July 12, 2015
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July 14, 2015
July 15, 2015
July 16, 2015
July 17, 2015
July 18, 2015
1 “At that time, declares the Lord, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. 2 And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. 3 Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the Lord of hosts.
Sin and Treachery
4 “You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord:
When men fall, do they not rise again?
If one turns away, does he not return?
5 Why then has this people turned away
in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
6 I have paid attention and listened,
but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil,
saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
7 Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules of the Lord.
8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise,
and the law of the Lord is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
has made it into a lie.
9 The wise men shall be put to shame;
they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
so what wisdom is in them?
10 Therefore I will give their wives to others
and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
11 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;
when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord.
13 When I would gather them, declares the Lord,
there are no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree;
even the leaves are withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them.”
14 Why do we sit still?
Gather together; let us go into the fortified cities
and perish there,
for the Lord our God has doomed us to perish
and has given us poisoned water to drink,
because we have sinned against the Lord.
15 We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
16 “The snorting of their horses is heard from Dan;
at the sound of the neighing of their stallions
the whole land quakes.
They come and devour the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
17 For behold, I am sending among you serpents,
adders that cannot be charmed,
and they shall bite you,”
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah Grieves for His People
18 My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?
The Parable of the Wedding Feast
22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
The Great Commandment
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Whose Son Is the Christ?
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
At each stage of Jeremiah's description of the rebellion of God’s people, some facets of their sin are reiterated while others are refined and some new ones introduced. Here I focus on two of the latter (Jer. 8).
First, Jeremiah focuses on the sheer unnaturalness of the people’s unwillingness to learn from their mistakes and repent. The presentation of the argument turns in part on a pun: the Hebrew word for “turn” or “repent” is the same as that rendered “return.” The point is that in ordinary experience someone who “turns away,” i.e., who makes a mistake, eventually returns, learning from the experience. But Israel always turns away (8:4)—they never learn from their bitter experiences. That is because they cherish their sin, they “cling to deceit; they refuse to return” (8:5). “No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’” (8:6).
First-time readers of the Old Testament sometimes wonder how people can be so thick as not to learn from the repeated cycles of rebellion and punishment. Rats in a maze learn to adapt to external stimuli; to some extent, well-brought-up children learn to conform to cultural expectations and hide their worst instincts. Why doesn’t Judah learn from the history of the northern kingdom? Or even from her own checkered history? Although some behavioral modification can be achieved by training, biblical history demonstrates that the problem is bound up with human nature. We are a fallen breed. Sinners will sin. Creeds and covenants and vows and liturgy may domesticate the beast for a while, but what we are will not forever be suppressed. Israel’s history demonstrates the point, not because Israel is the worst of all races, but because Israel is typically human—and fallen. Even people as privileged, chosen, and graced as these cannot escape downward spirals. How naive for us to think that we can!
Second, not only do many of these people foolishly think they are “safe” because they “have the law of the LORD” even though they do not obey it (8:8— a common theme in the prophets), but in this case the problem is massively exacerbated by “the lying pen of the scribes” who have “handled it falsely” (8:8). This is the first Old Testament reference to “scribes” as a class—and the people whose duty it is to study, preserve, and expound the Scriptures mishandle them. Perhaps they pick up elements they like and create a synthesis that pleases them, ignoring the whole; perhaps they deploy clever techniques to make the Law say what their presuppositions and theology demand. Sound familiar? Review the meditation for July 4.
1 Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
2 Oh that I had in the desert
a travelers' lodging place,
that I might leave my people
and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
a company of treacherous men.
3 They bend their tongue like a bow;
falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me, declares the Lord.
4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
5 Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity.
6 Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
they refuse to know me, declares the Lord.
7 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Behold, I will refine them and test them,
for what else can I do, because of my people?
8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
it speaks deceitfully;
with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor,
but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
9 Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?
10 “I will take up weeping and wailing for the mountains,
and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness,
because they are laid waste so that no one passes through,
and the lowing of cattle is not heard;
both the birds of the air and the beasts
have fled and are gone.
11 I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
a lair of jackals,
and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation,
12 Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the Lord spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? 13 And the Lord says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, 14 but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. 16 I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.”
17 Thus says the Lord of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
18 let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.
19 For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings.’”
20 Hear, O women, the word of the Lord,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a lament,
and each to her neighbor a dirge.
21 For death has come up into our windows;
it has entered our palaces,
cutting off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares.
