May 4 – Devotion Sharing (Jeremiah 21-25)

Submitted by Bo C. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Throughout Jeremiah 21-25, it is repeated again and again that God’s response to sin is that He cannot tolerate sins or let sins go unpunished. First, it was the sins of the Israelites that God uses Babylon to pronounce judgment. God gave them ample of warnings, for 23 years He had been warning them but they did not listen (Jeremiah 25:3). After this, Babylon will also face its own due judgment as God repays them according to their deeds. God does not show favoritism and He doesn’t excuse Israelites from facing the judgment just because they are His people. If anything, God holds them at a higher standard as the people set apart for Him.

In Jeremiah 21, God rejected Zedekiah’s request – what was his request? Zedekiah wanted God to come through and perform wonders for them and deliver them from Babylon. God has sent Jeremiah to warn Israel of the pending destruction because of their rebellion. God has plans to discipline them and then to restore them, but Zedekiah refused that discipline and requested for something opposite – to be delivered from troubles, consequences of their sins and the discipline. This reveals that all along, Zedekiah, and the nation of Israel, were not interested in restoring their relationship with God, but they just wanted to get out of trouble. In response to this request, God affirmed His plans again to bring destruction.

God’s hopes and wishes were that the Israelites will accept the discipline, repent and seek Him during those times in exile, and He promised that He will bring them back and restore the nation back to Him. God’s heart is captured in Jeremiah 24:5-7 that even during His time of discipline, if they’d submit to Him, His eyes will watch over them for their good – His plan is not to destroy them but to build them up. His vision for them still stands, despite all their years of rebellion and rejection of Him, that they will be His people, He will be their God and He will give them a heart to know Him.

What is God’s heart for me through times of discipline? When God brings about discipline in my life, many times it is painful and unpleasant. Instinctively, like Zedekiah, I would want to be delivered from the current discipline God puts me through and desire for a quick relief rather than accepting it. Like Zedekiah, I remember many times when I kicked and screamed and oftentimes I got so side-tracked because I wanted to avoid the pain of discipline, and in so doing, I fail to deal with the very issues and sins that God was addressing me. I also see this same pattern in many people – when God corners them and brings about discipline in their lives, they become so focused on wanting to avoid the pain of being disciplined or get caught up with insecurity, discouragement and cynicism that they end up not dealing with the sins, idols or rebellion that God prompted them to confess and repent of. When we do this, we miss God’s heart completely. It is important to remember and claim Jeremiah 24:5-7 whenever God takes me through time of discipline and struggles, and what is most important is for me to accept and submit to God’s discipline so that He can lead me through the process of repentance and restoration each time.

Throughout this passage, God is also addressing all the false prophets who prophesy lies that no destructions will come to them. They were telling the people what their itching ears wanted to hear – they prophesy false peace that there is no judgment, God is on their side, everything will be OK.

This is so true of the world and our society – it promotes so much of a consequence-free life and there is so much false prophesy that tells us that we can live however we want and everything will be OK. Even just in these well-known slogans such as “Obey Your Thirst” or “Just Do It”, embedded is the implication of a life gratifying immediate desires without any regards to consequences. This is the mantra of the world that everything will be fine to just do whatever you feel like. And this is the exact mentality that the people of Israel think they are invincible when in fact God’s judgment was upon them (Jeremiah 21:13-14).

In Jeremiah 23, God’s heart really anguishes over the false, lying prophets. He has much to say about them. Because of their lying tongues, they led people astray from God. They speak visions from their own minds, not from God. God warns them about judgment, but these prophets prophesy about false peace. It is like a preacher who would only speak of prosperity and health and wealth gospel without talking about sins, consequences, hell or any difficult topics.

