Week 41 – Making good progress as we read thru God’s Word, the Bible..

Prophets spoke for God in their times, but their messages from God are timeless and relevant today.

DAY ONE – Jeremiah 51, Psalm 137

We have now reached the end of Jeremiah’s prophecies. This last message was written while Jerusalem and the temple were still standing. Yet God warned His people that soon (within 70 years) Babylon would be overrun and destroyed. He encouraged them to remember Jerusalem and yearn for their homeland, and by all means, to escape when Babylon’s judgment began. It reminds me of the growing specter in Europe as the Second World War was amassing. The madman Hitler was determined to conquer the world and create a master race of Aryan peoples. Large congregations of Jews had migrated and settled all over Europe, in Russia and even the United States. Palestine (Israel) had been the protectorate of England in those days but eventually the British  withdrew from the middle east. While the political situation was developing, Lord Balfour persuaded the British Parliament in 1917 to pass a resolution encouraging Jews in all British protectorates to escape Europe and return to their homeland of Israel (Palestine). Thousands of Jews did, and Zionism–the repatriation of Israel–which had been born in the late 1800’s, gained momentum throughout the world. Those Jews who felt the calling of their homeland and left Europe, fled with only the basic necessities, having to carve out a life of survival when they arrived in Israel. Meanwhile, millions of their own people who chose to remain in Europe where they had lived for generations, perished in the greatest catastrophe of ethnic cleansing the world had seen to date–the Holocaust.

It is always wise to study the Bible and try to learn what is coming upon the world as history unfolds. While we may see only shadows of some events we know are prophesied, we know enough to take deliberate action to find our home, our protection and our provision in the Lord Himself. Given the unstable conditions we face in our own culture and political arenas, it is possible to become comfortable or even complacent and careless in our lifestyle, in respect to God’s calling, so that judgment and calamity seem to belong in some other place and time. We all pray something will happen to turn our nation back to God and provoke another revival of faith in the Lord. Whether it happens or not, the world as we know it, according to Scripture, is temporary, is passing away in favor of a world of God’s creation in which evil no longer exists. We all want that, but we may find that road difficult to walk without Divine help. Remember, heaven is our real home, and God’s will is our real desire. He has prepared the Way for us, but we must choose that Way, then live it.

DAY TWO – Lamentations 1:1-3:36

Imagine walking through your home town. It’s quiet, the streets deserted, no one moving about. Houses are burned out, bodies still lie about, silent in death. Horror stalks your mind as you remember the gaunt, starving people whose faces bespoke their fear in the last days of the siege, before the town was overrun by their enemies intent on destroying everything in their path. You mutely shake your head, looking for words that won’t come, waiting even for tears, but you can’t cry anymore. Your home town no longer exists. The devastation is overwhelming and complete. You would ask God one more time, “Why?” but you already know the answer. You were the person who labored year after year, for over two decades, pleading with your neighbors and friends to listen to the Lord’s Words and messages, to turn from the wickedness that was destroying them, the idolatry that had rendered them senseless before God. You rose each morning hoping that today would be the day they would turn back in humility; but instead they laughed at you and at God, spurning the warnings and continuing their life of self-indulgence. They even tried to kill you, more than once. But you are still here, and you must now consider the possibility that future generations, should humankind continue, will have to face the same sad outcomes that you are now witnessing. It sounds so hopeless, but is it? These are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet who stayed faithful to the Lord all the days of his life.

If we speak of hope, shall we link hope to a better future brought about by our best efforts to improve our way of life or create a stronger, more powerful government? Do we have historical evidence of any nation or people who ever preserved their life more than a few hundred years? Let’s be clear about this: our hope does NOT lie with humankind. Lamentations 3:21-29 (NLT)  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope IN HIM!” 25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. 27 And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28 Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands. 29 Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.

DAY THREE – Lamentations 3:37-5:22

A sad story with a sadder ending–these are the lamentations of a faithful prophet. In the aftermath of the siege slaves have become masters by their own shrewdness, selling water and firewood needed for survival. Seizing the opportunity amid the ruins, foreigners have rushed in and mingled with the rabble, so that no place is safe and people can’t openly walk the streets. This is not a movie made for TV, and the plot will not be resolved within the hour. We cannot get up from our viewing and go back to our relatively comfortable activities–time for bed because tomorrow we start over. There is no starting over for Judah. Their nightmare is ongoing; their captivity is scheduled to last seventy years. Only then will there be a returning and rebuilding; and only then will the nations enter another season as Yahweh prepares the next scene for the Advent of His Anointed One, who will be a World-changer. Lamentations 3:31-33 (NLT)  For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. 33 For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