22 Speak: “Thus declares the Lord,
‘The dead bodies of men shall fall
like dung upon the open field,
like sheaves after the reaper,
and none shall gather them.’”
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
25 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”
Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Lament over Jerusalem
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
ONCE AGAIN JEREMIAH CYCLES around some of the themes he has already introduced (Jer. 9). For instance, the closing two verses pick up on true and false circumcision (cf. 4:4). But here, too, a new facet of the sin of the people is explored (9:23-24). About these verses I must say four things:
First, the heart of much sin is the smug self-sufficiency that boasts in its own wisdom or strength or wealth (9:23). That is always a mark of lostness. It focuses on self. Worse, it fails to recognize that all that we have (and boast about) is derived: we do not choose our own genes, or parents, or heritage; all we have achieved has been in function of others, of health, of gifts, of support, of situation—a thousand elements over which we have little control and which, this side of the Fall, we do not have the right to claim. Worst of all, smug and self-sufficient people leave no place for priorities outside themselves; they leave no place for God, for they are their own gods.
Second, there is nothing in the universe more important to human beings than to know the Lord (9:24a). He is God, not we; he is the Creator, not we; he exercises providential rule, not we. He is the Self-Existent, and we are derived and dependent. He inhabits eternity; we are restricted to our very small segment of time. He is utterly holy and glorious; we are massively contaminated by dirt, and stand under his judgment. But we may know him! That is the only thing truly worth “boasting” about. Will you doubt this point two hundred or two billion years from now?
Third, the One we know is Yahweh, “who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth” (9:24b). “Kindness” is God’s covenantal love, his covenantal mercy, bound up with his own utter reliability—a virtue that stands in stunning contrast to the fickleness of the people in rebellion against him.
Fourth, Paul understands the universal applicability of these verses when he alludes to them and then cites part of them in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. He writes, “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth”—the kinds of things the Corinthians were boasting about. “Wise/wisdom” is found in both contexts; Paul interprets “strong” not in terms of physical strength but in terms of political and social influence; he interprets the “rich” in terms of the “noble,” for in the preindustrial world the two usually went hand in hand. But if Christ is our true wisdom—“that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), then, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1:31).
Idols and the Living God
1 Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the Lord:
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
3 for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
4 They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
6 There is none like you, O Lord;
you are great, and your name is great in might.
7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you.
8 They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood!
9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
10 But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
12 It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
13 When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
14 Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
15 They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
16 Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the Lord of hosts is his name.
17 Gather up your bundle from the ground,
O you who dwell under siege!
18 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I am slinging out the inhabitants of the land
at this time,
and I will bring distress on them,
that they may feel it.”
19 Woe is me because of my hurt!
My wound is grievous.
But I said, “Truly this is an affliction,
and I must bear it.”
20 My tent is destroyed,
and all my cords are broken;
my children have gone from me,
and they are not;
there is no one to spread my tent again
and to set up my curtains.
21 For the shepherds are stupid
and do not inquire of the Lord;
therefore they have not prospered,
and all their flock is scattered.
22 A voice, a rumor! Behold, it comes!—
a great commotion out of the north country
to make the cities of Judah a desolation,
a lair of jackals.
23 I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
24 Correct me, O Lord, but in justice;
not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
25 Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not,
and on the peoples that call not on your name,
for they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him and consumed him,
and have laid waste his habitation.
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple
1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Signs of the End of the Age
3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The Abomination of Desolation
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
The Coming of the Son of Man
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day and Hour
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Two reflections on Jeremiah 10:
First, the catastrophic punishment about to befall Judah is traced to her
incompetent leaders: “The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered” (10:21). “Shepherds” in this context includes more than “pastors” (KJV): it includes all who direct the affairs of the nation—king, priests, prophets, and other leaders.
The arena in which these leaders are incompetent is not general administration, charismatic sheen, financial acuity, or management potential. They are “senseless,” and their folly is manifest in the fact that they “do not inquire of the LORD.” This cannot mean that they do not go through the mere forms of seeking out the Lord’s counsel, consulting the prophets and treating the prescribed rituals like a talisman that brings good luck. It means, rather, that they do not really want to do what God wants. They do not approach him with the contrition and profound reverence for his Word of which Isaiah speaks (Isa. 66). They do not treat him as if he is radically “other” and fundamentally different from the myriad false gods that surround them. Neither nations nor churches rise higher than their leaders. If our leaders are passionate about knowing and obeying the will of the Lord, our prospects are excellent; if they are dissolute and intoxicated by selfism, our prospects are dim or even desperate.