This passage taught me the importance of listening to the right messenger. Many times, these false prophets are my own voices or worldly voices that I pick and choose to believe – that it is OK to live a compromised, comfortable Christian life or it is OK to continue in sins rather than confession and repentance, God will understand, I will be OK and nothing will happen. And I need to guard myself against these false prophesy, especially when what I am hearing sooth my sinful desires, rather than based on the truth of what God says.

vv. 21-22 is also a warning for me as a minister and leader. I am God’s prophet for His people, but will I be the false prophet or the true prophet? False prophets “run with their message” – they have not stood in God’s council to know His message. This is a sober reminder for me that I have no business of “prophesying” or engaging in ministry to tell people anything about God if I’m not regularly spending time in God’s council to know His message, His hearts and the words He has for His people.

Submitted by Phil C. from Gracepoint Davis Church

From Jeremiah 22, God says about Judah,

“Though you are like Gilead to me, like the summit of Lebanon, I will surely make you like a desert, like towns not inhabited. I will send destroyers against you, each man with his weapons, and they will cut up your fine cedar beams and throw them into the fire.”

And a couple of verses later, He gives them the reason: “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.” In other words, even though God loves Judah, God is willing to bring disaster upon it because of its disobedience to Him. God considers them precious and a treasured possession, and yet He will not let that deter Him from bringing just punishment.

This is God’s heart for His children. He loves us, considers us precious to Him, says we’re like “the summit of Lebanon” in His eyes, but at the same time He will punish and bring judgment if we disobey His commands. For God, obedience to His ways is the only thing that matters. This is the mistake the Pharisees made towards God. They thought they were “special” in God’s eyes, so much so that they didn’t need to obey God as much; they simply received God’s favor because of their ancestry or their position as religious elite. But to that kind of “religious assurance” Jesus said, “Woe is you.” This is something that I need to remember, because the message of the Pharisees applies to people like me: religious, have position in church, church-going ancestry. I can never think that I am above confession, repentance, being honest before God and others about my sins, just because I have a staff position in church. I should never think that God overlooks my sins because of the acts of service I do. No. What is clear from this passage is that God deals with disobedience, with idol worship, with hearts that have turned from God, swiftly and justly. He is a jealous God and wants my heart.

To deal with sin is what it means to love someone. Hebrews 12 says God disciplines those He loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son. As a father now, I understand the heart behind this verse a little better. I want what’s best for my son, but I know a big part of that means correcting him when he does something wrong. If I am going to help him mature as a person, to learn to be selfless rather than selfish, to think of others and not just himself, then I need to punish him when he does wrong. It’s because I have a higher vision for the kind of person he can become than he has for himself. And in the same way, God disciplines me because He loves me and wants to see me grow out of my immaturity and selfishness into a person of character and love. When I view correction in this way, it helps me accept it better. It doesn’t feel good, and often it comes with my ego and pride being humbled, and I have many times in the past not received correction well because of my ego. But one thing I come to learn each time God disciplines me is that it produces “a harvest of righteousness and peace” as I am trained by it. I become a little more humble, a little more aware of myself, a little more sensitive to other people’s needs, and more appreciative to God’s grace and love in my life. So in that sense it is my prayer and commitment to be a person of truth, to receive correction and discipline well, because God disciplines me for my good. He wants me to share in His holiness, and to grow in maturity so that I can better represent Him to the watching world.

Write a prayer in response.  

Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to be a person who receives correction and discipline well. You love me and consider me your child, and as a loving Heavenly Father, you discipline those you love. Please help me to not let my pride get in the way. It is difficult at times to deal with my sins, but just as I would correct my son for straying off the narrow path, so too will you. It really is for my good, because that’s the way you can produce a harvest of righteousness and peace in me. So please help me to be a person of truth. Help me to confess regularly and to repent of my sins; help me to be sensitive to Your Word as it shines light into my heart; help me to be humble when my leaders bring things up with me. In these ways let me learn to accept discipline and correction well so that I can put off my old self and take on more of Christ’s likeness in me.

Submitted by Richard L. from Gracepoint Davis Church

In today’s passage, one aspect of God that emerges is that He is one who looks out for and protects the weakest ones, and calls everyone to be just and do right.  He gives that simple command in 22:3,  “Do what is just and right.” But what does it mean to do what is just and right?  It’s a huge contrast with what’s described later in chapter 22 about building a palace.  Doing what is just and right means noticing others, seeing my duty to them, and loving and caring for them.  It is also not to exploit others.  In other words, it’s the opposite of being so preoccupied with building a palace.