No amount of theory or philosophy prepares us for, or explains, the depth of evil and horror we see in humankind. The VOID created when God no longer fills the thoughts and actions of a people and their leaders cannot be filled with anything other THAN faith in our Creator and our Savior. Freeing us from our folly is a job for ‘Super-God,’ after we have exhausted every human solution we can contrive. The more we resist the Lord and insist on our own way, the more we hurt ourselves and the deeper into ruin our society descends. Jeremiah the prophet survived only because he called out in severe distress to his God. Yahweh God helped him and sustained him through his fatal circumstances. This prophet, whose hands were clean and whose heart was wasted under human sorrow, lived to see the results and to proclaim a time of healing and restoration. No matter what we experience or see with our eyes; no matter how difficult it is to watch the devastation slowly taking over our culture, let us be strengthened and warned concerning our faith: Hebrews 12:25-29 (NLT) Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.  28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.

DAY FOUR – Ezekiel 1-4

How did Old Testament prophets become prophets? Ezekiel tells us his story in his own words. He was from Judah and had been taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in the first captivity around 597 BC. At age 30, he saw visions of God’s glory one day which can be described only as exceptional, maybe even perplexing. The physical descriptions of four beings encountered in his visions bring everything we know about physics into question. They were obviously from another sphere of existence, something outside of our purview. Four beings, each with four faces and four wings, wheels under each of them, a wheel within a wheel, so that they could travel in four directions without turning, captured Ezekiel’s attention. Is there significance to these strange and unexplainable creatures? Our emerging prophet referred to them as the ‘glory’ of God. They moved by the Spirit of God. This vision was all about God appearing to the prophet in physical form. Then God spoke to Ezekiel out of the ‘glory.’ The Spirit of God took hold of the young man to complete the revelation and seal the call that would be his life occupation. He was being sent to a hard-hearted, rebellious people who had been rebelling against God’s instructions since the days of Moses, several hundreds of years. Now in captivity in Babylon, they were still in a state of rebellion. Ezekiel was to bring them messages from God, and now a new dimension was added–living, dramatic demonstrations of those messages that could not be misunderstood. The first of them indicated the coming siege against Jerusalem and its total destruction. If these exiles thought they were going soon back to their homeland, they would have to think again–there would be nothing left to return to. That was the beginning.

How much does Yahweh God, our Creator and Savior, love us? Are we to believe lies and slander that describe Him as either non-existent or non-caring? Are we to question His integrity and character only because He doesn’t do everything we ask Him? Are we to blame Him for the evil that is rampant in our world because He hasn’t stopped it yet? Or are we to let Him speak for Himself; and let Him, in His own words, explain who He is and what He is like? Are we to believe what He has done to save us, to create relationship with us, to bring us to share His eternal glory? Or are we, like ancient Israel and Judah, to go our own way into oblivion and then wonder where God is? He certainly does not live in oblivion, and He certainly has not abandoned us. The Spirit of God took hold of Ezekiel and certified his call as a prophet/spokesman for the Lord. Open your heart to the Spirit of God and welcome Him to take hold of you, too. Let God’s ‘glory’ come into your spirit and bring light and life. He will reveal to you personally how much He loves you. You will KNOW who He is, and that there is NO OTHER like Him.

DAY FIVE – Ezekiel 5-8

As I began my reading this morning I thought, “Lord, Ezekiel’s messages sound so much like those of Jeremiah and some of the other prophets–message after message denouncing the idolatry, wickedness and rebellion of the holy people Israel and Judah. Warning after warning of the calamity and destruction descending upon them without remedy. So few will be left after your anger is spent and your punishment is meted out. What shall I write?” Because I shudder when I realize the downward spiral of godlessness that is so much a part of our daily life in the western hemisphere. Just in my lifetime our culture has been turned on its head and filled with insolence and arrogance toward God. Then it hit me: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 (NLT)  I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. 9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

Do we live at the end of the age? Are these the ‘last days’? Who can say for sure? Once again I remind you to keep your eyes on the middle east and Israel. God’s dealings with the nations began there, and they will culminate there. The covenant the Lord made with our Father of Faith, Abraham is not yet finally fulfilled. But God is faithful and will keep ALL His words to His people. So let’s make sure we are the people of God, full of faith and the Holy Spirit; and living in the Book of Books–the Bible. Let’s face these days with courage and perseverance, determined to follow our Lord at all costs. Let’s do so with praise and thanksgiving by letting this world go and embracing the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we will have confidence at His coming. “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

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