The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Bible:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12:1-3 ESV

[Jesus said:] “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13 ESV

Reflection:

In ancient Greece, there was a great temple to the god Apollo in a place called Delphi, where people could come to consult him and ask his advice. In the temple there was a woman who was called an oracle, and she would go into a trance and give answers to the questions people would bring her. People believed that while the oracle was in a trance the god Apollo spoke through her. However, the words of the oracles at Delphi didn’t always make sense, and they were never really clear, but instead could be interpreted in very different ways. For example, King Croesus once came to ask the oracle if he should go to war with the Persians, and the oracle said that if he did that, a great empire would fall. Croesus thought that this meant the Persians would fall, but when he went to war, his own empire was the one that fell! The oracle hadn’t lied, but she hadn’t been helpful to Croesus or clear in her message.

Paul talked about the days that many of the Corinthians had been pagans, and had believed in idols instead of in the true God. Paul said that these idols were mute, that is, that they couldn’t talk or help the people with their problems. Idols are just statues people make to represent a false god or goddess, and they can only sit silently in their place. The oracle at Delphi might have been making up her words, or she might have used drugs or the gases that came up from a crack in the earth to go into a trance. Apollo and the other gods and goddesses the Corinthians once believed in couldn’t do anything for them, but the Holy Spirit could. The Holy Spirit is the guide to truth and the one who gives us the gift of faith in Jesus. Paul said that no one could really believe in Jesus or say that he is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.

Our God isn’t like mute idols. He speaks to us through his Word, the Bible, and his words are clear and helpful to us. Most importantly, God came and spoke to us through Jesus. Jesus taught us the words of his Heavenly Father, and he showed us God’s will by dying on the cross to save us. Through Jesus we know that God wants us to be his own people, and that he loves us and forgives us every day. We hear the words of God through the Bible, and when we hear and learn what the Bible says, the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith and of life forever in Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your word and for Jesus, our Savior. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.ancient.eu/delphi/

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Breaking Down Walls

Bible:

[Jesus] left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:3-9 ESV

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:13-18 ESV

Reflection:

Do you remember how long before the time of Jesus, the Northern Kingdom was taken captive by the Assyrian empire? They took the people away from their land and resettled other people from the empire there. These people brought all their false gods and goddesses with them, and God judged them by sending lions to kill some of them. Then the king of Assyria sent a priest who had been taken captive back to live among them and teach them about the God of Israel. They learned to worship the God of Israel, but they kept on worshiping their idols at the same time. Some years later, the Southern Kingdom was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and when they returned from captivity and started to build their temple again, the people who had been living in the land wanted to help them, but the Jewish people wouldn’t let them help. So these people became enemies of the Jews and did all kinds of things to make trouble.

In the time of Jesus, the promised land was divided into three main parts under the Roman empire. In the south was Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem were. In the north some Jewish people lived in Galilee, including Jesus for much of his life in the town of Nazareth. But between Galilee and Judea there was the land of Samaria, where these ancient enemies of the Jewish people lived. If Jews wanted to travel from Galilee to Judea, they might even take a long detour and go around Samaria rather than go through it! But Jesus traveled through Samaria, and one day he sat down by a well and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. She could hardly believe that a Jewish man was talking to her in this friendly way!

Jesus was showing that his love was for all people, and not only Jewish people. He came to give his life on the cross so that the sins of all the people in the world could be forgiven. Jesus welcomes people who are among his chosen Jewish people, and he also welcomes those who have never heard of the true God or learned to live according to God’s ways. Jesus’ love is for all people, and we who belong to Jesus are happy to share that love with others. We see in everyone someone that the Lord loves and someone that Jesus died for, and we know that walls that divide people can come down because of the grace and love of Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for welcoming us into your family. Help us to share your love with others. Amen.

 

A Foolish Trade

Bible:

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” Malachi 2:10-11, 13-16 ESV

And Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:3-6 ESV

Reflection:

Hans had worked hard for seven years, and now it was time for him to be paid and to go home. He had been a very good worker, and his master gave him a lump of gold as big as his head. It was heavy and hard to carry, and when Hans saw a man ride by on a horse, he asked if he could trade the gold for the horse. This was a very foolish trade, but Hans didn’t stop to think about how much his gold was worth or what he could do with the gold after he got home. All he could think about was how heavy it was getting, and how fast the horse would carry him. But the horse’s owner wasn’t so foolish, and he quickly made the trade.

God’s people were making the same kind of foolish trade. The men were divorcing the women they had married when they were young, and some of them were marrying foreign women who worshiped false gods and goddesses. They were giving up on the marriages that God wanted to bless. The Lord would have given these marriages his Holy Spirit so that they could worship and serve God together and have children they could raise to love the Lord, but instead the men were marrying women who would turn their hearts away from God and teach them to worship false gods. The prophet Malachi told them that it was as terrible as violence when they broke their promises to their first wives.

God hates the broken promises of divorce and the way children are hurt by it. He also wants his people to marry other Christians so that they can worship the Lord together and raise their children to know him. When divorce happens, it can feel like being hit hard in the stomach. People sometimes sin against God and let others down, but even if that happens, we can be sure that the Lord will never let us down. The Bible sometimes pictures Jesus as a loving husband who cares for his people the way a good husband loves his wife. Jesus came to give his life for his church, and his death on the cross gives us his forgiveness and love always. Jesus will never leave us or stop loving us, no matter what.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us and dying for us so that we could be your people always. Amen.

Source:

http://germanstories.vcu.edu/grimm/hans_eng.html

Weeping and Celebration

Bible:

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 ESV

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Reflection:

Mr. and Mrs. Bixby were having their thirtieth wedding anniversary, and one of the things they did was to renew their wedding vows. After they did that, Mrs. Bixby started to cry. Their marriage hadn’t always been a happy one. They had had some bad fights, and they had been separated for awhile. Mrs. Bixby had even spent some time with other men. When she thought of how the promises she had made when they got married had been broken and about all their hard times, it made her sad. But her husband comforted her and told her it wasn’t a time for crying. It was a day to be happy. They were married and happy to be together, and they had made their promises to each other new again. That was something to celebrate.

The same thing happened when Ezra had finished reading God’s law to the people. They started to weep when they thought of all the ways they had been unfaithful to the covenant the Lord had made with them, and of the way they had lived away from the promised land in exile. They had worshiped false gods and goddesses and broken God’s law many times. But now they had come together to hear the law again and to remember once again that they were God’s people. Ezra and Nehemiah told the people that it was a holy day, and that instead of crying they should be happy and celebrate. So they went home and had festive meals and made sure no one was without good food to celebrate with.

We also are sad when we think of the ways we sin against God and disobey his law. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be brought back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day and calls us his people. Our sins might make us sad, but God’s forgiveness is a reason to celebrate!

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the forgiveness you give us every day in Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Keeping Pure

Bible:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:1-5 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 ESV

Reflection:

When doctors and nurses and other medical workers are working with situations where an infection could be very dangerous, such as when they are doing surgery, they have to use something called sterile technique. Sometimes patients have to take care of themselves at home and also learn to use sterile technique. Sterile means that there are absolutely no germs of any kind on the equipment or bandages that are going to be used. There are all kinds of rules in sterile technique. You must never cough or sneeze over the supplies. You must wear a mask and sterile gloves. You must not touch anything that isn’t sterile with sterile gloves. If a person breaks one of the rules of sterile technique, the entire packet is considered to be contaminated, and the person has to start all over again with a new packet. Doctors and nurses simply can’t risk letting contaminated equipment or bandages give a dangerous infection to sick or weak people.

When the people of Judah started rebuilding their temple, the people who lived where the northern kingdom of Israel had been came and said they wanted to help. But the people of Judah said no, they would rebuild the temple themselves. This might seem unfriendly, but there was a good reason for their answer. The people who wanted to help were the descendants of people who had been settled in the land by the king of Assyria long ago. When the Assyrians had taken the northern kingdom away into captivity, they had settled other people in the land who worshiped false gods and goddesses. Because of this, God had sent lions among them, and they decided they needed to learn to worship the God of Israel. So they started to do that, but they also continued to worship idols at the same time. The people of Judah knew that it would be dangerous to cooperate with people who worshiped idols. They knew they or their children would be tempted to do the same thing, and so they decided to keep themselves pure and separate from the other people of the land. They didn’t want to let false gods contaminate them or their worship of the one true God.

We were all contaminated by our sin and rebellion against God, and there’s no way we could ever make or keep ourselves pure from sin. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and his death makes us completely clean and pure. When we are baptized, what Jesus did for us becomes our own, and our sins are washed away with the waters of baptism. God sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us faithful and true to him and to help us to stay away from the evil and sin around and in us that would lead us away from the Lord. God will be with us to help us every day and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making us pure through Jesus. Please help us stay faithful to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://patienteducation.osumc.edu/Documents/sterile.pdf

Not Learning from the Past

Bible:

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty.  And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” Daniel 5:17-23 ESV

[Paul writes:] I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. I Timothy 1:12-16 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a song about a man who had a son, but he was always too busy to spend any time with him. He was away on a business trip when his son learned to walk. He gave his son a ball for his tenth birthday, but he was too busy to play with him or teach him how to throw. As his son grew up, he became like his father. He didn’t learn anything at all from his father’s mistakes. When he came home from college his dad wanted him to sit and talk with him for awhile, but all he wanted to do was borrow the car and go do something else. When the son got married and had a family, he never had any time to visit his dad or spend any time with him.

Belshazzar wasn’t actually Nebuchadnezzar’s son, but he ruled Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, so Daniel talked to him as if Nebuchadnezzar had been his father. Nebuchadnezzar had learned a hard lesson about the true God when he became too proud. He became mentally ill and lived as an animal for awhile until he learned to give glory to the Lord of Heaven. Belshazzar knew about that, and he should have learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s mistakes, but he didn’t. He worshiped false gods and idols and made fun of the true God. Daniel scolded Belshazzar for his foolishness and his pride. He should have learned from the sins and mistakes of the past, but he didn’t. Because of that, God’s judgment would fall on him.

When we look to people to be our examples to follow, we might find good examples and bad examples, but we will never find perfect examples. That’s because everyone is a sinner. The Apostle Paul did many wonderful things for the Lord, but he never forgot the terrible things he had done before he came to believe in Jesus. He had hated Jesus and hurt many people who were Christians. We can learn from Paul’s bad example and not be like he was before he became a Christian, and we can also learn from his good example and the way he followed Jesus afterwards. But Paul said that the best example he could give was the example of the amazing love and grace of the Lord. From Paul’s example we can learn that because of Jesus’ death on the cross for us, we can know the forgiveness of all our sins. The best people to follow are people who believe in Jesus and trust in him to give them the eternal life Jesus came to bring.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us Jesus, our Savior, and for people who show us how to follow him and believe in him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Chapin, Harry. “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Verities and Balderdash. Electra, 1973. LP.

Handwriting on the Wall

Bible:

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed. Daniel 5:1-9 ESV

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. Matthew 16:1-4 ESV

Reflection:

One morning two young rabbits named Hazel and Fiver were out in the field feeding. Suddenly Fiver became very upset. He got the feeling that something terrible was about to happen, even though he couldn’t exactly explain why. He said that he saw blood all over the field where their rabbit warren was. Hazel tried to comfort him, but Fiver continued to be upset. The two rabbits soon stumbled upon a large sign that had just been put up in the field. This sign was what had given Fiver his bad feeling, even though neither he nor Hazel could read it. What the sign said was that there would soon be a housing development built on the field right over their rabbit warren. All the little rabbits could understand was fear.

In Babylon, as the time of exile continued, Nebuchadnezzar died and successors took his throne. When a successor named Belshazzar ruled, he had a big party. He brought out a lot of wine to drink, and he thought it would be a good joke to drink wine out of the temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had brought from the temple in Jerusalem. This was his way of making fun of the God of Israel and praising the false gods that he and his people worshiped. But while the party was going on, something terrifying happened. A hand–with no body attached!–suddenly appeared out of nowhere and began writing on the wall of the palace. King Belshazzar was very frightened, and he called all his wise men to come and help him understand this. But none of his wise men were able to tell him what the words meant or what this ghostly sign was all about. All the king knew was fear.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders often asked him for a sign. Jesus told them that they were able to read the signs in the sky, but they couldn’t read the signs of the time. He meant that they could have seen and understood that Jesus was the promised Savior if they had paid attention to all the signs of healing and teaching that he had given them. Jesus said that he would only give them one sign, the sign of Jonah. Jonah had lived in the belly of a big fish for three days, and then he had come out again alive. Jesus would be put to death and buried in a grave, but before three days were over he would come out alive, the way Jonah had come out of the big fish. When Jesus rose from the dead, he gave us the only sign we really need. We know that he has conquered sin and death for us, and gives us forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus’ sign for us doesn’t scare us, but it gives us hope and courage for every day and always.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us the sign of your resurrection. Please give us courage when things scare us. Amen.

Source:

Adams, Richard Watership Down London: Rex Collins, Ltd., 1972.

The Lord Remembers

Bible:

Then Jeremiah said to all the people, men and women, all the people who had given him this answer: “As for the offerings that you offered in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your officials, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them? Did it not come into his mind? The Lord could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day. It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day.” Jeremiah 44:20-23 ESV

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! Psalm 25:6-7 ESV

Reflection:

There was once a fox who would often sneak into a village and steal chickens from the people who lived there. After he had done this many times, the people of the village caught him coming after their chickens and chased after him with sticks. They beat him with their sticks and drove him out of the village. When the fox limped back to the other foxes, sore and stiff from his beating, he complained about the way the villagers had treated him. He couldn’t understand why they had been so mean! The other foxes scolded him for being so foolish as to not understand. Did he think the villagers would forget about the way he was always stealing their chickens? He was only getting what he deserved.

Jeremiah scolded his people in the same way. They had rebelled against God time and time again, and had made offerings to false gods and goddesses for many years. Now that they had come under God’s judgment, they were complaining and wondering what they had done to deserve the troubles they were having. Jeremiah told them how foolish they were. Didn’t they think that the Lord would remember all the things they had done, as well as their fathers before them? All the disaster that had come to their people was only what they had deserved, because God could no longer stand their rebellion and the way they wouldn’t follow his ways and obey his law.

We also disobey God and rebel against his law, and if God always remembered our sins we would be in terrible trouble. But there’s something else that God remembers, and that’s his love for us. God’s love causes him to have mercy on us, and he sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Because of what Jesus did, the Lord no longer remembers our sins against us, but instead he forgives us every day. He brings us back to him when we rebel against him, and helps us to walk in his ways.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for remembering us with love and mercy, and for forgiving our sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Northcote, James and Harvey, William One Hundred Fables: original and selected London: Geo. Lawford, 1825.

We Will Not Listen to You

Bible:

Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands’ approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?” Jeremiah 44:15-19 ESV

They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
with abominations they provoked him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
whom your fathers had never dreaded.
You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,
and you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:16-18 ESV

Reflection:

Mrs. Jones liked to smoke cigarettes, and in fact she smoked two packs of cigarettes every day. Her doctor often tried to warn her that she should quit smoking, but she never did until after many years of warning and pleading from her doctor and her family. Soon after she quit smoking, her doctor diagnosed her with lung cancer. Mrs. Jones was very sick, and had to have treatments for the cancer that made her feel terrible. But she couldn’t accept that it was her smoking that had caused her trouble. She would say, “In all the years I smoked, I felt just fine. Now that I’ve quit smoking, I have cancer and I feel awful. I should never have quit smoking!”

Jeremiah warned the people who had run away to Egypt about the false gods and goddesses they were worshiping. He told them that God would punish them for their rebellion. But the people were stubborn and foolish. They remembered when they had lived in Jerusalem and worshiped the queen of heaven. The women had made offerings of incense to this goddess and poured out wine for her, and they had done this for a long time before the Babylonians had sacked their city and left them hungry with very little food to eat. Instead of understanding that their rebellion against the Lord had caused them all their trouble, they decided to go back to the queen of heaven and other gods and goddesses, hoping that these idols would bring them better days. They foolishly thought that not honoring the queen of heaven was what had brought about their downfall.

Sometimes we rebel against God like this also. We expect that if we follow God’s ways, our life will be wonderful and we won’t have any problems, but that isn’t always the way things work in our sin-sick world. Instead of letting our troubles bring us closer to God, we sometimes think we might be better off if we went our own way and didn’t try to follow the Lord. But God loves us very much and always works to bring us back to him. He sent Jesus to be our Savior, and Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could become God’s children. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us walk in his ways. Because of Jesus, God is always with us, helping us in our trouble and keeping us close to him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive our sins of rebellion and help us stay close to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Have You Forgotten?

Bible:

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Judeans who lived in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros, . . .  And now thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: “Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, infant and child, from the midst of Judah, leaving you no remnant? Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, so that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth? Have you forgotten the evil of your fathers, the evil of the kings of Judah, the evil of their wives, your own evil, and the evil of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? They have not humbled themselves even to this day, nor have they feared, nor walked in my law and my statutes that I set before you and before your fathers.” Jeremiah 44:1, 7-10 ESV

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels. Psalm 81:8-12 ESV

Reflection:

Charlie Brown loves to kick footballs, and Lucy loves to trick Charlie Brown. Every now and then Lucy will get out her football and wait for Charlie Brown to come by. Then she’ll say, “I’ll hold the ball, and you come running up and kick it.” But every time Charlie Brown does that, Lucy pulls the ball away, and Charlie Brown ends up kicking the air, tripping, and falling flat on his back. The next time Lucy tries to trick him, Charlie Brown says he won’t fall for her tricks this time, but Lucy always has a new reason for him to try again. Maybe she says she’s changed, or maybe she signs a paper that promises not to pull the ball away, or maybe she says that this time will be different if Charlie Brown would only trust her. So Charlie Brown trusts her once again, but his trust is foolish. Lucy always pulls the ball away, and Charlie Brown always falls flat on his back.

God’s people were even more foolish. Again and again they returned to the false gods and goddesses that always got them into trouble. The group of people who went to Egypt were soon worshiping the gods and goddesses of the Egyptians around them, even though they had seen most of their people taken into exile and their capital city fall because of the way they had rebelled against the Lord and worshiped idols. They should have remembered how God’s judgment had fallen on them and their capital city, and they should have realized that worshiping false gods always got them into trouble, and that the god and goddesses they worshiped had never been able to help them when they were in trouble. But they continued to make the foolish and wicked choice. God spoke through Jeremiah to warn them about their foolishness. “Have you forgotten?” he asked. “Why are you doing this?”

We also often forget the lessons God teaches us about following his ways, and we make foolish and sinful choices again and again. We would be hopelessly lost without God’s love and forgiveness. God sent Jesus, our Savior, to pay for our sins on the cross, and because of Jesus God forgives our sins every day. He gives us new hearts and lives so that we want to follow him and live new lives for him. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who helps us every day to turn away from sin and to follow God’s ways. We struggle against the sin in our lives every day, but the Lord loves us and helps us. We can put our trust in him, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, Please help us to turn away from sin and to turn to you for forgiveness and help every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.