Second, in the closing verses (10:23-25) Jeremiah identifies with his people in a startling way. “I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, LORD, but only with justice—not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing” (10:23-24). These lines might initially be read as referring to Jeremiah the prophet, Jeremiah the individual, and nothing more. Certainly individual believers ought so to be aware of their own sins that they entreat God to spare them from the destruction they deserve. But closer inspection shows that the sins Jeremiah is confessing are the sins of the nation, in particular the smug self-determinism that refuses to acknowledge the sheer Godhood of God, the glorious truth that God alone is God and is in control. The next verse (10:25) discloses that what Jeremiah wants God to spare is “Jacob,” the covenant people of God. Doubtless punishment is decreed against them, but Jeremiah pleads with God that he will not wipe out the people in his wrath, but reserve the worst measures for “the peoples who do not call on your name.” Thus Jeremiah cries to God for himself, but also for his people with whom he identifies—not unlike Paul in Galatians 2:17-21 and perhaps Romans 7:7ff.
The Broken Covenant
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.”
6 And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”
9 Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. 11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. 13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.
14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. 15 What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? 16 The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.”
18 The Lord made it known to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
19 But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.
21 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand”— 22 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine, 23 and none of them shall be left. For I will bring disaster upon the men of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.”
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps[a] and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[c] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[d] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The Final Judgment
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The opening of Jeremiah 11 shows that what follows is a new prophecy, a new oracle from God, the fourth reported in this book. It is difficult to be certain exactly when it was preached. Many have suggested, plausibly enough, that it was delivered not too long after Hilkiah rediscovered the scroll of the Law, about 621 B.C. This generated something of a religious reformation under King Josiah (2 Kings 22—23). According to 2 Chronicles 34, the discovery of the scroll was preceded by a centralization of worship at Jerusalem. Inevitably this meant a decline of the rites shaped by Canaanite religion at the local shrines—and, presumably, an increase in the resentment of local religious leaders. Jeremiah certainly supported Josiah in this reformation. If this is the setting—and one cannot be certain, for there are other possibilities—two elements in the chapter before us take on new significance.
First, the Lord tells Jeremiah to threaten the people with judgment specifically grounded in the blessings and cursings of the Mosaic covenant (11:6-8). What is threatened is more specific than the judgments reserved for other nations, judgments grounded in God’s response to unrighteousness and idolatry. Rather, what is threatened is no more and no less than what the covenant said would happen if the people fell away into disobedience (Deut. 28). The religion of the covenant people of God had apparently become so debased, so merely traditional, and so removed from any current study of the Scriptures, that such elements had largely passed from public memory, until the scroll of the Law was rediscovered. These specific covenantal threats of judgment were what caused Josiah to tear his clothes and utter, “Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13). Assuming this setting for Jeremiah 11, the prophet is carefully drawing out the covenantal implications of the failure to obey.
Second, this also explains why the men of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s own village, seek to do away with him (Jer. 11:18-23). Priests had lived there since the time of the settlement under Joshua (Josh. 21:18). Because this line had participated in the revolt against David, Solomon excluded them from temple service (1 Kings 2:26-27). Doubtless they were heavily invested in local shrines and resented the centralized worship in the Jerusalem temple, where they were not allowed to serve. So in addition to the animus against a local (a prophet is without honor in his home town, Luke 4:24), these men may have especially hated Jeremiah’s support for Josiah’s reformation. Where there is no passion for the Word of God, other passions take over.
1 Righteous are you, O Lord,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
2 You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart.
3 But you, O Lord, know me;
you see me, and test my heart toward you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
4 How long will the land mourn
and the grass of every field wither?
For the evil of those who dwell in it
the beasts and the birds are swept away,
because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”
The Lord Answers Jeremiah
5 “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
6 For even your brothers and the house of your father,
even they have dealt treacherously with you;
they are in full cry after you;
do not believe them,
though they speak friendly words to you.”
7 “I have forsaken my house;
I have abandoned my heritage;
I have given the beloved of my soul
into the hands of her enemies.
8 My heritage has become to me
like a lion in the forest;
she has lifted up her voice against me;
therefore I hate her.
9 Is my heritage to me like a hyena's lair?
Are the birds of prey against her all around?
Go, assemble all the wild beasts;
bring them to devour.
10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard;
they have trampled down my portion;
they have made my pleasant portion
a desolate wilderness.
11 They have made it a desolation;
desolate, it mourns to me.
The whole land is made desolate,
but no man lays it to heart.
12 Upon all the bare heights in the desert
destroyers have come,
for the sword of the Lord devours
from one end of the land to the other;
no flesh has peace.
13 They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns;
they have tired themselves out but profit nothing.
They shall be ashamed of their[a] harvests
because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
14 Thus says the Lord concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. 15 And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. 16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. 17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a] 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Judas to Betray Jesus
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The Passover with the Disciples
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.[b] 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
Institution of the Lord's Supper
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[d] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.[e] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”[f] Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant[g] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council
57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council[h] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”[i] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
Peter Denies Jesus
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
In the eighth century before Christ, Hosea experienced the terrible betrayal of a woman joined to him by the covenant of marriage who was tragically committed to prostitution. He learned thereby something of how God perceives the spiritual prostitution of the people to whom he was covenantally linked. In a somewhat similar vein, Jeremiah has suffered rejection by his friends and relatives (11:18-23—yesterday’s meditation). His anguish and anger over the situation sets the stage for God to explain his own response to the people who have rejected him (Jer. 12).
The question Jeremiah raises is prompted by his experiences in the immediately preceding verses. He has been doing his bit to foster reformation, yet his life is threatened by the relatives and people of his own village. Although he still affirms the righteousness of God, Jeremiah protests, “Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (12:1). Plunged into despair and flooded with a sense of the sheer inequity of it all, Jeremiah in the opening verses of this chapter asks God why he does not simply root out the wicked and do away with them.
God does not directly respond to Jeremiah’s question (12:5-6). Instead, he tells the prophet, in effect, that he hasn’t seen anything yet. If Jeremiah stumbles so painfully in his own village, how will he fare in the far more complicated and perverse atmosphere of Jerusalem? “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” (12:5). If you stumble in the relatively safe arena of Anathoth, “how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (In the preexilic period, the Jordan’s flood-plain was covered with luxuriant vegetation that protected many wild animals, including the Asiatic lion.) Many Christian leaders have had to learn that initial sufferings merely prepare the way for much more of the same.
At least Jeremiah is a little better able to understand what God means when he says, “I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies. My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest. She roars at me; therefore I hate her” (12:7-8). So the following verses depict the judgment that must inevitably ensue.
Even here, however, God’s graciousness shines through. After God has “uprooted” them, he will bring them back to their own inheritance (12:14-15). If exile is inevitable because of their sin, restoration will follow because of God’s compassion. Even pagan nations will join in the blessing of the Lord, wherever they repudiate the Baals and swear by the living God (12:16).
The Ruined Loincloth
1 Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, 4 “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6 And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.
The Jars Filled with Wine
12 “You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Every jar shall be filled with wine.”’ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?’ 13 Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David's throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 14 And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.’”
15 Hear and give ear; be not proud,
for the Lord has spoken.
16 Give glory to the Lord your God
before he brings darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the twilight mountains,
and while you look for light
he turns it into gloom
and makes it deep darkness.
17 But if you will not listen,
my soul will weep in secret for your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears,
because the Lord's flock has been taken captive.
18 Say to the king and the queen mother:
“Take a lowly seat,
for your beautiful crown
has come down from your head.”
19 The cities of the Negeb are shut up,
with none to open them;
all Judah is taken into exile,
wholly taken into exile.
20 “Lift up your eyes and see
those who come from the north.
Where is the flock that was given you,
your beautiful flock?
21 What will you say when they set as head over you
those whom you yourself have taught to be friends to you?
Will not pangs take hold of you
like those of a woman in labor?
22 And if you say in your heart,
‘Why have these things come upon me?’
it is for the greatness of your iniquity
that your skirts are lifted up
and you suffer violence.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
24 I will scatter you[a] like chaff
driven by the wind from the desert.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have measured out to you, declares the Lord,
because you have forgotten me
and trusted in lies.
26 I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,
and your shame will be seen.
27 I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be before you are made clean?”
Jesus Delivered to Pilate
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
Judas Hangs Himself
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”
Jesus Before Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood;[b] see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[c] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
45 Now from the sixth hour[f] there was darkness over all the land[g] until the ninth hour.[h] 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[i] of God!”
