May Your Mercy Come Quickly to Meet Us

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JEREMIAH 12:1-14:10 | 1 THESSALONIANS 1:1-2:8 | PSALM 79:1-13 | PROVERBS 24:30-34

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Jeremiah is the unwilling prophet who took up his commission with some reservations, but once he got started, there was no stopping him! 

Every so often, however, he does pause to reflect and make note of his own thoughts.  This is one such time.  He has a complaint that is as old as the hills, and asks this of the Lord:

Why do all the faithless live at ease?
2 You have planted them, and they have taken root;
they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
but far from their hearts.

And if you think the ways of the Lord are mysterious, you are not alone.  There is further indication of the unknowable ways and purposes of the Lord concerning the people of Israel. 

As proclaimed by Jeremiah, this is what the Lord says concerning Israel:  14 …“As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. 15 But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. 16 And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the LORD lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people. 17 But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it.”

But these are a stubborn people who have turned their heads and hearts away from the Lord, and it is a sad day for Jeremiah to have said these words:  ”Woe to you, Jerusalem!  How long will you be unclean?” 

And so Jeremiah says this about his people:

“They greatly love to wander;
they do not restrain their feet.
So the LORD does not accept them;
he will now remember their wickedness
and punish them for their sins.”

Jeremiah’s prophecies will come to pass, as we well know.  Forgiveness and redemption will follow much later.

We turn now to our reading in the New Testament, and find that we are embarking on a new book today which is essentially the first epistle or letter that Paul has written to the church in Thessalonica, a town in modern Greece.  This book is commonly known as First Thessalonians, and is considered to be one of the first of Paul’s such letters that comprises his writings in the New Testament—written around the year 52 A.D. 

During the course of his missionary travels, Paul has planted many such churches which are essentially groups of believers of the new Christian faith, and Paul is faithful to keep in touch with them via letters that encourage, teach, admonish, and inform. 

Paul says to his readers:  6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.

Speaking of his initial ministry among them who were predominantly Gentile, i.e., non-Jews, Paul reminds them of his motives and methods.  He says:  2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

Turning now to our reading of the Psalms, we find one authored by a Psalmist by the name of Asaph.  The contrite tone and words of this man are not dissimilar to the prophet Jeremiah from several hundred years earlier.  This Psalmist says:

8 Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
9 Help us, God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”

   Before our eyes, make known among the nations
that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
11 May the groans of the prisoners come before you;
with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
12 Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise.

Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel, is speaking to the evils of slothfulness by way of sharing these observations:

32 I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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