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.

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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.

 

Plundering the Temple

Bible:

And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all the bronze to Babylon. And they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the basins and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service; also the small bowls and the fire pans and the basins and the pots and the lampstands and the dishes for incense and the bowls for drink offerings. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. Jeremiah 52:17-19 ESV

[Jesus said:] “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 ESV

Reflection:

While Martha was out having dinner with her friends one evening, someone broke into her house. He had forced a window open and climbed in through it, and he quickly went through the house and took everything he could carry that was valuable. Most of the things he took, such as a laptop, a camera, and some cash, could be replaced, but there were some things he took that could never be replaced. He took some rings, necklaces, and brooches that had belonged to Martha’s mother and her grandmother. They weren’t even worth very much money, but the robber took them for whatever he might be able to get for the gold or silver they were made of. He didn’t care at all about what this jewelry meant to Martha, or the memories it gave her. Martha’s heart was broken when she found that the jewelry that had belonged to her mother and grandmother was gone.

The same kind of thing happened when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem. They burned down all the important buildings, but before they burned the temple they took everything of value that had been left in it. When Nebuchadnezzar had first conquered Jerusalem, he had taken some of the temple vessels, but now his army took everything that was left. They didn’t care that these beautiful things had been used in the worship of God, or that the temple was where the Lord’s presence had been for his people in a special way. They only thing they cared about was the gold and the silver, and how it would make them richer to have these things. God’s people might have felt heartbroken to see their temple plundered like that, but they had already turned away from the Lord and had not followed his ways, and had worshiped false gods and goddesses. God allowed his temple to be plundered as a judgment on his people’s sins.

God’s people who turned to him in this terrible situation would find that the Lord’s presence isn’t tied to any place or building. He would be with them even if they were taken into exile in faraway Babylon, and he would be with the poorest people who were left in the land without a temple. God is a spirit who is everywhere, all the time, and he is always available to hear the prayers of his people. In the past he came to his people in a special way in the temple, but the most important way God has come to all people everywhere is in Jesus. Jesus came into our world as a human person to bring people back to God, their Heavenly Father. Jesus died on the cross so that all our sins could be forgiven, and through him we can come to God in prayer, no matter where we are, and be sure that he is there for us to hear us and answer us.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to us to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. Please hear our prayers and help us every day. Amen.

A Promise for the Exiles

Bible:

And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 11:14-21 ESV

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 ESV

Reflection:

My grandmother was born in Germany, but when she was nine years old her mother sent her to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle. My grandmother learned a new language and was able to get an education, but she always felt as if her mother had sent her away because she didn’t love her. She missed her mother and her sister and brothers that had stayed in Germany. It was only many, many years later that she was able to travel back to Germany and see her mother and sister and brothers again. When she saw her family after such a long time, she learned that her mother loved her very much and had wanted her to have a better life. She hadn’t sent her away because she loved her sister and her brothers more than her. Her brothers and sister had always thought that she was the lucky one, because she had been able to come to America.

There were some similar feelings happening among God’s people during Ezekiel’s time. The Babylonians had taken many people away from their homeland and into exile, but some of the poorest people had been left behind in their own country. The people who had been left behind felt that they were God’s favorites and that the Lord didn’t care about the exiles at all. The exiles might have felt the same way, but God spoke through Ezekiel to reassure the exiles of his love for them. He said that even though they had been forced to come to a foreign country to live, God was a sanctuary to them. The Lord himself was with his people in exile, keeping them safe. He promised that some day they would return to their home, and that when they came home they would get rid of all the idols that had ruined their country. God would give his people a new heart and a new spirit so that they would want to obey him and follow his ways. But people who were stubborn and refused to turn back to God, but instead kept on worshiping false gods and goddesses, would be punished for their sins.