55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus Is Buried
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[j] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Matthew tells us that at the moment Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The immediate cause was apparently the earthquake that accompanied Jesus’ death. Yet it is impossible for the thoughtful Christian not to nestle this brief and cryptic observation into the bigger picture—the account of what the curtain had already come to mean in the history of Israel and how it plays out in the later books of the New Testament, such as Hebrews and Revelation, where the first generation of Christian writers explain to their readers just what the cross achieved. Along this axis, the tearing of the curtain was a symbol-laden act of great significance. Four reflections:
(1) Neither the curtain nor the tearing of the curtain make any sense unless we see that, this side of the Fall, we have no right to come into the presence of a holy God. After their calamitous rebellion, Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden (Gen. 3). When the rescued Israelites construct their golden calf in the desert, God not only sends judgment, but threatens not to manifest himself among them, lest they be destroyed (Ex. 32—33). In narrative and oracle alike, the biblical writers drive home this truth: sin separates us from our transcendentally holy Maker. We do not have right of access to the most holy.
(2) That reality was symbolized in the construction of the tabernacle and later the temple. One third of the structure, called the Most Holy Place, had the dimensions of a cube. It was separated from the rest of the building by a heavy curtain. Here God manifested himself in glory. Only the high priest could enter—and only once a year, bearing the blood of the prescribed sacrifices, offered up for his own sins and for the sins of the people. All others were excluded under pain of death.
(3) The tearing of the curtain at the moment of Jesus’ death therefore symbolizes that Jesus’ death has gained access for sinners into the very presence of God. He is our great high priest; he is our atoning sacrifice. Nor does he have to slip into the Most Holy Place every year, once a year. He dies once for all and satisfies the holy demand of God, so that in principle the curtain can come down.
(4) Small wonder, then, that the “new Jerusalem,” one of the images for the final abode of God’s people (Rev. 21—22), is shaped like a perfect cube. Already Christians have access to the throne of God by the merit of Jesus Christ; in the consummation, however, we will stand unafraid and overwhelmed by joy and adoration in the unshielded splendor of his holiness.
Famine, Sword, and Pestilence
1The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:
2 “Judah mourns,
and her gates languish;
her people lament on the ground,
and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
3 Her nobles send their servants for water;
they come to the cisterns;
they find no water;
they return with their vessels empty;
they are ashamed and confounded
and cover their heads.
4 Because of the ground that is dismayed,
since there is no rain on the land,
the farmers are ashamed;
they cover their heads.
5 Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
because there is no grass.
6 The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights;
they pant for air like jackals;
their eyes fail
because there is no vegetation.
7 “Though our iniquities testify against us,
act, O Lord, for your name's sake;
for our backslidings are many;
we have sinned against you.
8 O you hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
9 Why should you be like a man confused,
like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us,
and we are called by your name;
do not leave us.”
10 Thus says the Lord concerning this people:
“They have loved to wander thus;
they have not restrained their feet;
therefore the Lord does not accept them;
now he will remember their iniquity
and punish their sins.”
11 The Lord said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”
13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.
17 “You shall say to them this word:
‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
with a very grievous blow.
18 If I go out into the field,
behold, those pierced by the sword!
And if I enter the city,
behold, the diseases of famine!
For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land
and have no knowledge.’”
19 Have you utterly rejected Judah?
Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
20 We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,
and the iniquity of our fathers,
for we have sinned against you.
21 Do not spurn us, for your name's sake;
do not dishonor your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.
22 Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O Lord our God?
We set our hope on you,
for you do all these things.
1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The Report of the Guard
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
The Great Commission
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This chapter, Jeremiah 14, oscillates between poetry and prose, and between God’s speech and Jeremiah’s response. The occasion is the calamitous drought devastating the country. Some reflections:
(1) A disaster may be no more than the effluent of the Fall, and not God’s specific judgment on a people. Even then it reminds us of our mortality and our lostness, and calls for repentance (Luke 13:1-5). Nevertheless, a specific disaster may be the immediate and direct judgment of God on a people. Therefore disasters demand self-examination and a humble heart. In exactly the same way, a crippling illness may not be the direct consequence of a specific sin (John 9). But it may be (John 5).
(2) Again and again in the Old Testament, God punishes the covenant community for their sins by using the recurrent banes of the ancient world: sword (i.e., war, and sometimes exile with it), famine, and plague (14:11-12). This threefold combination is brought together seven times in the prophecy of Jeremiah. Ezekiel 14 adds a fourth: wild beasts. These are either “natural” phenomena (famine and plague) or are brought about by wicked human conduct (war, and sometimes famine and plague).
