Leaving a Life of Privilege

Bible:

Now I was cupbearer to the king.

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. Nehemiah 1:11b-2:8 ESV

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8 ESV

Reflection:

Jane Addams was born to a life of privilege. Her father was a wealthy man, and a friend to President Abraham Lincoln. Jane was able to get a very good education and to travel to Europe as a young woman. But she didn’t continue to live her life of privilege. Instead, she decided to live and work in the city of Chicago among the people who were very poor. She wanted to help them to have a better life, so she and a friend opened a settlement house called Hull House. This house offered services to the poor and the immigrants such as child care, education, a public kitchen, and an art gallery. Ms. Adams also did work in the field of education and in many other things. She gave up what might have been a comfortable life to live in service of other people.

Nehemiah also was living a life of privilege. He was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, which was a very important and powerful position. But Nehemiah had a bold request to make of the king after he heard about the sad state of Jerusalem and his fellow Jews who were living there. He wanted to leave his important position to go and help the people of Jerusalem rebuild their city wall. He was afraid when he made the request, because the king might have become angry with him. But God blessed Nehemiah by giving him favor with King Artaxerxes, and he was allowed to go. The king even gave him permission to get wood from the king’s forest to do the building.

Jesus is God the Son, the equal of his Heavenly Father, but because he loves us he didn’t hang onto his power and glory. Instead, Jesus emptied himself to become a human being and live on earth as one of us. He even allowed himself to be put on the cross to die a shameful death so that all our sins could be forgiven and we could become God’s children. Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit to help us learn to live our lives in ways that help and serve others.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for your loving service to us. Help us to serve others for your sake. Amen.

Source:

https://www.biography.com/people/jane-addams-9176298

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No Turning Back

Bible:

After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s young men who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so. Esther 2:1-4 ESV

But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:18-21 ESV

Reflection:

When Anne went to the town of Avonlea to teach school, she met a lovely woman named Lavender Lewis. Miss Lewis was very sweet, but she was also lonely and had never gotten married. One of Anne’s students was a little boy named Paul. Paul’s mother was dead, and his father worked in another city while Paul lived with his grandparents. Over time, Anne learned that Paul’s father had once been in love with Miss Lewis, but because of a quarrel they had gone their separate ways, and Paul’s father had married his mother instead. In the end Paul’s father and Lavender Lewis made up and got married, but there was no way they could ever get back all the years they had lost together because of a quarrel long in the past. When things go wrong and hurt and anger happen, there is often no turning back.

When Ahasuerus became angry with Queen Vashti because she refused to let him show her off to all the men at his party, he divorced her and removed her from being the queen. King Ahasuerus stayed angry for awhile, yet then when he was over it he wished he could have his wife and his queen again, but there was no turning back. What was done was done, and for Ahasuerus and Vashti there was no way they could ever get back together again and have things be the way they had been in the past. The only thing for Ahasuerus to do, his attendants realized, was to find a new wife and queen.

We have offended our holy God with our sins and turned away from him, and on our own there is no way we could ever turn back again. But with God, there is a way to turn back. He sent Jesus to be our Savior, and Jesus died for us so that our sins could be forgiven. All the sins that stood between us and God have been taken away, and God sends us his Holy Spirit to turn us back to him for his love and forgiveness. God takes away everything that is wrong in our past and gives us new lives in him, lives that last forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus, our Savior, and bringing us back to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Avonlea Boston: L. C. Page and Company, 1909

A Flying Scroll

Bible:

Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.” Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. I will send it out, declares the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.” Zechariah 5:1-4 ESV

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Galatians 3:10-13 ESV

Reflection:

A comet is an icy ball that moves through space and gives off a tail of gas or dust. Comets orbit the sun, but they have very long, narrow orbits that take them far out of the inner solar system. For that reason, some comets only travel through the part of the solar system we can see every few centuries, but when they do appear, they can be spectacular. Many ancient peoples were terrified of comets. They thought that the appearance of a comet meant doom. Because they couldn’t predict a comet or its movement, they thought that the gods sent them as warnings of disaster. Some of them thought that the long tail of a comet looked like a woman’s hair, and they thought the comet was a woman who was mourning something very sad that was about to happen. Other people thought a comet looked like a flashing sword, and they saw a comet as a sign of war and death.

Zechariah saw a vision of something flying through the sky that meant doom, but it wasn’t a comet. What he saw was a flying scroll! It was huge–30 feet by 15 feet–and it had writing on both sides. The writing was God’s holy law, a law that curses people who disobey it. In Zechariah’s vision, the curses were especially against people who steal things and against people who used the Lord’s name to swear to things that were lies that hurt other people. God said that this flying scroll would enter the home of people who did these things and burn down their house, wood and stones and all! This is a very scary picture, and the people would have been frightened to hear it. The Lord wanted his people to get a new start and to live once again in their homeland according to his laws.

