gets hard when you are following the Lord. Circumstances and people seem to conspire to make your way difficult, if not impossible.

When that happens, it would be so easy to rely on the “wisdom” of the world. But that is precisely what the Christian is called NOT to do. When we do that, we will suffer famine and death. Perhaps not physically, but spiritually.

Let us resolve to seek the Lord, without prejudice, and obey Him unconditionally. We need to keep our promises to God.

Father, God,

Share with us Your wisdom. Keep us from the folly of listening to the world and letting its noise drown out Your words. Help us to continue faithfully on the path You set before us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 31 August 2009

And the Lord Gave…

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.

And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

~~  Daniel 1:1-2  (KJV)

While the book of Daniel is a book of prophecy, both prophecy fulfilled and prophecy yet to be fulfilled, it is also a book of history.

These opening verses are a simple statement of historical fact.

It could be a newspaper account with most of the journalistic questions being answered in two sentences.

  • When: In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah
  • Who: Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
  • Where: Jerusalem
  • What: Siege and fall

The “why” question is not answered here.

Or maybe it is. “the Lord gave…”

It is a simple statement of the Lord being involved in the everyday activities of men and nations.

More of the why is written in Jeremiah 25 where the reasons for this judgment upon the people of Judah are spelled out clearly. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, has spoken to the nation time after time, and the people have not heeded his words.

God is good enough to give us prophets who will help us to stay on track with His will.

We have them today.

Are we listening?

Father, God,

We sometimes forget that you are involved in the day to day affairs of men. Help us to remember that You are interested in the smallest detail of our personal and collective lives. Grant us the grace to see things from Your perspective. Give us hearts of flesh that we might love Your people as You love them. Stir in us the hunger to seek Your face above all else.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Committed Prayer

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  ~~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2   (KJV)

Our nation, as a whole, has strayed far from its origins. The first official meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia was opened with the reading of Psalm 35 and a moving prayer by the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia.  The disagreements that arose about opening with prayer were not about whether to open with prayer, but which clergyman should be prevailed upon to pray.

After a hotly contested, noisy, and vitriolic campaign, we have just elected a man to be our new president come January. The popular vote was virtually evenly divided; the electoral college made the difference.

After all the wrangling and accusations and name-calling, I had hoped that the results would quiet the noise. Instead the din has proceeded unabated, and with little improvement in tenor.

It is no secret that our country has strayed widely from the intent of the founding fathers, that our society is in turmoil, that we have enemies within and without.

This is not a new thing. God has dealt with His errant children in the past and will continue to do so in the future, however long or short that may be.

Perhaps we need to read Daniel 9 and emulate Daniel in praying for our country.

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.

13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

14 Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.

18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.  ~~ Daniel 9:4-19

To which I can only add:

In the most precious name of Jesus.

Amen.

Almost Is Not Good Enough

23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.

25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.

26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.

27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

26 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:

7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

~~  Acts 25:23-26:29  (KJV)

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three time, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or a simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 12 December 2009

Almost Is Not Good Enough

Focus verses: Acts 25:23-26:29

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three times, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.