Archive for February, 2011

Project 66 – Jeremiah

The passage I chose from Jeremiah is listed as #2 on Biblegateway.com’s top most-read Bible passages! Only John 3:16 has been read more often on biblegateway.com!
(interestingly enough, 25% of the verses on that list are contained in Project 66!)

Jeremiah 29:11-13 – Hope & a Future

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the LORD,
“thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.
And you will seek Me and find Me,
when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Context

Just what is the historical context of this precious promise that many hold tightly to their bosom clinging to the hope of a brighter future for them personally?

Well, with the northern kingdom of Israel already taken away by the Assyrians over a century before, the kingdom of Judah, under questionable rulership, remains behind between the two world powers of Egypt and Babylon.

Just before Nebuchadnezzer (King of Babylon) attacks Judah, Jeremiah prophesied that it would happen and that Neb would take the cream of the Jerusalem crop people-wise and export them to Babylon. Jeremiah said that the exiles would remain in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25).

This did not settle well with the ears of the people so the leaders tried to kill the messenger Jeremiah for having spoken of desolation, but he escapes.

What do you supposed happened next?

That’s right! Just as that lamentable Jeremiah had said, Nebuchadnezzer, King of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, Judah, for the first time in 605 BC.

The king of Judah paid tribute and promised future payments to entice Nebuchadnezzer to withdraw. The Babylonians did so, but took away to Babylon some exiles, including Daniel and his three friends (whom we know best by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).

Seven years later, in 598-7 BC, Nebuchadnezzer returns, after the Judean king foolishly stops paying tribute. This time he deposes the king, sets up his own puppet from the Judean royal family, and takes thousands more into exile. Jeremiah remains in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah puts a yoke on his neck in chapter 27 to symbolize God’s judgment to be in bondage to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon for 70 years of captivity.

The message was bleak, and the people did not like it. So they collected prophets and teachers to themselves to tell them pleasant things.

The resultant contest between Hananiah the false prophet and Jeremiah in chapter 28 is a case study for discernment and contrast between true and false prophets; and as I read it I am left to wonder how I might have responded had I been there listening to Jeremiah and Hananiah.

Hananiah and other false prophets in Babylon and Jerusalem were claiming that the captivity was going to be very short – that God would break the power of Nebuchadnezzer and send the captives back to Jerusalem very shortly. In effect, they were saying, “God will prosper both you and Jerusalem in less than two years.”

Jeremiah had a sober and true message–dismal and condemning in the short term but not without a future hope. Jeremiah clearly says, “No! God is NOT going to prosper Jerusalem during the next several years. Don’t think you’re coming back soon – live out a normal life in Babylon!”

Jeremiah 29

Three years later in 594 BC, Jeremiah sends a letter (chapter 29to the exiles in Babylon. Regardless of the false-hope message of Hananiah’s short term victory and vindication, God had made up His mind–70 years of captivity.

In this context, the Lord instructs the people not to be overcome by the severity of the consequences, but to take heart in a long distant promise. They are to build houses, have children, carry on, etc., and not shrink back from all hope.

Here it is, in context:

Jer 29:10-14

For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

13And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

(Note that Daniel in exile is aware of this letter. In Daniel 9, written more than 50 years later, Daniel realizes the prophesied time of the captivity is almost over, yet the exiles are not living in accordance with God’s laws. So he confesses the sins of his people, and asks God nevertheless to fulfill the promise contained in Jeremiah for His own Name’s sake.)

Ironically, this verse–on so many hearts, posters and mirrors–is smack dab in the middle of God’s pronounced judgment of 70 years captivity.

70 years is generally regarded as a “type” of a human life span. It is the time that represents our sojourn here on earth.

Ps 90:10 The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

So it is fitting that so many of us have taken a shine to this verse. For we too have seem sentenced to live as exiles in this world for seventy years—so to speak—with broken hearts, dead-end jobs, shattered dreams, losing loved ones, etc.

Jeremiah 29:11 is thus a ray of hope in this dark world—not of short-term success and prosperity, but rather that after the just sentence of God has passed… we will be restored.

"I know the thoughts I think towards you," says the Lord.

Devotional

I’m comforted by the present tense of I think towards you. It’s not the thoughts He had about me when He planned for me, or created me, but that He is thinking right now. Even if I should find myself in a 70-year captivity that was brought on by my own poor choices, He is thinking about me.

Also, He shall not just think hopeful thoughts towards me for a year or two, but He shall go on, at least in this case, for seventy years, thinking thoughts towards me!

His thoughts are not only present and current, real time, but they are also towards me. His thoughts drift towards me.