God clearly condemns the one who exploits others, verse 13, pronouncing woe to that man who builds his palace by unrighteousness.  It’s woe to the man so preoccupied with his “spacious upper rooms.”   Building a lavish palace was at the expense of his countrymen because practically he was making them work for nothing, and building his palace by unrighteousness.  But more than that, in that context, the prophet Jeremiah was condemning the king for doing this because it was the king’s duty to care for his people.  He was to govern justly and fairly, protecting his people and doing what was best for them, but this king wasn’t doing this.  He was more occupied with his palace than being a just king.  In this other way, he was exploiting his role as a king – at the expense of his people – all so he could build a lavish palace for himself.  That’s why there was such a harsh “woe” pronounced against him.

Again, that picture of building a palace is an apt symbol of the opposite of who I am called to be and what I am called to do.  The fact is, God’s heart is so big and he loves everyone, especially the unrepresented and vulnerable (orphans, widows, oppressed ones, those robbed by others), that He places a duty on his people to care for these ones.  Rescue the one robbed, do no wrong or violence to the alien, fatherless, widow, and do not shed innocent blood.  It is clear: God makes it everyone’s duty to care for others.  Being preoccupied with building a palace leaves no time to notice and pay attention to anyone else’s needs.  It steals away attention from obeying this command to love others.

God’s command to me is the same, to do what is just and right, in other words to care for others, notice their needs, love them by meeting those needs.  Most importantly, God’s heart is that all men would be able to hear the gospel and respond, and have that relationship with him be restored.  His command also is not to exploit others, not to use my position or place in life for my own gain.  Following along with the imagery from today’s passage, I need to tear down the “palaces” that preoccupy me and result in exploiting others and disobeying God.

There are a number of palaces in my life, but one of those palaces I’ve thought about recently is a sense of entitlement with regard to leisure and “free time.”  I used to think that I should be entitled to have time to myself, to spend however I please, and to do whatever I want with those chunks of time.  I had a lot of those times in high school and college, free summers, time between class, etc.  But, as I grow older, those chunks of time seem to be less and less.  As I grow and mature, more and more of my time is determined by other people in my life, such as my family, those I minister to, the needs of the church.  But, I realize there’s still a part of me that idolizes leisure and free time, and still thinks I deserve it, so much that I grow unhappy and even bitter when I’m not able to have leisure time to do whatever I want.  This is a “palace” because I’m not looking to spend that time to love others, but really it’s just time to myself, spent selfishly on whatever I fancy or desire.  And, I exploit others because there are so many needs around me that I choose not to do anything about because I want that time to myself.  Time is something God has given me to steward, and this notion of “my time” is not right and something I need to change in my thinking and I need to repent over.  God has given me this time, but also his heart goes out to everyone, so it is so wrong to ignore his concerns and hold onto my time as my own to spend on myself.

PRAYER:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please forgive me for all the palaces in my life that preoccupy me and prevent me from being concerned about what concerns you.  You make it so clear how you want me to live.  You care so much for people and want to see them saved, and your heart is made so clear in this passage.  I ask that you would change my thinking with regard to time. All the time I have is not my own, but it is yours, and it is supposed to be spent on what concerns you.  Help me not to keep going back to this false notion that I’m entitled to free time and leisure.  Please transform my thinking in this area, and help me to use my time wisely to love the people you have placed in my life by sharing the gospel with them.  I lift this area up to you and also ask that you would help me tear down the other “palaces” I have in my life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Gary C. from Gracepoint Davis Church

22:1-17, Against the backdrop of Israel at the time when the people were disobedient to God’s Word because of complacency and where rampant social injustice was taking place as the weak and the powerless are being exploited and oppressed, Jeremiah was told to go to the palace of the kings to deliver a scathing rebuke about Shallum, who during such a time as this decided to focus on building an elaborate palace and making it fancier.  As Jeremiah said in v.15, “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?”  What should the people and the king have done?  As the Lord says in v.3, they should have done what is just and right during such a time as this: rescue people from their oppressors; do no wrong to the alien, the fatherless and the widow; etc.  Instead, Shallum ignored the demand of the time and inappropriately focused on his vanity and contributed further to the oppression of the people through this palace building project.

