July 2, 2016

Jeremiah 33-35 - While Jeremiah was still locked up in jail, a second Message from God was given to him:... Call to me and I will answer you.  I’ll tell you marvelous and wonderful things that you could never figure out on your own... I am going to give this city a thorough renovation, working on true healing inside and out.  I am going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings... 

“Yes, God’s Message: ‘You’re going to look at this place, these empty and desolate towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem, and say, “A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here.” But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration, marriage festivities, people exclaiming, “Thank God-of-the-Angel-Armies. He’s so good! His love never quits,” as they bring thank offerings into God’s Temple. I’ll restore everything that was lost in this land. I’ll make everything as good as new.’ I, God, say so...

“‘Watch for this: The time is coming’—God’s Decree—‘when I will keep the promise I made to the families of Israel and Judah. When the time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot from the David-Tree.  He will run this country honestly and fairly. He will set things right...... 
God’s Message to Jeremiah: “God says, ‘If my covenant with day and my covenant with night ever fell apart so that day and night became haphazard and you never knew which was coming and when, then and only then would my covenant with my servant David fall apart and his descendants no longer rule.... But as it is, I will give them back everything they’ve lost.  The last word is: I will have mercy on them.  

God’s Message to Jeremiah at the time King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon mounted an all-out attack on Jerusalem and all the towns around it with his armies and allies and everyone he could muster:  “I, God, the God of Israel, direct you to go and tell Zedekiah king of Judah: ‘This is God’s Message. Listen to me. I am going to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he is going to burn it to the ground. And don’t think you’ll get away. You’ll be captured and be his prisoner. You will have a personal confrontation with the king of Babylon and be taken off with him, captive, to Babylon... The prophet Jeremiah gave this Message to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem, gave it to him word for word...

God delivered a Message to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah made a covenant with the people of Jerusalem to decree freedom to the slaves who were Hebrews, both men and women. The covenant stipulated that no one in Judah would own a fellow Jew as a slave. All the leaders and people who had signed the covenant set free the slaves, men and women alike.  But a little while later, they reneged on the covenant, broke their promise and forced their former slaves to become slaves again..... Then Jeremiah received this Message from God:... what have you done? First you turned back to the right way and did the right thing, decreeing freedom for your brothers and sisters—and you made it official in a solemn covenant in my Temple. And then you turned right around and broke your word, making a mockery of both me and the covenant, and made them all slaves again, these men and women you’d just set free. You forced them back into slavery....‘So here is what I, God, have to say: You have not obeyed me and set your brothers and sisters free. Here is what I’m going to do: .... Everyone who violated my covenant, who didn’t do what was solemnly promised in the covenant ceremony...—I’m handing the lot of them over to their enemies who are out to kill them. Their dead bodies will be carrion food for vultures and stray dogs....

Then Jeremiah received this Message from God: “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, wants you to go tell the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem that I say, ‘Why won’t you learn your lesson and do what I tell you?’ God’s Decree. ‘The commands of Jonadab son of Recab to his sons have been carried out to the letter. He told them not to drink wine, and they haven’t touched a drop to this very day. They honored and obeyed their ancestor’s command. But look at you! I have gone to a lot of trouble to get your attention, and you’ve ignored me. I sent prophet after prophet to you, all of them my servants, to tell you from early morning to late at night to change your life, make a clean break with your evil past and do what is right, to not take up with every Tom, Dick, and Harry of a god that comes down the pike, but settle down and be faithful in this country I gave your ancestors.  And what do I get from you? Deaf ears....

Then, turning to the Recabite community, Jeremiah said, “And this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says to you: Because you have done what Jonadab your ancestor told you, obeyed his commands and followed through on his instructions, receive this Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: There will always be a descendant of Jonadab son of Recab at my service! Always!’”

Acts 7 - 
Then the Chief Priest said, “What do you have to say for yourself?” Stephen replied, “Friends, fathers, and brothers, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before the move to Haran, and told him, ‘Leave your country and family and go to the land I’ll show you.’... (Stephen continues on sharing God’s journey beginning with a covenant between Abraham signed by circumcision that He would be there with Jacob and beyond following the 400 yrs. of captivity and 40 years in the wilderness with Moses.) 

From there Stephen moved on to... “David asked God for a permanent place for worship. But Solomon built it. Yet that doesn’t mean that Most High God lives in a building made by carpenters and masons. The prophet Isaiah put it well when he wrote, “Heaven is my throne room; I rest my feet on earth.  So what kind of house will you build me?” says God. “Where I can get away and relax? It’s already built, and I built it.”  

And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!”

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”

Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.  As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died.