When most I fear the Lord has forgotten me, He provides this verse that three times over repeats the word “I am thinking about you, even now!” It is as if He can’t stop thinking about me, for His thoughts meander over to me yet again!

When through the course of life, people give no more thought towards me, God has me on His mind all the time!

And the thoughts that consume Him about me are of peace, hope, future, bright, reconciliation, oneness with Him.

I don’t suppose there are angels in heaven trying to counsel Him regarding some wayward child, “Ah, just forget about her. She’s done nothing for You, she just keeps turning her back on You every chance she gets. It’s like she just looks for new and fresh ways to hurt You.” But even if such counsel existed, He doesn’t seem to pay mind to it. For His thoughts keep drifting back towards me presently with thoughts of good.

So many times when I have great problems, I think, “Oh, God’s forgotten me. God’s not thinking of me anymore.” Oh, that’s not so. God is thinking of me. But God is always looking down at the end of the road.

My common mistake is that I am always looking for immediate advantage, immediate fulfillment. And I don’t consider the end result or the consequences of the things that I do. How many times I jump into things not considering what the end result is. “Oh, but it looks exciting. It looks fun. Let’s jump in.”

And God is warning and He is saying, “No, the end of that path is destruction. Now I’m thinking about you. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. I am thinking about you. And My thoughts concerning you are for your peace to bring to you this expected end.”

Return

It is at the end of that 70-year captivity that we call upon Him and He hears us. And I like that the promise is to the whole-hearted seeking of Him. I need to be moved out of my complacency.

I think that one of my problems is that I oftentimes have a half-hearted attitude towards God. I’m not really seeking God with all of my heart. “Well, God, if You want to, I’m here. And You can do it for me if You desire. I won’t stop You, Lord.”

And I oftentimes take a very passive attitude towards God, towards the things of God. Rather than really seeking God with all of my heart.

I don’t imagine really that I can do anything whole-heartedly. But I’ve been close regarding things or people on earth. And so I just want to seek the Lord with that same intensity and passion. I want to be as whole-hearted as Deborah Lein can be for where she is right now, and to have my thoughts presently, currently, real-time be about the Lord for good, and to have my thoughts just naturally drift towards Him and His goodness.

I cling to this portion of the promise the most…that He will captivate me with Himself, when I see Him as He is! The more I seek Him, the more I will be captivated, for to know Him is to love Him!

Project 66 – Isaiah

It was tough to choose just a singular portion of Isaiah. So much great stuff, especially in the last 27 chapters of the book.

Perhaps you have heard the book of Isaiah compared to the Bible as a whole, since it has 66 chapters, just as the Bible has 66 books.

The first chapter begins with sin and transgression while chapter 39 ends with negative consequences and captivity. (The Old Testament has 39 books)

Then springs forth chapter 40 with great comfort, carrying it all the way through the 27 chapters to 66th as it closes in with a new heaven and a new earth. (The New Testament has 27 books)

The central chapter of the second portion of Isaiah is the 53rd chapter just as the central theme of the New Testament is the Cross.

Interestingly, Isaiah is midway between the time of

  • Moses (giver of the law) and
  • Christ (though Whom came Truth and Grace), and
  • in Isaiah we clearly see the distinction between Law and Grace.

So the portion from Isaiah comes from the central chapter in the second portion of Isaiah, Isaiah 53, which talks about the central theme in the New Testament…

Isaiah 53 – Jesus Christ and His work on the cross

Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned,
every one,
to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.

All we like sheep have gone astray

I need a Shepherd

It was my grief He bore.

He not only knows my grief, but He bares it for me. I’m sure many have felt nearly swallowed up by overmuch grief, I know I have. So I cannot even begin to imagine how it would utterly crush me altogether if it were not for Christ bearing my grief.

It was my sorrows He carried.

I picture sorrows like an Alfred Hitchcock movie with spiders and roaches crawling all over the body…desparately, maddeningly, swatting and lashing out at them with a complete insanity and inability to do anything else, except to writhe in disgust trying to swipe them away.

But what’s more…sorrows are the vermin of the heart and soul, not the body. And Who will rescue me from the attack of these insidious cockroaches?

Thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has carried away my sorrows to the tree of Calvary.

And though the crowd may have looked on at the time of His crucifixion and determined that Jesus was being punished on the cross for His own sins, yet today, I cannot help but acknowledge, it was for my transgressions, for my iniquities, and all in order that I might have peace, in order that I might be healed.

The truth is it was I who went astray and walked in my own selfish way. The very wanderings that fell me headlong into the pit of poisonous insects and rodents. I want to be the kind of sheep that turns to the Shepherd for guidance rather than brashly making poor choices and suffering for them afterwards.

Just thinking about this portion of Project 66, compels me to thank God with the words from this hymn…

Why would I ever leave the suffering Shepherd’s side who never leaves my side?

Project 66 – Isaiah

It was tough to choose just a singular portion of Isaiah. So much great stuff, especially in the last 27 chapters of the book.

Perhaps you have heard the book of Isaiah compared to the Bible as a whole, since it has 66 chapters, just as the Bible has 66 books.

The first chapter begins with sin and transgression while chapter 39 ends with negative consequences and captivity. (The Old Testament has 39 books)

Then springs forth chapter 40 with great comfort, carrying it all the way through the 27 chapters to 66th as it closes in with a new heaven and a new earth. (The New Testament has 27 books)

The central chapter of the second portion of Isaiah is the 53rd chapter just as the central theme of the New Testament is the Cross.

Interestingly, Isaiah is midway between the time of

  • Moses (giver of the law) and
  • Christ (though Whom came Truth and Grace), and
  • in Isaiah we clearly see the distinction between Law and Grace.

So the portion from Isaiah comes from the central chapter in the second portion of Isaiah, Isaiah 53, which talks about the central theme in the New Testament…

Isaiah 53 – Jesus Christ and His work on the cross

Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned,
every one,
to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.

All we like sheep have gone astray

I need a Shepherd

It was my grief He bore.

He not only knows my grief, but He bares it for me. I’m sure many have felt nearly swallowed up by overmuch grief, I know I have. So I cannot even begin to imagine how it would utterly crush me altogether if it were not for Christ bearing my grief.

It was my sorrows He carried.

I picture sorrows like an Alfred Hitchcock movie with spiders and roaches crawling all over the body…desparately, maddeningly, swatting and lashing out at them with a complete insanity and inability to do anything else, except to writhe in disgust trying to swipe them away.

But what’s more…sorrows are the vermin of the heart and soul, not the body. And Who will rescue me from the attack of these insidious cockroaches?

Thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has carried away my sorrows to the tree of Calvary.

And though the crowd may have looked on at the time of His crucifixion and determined that Jesus was being punished on the cross for His own sins, yet today, I cannot help but acknowledge, it was for my transgressions, for my iniquities, and all in order that I might have peace, in order that I might be healed.

The truth is it was I who went astray and walked in my own selfish way. The very wanderings that fell me headlong into the pit of poisonous insects and rodents. I want to be the kind of sheep that turns to the Shepherd for guidance rather than brashly making poor choices and suffering for them afterwards.

Just thinking about this portion of Project 66, compels me to thank God with the words from this hymn…

Why would I ever leave the suffering Shepherd’s side who never leaves my side?

Project 66 – Song of Songs

Today’s portions are found in the Song of Songs from the King of Kings,
the Dirge from the Suffering Savior, and
from the Lament of Jeremiah.

Song of Songs 6:3 – Jesus is My Beloved

My favorite all time author and preacher is Charles Spurgeon, and he aptly described Song of Solomon like this:

“The Song of Solomon is the central Book of the Bible;
it is the innermost shrine of divine revelation,
the holy of holies of Scripture;
and if you are living in communion with God,
you will love that Book,
you will catch its spirit, and
you will be inclined to cry with the spouse,
‘Make haste, my Beloved.’”

And while it is in the heart of the Bible because it is the heart of the Beloved to His bride, there are many differentinterpretations of it. For example:

  1. It is a collection of independent poems (23) dealing with the subject of love, either written or gathered by Solomon.
  2. It is written to celebrate the marriage of Solomon to Pharaoh’s daughter
  3. It is strictly an historical account of how Solomon wooed and won a fair maiden from Lebanon, and their mutual love
  4. It is strictly an historical account of how a shepherd and a maiden stayed faithful in their love for each other, in spite of the attempts by Solomon to turn the latter to himself.
  5. It is not historical only (if at all), and serves mainly as an allegory.
    An allegory of what you might ask…
    again, many interpretations:
    • The deliverance of Israel from Egypt, their wilderness wanderings and their entrance into Canaan
    • Union of Jehovah with Ancient Israel
    • Union of Christ and the Church
    • Love-life of the soul with the Lord

Being that I am not married, nor even romantically involved with anyone, I can’t quite read this book as a treatise about sex, love and intimacy in the marriage quite the way Tommy Nelson does (though Tommy’s book does make for a great read!).

I have been greatly blessed reading it as an allegory (while recognizing that it is historical as well) of the love-life of the soul with the Lord.