The idea of a fiery punishment for disobeying God’s law is scary for us, too. We know that we haven’t obeyed God, and have done things that are against his law. The law of the Lord is good and holy, but for people who break his law it becomes a curse. The problem is that the law curses everyone, because there’s no one who can keep God’s law perfectly. But God has had mercy on us, and sent Jesus to be cursed instead of us. Jesus was cursed when he hung on the cross to die to pay for our sins, but because he did that, all our sins are forgiven. Because of Jesus, we are free from the curse of the law. God forgives our sins and sends us his Holy Spirit so that we can have a new start every day and live according to his laws.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for becoming a curse for us and freeing us from the curse of the law. Amen

Source:

http://deepimpact.umd.edu/science/comets-cultures.html

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

Helpless under the Law

Bible:

Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. Daniel 6:14-18 ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 ESV

Reflection:

In 1919, the United States passed some laws known of as Prohibition. These laws said that alcoholic drinks, such as wine, beer, and whisky, could not be made, transported, or sold in the United States. These laws seemed to be a good idea at the time. Alcohol caused a lot of problems with fights and accidents and men spending all their money on drinks and not bringing their paychecks home to their families. People who drank too much also didn’t work well in the factories. Prohibition seemed like a very good idea, but it wasn’t. People still sold and drank alcohol in places called “speakeasies,” and people made alcohol illegally, sometimes bad alcohol that was poisonous. It was very hard to enforce Prohibition laws, and they led to a big increase in crime and violent activities by gangs who fought over who would control illegal alcohol businesses. In 1933 the United States repealed the Prohibition laws. This meant that it was legal to make, sell, and buy alcohol again. Lawmakers came to see that the law really wasn’t a good idea, and that it had made more trouble than it had tried to fix.

The legal system in the Medo-Persian empire was different. Once a law was made, even if it was a bad law, it couldn’t be changed, not even by the king himself. When the government leaders told Darius that Daniel had broken his new law, the king was very upset. He understood that he had been trapped, and that there was nothing he could do. Even though he had made the law, he had no power to change it. He had no choice but to throw Daniel into a den of hungry lions, and to seal the opening to the den with a stone, as well as official government seals, so that no one would be able to rescue Daniel. King Darius was terribly upset by all this. He didn’t eat anything, and wouldn’t listen to court musicians or watch court dancers or have any other entertainment, and he couldn’t sleep that night. He was completely powerless to save Daniel, but he had one small hope that the God Daniel served might be able to protect him.

We were also completely helpless under God’s law, and we had no way to change that or to free ourselves. God’s law is holy and good, but we were under its power because of our sins. People who don’t obey God’s law perfectly are under the power of death, and nothing we could do would change that. But God was not powerless to save us. He didn’t change his good law, but instead he came to us in Jesus to keep the law perfectly for us. Jesus obeyed God’s laws, and he died on the cross and rose again to break the power of sin and death in our lives. Because of Jesus we are free from being condemned by the law, and he forgives our sins every day. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us walk in his ways, and we are free to serve the God who loves us.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping the law for us and for setting us free from sin and death. Amen.

Source:

http://www.history.com/topics/prohibition

A River of Life

Bible:

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Ezekiel 47:1-6a ESV

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 ESV

Reflection:

The Amazon River in South America is one of the longest rivers in the world. It carries an incredible amount of water, so much so that it dilutes the Atlantic Ocean’s saltiness more than 100 miles from the shore! Different explorers have different ideas as to where the Amazon River begins, because it can be difficult to find the small headstreams that begin a river. The much smaller streams that become the Amazon pool together and keep adding to the water that flows until it becomes an immense flood of water.

The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of the new temple of God, and under the door of this temple a stream of water trickled. The angel who was Ezekiel’s guide led him along the edge of this river, and the farther the river flowed the deeper it became. First it was ankle-deep, then knee-deep, then waist-deep, then finally it was so deep that it was over Ezekiel’s head. He would have had to swim through it to get across safely. The strange thing is that there were no other rivers flowing into this river; it just kept growing on its own!

Do you remember the Feast of Booths, the harvest festival when Jewish people make shelters with leaves and other fruits of the harvest and spend time in them every day? Jesus celebrated this festival also, and in his time water was poured out from the temple in Jerusalem every day of the festival. The water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam, carried in through the gates of the temple, and poured into a basin that would carry it through a set of pipes and out to the Brook Kidron, which flowed into the desert. Jesus stood up during this festival one year and said that he was the source of living water. Everyone who was thirsty could come to him and drink, and he would give them his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would be like a river of living water that flows and never runs dry.

We who who know the love Jesus showed us by dying on the cross for us have the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Jesus, and he gives us strength and forgiveness and courage every day. The gift of the Holy Spirit never runs dry. In fact, it keeps on growing in our lives and making us new in Jesus, and it brings new life to others around us, and all around the world!

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, the river of living water that never runs dry. Amen.

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/place/Amazon-River

Born, David J. Bible Studies on the Feasts of Israel St. Louis: LCMS World Mission, and Orlando: Lutherans in Jewish Evangelism, 1994.

The Glory Returns

Bible:

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. Ezekiel 43:1-5 ESV

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:25-32 ESV

Reflection:

There was never a baseball team quite like the New York Yankees in 1923. This team won the World Series for the first time with players who went on to become legends, such as Babe Ruth. It was the first year the team played in Yankee Stadium, which was sometimes called “The House that Ruth Built,” because Babe Ruth was such an important star on their team. But time went on, and the players became old and retired, and the glory of their days was over. But in 1948 the Yankees from 1923 came back to Yankee Stadium to play an “old timers’ game.” They played two innings against the 1948 Yankees, and they won! Thousands of fans crowded into the stadium to see the glory of old times return for a little while.

In Ezekiel’s vision, God showed him a new Jerusalem and an amazing, beautiful new temple in great detail. Then Ezekiel saw the most wonderful thing of all. He had once seen a vision of the glory of the Lord leaving the temple in Jerusalem, but now he saw the glory of the Lord returning. The glory made the earth shine, and sounded like the rushing waters of ocean waves or of a mighty river. God’s glory came from the east, through the eastern gates, and filled the temple, and in his vision the Lord brought Ezekiel into the inner court of the new temple to see this wonderful thing. There was hope for the future. God hadn’t abandoned his people forever, but would come to be among them again as their God.

When God kept his promise and came to be among his people, he didn’t come in a rush of shining glory, but instead he came in a little baby. Jesus was brought to the temple when he was 40 days old to be presented according to the Law. When Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple, the Holy Spirit told an old man named Simeon that the promised Savior he had been waiting for had finally come. Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said that Jesus was the salvation of all people–a light to all the nations of the world, and the glory of God’s people Israel. Jesus came to give his life to bring us back to our Heavenly Father, and he is the true glory of God for everyone who believes in him.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for being our glory and our salvation. Amen.

Source:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/sports/year_in_sports/06.13.html

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.

 

The People Don’t Listen

Bible:

When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them, Azariah the son of Hoshaiah and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there,’ but Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah. But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to live in the land of Judah from all the nations to which they had been driven—the men, the women, the children, the princesses, and every person whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan; also Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah. And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord. And they arrived at Tahpanhes. Jeremiah 43:1-7 ESV

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.
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. Psalm 81:11-16 ESV

Reflection:

Cassandra was a woman from Greek mythology who was cursed by the god Apollo. Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy, which meant that she could foretell the future. But he also punished her by giving her a curse. Even though she would be able to foretell the future perfectly, no one would ever believe what she said. Cassandra foresaw the disaster of the Trojan War, and what would cause it. She knew that a man named Paris was going to steal the beautiful Helen from her husband, and that it would cause the war. She tried to warn her people about what was going to happen, but no one ever listened to her, and she wasn’t able to stop a terrible war that went on for years and years.

Cassandra is only a story, but Jeremiah experienced the same thing that Cassandra experienced. He spoke the word of God truly and faithfully, but it seemed like no one ever believed him. When the people who were left in Jerusalem asked him whether they should go to Egypt or not, and promised to obey whatever God told them through Jeremiah, he told them that God wanted them to stay in their country. But they didn’t listen! They went to Egypt anyway, and they took the prophet with them. Time and again God’s people turned away from God’s word and disobeyed what he told them. The Lord wanted to bless them, but he ended up having to punish them instead.

We also disobey God time and again. But God sent Jesus to be our Savior, and Jesus took all the punishment for our disobedience when he died on the cross. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day. We never have to doubt or be puzzled about what God wants, because he’s made his will clear to us in his word, the Bible. He sends his Holy Spirit to help us live new lives of faith and obedience to God, and is with us always to help us and to bless us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your word, and for Jesus, our Savior. Help us to trust and to obey you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.