June 27, 2016

Jeremiah 24-26
God showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the Temple of God. This was after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem into exile in Babylon, along with the leaders of Judah, the craftsmen, and the skilled laborers. In one basket the figs were of the finest quality, ripe and ready to eat. In the other basket the figs were rotten, so rotten they couldn’t be eaten.

God said to me, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” “Figs,” I said. “Excellent figs of the finest quality, and also rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten.” Then God told me, “This is the Message from the God of Israel: The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment. I’ll keep my eye on them so that their lives are good, and I’ll bring them back to this land. I’ll build them up, not tear them down; I’ll plant them, not uproot them.  “And I’ll give them a heart to know me, God. They’ll be my people and I’ll be their God, for they’ll have returned to me with all their hearts.

“But like the rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs—that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt. I’ll make them something that the whole world will look on as disgusting—repugnant outcasts, their names used as curse words wherever in the world I drive them... 

This is the Message given to Jeremiah for all the people of Judah. It came in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah. It was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon...

From the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah right up to the present day—twenty-three years it’s been!—God’s Word has come to me, and from early each morning to late every night I’ve passed it on to you. And you haven’t listened to a word of it!  Not only that but God also sent a steady stream of prophets to you who were just as persistent as me, and you never listened.... “You refused to listen to any of this, and now I am really angry. These god-making businesses of yours are your doom.”

The verdict of God-of-the-Angel-Armies on all this: “Because you have refused to listen to what I’ve said, I’m stepping in....  I’m devoting the whole works to total destruction... And I’ll banish every sound of joy—singing, laughter, marriage festivities, genial workmen, candlelit suppers...These countries will be in subjection to the king of Babylon for seventy years. “Once the seventy years is up, I’ll punish the king of Babylon and the whole nation of Babylon for their sin. Then they’ll be the wasteland... 

This is a Message that the God of Israel gave me: “Take this cup filled with the wine of my wrath that I’m handing to you. Make all the nations where I send you drink it down.... I took the cup from God’s hand and made them drink it, all the nations to which he sent me:... “If any of them refuse to take the cup from you and drink it, say to them, ‘God-of-the-Angel-Armies has ordered you to drink. So drink!  “‘Prepare for the worst! I’m starting off the catastrophe in the city that I claim as my own, so don’t think you are going to get out of it.... 

“Preach it all, Jeremiah. Preach the entire Message to them. Say:
“‘God roars like a lion from high heaven; thunder rolls out from his holy dwelling—Ear-splitting bellows against his people, shouting hurrahs like workers in harvest. The noise reverberates all over the earth; everyone everywhere hears it.  God makes his case against the godless nations. He’s about to put the human race on trial. For the wicked the verdict is clear-cut:death by the sword.’” God’s Decree....

Wail, shepherds! Cry out for help! Grovel in the dirt, you masters of flocks!  Time’s up—you’re slated for the slaughterhouse, like a choice ram with its throat cut. There’s no way out for the rulers, no escape for those shepherds. Hear that? Rulers crying for help, shepherds of the flock wailing!  God is about to ravage their fine pastures. The peaceful sheepfolds will be silent with death, silenced by God’s deadly anger.  God will come out into the open  like a lion leaping from its cover, and the country will be torn to pieces, ripped and ravaged by his anger.

At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this Message came from God to Jeremiah:
“God’s Message: Stand in the court of God’s Temple and preach to the people who come from all over Judah to worship in God’s Temple. Say everything I tell you to say to them. Don’t hold anything back. Just maybe they’ll listen and turn back from their bad lives. Then I’ll reconsider the disaster that I’m planning to bring on them because of their evil behavior....

Everybody there—priests, prophets, and people—heard Jeremiah preaching this Message in the Temple of God. When Jeremiah had finished his sermon, saying everything God had commanded him to say, the priests and prophets and people all grabbed him, yelling, “Death! You’re going to die for this! How dare you preach—and using God’s name!—saying that this Temple will become a heap of rubble like Shiloh and this city be wiped out without a soul left in it!”
All the people mobbed Jeremiah right in the Temple itself.

Officials from the royal court of Judah were told of this. They left the palace immediately and came to God’s Temple to investigate. They held court on the spot, at the New Gate entrance to God’s Temple.  The prophets and priests spoke first, addressing the officials, but also the people: “Death to this man! He deserves nothing less than death! He has preached against this city—you’ve heard the evidence with your own ears.”

Jeremiah spoke next, publicly addressing the officials before the crowd: “God sent me to preach against both this Temple and city everything that’s been reported to you. So do something about it! Change the way you’re living, change your behavior. Listen obediently to the Message of your God. Maybe God will reconsider the disaster he has threatened. “As for me, I’m at your mercy—do whatever you think is best. But take warning: If you kill me, you’re killing an innocent man, and you and the city and the people in it will be liable. I didn’t say any of this on my own. God sent me and told me what to say. You’ve been listening to God speak, not Jeremiah.”

The court officials, backed by the people, then handed down their ruling to the priests and prophets: “Acquittal. No death sentence for this man. He has spoken to us with the authority of our God.”  Then some of the respected leaders stood up and addressed the crowd: “In the reign of Hezekiah king of Judah, Micah of Moresheth preached to the people of Judah...  “Did King Hezekiah or anyone else in Judah kill Micah of Moresheth because of that sermon? Didn’t Hezekiah honor him and pray for mercy from God? And then didn’t God call off the disaster he had threatened? “Friends, we’re at the brink of bringing a terrible calamity upon ourselves.”....

In Jeremiah’s case, Ahikam son of Shaphan stepped forward and took his side, preventing the mob from lynching him.

Acts 4:1-4:31 - 
While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priest, the chief of the Temple police and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus.  They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning...but many of those who had listened had already believed the message - in round numbers about 5,000.

The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem ....everybody who was anybody was there.  They stood, Peter and John, in the middle of the room and were grilled by the  leaders...

With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing.  I’ll be completely frank with you--we have nothing to hide.  By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead; by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole.  Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’  Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.”

They couldn’t take their eyes off them--Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves!  Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education.  They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright--so healed!--what could they say against that?....

But so that it doesn’t go any further, let’s silence them with threats so they won’t dare to use Jesus’ name again with anyone.”

They called them back in and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John spoke right back, “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide.  As for us, there’s no question--we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”  The leaders renewed their threats but then released them as the people wouldn’t have stood for it--they were all praising God over what had happened.  The man who had been miraculously healed was over 40 years old.

As soon as Peter and John were let go, they went to their friends and told them what the high priest and religious leaders had said.  Hearing the report, they lifted their voices in a wonderful harmony in prayer...”By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant, and our father, David....”Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healing and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  

While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook.  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence.