JEREMIAH 51:1-53 | TITUS 2:1-15 | PSALM 99:1-9 | PROVERBS 26:17
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Jeremiah has been on a roll. After prophesying the downfall of Jerusalem and of ten Gentile nations, he now takes a moment to catch his breath.
But only long enough to exhale, and then he returns with a vengeance, but this time to predict the fall of Babylon itself.
For all practical purposes, Israel is no more: the holy city of Jerusalem has been decimated; the people taken into captivity; the rest of the people have hastened to go into exile; and barely a handful remain where they are—desolate, and in despair.
But Jeremiah has words of promise for this pathetic group. This is what he prophesies for the “remnant”:
5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
by their God, the LORD Almighty,
though their land is full of guilt
before the Holy One of Israel.
And that is not all. There is a time and place for everything. It is Babylon that receives a most harsh verdict in the foretellings of Jeremiah. This is what is in store for them, says Jeremiah:
The LORD will carry out his purpose,
his decree against the people of Babylon.
13 You who live by many waters
and are rich in treasures,
your end has come,
the time for you to be destroyed.
Jeremiah has no qualms in telling it like it is, and he does so yet again. He has many a time lamented the abhorrent practice of idolatry, and he is reiterating his views on the matter in the following verses. He says:
17 “…every goldsmith is shamed by his idols.
The images he makes are a fraud;
they have no breath in them.
18 They are worthless, the objects of mockery;
when their judgment comes, they will perish.
19 He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these,
for he is the Maker of all things,
including the people of his inheritance—
the LORD Almighty is his name.
And as for Babylon, a day will soon come, when this will be their fate, says Jeremiah:
31 One courier follows another
and messenger follows messenger
to announce to the king of Babylon
that his entire city is captured,
32 the river crossings seized,
the marshes set on fire,
and the soldiers terrified.”
No, it does not bode well for Babylon. Her worst nightmare will certainly come to pass, as per the word of the Lord delivered to Jeremiah, who goes on to say:
37 Babylon will be a heap of ruins,
a haunt of jackals,
an object of horror and scorn,
a place where no one lives.
Well, we must leave this domain for a little while, and turn now to our reading of Paul’s letter to Titus.
Titus, a young man, not unlike Timothy, has found a mentor in Paul, who cares deeply for the church that has been planted in Crete, and to which Titus has been sent to minister to. Paul takes care to go over so many details, both small and large, that I never cease to be amazed at his capacity for thinking of every possible thing concerning one’s conduct, one to another.
He has specific advice for all, and pays attention to each group. There was evidently a mix of people from every walk of life in these newly founded churches: Jew and Gentile, bond and free—no one was barred from accepting the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and all were a part of the church.
Paul’s advice to Titus, the pastor of this church, is therefore specific to the various groups. The advice, is timeless, however, and it would behoove us to note how essential each aspect ought to be in these modern times as well.
For the older men, Paul says: 1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
For the older women who would in turn teach younger women, his advice is: 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
For young men, the advice is: 6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
And for the slaves, there is specific advice as well: 9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
And if there was any doubt about why even bother about instructing this one or that one, Paul makes it clear with this statement:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
Is that sufficiently clear, gentle reader?
Paul carries on: 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Therefore, do good for the sake of doing good, and nothing more, he seems to say. Not because you can earn something from it, but because it is the right thing to do, and because it is the least that you can do after so great a gift of redemption in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been given to you.
Given all that, why would you NOT do good?!
We turn now to our Psalm of the day, and find in Psalm 99, a majestic psalm of praise. In these simple lines, the psalmist speaks of the Lord’s great love and forgiveness to his people, Israel. David says:
8 LORD our God,
you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds.
Finally, a marvelously graphic verse concerning busybodies:
17 Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.