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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

28 August 2012

Week 35: Lamentations

August 26 Lamentations 1:1-3:36
August 27 Lamentations 3:37-5:22

We’ve finished the little book of the Lamentations. It’s Hebrew title is ‘ekah, which translates to How? The English title comes from the Latin Vulgate lamentia, or funeral dirges. Tradition says that Jeremiah wrote these five poems of lament, but we can’t be sure. The language is similar to the book of Jeremiah, and it seems the author was an eyewitness to the disaster. What we do know is that this book was written in response to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587 BC. If Jeremiah wrote the book, he must have wondered why God bothered to have him warn the people for the past 40 or so years! For ease of reading, I will attribute the book to Jeremiah.

The theme of the book is the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem. This event is recorded four times in the Old Testament (2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36, Jeremiah 39 and Jeremiah 52). King Nebuchadnezzar was allowed to invade in 605 BC to punish evil King Jehoiakim. Daniel and his friends, and many others, were deported to Babylon. Jerusalem was invaded again in 597, and the final siege began in 588. In 586 the walls were breached and the city was set on fire. Jews recall this event on August 14 every year when the Lamentations are read in the synagogues.

Jeremiah wrestled with God over why this happened. He wondered how a loving God could allow such destruction – and at the same time realized that God was punishing the people for longstanding sins,

Those Jews were holding on to false hopes. First, they though that they had a free ticket to do whatever they wanted because God promised that David’s house would never perish and that there would always be a ruler on David’s throne. They thought that God meant nothing would ever happen, but God isn’t in the business of giving a free ride. The covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:26-33 (ESV)

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30  Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33  Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:29-36 (ESV)

Second, the Jews thought that God would always protect His temple. Jeremiah delivered an entire message on the false hope (Jeremiah 26:1-11).

Finally, the Jews looked to Egypt for protection instead of looking to God. Abraham tried the same thing (Genesis 12) and it got him into trouble. Even though God had miraculously saved the people at the Red Sea and brought them out of slavery in Egypt, they wanted to go back (Exodus 14:11-12, 16:1-3; 17:3; Numbers 14:1-5). God wanted them – and us – to place full faith in His grace and mercy. When they – and we – look away from God and look to people for our salvation, bad things happen!

Matthew tells us who some of the people thought Jesus was:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Matt 16:13-14 (ESV)

Jeremiah, while obviously not God, shared many similarities of ministry with Jesus.

Both were rejected by their people.

Both wept over the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41)

Both were hated without cause (Lamentations 3:52; John 15:25)

Both were rejected by their family (Jeremiah 11:18-23; John 7:3-5)

Both taught that religion should be from the heart and not by ritual. Both used common activities and things to instruct the people. The leaders of the day rejected both. Jeremiah was exiled to Egypt and Jesus was hung on the cross.

Both were considered failures in their day. Both have been proven right in the intervening years.

We aren’t much different than the people of Jeremiah’s day. Some Christians think that they have a “ticket to heaven” and so can continually remain in sins that God clearly calls abominations. Some Christians lie, steal and cheat in the name of God. Some abuse their power. Some pervert the Scriptures for their own gain. But some, like Jeremiah, are calling us to repent, pray, turn, share, and weep over our world.

Through the destruction of Jerusalem and the Egyptian captivity, God shows us many things.
Privilege brings responsibility. Responsibility must have accountability.

God is gracious, loving and longsuffering, but continual sin requires punishment.

God gives blessings, but if we take them for granted, He will take them from us.

God is faithful to the terms of His covenant. If we obey, we are blessed. If we sin, we are punished.

If your pastor isn’t listening to and obeying God, he will lead the flock into sin.

You can do God’s work for years (Jeremiah worked more than 40) and never see the fruits of your labor.

Success can’t be measured in earthly terms. We need to strive to become more like Jesus and not concern ourselves with what the world thinks.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 (ESV)

We learn many lessons from the Lamentations that apply to us in 2012 and beyond. I pray that you will take these lessons to heart and apply them to your life.

What did you take away from both Jeremiah and his Lamentations? What areas in your life need improvement? Are you worshiping from the heart? Acknowledging God’s blessings in your life? Striving to be more Christlike every day? Working for God even when you don’t see results?

Let me know what you see and think! I will post the rest of the week’s readings on Saturday.

26 August 2012

Week 35 Readings

August 26 Lamentations 1:1-3:36
August 27 Lamentations 3:37-5:22
August 28 Ezekiel 1-4
August 29 Ezekiel 5-8
August 30 Ezekiel 9-12
August 31 Ezekiel 13-16

25 August 2012

Week 34 Review

August 19 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chronicles 36:1-21; Jeremiah 52
August 20 Jeremiah 41-44
August 21 Obadiah; Psalms 82; 83
August 22 Jeremiah 45-48
August 23 Jeremiah 49-50
August 24 Jeremiah 51; Psalm 137

Jerusalem fell and fell hard. For two years the people were under siege, but the Babylonians finally breached the walls. In all that time, I wonder if they remembered God’s words and whether anyone talked of repentance and recommitment. One way or another, it didn’t happen and the people were captured and the temple was plundered and burned. God destroyed Judah for long standing sins – the sins of King Manasseh and for all the innocent blood he shed.

Even in captivity we see how much God loves His people. God told Jeremiah to tell the people not to fear the King of Babylon. He wanted them to remain and to prosper – and if they chose to leave and go to Egypt, God promised death. The people didn’t want to hear it, and they listened to Azariah and Johanan. These two ear ticklers accused Jeremiah of lying and convinced the people to flee to Egypt. I can’t imagine how disappointed God was! God gave us free will and we can choose to obey or disobey. Once again He watched His people turn their backs on the sure thing promised by God and gamble their lives and their futures on men who didn’t speak for God.

We aren’t any different! It’s much easier (and sometimes more fun) to turn from all that God wants us to do and listen to watered down “religion”. Frankly, wouldn’t most people want to sit under leadership that encouraged our sins rather than chastising us for them? Wouldn’t we like to get that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? That’s what God’s kids did – looking at Egypt as a place of happiness and refuge, even though God clearly told them they would die.

God sends Jeremiah messages to various nations.

Egypt – prepare to be devoured. They were defeated by Babylon in 605 BC

Philistines – you will endure total destruction. Defeated by Nebuchadnezzar 605 BC

Moab – you trusted in “stuff” and now you will be exiled and put to shame. Defeated 582 BC

Ammon – you will see utter desolation, but God will restore your fortunes as He will for Israel and Moab. Defeated 582 BC

Edom (descendants of Esau) – will become a horror, taunt, waste, curse.  Obadiah’s prophecies dovetail Jeremiah’s (check my post on Obadiah).

Damascus – anguish and panic as Syria’s domination from 732-609 BC is replaced by Babylonian domination after 605 BC

Kedar and Hazor (related to Ishmael) – your livestock will become plunder. Defeated 599 BC

Elam – your people will be scattered and your fortunes restored in the latter days. Defeated 597 BC

Babylon – founded by Nimrod. Symbol of the anti-God control system in the last days. There are great parallels between Jeremiah 50-51 and Revelation 17-18. This prophecy had a near fulfillment as Babylon was captured in 529 BC (Daniel 5) but the city was not destroyed.  Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to their land (Ezra 1:1-4) which was accomplished in three stages: 538BC (Ezra 1-6); 458BC (Ezra 7-10) and 444BC (Nehemiah). Babylon was ultimately destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330BC. However, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy occurs in Revelation. God used Babylon to destroy nations, but in the final battles of the world, Babylon’s evil deeds will come back to haunt – and annihilate – her.

What did you learn from the readings of the Kings chronicles, Jeremiah, Obadiah, and the Psalmists? I’d love to hear from you via email or comment. I look forward to meeting with you again next week.

22 August 2012

Week 34 Review - Obadiah

Obadiah – just 21 verses and the shortest book in the Old Testament, but what a book it is!

Edom is the kingdom founded by Esau, the less loved twin of Jacob, who was chosen by God to receive the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant. Hundreds of years later, the fight between the brothers continues. The Edomites lived in the hills and felt very secure. Their key city was Petra, the city of red rocks. They were a despised people, but God’s law demanded that the Jews treat them as brothers (Deuteronomy 23:7).

19 August 2012

Week 34 Readings

August 19 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chronicles 36:1-21; Jeremiah 52
August 20 Jeremiah 41-44
August 21 Obadiah; Psalms 82; 83
August 22 Jeremiah 45-48
August 23 Jeremiah 49-50
August 24 Jeremiah 51; Psalm 137

18 August 2012

Week 33 Review

August 12 Jeremiah 17-20
August 13 Jeremiah 21-24
August 14 Jeremiah 25-28
August 15 Jeremiah 29-32
August 16 Jeremiah 33-37
August 17 Jeremiah 38-40; Psalms 74; 79

This week’s readings focused on Jeremiah’s laments and ended with two community laments. In both the Psalms, the people were asking God why the destruction was happening. In Psalm 74, the people wanted God to uphold His end of the covenant, but didn’t admit to any wrongdoing of their own. In Psalm 79, the people realize that they have to uphold their end of the covenant as well, and we see a renewed commitment together with repentance. We do the same thing today – “hey God, you promised to do …”, but in return, we continue our sinful ways. However, repented or not, the sins of the people were too entrenched and God had to punish them.

