July 5, 2015

Jeremiah 42-44
All the army officers, led by Johanan and Jezaniah, 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.”  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.”  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.”

Ten days later God’s Message came to Jeremiah. He called together Johanan and all the army officers with him, including all the people, regardless of how much clout they had.  He then spoke:... ‘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.’...

“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’?... “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.”
  
When Jeremiah finished telling all the people the whole Message that their God had sent him to give them—all these words—Azariah and Johanan, 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 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.” Johanan 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...

While in Tahpanhes, God’s Word came to Jeremiah: “Pick up some large stones and cover them with mortar in the vicinity of the pavement that leads up to the building set aside for Pharaoh’s use in Tahpanhes. Make sure some of the men of Judah are watching. “Then address them: ‘This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: Be on the lookout! I’m sending for and bringing Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon—my servant, mind you!—and he’ll set up his throne on these very stones that I’ve had buried here and he’ll spread out his canopy over them.... 

“This is the Message of God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘So why are you ruining your lives by amputating yourselves—man, woman, child, and baby—from the life of Judah, leaving yourselves isolated, unconnected? And why do you deliberately make me angry by what you do, offering sacrifices to these no-gods in the land of Egypt where you’ve come to live? You’ll only destroy yourselves and make yourselves an example used in curses and an object of ridicule among all the nations of the earth....

 “‘Watch out! I’ve decided to bring doom on you and get rid of everyone connected with Judah. I’m going to take what’s left of Judah, those who have decided to go to Egypt and live there, and finish them off. In Egypt they will either be killed or starve to death. The same fate will fall upon both the obscure and the important. Regardless of their status, they will either be killed or starve. You’ll end up cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. I’ll give those who are in Egypt the same medicine I gave those in Jerusalem: massacre, starvation, and disease. None of those who managed to get out of Judah alive and get away to Egypt are going to make it back to the Judah for which they’re so homesick. None will make it back, except maybe a few fugitives.’”

The men who knew that their wives had been burning sacrifices to the no-gods, joined by a large crowd of women, along with virtually everyone living in Pathros of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: “We’re having nothing to do with what you tell us is God’s Message.... 

Then Jeremiah spoke up, confronting the men and the women, all the people who had answered so insolently. He said, “The sacrifices that you and your parents, your kings, your government officials, and the common people of the land offered up in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem—don’t you think God noticed? He noticed, all right. And he got fed up.... Jeremiah kept going, but now zeroed in on the women:...  “Well, go ahead. Keep your vows. Do it up big. But also listen to what God has to say about it, all you who are from Judah but live in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name, backed by everything I am—this is God speaking!—that never again shall my name be used in vows, such as “As sure as the Master, God, lives!” by anyone in the whole country of Egypt. I’ve targeted each one of you for doom. The good is gone for good....I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt over to his enemies, those who are out to kill him, exactly as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah to his enemy Nebuchadnezzar, who was after him.’”
                        

Acts 9:1- 9:19
All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”  He said, “Who are you, Master?” “I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”...Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing....

There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.” “Yes, Master?” he answered. “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”

Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”  But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”...

So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.