We also turn away from God and go our own way when we sin. But no matter how far away from God we go, he loves us and wants to bring us home to him. He came to us in Jesus to die for us and win us back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, we are never far away from God. He is always ready to forgive our sins and give us new hearts and new spirits so that we want to obey him and follow his ways. Someday he will bring us to our home in heaven, where we will be with him forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and bringing us home to you through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Mountains, Hills, Ravines, and Valleys

Bible:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 6:1-7 ESV

For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:5-7 ESV

Reflection:

In India there are many local gods and goddesses, and each one has a shrine where he or she is worshiped or honored. A shrine might be at the base of a tree, on a stone set in a niche, or simply a statue with flowers or a small flame burning beside it. Sometimes people offer chickens or goats to these gods and goddesses. Some of these gods look like warriors, and people hope that these warrior gods will protect them from danger. One example of a goddess that is worshiped by many women is named Santoshi Ma. There is a story that long ago a young woman’s husband left her so he could work, and she had to live with his parents, who were unkind to her. But she stayed faithful and loving and worshiped Santoshi Ma, and the goddess brought her husband home to her as a rich man, who gave her her own house with him. Many women set up shrines to Santoshi Ma and ask her for blessings, especially things for their homes.

There were many local gods and goddesses in Israel, and the people didn’t give them up, even though God had sent the Babylonian empire against them, who had taken many of their people, their king, and many treasures from their temple away from them. God told Ezekiel in faraway Babylon to speak words of strong judgment against the people who were left in Israel. Ezekiel must have longed for the mountains and hills and ravines and valleys of his home, but the sad truth was that all of these places were full of shrines and altars dedicated to false gods and goddesses. God was going to bring more punishment on the people, more war and more death, and dead bodies would be left around the destroyed shrines of the gods and goddesses they worshiped instead of the true God.

We might not have shrines with flowers and gifts for false gods or goddesses, but all of us are guilty of sinning against God. We turn away from him and go our own way, and we look to other things rather than God for good and for help. We deserve God’s judgment because of our sins, but God sent Jesus to be our Savior. Jesus took all of God’s judgment on himself when he died on the cross for us. Because of Jesus, God forgives us our sins every day, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us follow his ways and love and serve him as our only God.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, our Savior. Help us to love and follow you every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.photius.com/religion/india_local_deities.html

Forsaken

Bible:

“For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord. Both great and small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them. No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

“And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’” Jeremiah 16:5-13

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34 ESV

Reflection:

There are two things that bring people together–funerals and weddings. We often think of a funeral as a sad and serious thing, but in New Orleans some people have jazz funerals. A band plays sad music while the body is carried to the graveyard, and many people follow it in a solemn parade. After the body is buried, the parade continues, but now the music becomes lively, and the people dance to it. This helps them dance out their sadness and celebrate the life of the person who has died. Some weddings in India have an interesting custom. When the bride and bridegroom go into the place where they will get married, they have to take their shoes off. The bride’s sisters steal the groom’s shoes and hide them, and the groom’s brothers and cousins try to find the shoes. If they can’t find them, they have to pay gold and silver rings and money to get the shoes back!

Funerals and weddings are times when people get together to share sorrow and joy with each other. But as the judgment of the southern kingdom came closer, the Lord told his prophet Jeremiah to stay away from funerals and weddings. The time would soon come when there would be so much disaster and death that there wouldn’t be time to have a funeral for everyone who died, and such terrible times that there wouldn’t be any happy wedding celebrations. When the people saw that Jeremiah stayed away from their important occasions, they would ask him why, and he would tell them words of God’s judgment. The Lord loved his people and wanted to be part of their times of joy and sorrow, but they had turned away from him and worshiped false gods and not followed God’s law. The Lord was turning away from his people because they had turned away from him, and Jeremiah was a picture of God no longer being close to them and part of their lives.

We have also turned away from God and gone our own way, but God sent his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins and to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. When Jesus hung on the cross, his Heavenly Father turned away from him, and he was alone with the sins of the world. There was no one who could help him or share his burden. The sky became dark in the middle of the day, and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But because Jesus was alone with our sins, we never have to be alone. God will never turn away from us, but will be with us always, sharing in our times of sorrow and our times of joy.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and forgiving us and for never leaving us. Please be with us in our happy days and our sad days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sources:

New Orleans Jazz Funeral Service Rituals

Joota Chori

My Joy is Gone

Bible:

My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Jeremiah 8:18-21 ESV

O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.

You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow.
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us! Psalm 60:1-5 ESV

Reflection:

The Roman empire once stretched from England into Europe to the Euphrates River to the north coast of Africa, but over time it became weaker. Rome fell in 455 to the Visigoths, but in the years before that the imperial capital was sacked by the Vandals, who had moved through present-day Germany, France, and Spain, destroying as they went. A Christian scholar named Jerome lived in Rome, and he wrote about the horrible things that were happening to the Roman empire because of the Vandals. He wrote: “Nations innumerable and most savage have invaded all Gaul. . . . Oh wretched Empire! Mayence, formerly so noble a city, has been taken and ruined, and in the church many thousands of men have been massacred. . . . Aquitaine and the provinces of Lyons and Narbonne, all save a few towns, have been depopulated; and these the sword threatens without, while hunger ravages within. . . . Spain, even, is in daily terror lest it perish. . . . Our tears are dried by old age. . . . Who could believe that Rome, built upon the conquest of the whole world, would fall to the ground?”

Many years before that, Jeremiah mourned for his people of the southern kingdom of Judah. They were becoming weaker and weaker, and their end was near.  People who were living through these terrible times were wondering where the Lord was, and why he wasn’t helping his people. They hoped that their king would keep them safe, but he didn’t seem to be able to. Time had gone by, summer and fall, while the people waited to be saved, but they weren’t saved. The time for judgment had come to Judah because they had worshiped false gods and made idols to bow down to instead of the Lord.

We sometimes live through difficult times, also. When we have troubles and hurts, we can cry out to God to save us and help us. We don’t deserve his help, because we’ve turned away from him in sin and rebellion, but God came to us in Jesus to take the terrible load of sin on himself. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins, and he hears our cries for help and promises to help us in his best way. Sometimes God works through our problems to bring us closer to him and to pull us away from sins that are hurting us. We can’t always understand why things happen the way they do, but we can always be sure of God’s love, not because of anything we’ve done, but because of what Jesus has done for us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving us and for hearing our cries for help because of our Savior, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/fallofrome.htm

Family Sin

Bible:

“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.” Jeremiah 7:16-20 ESV

And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you. Deuteronomy 11:13-17 ESV

Reflection:

In colonial times in the United States, most people worked very hard to take care of their needs every day. In a family, everyone had a job to do, even little children. Small kids might weed the garden, wash the dishes, and feed the chickens, even when they were as young as three years old! Both boys and girls would learn how to knit when they were about four years old so they could help make some of the family clothes. Children were also very important to the process of making candles and soap, because their small fingers were good at picking the berries that gave them the wax they needed. Children worked hard, but so did their parents, and everyone in the family worked together to get things done. For example, when a family made clothes for itself, children would gather the materials they needed to make dye for the clothes. Women and girls would spin thread on spinning wheels, while men and boys used looms to weave the cloth. Then women would take the cloth and sew clothes for everyone.

God gives us families to work together and help each other, but when families turn away from God, they sometimes work together to do things that displease the Lord. This was happening in Jeremiah’s time in a terrible way. The people were turning away from the true God to worship false gods and goddesses, including a goddess named Ashtoreth, who was thought to be the queen of heaven and the wife of the false god Baal. One way of worshiping the queen of heaven was to make cakes for her, and this was a job the whole family got involved in. The children would gather the wood, and their fathers would take it to make a fire for their oven, while the mothers would make the dough to bake the cakes. God’s judgment was coming to the people because of what they were doing, and what they were teaching their children to do.

When children have Christian parents who teach them to know and love the Lord, it is a wonderful blessing. But even Christian families fall short of God’s plan sometimes. We might not worship false gods, but we argue and fight and hurt each other. We don’t always help each other or serve God together. But God loves all people, and he sent Jesus to be our Savior. Jesus took all the sins of the world to the cross with him and paid for them there. Because of Jesus, we have God’s forgiveness every day, and we can love and forgive each other, too. It’s the love and forgiveness that comes from Jesus that really makes a Christian family, and helps families to know and worship the Lord and help and forgive each other.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessing of our family. Help us to love and help each other, and to worship and serve you together. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.williamsburgkids.com/dailylife/chores.htm