Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Judah’

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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Redemption

And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.

In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.  ~~  Jeremiah 50:19-20 (KJV)

Here is the promise of restoration. God says that Israel and Judah will be restored to the fullness of their land. That they will be a holy people because God will have forgiven the remnant he restores.

What a beautiful promise. After seventy years in exile, the people of God will come back to their land. God will see to it that their land is fruitful for their needs. They will be satisfied with the pastures and hills.

This restoration did not come easily. Israel was conquered by Assyria and then by Babylon. The people were decimated and imprisoned. Their young men were deprived of their manhood, made eunuchs to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

The search for guilt in the people of God will be fruitless because when God forgives sin, it is erased entirely. This is a picture of our redemption under the blood of Christ.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God’s mercy.  ~~  Psalm 103:11-13 (KJV)

There is a victory for the believer in the atoning blood of Christ. It is our only claim to God’s mercy.

Father God,

Help us to remember that there is only one way to Your forgiveness, through the atoning blood of Jesus. Keep us ever faithful in speaking to others, lest we be drawn into tolerance of other paths – paths which can only lead to destruction.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

 

A Righteous King

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.

For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.

And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. ~~ II Kings 18:1-7 (KJV)

After all the prophecies of doom and gloom, both against the children of Israel and against their enemies, we have a moment’s respite.

Hezekiah, king of Judah, trusted the Lord and did what was right in His eyes. He removed the high places of worship to idols and cut down the Asherah poles. He took anything that could have been called an idol and destroyed it. And the Lord prospered all that he did.

In the middle of all the corruption and evil, one king brought Judah back to the worship of the true God. There are consequences for righteousness as well as consequences for sin.

The consequences of Hezekiah’s faithfulness are just what you would expect. Everything he undertook was successful.

God has given us a blueprint for success and prosperity. He handed it to Moses on Mount Sinai. We are not able to follow that blueprint precisely because we are a fallen people, but God has even given us His Son to cover our shortcomings. God looks at our hearts, not just our actions.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we will never be able to keep the law completely. But that shouldn’t keep us from striving to keep it all. Nor should it give us an excuse for not trying.

If we are faithful to Him, God will prosper the work of our hands. That doesn’t mean we will all be millionaires. It does mean that our efforts will be rewarded in one fashion or another.

That reward, however, should not be our goal. Our goal is complete fidelity to the Lord. We may fall short, but we can always pick ourselves up and start again. The more we seek to follow, the better we will get at it.

Father, God,

Save us from being deluded by the lures of this world. Keep us faithful, single-minded on serving You alone.

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

Purpose

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. ~~ Daniel 1:5-8 (KJV)

The children of Judah were given entirely new names. Their original names referred to God.

  • Daniel – God is my judge
  • Hananiah. –  Yahweh is gracious
  • Mishael – who is like God
  • Azariah – God helps

Their new names referred to the Babylonian Gods.

  • Shadrach – command of Aku, Babylonian god of the Moon
  • Meshach – who is what Aku is
  • Abednego – servant of Nego, the Babylonian god of wisdom

The Babylonians were trying to erase all memory of their past lives in these captives.

But Daniel purposed in his heart . . .

Today, we need to emulate Daniel by purposing in our hearts. We have drifted like flotsam on the tides of culture letting them take us where they will. It is time to be decisive about what we will and won’t do, what we will and won’t  condone.

You will notice that Daniel didn’t make a fuss about his refusal to eat the king’s meat. He simply made a test bargain with the prince of the eunuchs. He went quietly about his business, never veering from his purpose. Would that we could be so purposeful.

Father, God,

Help us to be like Daniel, faithful to the last breath to You and Your commandments. Grant us the strength of will to continue, no matter what would try to distract us or defeat us. We thank You that You are our All in All.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

Restoration Promised

Focus verses: Ezekiel 38:25-29

After the diaspora, God has promised to bring Israel back to the land He gave them. His promise is to unite the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah as one nation. And further to pour out His Spirit on the house of Israel.

In this passage, He is called the Sovereign Lord. Sovereign means above all things, superlative, absolute. Check out the complete definition of the adjective.

When a promise is based on the nature of God, it is infallible. It will come to pass if He says so.

The Sovereign Lord has promised compassion to His people. Compassion means that He is aware of the suffering of His people, and He wants to alleviate that suffering.

However, God gave man a free will – the ability to choose. When we freely choose to follow God and His precepts, the blessings of God can flow to us. That doesn’t mean that our circumstances will be any different from those around us. It doesn’t protect us from all the evil of the world.

It does assure us that whatever has been lost to us will be restored in eternity. It does mean that the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit can rest upon us in the midst of suffering and loss. It does mean that we can experience the full comfort and assurance of God.

Father, God,

As You promised restoration to Israel, grant us that same restoration of fellowship with You. Help us to come into line with Your will that we may be in unbroken relationship with You, our Abba, Father.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

The Messianic Promise

Focus verses: Jeremiah 31:29-37

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.