I Sing for Joy at What Your Hands Have Done

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JEREMIAH 42:1-44:23 | 2 TIMOTHY 2:1-21 | PSALM 92:1-93:5 | PROVERBS 26:3-5

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Nebuchadnezzar and his armies have decimated Jerusalem, and have taken the best of the people as prisoners of war back to Babylon.  What is left is a sad remnant of those who have been left behind after the assassination of the puppet governor installed by Nebuchadnezzar in Judah and after the exodus of others following the assassination to Egypt. 

If you think things are bad for the children of Israel, they’re actually very bad as things go.  But the few that do remain in the land seem to show some understanding of the gravity of the situation, and it must have been truly a thoughtful man who decides that the next best course of action might be to approach Jeremiah, the prophet. 

He’s not so crazy anymore, is what the people must have realized. And so, they go to Jeremiah with a view to beseeching him for advice from the Lord. 

They say to him, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the LORD your God sends you to tell us. 6 Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the LORD our God.”

And so, Jeremiah seeks the Lord’s advice, and ten days later, this is what he tells the people that the Lord has said:  10 ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the LORD, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. 12 I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’

There is also an alternate scenario presented if the people decide to spurn this instruction and flee to Egypt instead—like many before them have already done.  You would think the people would have by now realized that the words of this man Jeremiah must carry some weight, and that it might be better to heed him at this time—you would think that—but no, on the contrary, this is what the people reply to Jeremiah.

They say:  “You are lying! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’ 3 But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon.”

Well, there is only so much that may be said and done with a stubborn people.  The people spurn the words of Jeremiah, and continue with their original mission to go back to Egypt. 

The horror of it, can you imagine?! For it is from Egypt that they were originally delivered by Moses.

And so Jeremiah says this to his people:  2 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins 3 because of the evil they have done. They aroused my anger by burning incense to and worshiping other gods that neither they nor you nor your ancestors ever knew. 4 Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’ 5 But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods. 6 Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.

What could be more pathetic than a people who have ears to hear but do not hear, eyes to see and do not see, and a prophet amongst them who speaks out loud and clear, but whose words are never heeded.  This was the pathetic state of affairs of the people of Israel.  The God of their fathers has been put aside, and the most abhorrent act of idol-worship has been taken up again by the people. 

Without shame or remorse, this is what the people tell Jeremiah:  16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. 18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”

It is to be seen what might be next in store for these erring children of Israel. 

But in the meantime, we must now turn to Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Paul is like a father-figure to young Timothy, and writes these letters to him in the most patient, instructive, and indulgent tone. 

He say to Timothy:  1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

Paul then goes on to reiterate the primary focus of the gospel, or good news, viz. Jesus Christ himself.  He says, 8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Next, Paul wishes to address the seemingly prevalent issue of false teachers who constantly desire to debate doctrines and theologies.  While there is nothing untoward about such endeavors, there is a limit to such debates, and Paul cautions Timothy against falling prey to such exercises too often.  

He says, 14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene.

Paul has the highest hopes for Timothy, and wishes for him to shine in his person and teachings.  He offers an analogy of various vessels in the house, and exhorts Timothy to strive to be the best. 

Paul says20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Turning now to our reading of the Psalms, we find a joyful psalm of praise.  It is so very heartening to read and repeat these words of thanksgiving and praise, authored by David, a man after God’s own heart.  David says:

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
   I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

5 How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!

Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs that speak to the futility of engaging a fool in conversation.  Solomon, the wise king of Israel, gives us some food for thought when he says:

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.

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

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