(3) Because our own culture tries so hard to detach from God what happens in the “natural” world, reserving for him only private or distantly “spiritual” things, we rush to give naturalistic explanations for our wars and famines and plagues instead of at least trying to learn the lessons providence may be teaching us. I am not suggesting that it is easy to read providence. We have seen that Scripture itself warns us against trying to infer too much too quickly (Luke 13:1-5). Nevertheless, not to draw any moral and spiritual lessons from disasters may be nothing more than an index of how far we have sold ourselves to the forces of secularization. We resolutely refuse to “hear” what God says when he speaks to us in the language of judgment—exactly the response of ancient Israel. Indeed, according to this chapter there was a hearty collection of religious leaders who denied any connection between disaster and divine judgment (14:14). It is ever so. So not only will prophets be held accountable for what they say and teach, but the people are responsible for what they choose to listen to. Shall we not learn any moral and spiritual lessons in this bloody twentieth century from two world wars, the arms race, economic collapses, the Nazis, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Biafra, the Balkans, Rwanda, Vietnam, wretched totalitarian regimes of left and right, famines, slavery, the Sudan, racism, AIDS, abortion? Kipling was right: “Lord God of hosts, be with us yet / Lest we forget; lest we forget.”
Praise God for both the freedom He grants us from the Law and for the loving, gracious conviction He brings when we sin. Ask God to help guide us all to avoid trying to cover our sin with moral behavior instead of the blood of Jesus. Thank God for His forgiveness made possible through Jesus Christ and for cleansing us from sin. Ask the Spirit to guide us to avoid and resist temptation to sin. Pray we will all embrace our calling to help others know how they too can be cleansed from their sin. Praise God for his abundant generosity.
Red Mountain Grace
This week we are praying for Red Mountain Grace, a non-profit ministry begun by Brook Hills attender, Jason Carroll. Red Mountain Grace is dedicated as a place of refuge for out-of-town patients and caregivers receiving extended medical treatment in the “Steel City.” This Christ-centered organization is available to caregivers and patients regardless of age or reason for hospitalization. We are also praying for Household of Faith Church, East Lake, and Larry Cockrell, Pastor.
Day 1: Pray for the gospel to be known, and lives to be changed through the work and words of volunteers and staff at Red Mountain Grace.
Day 2: Pray for guests of Red Mountain Grace to find comfort and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ as they walk through the valley of trials and sometimes death.
Day 3: Pray for God to grant the Red Mountain Grace leadership wisdom, courage, and strength to guide the organization in such a way that will bring maximum glory to Him.
Day 4: Pray for God to provide more apartments through owners in Birmingham so more patients and families can see the gospel at work.
Day 5: Pray for God to increase Red Mountain Grace partnerships with churches, businesses, and individuals in the community.
Day 6: Pray for God to empower, equip, and encourage the patient coordinator, Debbie, as she cares for, prays for, and invests her life into situations that don’t always end with a patient’s physical healing.
BH Long-Termers Returning to Birmingham
This week we are praying for Long-Term missionaries who are returning to Birmingham for a visit and some who are returning permanently as they finish up their commitments to the field. If you would like to encourage and help in the transition back or even have any of these Long-Termers share at your small group, contact email@example.com. This week we are also praying for Short-Term teams serving in New Jersey and Ecuador.
Day 1: We are excited to have Jenny W. who serves in East Asia back in Birmingham for a month as she visits friends and family and prepares to be sent back out this Fall in a different capacity. Pray for Jenny as she ties up a few loose ends regarding her future employment and return.
Day 2: Praise God for the work He has done in and through Scott and Tammie Frost’s family as they served at the Highlands International School in Bolivia for the last few years. Ask God to give grace as they transition back to Birmingham and re-establish their lives here.
Day 3: We are happy to have Josip and Kelly Debeljuh back in Birmingham for at least the next year. Pray for their family to find rest and joy in their time here. Pray for those in Croatia to continue the ministry that was started and for God to give Josip and Kelly clear direction for their future.
Day 4: Praise God for all He has done in India through the ministry He has given to Kristina Ogren Jaggi. We are grateful to have her and her husband, Parag, with us for the next few months as they visit friends and family and welcome their first child this Fall.
Day 5: Praise God for Matt B. who has been serving for the last two years with our Central Asia Church Planting Team. Matt arrived back in the states last week. Pray for mercy as Matt establishes a life here in the U.S. and for clear vision.
Day 6: Jessica S. who serves on our North Africa Church Planting Team will be in Birmingham next week. She will be here for 6 months. Ask God to provide for her needs while she is here and encourage and fill her heart.