Similarly for me, what kind of time is this?  What is the demand of the time for me?  And what should/should not I be doing?  As P. Will reminded us from this past Sunday’s message, only 1 in 32 students in UCD belongs to a campus fellowship.  I think the reality of the spiritual state at UCD campus is actually worse than that in terms of the number of people who are saved.  So what kind of time is this?  It is time to respond to the urgency of the Gospel to do all things and try all avenues to “win as many as possible” for the Gospel.  Because time is short.  What should I not be doing during this time?  I should not be investing my attention, time and energy on my own things or investing in my life selfishly, such as to focus on career, nuclear family, indulging in comfort, slowing down to “live easier,” hoarding things and money, etc.  It is time for me to be using my available time to reach out to more students so that they can hear the Gospel.   It is no time for me to be complacent or lazy or self-indulging.  In light of the need of the Gospel, I feel convicted that I need to reach out more.

In v.25:3, God says to the people of Judah that for 23 years the Word of God has warned the people through Jeremiah again and again.  23 years!  First, this shows me God’s heart of deep-seated love and compassion for His people who were sinning.  As God said repeatedly in these chapters, He wanted the Israelites to thrive and be fruitful (v.23:3-4) and His desire is to build up the people and not to tear them down, to plant them and not uproot them (v.24:6-7).  God desires the best for the Israelites and loved them deeply, which was why He spent 23 years warning them of the same thing again and again, hoping that they would repent and change their ways.  Tragically, they did not, and God eventually had to carry out judgment against them.  Through this I am reminded of the need to listen to the timeless Word of God that He has spoken as instructions and warnings throughout the pages of the Bible. It behooves me to listen to His commands to have no other gods besides Him, to confess my sins and bring them into light instead of remaining in hiddenness.

Second, I am reminded of God’s incredible patience to the people that for 23 years He warned them.  As a spiritual leader, I am reminded that I need to exercise this kind of patience lovingly to the people in my life.  How often my patience quickly runs out when people do not change or when my efforts do not result in immediate payoff!  I think about many of the students in whom I have invested a lot of time and energy and prayers for these past quarters, and how it’s been kind of disappointing to me as I see little change in their lives.  From this picture of God here I am reminded that no, I have too little patience!  I need to continue to pray, to love and to patiently minister to them with love and tenacity, for if God can spend 23 years surely I can spend longer time in tilling the spiritual soils of people’s hearts.

Dear Lord,

As You have called me to be a minister of the Gospel and placed people in my life to lead and shape, it is my prayer that you would help me to always live with a clear sense of the kind of time that I am in.  Help me to live daily with the clear focus that it is no time for me to be indulging selfishly or to be slowing down, but to urgently reach out to the students on the UCD campus for there are so many who have not received the Gospel.  As I am to be a prophet of this generation and a shepherd of people, please help me to take heed of the warnings from Chapter 23 about the negligent and wayward leaders.  Please help me to be faithful in “bestowing care” upon the people you have entrusted to me.  Please help me to live daily with the sharp clarity that I am a beloved and forgiven sinner to whom you have showed mercy, that I would not use the power unjustly by turning ministry into something to feed my pride and ego.  Lastly, I praise you and thank you that you are a God of incredible love and mercy to Your people. Indeed, in my life You have given me warnings so that I may thrive and flourish and be fruitful.  O Lord, please help me to walk in obedience to Your instructions and warnings, so that I may indeed be like the tree planted by streams of living water, whose leaves do not wither.  And please help me to never ever give up on people.  Rather, as You are a God of patience to the Israelites and to me, help me to be patient and tenacious and persevering in loving and praying and ministering to people.  Thank you for your love and mercy in my life.  Thank you that you patiently lead me and speak to me through Your Word in spite of my many sins and failings.

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