14 August 2012

Harvest America

Harvest America is coming on August 26 (http://harvestamerica.com). It’s a way to invite your unbelieving friends to a Gospel presentation in a non-threatening way. The presentation will include music by Mercy Me. Internet connection to this program is complimentary, so you can invite your friends to your home for some food, friendship and the presentation of the greatest news in the world.

The program will also be located at various venues around the world. Gracepoint’s “neutral” venue  is  at Rocketown in Pompano Beach (371 S. Federal Highway 33062). Doors open 6:15 and the event begins at 7:00.  At least one Gracegroup leader will host an event in their home. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale is also hosting the event. If you are not local to Fort Lauderdale, go to http://harvestamerica.com/find-a-location.html#HarvestAmerica to find a nearby location.

We ask that you think of five people you want to see in the Kingdom. Write their names down and pray for an opportunity to invite them. Pray that God will prepare their hearts for the Gospel presentation, and pray that they will say yes to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

And then – invite them  (we recommend you wait until the 20th – 23rd) – bring them – and make it easy for them to come. It will be less threatening for them if you go with them, and the sponsors say that most people who respond to God’s invitation are brought by a friend.

Other ways you can pray for Harvest America:

Pray that churches become involved as host sites.
Pray for Pastor Greg Laurie and his team as they make this gospel presentation possible.
Pray for volunteers to come along side to serve as ushers, follow up and prayer teams.
Pray for boldness so people will invite their friends, and pray for the hearts of these unsaved people.
Pray for the newly saved as they go forward in their Christian walk. If you are fortunate enough to have a friend accept Christ, pray that you will be able to help them take their first steps in their new life.

There are many volunteer opportunities available. Check with the church office to see how you can help!

The free gift of salvation is the best present your friends could ever receive. What’s stopping you from inviting your friends? If you need suggestions for how to invite people, feel free to contact us!

12 August 2012

Week 33 Readings

August 12 Jeremiah 17-20
August 13 Jeremiah 21-24
August 14 Jeremiah 25-28
August 15 Jeremiah 29-32
August 16 Jeremiah 33-37
August 17 Jeremiah 38-40; Psalms 74; 79

11 August 2012

Week 32 Review - Jeremiah

Jeremiah – the weeping prophet, weeping for his beloved Israel. What a magnificent calling he had!

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jer 1:4-5 (ESV)

Stop for a minute and think about this. Before Jeremiah was even conceived, God knew what would be happening in Judah. Jeremiah was born to be a prophet. It was a part of God’s long range plan. If God can plan a man’s birth based on events that haven’t happened yet, can’t we trust Him to know what will happen in our lives and care for us enough to help us?

07 August 2012

Week 32 - Joel

On Monday we read about a man who questioned God’s seeming inconsistency in sending judgment to His people via the evil Babylonians. Today we read about Joel. He interpreted a national calamity (a plague of locusts and a drought) while emphasizing God’s glorious kingdom. Joel was concerned about the day of the Lord and the need for God’s people to prepare. Although he focuses on the problems at hand, he emphasizes a future time when God will judge all the nations. He talks about three separate events:

06 August 2012

Week 32 Review - Habakkuk

We’re delving deeply into the prophets this week. Some of the language seems pretty strange! I have a feeling that there will be a lot to say this week, so I will post this today!

Habakkuk questioned God. He had some of the same questions as Job: “Why do good people suffer?” “Why isn’t God answering my prayer?” “Why does everybody seem to be against me?”.

Habakkuk lived during the reign of Jehoiakim (you’ll read what God thinks of this king next week). The king was leading Judah further away from God. The leaders refused to obey God’s law; the rich exploited the poor; the courts were crooked; bribery was rampant. They forgot God’s command:

You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7  Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8  And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.  Ex 23:6-8 (ESV)

05 August 2012

Week 32 Readings

August 5 Habakkuk 1-3
August 6 Joel 1-3
August 7 Jeremiah 1-4
August 8 Jeremiah 5-8
August 9 Jeremiah 9-12
August 10 Jeremiah 13-16

04 August 2012

Week 31 Review

July 29 Isaiah 59-63
July 30 Isaiah 64-66
July 31 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33
August 1 Nahum 1-3
August 2 Zephaniah 1-3
August 3 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Since the dawn of time, man has dealt unjustly with man and with God. Our sin nature gets in our way and lack of repentance blocks God's ears. Paul reminds his listeners of this when he quotes Isaiah 59:1-2 in Romans 3. We see it in our world today. Not only is our nation imploding because of our sins, but the whole world seems to be imploding as well. When we read the paper or listen to the news, it's usually gloomy – especially in the Middle East. But one tiny nation is the focus of God's everlasting covenant, and one city is the ultimate “winner” of God's promises. That nation, of course, is Israel, and the city is Jerusalem.