July 9, 2015

Jeremiah 50-51-

The Message of God through the prophet Jeremiah on Babylon, land of the Chaldeans:...
“In those days, at that time”—God’s Decree— “the people of Israel will come, and the people of Judah with them. Walking and weeping, they’ll seek me, their God.  They’ll ask directions to Zion and set their faces toward Zion.  They’ll come and hold tight to God, bound in a covenant eternal they’ll never forget.

“My people were lost sheep.  Their shepherds led them astray.  They abandoned them in the mountains where they wandered aimless through the hills.  They lost track of home, couldn’t remember where they came from.  Everyone who met them took advantage of them.  Their enemies had no qualms: ‘Fair game,’ they said. ‘They walked out on God.  They abandoned the True Pasture, the hope of their parents.’...

“You Babylonians had a good time while it lasted, didn’t you?  You lived it up, exploiting and using my people,... Do to her as she has done.  Give her a good dose of her own medicine!... And now this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, has to say: “Just watch! I’m bringing doom on the king of Babylon and his land, the same doom I brought on the king of Assyria.  But Israel I’ll bring home to good pastures.... These people that I’ve saved will start out with a clean slate....

And here’s more from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:  “The people of Israel are beaten down, the people of Judah along with them.  Their oppressors have them in a grip of steel. They won’t let go. But the Rescuer is strong:  God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Yes, I will take their side,  I’ll come to their rescue.  I’ll soothe their land, but rough up the people of Babylon....

So, listen to this plan that God has worked out against Babylon, the blueprint of what he’s prepared for dealing with Chaldea: Believe it or not, the young, the vulnerable—mere lambs and kids—will be dragged off.  Believe it or not, the flock in shock, helpless to help, watches it happen.  When the shout goes up, “Babylon’s down!”  The very earth will shudder at the sound.  The news will be heard all over the world....

It turns out that Israel and Judah are not widowed after all. As their God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, I am still alive and well,committed to them even though they filled their land with sin against Israel’s most Holy God. “Get out of Babylon as fast as you can.  Run for your lives! Save your necks! Don’t linger and lose your lives to my vengeance on her as I pay her back for her sins....

“God has set everything right for us. Come! Let’s tell the good news. Back home in Zion.  Let’s tell what our God did to set things right....

God-of-the-Angel-Armies has solemnly sworn:...By his power he made earth. His wisdom gave shape to the world.  He crafted the cosmos. He thunders and rain pours down.  He sends the clouds soaring. He embellishes the storm with lightnings, launches the wind from his warehouse.  Stick-god worshipers look mighty foolish! God-makers embarrassed by their handmade gods! Their gods are frauds, dead sticks— deadwood gods, tasteless jokes. They’re nothing but stale smoke. When the smoke clears, they’re gone. But the Portion-of-Jacob is the real thing; He put the whole universe together, with special attention to Israel. His name? God-of-the-Angel-Armies!...

 “Judeans, you’ll see it with your own eyes. I’ll pay Babylon and all the Chaldeans back for all the evil they did in Zion.” God’s Decree....“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon chewed up my people and spit out the bones. He wiped his dish clean, pushed back his chair, and belched—a huge gluttonous belch.  Lady Zion says, ‘The brutality done to me be done to Babylon!’  And Jerusalem says, ‘The blood spilled from me be charged to the Chaldeans!’ 

Then I, God, step in and say, ‘I’m on your side, taking up your cause. I’m your Avenger. You’ll get your revenge.  I’ll dry up her rivers, plug up her springs.Babylon will be a pile of rubble, scavenged by stray dogs and cats, a dumping ground for garbage, a godforsaken ghost town.’...“Babylon is finished— the pride of the whole earth is flat on her face. What a comedown for Babylon, to end up inglorious in the sewer!...

Don’t lose hope. Don’t ever give up when the rumors pour in hot and heavy. One year it’s this, the next year it’s that— rumors of violence, rumors of war.  Trust me, the time is coming when I’ll put the no-gods of Babylon in their place... Remember God in your long and distant exile. Keep Jerusalem alive in your memory.”  How we’ve been humiliated, taunted and abused, kicked around for so long that we hardly know who we are! And we hardly know what to think—  our old Sanctuary, God’s house, desecrated by strangers.

“I know, but trust me: The time is coming” —God’s Decree—...“The city walls of Babylon—those massive walls!— will be flattened.  And those city gates—huge gates!—will be set on fire.  The harder you work at this empty life, the less you are. Nothing comes of ambition like this    but ashes.”

Jeremiah the prophet gave a job to Seraiah, when Seraiah went with Zedekiah king of Judah to Babylon. It was in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign. Seraiah was in charge of travel arrangements.  Jeremiah had written down in a little booklet all the bad things that would come down on Babylon. He told Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, read this out in public. Read, ‘You, O God, said that you would destroy this place so that nothing could live here, neither human nor animal—a wasteland to top all wastelands, an eternal nothing.’

“When you’ve finished reading the page, tie a stone to it, throw it into the River Euphrates, and watch it sink. Then say, ‘That’s how Babylon will sink to the bottom and stay there after the disaster I’m going to bring upon her.’”

Acts 10:27 -10:48
Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”

Cornelius said, “Four days ago at about this time, midafternoon, I was home praying. Suddenly there was a man right in front of me, flooding the room with light. He said, ‘Cornelius, your daily prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. I want you to send to Joppa to get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’s staying with Simon the Tanner down by the sea. “So I did it—I sent for you. And you’ve been good enough to come. And now we’re all here in God’s presence, ready to listen to whatever the Master put in your heart to tell us.”

 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him....

We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.