The three chief characters are:

  • Solomon = World
  • Shulamite Woman = the Individual Soul (me)
  • Shepherd/Lover = Christ

The story is a beautiful country girl from Shunem was surprised by the king on one of his journeys to the north (6:11ff). She was brought to Jerusalem and placed in the royal palace (1:4-5), where, as the poem opens, the ladies of the harem (daughters of Jerusaelm) are singing the praises of Solomon.

The king himself makes great efforts to win the affection of the Shulamite (1:9, etc). But she remains faithful to the memory of her Shepherd/Lover (1:7, etc), who at last, appears, and is allowed by the magnanimous monarch to return to His mountain home with His bride (8:5ff).

Climax of the story is 8:6-7.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 6:3

Rooted in my Beloved, Jesus Christ

Now as for the portion of this beautiful song that is part of Project 66 (6:3)…

I am my Beloved’s,
And my Beloved is mine.
He feeds His flock among the lilies.

This is the reverse order of Song of Songs 2:16

My beloved is mine, and I am his.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.

dark season ensued between 2:16 and 6:1.

So now we see that after that dark tumultuous time, the grounds of security is based on Christ’s love towards me, rather than mine towards Him, as it was in 2:16.

What a comfort to know that I am Jesus’. That He even wants me, desires me. And that He allows me to call Him “mine,” likes it when I “show Him off” as mine!

Where Jesus is, there is growth and life and beauty. “He feeds His flock among the lilies.” That conjures up the green pastures found in Psalm 23!

Project 66 (part 8a of 22)

Today’s portions are found in the Song of Songs from the King of Kings,
the Dirge from the Suffering Savior, and
from the Lament of Jeremiah.

Song of Songs 6:3 – Jesus is My Beloved

My favorite all time author and preacher is Charles Spurgeon, and he aptly described Song of Solomon like this:

“The Song of Solomon is the central Book of the Bible;
it is the innermost shrine of divine revelation,
the holy of holies of Scripture;
and if you are living in communion with God,
you will love that Book,
you will catch its spirit, and
you will be inclined to cry with the spouse,
‘Make haste, my Beloved.’

And while it is in the heart of the Bible because it is the heart of the Beloved to His bride, there are many different interpretations of it. For example:

  1. It is a collection of independent poems (23) dealing with the subject of love, either written or gathered by Solomon.
  2. It is written to celebrate the marriage of Solomon to Pharaoh’s daughter
  3. It is strictly an historical account of how Solomon wooed and won a fair maiden from Lebanon, and their mutual love
  4. It is strictly an historical account of how a shepherd and a maiden stayed faithful in their love for each other, in spite of the attempts by Solomon to turn the latter to himself.
  5. It is not historical only (if at all), and serves mainly as an allegory.
    An allegory of what you might ask…
    again, many interpretations:
    • The deliverance of Israel from Egypt, their wilderness wanderings and their entrance into Canaan
    • Union of Jehovah with Ancient Israel
    • Union of Christ and the Church
    • Love-life of the soul with the Lord

Being that I am not married, nor even romantically involved with anyone, I can’t quite read this book as a treatise about sex, love and intimacy in the marriage quite the way Tommy Nelson does (though Tommy’s book does make for a great read!).

I have been greatly blessed reading it as an allegory (while recognizing that it is historical as well) of the love-life of the soul with the Lord.

The three chief characters are:

  • Solomon = World
  • Shulamite Woman = the Individual Soul (me)
  • Shepherd/Lover = Christ

The story is a beautiful country girl from Shunem was surprised by the king on one of his journeys to the north (6:11ff). She was brought to Jerusalem and placed in the royal palace (1:4-5), where, as the poem opens, the ladies of the harem (daughters of Jerusaelm) are singing the praises of Solomon.

The king himself makes great efforts to win the affection of the Shulamite (1:9, etc). But she remains faithful to the memory of her Shepherd/Lover (1:7, etc), who at last, appears, and is allowed by the magnanimous monarch to return to His mountain home with His bride (8:5ff).

Climax of the story is 8:6-7.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 6:3

Rooted Together with Christ, my Beloved

Now as for the portion of this beautiful song that is part of Project 66

I am my Beloved’s,
And my Beloved is mine.
He feeds His flock among the lilies.

This is the reverse order of Song of Songs 2:16

My beloved is mine, and I am his.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.

A dark season ensued between 2:16 and 6:1.

So now we see that after that dark tumultuous time, the grounds of security is based on Christ’s love towards me, rather than mine towards Him, as it was in 2:16.

What a comfort to know that I am Jesus’. That He even wants me, desires me. And that He allows me to call Him “mine,” likes it when I “show Him off” as mine!

Where Jesus is, there is growth and life and beauty. “He feeds His flock among the lilies.” That conjures up the green pastures found in Psalm 23!