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In the Morning My Prayer Comes Before You

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JEREMIAH 31:27-32:44 | 1 TIMOTHY 3:1-16 | PSALM 88:1-18 | PROVERBS 25:20-22

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Jeremiah has prophesied at length about the devastation and doom that is to come upon the children of Israel.  He has told them in great detail how they will be led into captivity by the kings of Babylon.  But he now moves on to speak about what is to come beyond that. 

Jeremiah continues his prophecies about the restoration of Israel, and this is the word of the Lord regarding the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem and its people:

31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

And then, here is a promise like none other—if ever there was a promise made to last the test of time, it would be like this one.  This is a promise concerning the everlasting love for Israel that the Lord gives to them.  Jeremiah says:

35 This is what the LORD says,

   he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name:
36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
declares the LORD,
“will Israel ever cease
being a nation before me.”

 37 This is what the LORD says:

   “Only if the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
because of all they have done,”
declares the LORD.

Is that not remarkable in every singular way? I find myself at a loss for words for how so great an affirmation such as this does the Lord provide to his people.

Jeremiah then goes on to buy a field in a symbolic gesture as commanded by the Lord, and delivers this remarkable prophecy from the Lord who says:  37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.  42 “This is what the LORD says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them. 43 Once more fields will be bought in this land of which you say, ‘It is a desolate waste, without people or animals, for it has been given into the hands of the Babylonians.’ 44 Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”

I thought it necessary to reproduce in vast sections these verses so as to recognize and reaffirm the power of the written word.  To the believer, these are no ordinary words.  They carry within them all the power and meaning of the existence of the Jewish people.

Turning next to our reading of Paul’s letter to Timothy, we find Paul offering a long list of advice on the manner in which any person holding office ought to conduct himself. 

Paul goes on to explain the reason for all this good advice in this way: 14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

And just in case there are any lapses of memory as to why we ought to even bother, well, Paul offers a succinct version of the gospel.  He says: 

16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

   He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

We turn now to our reading of the Psalms, and find one that David must have written in one of his darkest hours.  He cries out to the Lord:

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

So desperate is he for deliverance, that he employs only the faintest hint of sarcasm in his pleas to the Almighty!  He says:

I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

 13 But I cry to you for help, LORD;
   in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

We know what the answer to that question is, of course.  Just like the turning away from the children of Israel was for a time, so also the Lord’s silence toward David would be only for a while.

Finally, two fascinating verses from the book of Proverbs.  The first one is concerning the futility of comfort when the distress is so deep in that even songs cannot lighten one’s heart.  The second embodies all the tenets of the Christian faith, in particular, the classic response of “turning one’s cheek,” only this has the added benefit of heaping coals upon your enemies’ heads! 

Solomon, wise king of Israel, says this:

20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on a wound,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you.

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

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