June 26, 2015

Jeremiah 21-23
God’s Message to Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent Pashur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to him with this request: “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has waged war against us. Pray to God for us. Ask him for help. Maybe God will intervene with one of his famous miracles and make him leave.”

But Jeremiah said, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘This is the God of Israel’s Message to you: You can say good-bye to your army, watch morale and weapons flushed down the drain. I’m going to personally lead the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, against whom you’re fighting so hard, right into the city itself. I’m joining their side and fighting against you, fighting all-out, holding nothing back. And in fierce anger. I’m prepared to wipe out the population of this city, people and animals alike, in a raging epidemic. And then I will personally deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his princes, and any survivors left in the city who haven’t died from disease, been killed, or starved. I’ll deliver them to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—yes, hand them over to their enemies, who have come to kill them. He’ll kill them ruthlessly, showing no mercy.’

“And then tell the people at large, ‘God’s Message to you is this: Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death. Whoever stays in this city will die—either in battle or by starvation or disease. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who have surrounded the city will live. You’ll lose everything—but not your life. I’m determined to see this city destroyed. I’m that angry with this place! God’s Decree. I’m going to give it to the king of Babylon, and he’s going to burn it to the ground.’

“To the royal house of Judah, listen to God’s Message!  House of David, listen—God’s Message to you: ‘Start each day by dealing with justice.  Rescue victims from their exploiters. Prevent fire—the fire of my anger— for once it starts, it can’t be put out....You think you’ve got it made, all snug and secure... I’ll punish your evil regime. I’ll start a fire that will rage unchecked, I’ll burn everything in sight to cinders.’”

God’s orders:... Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!...

“I number you among my favorite places— like the lovely hills of Gilead, like the soaring peaks of Lebanon.  Yet I swear I’ll turn you into a wasteland, as empty as a ghost town.... “Travelers from all over will come through here and say to one another, ‘Why would God do such a thing to this wonderful city?’ They’ll be told, ‘Because they walked out on the covenant of their God, took up with other gods and worshiped them.’”....

“Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives, who cheats his workers and won’t pay them for their work, who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion with spacious rooms and fancy windows. I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods and the latest in interior decor’ So, that makes you a king— living in a fancy palace?

Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?  He did what was right and treated people fairly, and things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn’t this what it means to know me?” “But you’re blind and brainless.  All you think about is yourself,...

“People of Jerusalem, climb a Lebanon peak and weep, you’ve made a total mess of your life. I spoke to you when everything was going your way. You said, ‘I’m not interested.’ You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you, never listened to a thing I said....You big-city people thought you were so important, thought you were ‘king of the mountain’! You’re soon going to be doubled up in pain, pain worse than the pangs of childbirth....

 “Doom to the shepherd-leaders who butcher and scatter my sheep!” God’s Decree. “So here is what I, God, Israel’s God, say to the shepherd-leaders who misled my people: ‘You’ve scattered my sheep. You’ve driven them off. You haven’t kept your eye on them. Well, let me tell you, I’m keeping my eye on you, keeping track of your criminal behavior. I’ll take over and gather what’s left of my sheep, gather them in from all the lands where I’ve driven them. I’ll bring them back where they belong, and they’ll recover and flourish. I’ll set shepherd-leaders over them who will take good care of them. They won’t live in fear or panic anymore. All the lost sheep rounded up!’ God’s Decree.”

“Time’s coming”—God’s Decree— “when I’ll establish a truly righteous David-Branch, a ruler who knows how to rule justly. He’ll make sure of justice and keep people united.  In his time Judah will be secure again and Israel will live in safety.... “So watch for this. The time’s coming”—God’s Decree—“when no one will say, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt,’ but, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who brought the descendants of Israel back from the north country and from the other countries where he’d driven them, so that they can live on their own good earth.’”

My head is reeling, my limbs are limp,  I’m staggering like a drunk, seeing double from too much wine— And all because of God, because of his holy words....

“Don’t listen to the sermons of the prophets. It’s all hot air. Lies, lies, and more lies. They make it all up. Not a word they speak comes from me. They preach their ‘Everything Will Turn Out Fine’ sermon to congregations with no taste for God, their ‘Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen to You’ sermon to people who are set in their own ways.  “Have any of these prophets bothered to meet with me, the true God? bothered to take in what I have to say? listened to and then lived out my Word?...

“I never sent these prophets, but they ran anyway. I never spoke to them, but they preached away.  If they’d have bothered to sit down and meet with me, they’d have preached my Message to my people. They’d have gotten them back on the right track, gotten them out of their evil ruts....

“I know what they’re saying, all these prophets who preach lies using me as their text, saying ‘I had this dream! I had this dream!’ How long do I have to put up with this? Do these prophets give two cents about me as they preach their lies and spew out their grandiose delusions? They swap dreams with one another, feed on each other’s delusive dreams, trying to distract my people from me just as their ancestors were distracted by the no-god Baal....

 “I’ve had it with the ‘prophets’ who get all their sermons secondhand from each other. Yes, I’ve had it with them. They make up stuff and then pretend it’s a real sermon. “Oh yes, I’ve had it with the prophets who preach the lies they dream up, spreading them all over the country, ruining the lives of my people with their cheap and reckless lies.  “I never sent these prophets, never authorized a single one of them. They do nothing for this people—nothing!” ...

 “Instead of claiming to know what God says, ask questions of one another, such as ‘How do we understand God in this?’ But don’t go around pretending to know it all, saying ‘God told me this . . . God told me that. . . .’ I don’t want to hear it anymore. Only the person I authorize speaks for me. Otherwise, my Message gets twisted, the Message of the living God-of-the-Angel-Armies....

“Are you paying attention? You’d better, because I’m about to take you in hand and throw you to the ground, you and this entire city that I gave to your ancestors. I’ve had it with the lot of you. You’re never going to live this down. You’re going down in history as a disgrace.”

Acts 3
One day at three o’clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for a prayer meeting.  At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up.  Every day he was set down at the Temple Gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple...Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.”  He looked up expecting to get something from them.  Peter said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you:  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk?”  He grabbed him by his right hand and pulled him up.  In an instant his feet and ankles became firms.  He jumped to his feet and walk.  The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God.  Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God....The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic.... 

When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people:  “Oh Israelites, why does this take you by such complete surprise, and why stare at us as if our power or piety made him walk?  The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his Son Jesus.  The very one that Pilate called innocent you repudiated...You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead--and we’re the witnesses.  

Faith in Jesus’ name put this man, whose condition you know so well on his feet--yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes...

Now it’s time to change your ways!  Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour our showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely Jesus...

All the prophets from Samuel on down said the same thing, and most emphatically that these days would come.  These prophets, along with the covenant God made with your ancestors, are your family tree  God’s covenant-word to Abraham provides the text: ‘By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.  But you are first in line; God having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways.’