The Fig Tree

Bible:

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. Matthew 21:18-19 ESV

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;
when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord.
When I would gather them, declares the Lord,
there are no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree;
even the leaves are withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them. Jeremiah 8:12-13 ESV

Reflection:

A family went camping next to a rushing river, and the father wanted his children to understand that it would be dangerous for them to play too near the river or to try to swim in it. So he brought his children to the edge of the river and broke a branch off of a nearby tree. Then he threw the branch into the river, and they watched as the water quickly swept the branch away. The father said to his children, “That’s what would happen to you if you fell into the river or tried to swim in it.” He hoped that showing them an example from a tree branch would get their attention and teach them to stay safe.

Jesus did something similar with a fig tree. He wanted to eat some figs, but there weren’t any, so he spoke the word, and the fig tree withered. Jesus wasn’t really angry with the fig tree, but instead he was using the fig tree as a picture of the judgment that was coming to the people of Jerusalem and their city and their temple. Long ago the prophet Jeremiah had compared the people of Judah to a fig tree that didn’t have any fruit, and Jesus was making the same comparison. The people had turned away from God and not showed the fruits of living by faith in him. So the Lord was going to judge them for this. Jesus also showed God’s judgment against the temple by driving out the moneychangers and the people selling animals, and this was another picture of God’s anger. The time was running out for the people to repent and to turn to the Lord.

God loves all people, and he doesn’t want to come to anyone in anger or judgment. He sent his Son Jesus to be our Savior, and on the cross Jesus took all of God’s judgment and anger on himself. Because of this, all our sins are forgiven, and we are God’s people. He calls us to live by faith in him, and sends us his Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance every day. God works in us to help us produce the fruit of new lives lived in love to him and in service to others.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, our Savior. Help us to live lives of repentance and faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Proclamation of Cyrus

Bible:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 ESV

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV

Reflection:

When World War I broke out, Germany invaded the little country of Belgium. The Belgians fought back, but they didn’t stand a chance against the German army. A million and a half Belgian people became refugees and fled their country. Some of them went to France, and some to the Netherlands, and some went to Great Britain. The Belgians worked for the war effort in Great Britain, especially in ammunition factories. When the war was over and British servicemen started coming home, the British wanted the Belgians to return to their own country. They gave them one-way tickets to return, and the refugees went back to a country that had been destroyed by a terrible war, needing to start life again and to rebuild their country.

When the time of exile had come to an end for God’s people, the Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus, the ruler of the Persian empire. Cyrus sent out a proclamation that said the exiles could return to their own country and rebuild their temple. He also said that people who were their friends and neighbors, and people of Judah who decided not to go home, should help them by giving them gold and silver to build the temple, and also animals and money and whatever else they could give the travelers for their journey. God was keeping the promise he had made years before through the prophet Jeremiah, that someday the exile would end and his people would come home again. He was bringing his people home so they would know that he cared for his people, and so that they would trust him and pray to him.

God kept his promises to his people long ago, and the greatest promise of all was to send the Savior into the world. When the exiles returned home, they could once again hope and wait for the Messiah that God promised to send. They waited for many years, but when the right time came God kept that promise too, and sent Jesus, his Son. Jesus came to die on the cross for the sins of all the people in the world, and all people who believe in Jesus have their sins forgiven and become God’s people. We know that the Lord cares for us very much, and we can trust him and pray to him every day. He hears our prayers and helps us and blesses us for Jesus’ sake.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping all your promises to us, and for Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/refugees_belgium

My Word Will Stand

Bible:

Jeremiah said to all the people and all the women, “Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have declared with your mouths, and have fulfilled it with your hands, saying, ‘We will surely perform our vows that we have made, to make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her.’ Then confirm your vows and perform your vows! Therefore hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: Behold, I have sworn by my great name, says the Lord, that my name shall no more be invoked by the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, ‘As the Lord God lives.’ Behold, I am watching over them for disaster and not for good. All the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end of them. And those who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who came to the land of Egypt to live, shall know whose word will stand, mine or theirs.” Jeremiah 44:24-28 ESV

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:6-8 ESV

Reflection:

In 1784 a Frenchman named Jacques-Louis David painted a picture called, “The Oath of the Horatii.” This painting is set in ancient Rome, and it shows a father holding up three swords to his three sons. The three sons are raising their right arms to take an oath that they will do their duty to the family and the State, even if they have to die in doing that duty. The three young men are grim and determined, but off to the side of the picture are some women, wives or sisters of the three brothers. They are pictures of tragedy and sadness, because they know how much the men’s oath will cost their family. One of them is a wife who came from the enemy family, the Curatii, and another one is a sister who is engaged to the enemy family. They can see nothing but grief to come.

When Jeremiah warned his people in Egypt of the coming judgment of God, he also talked about solemn oaths. The people had taken a vow that they would serve the queen of heaven and pour out offerings to her, and they were determined to keep that vow, even though it was going to give them only sadness and death and trouble. God gave his word through Jeremiah that he would judge them for their rebellion. The Lord swore by his own great name that they would almost all die in war or in famine, until only a very small number of them would be left. That small group would straggle back to the land of Judah, and they would know that the promises and the word of the Lord would stand, but not their own weak vows.

The word of the Lord will always stand, and that is both bad news and good news for us. It’s bad news because God promises that he will judge sin, and we are all sinners who deserve his anger and judgment. But God also has a word of mercy that he gives us through Jesus. The Lord’s judgment for sin was all poured out on Jesus at the cross, and everyone who believes in Jesus has God’s love and forgiveness. God’s mercy for us is guaranteed by his promise that nothing in all the universe can separate us from his love, and we can count on that word, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your word of mercy to us. Help us to trust in that word for now and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Cumming, Robert Annotated Art London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1995, pp. 70-71.

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.

 

Stones in the Pavement

Bible:

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: “Take in your hands large stones and hide them in the mortar in the pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden, and he will spread his royal canopy over them. He shall come and strike the land of Egypt, giving over to the pestilence those who are doomed to the pestilence, to captivity those who are doomed to captivity, and to the sword those who are doomed to the sword. I shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captive. And he shall clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin, and he shall go away from there in peace. He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis, which is in the land of Egypt, and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.’” Jeremiah 43:8-13 ESV

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 ESV

Reflection:

When I was a young girl, I did a bad and foolish thing. One day when I was walking along a path beside a lovely wooded area, I noticed that there were some nails driven into the ground on the dirt path. Each nail held a square of bright orange plastic fabric to the ground. I knew what these nails with their orange squares meant. They meant that someone had surveyed the woods and that soon bulldozers would come and tear down the trees and bushes and build roads and houses. I didn’t want to see that happen, so as I walked along I kicked up all the nails with their orange squares. I tried to undo all the work the surveyors had done and prevent anyone from building the housing development. But that was foolish. A few days later as I walked along the path again I saw that someone had driven wooden stakes deep into the ground and nailed orange squares into the stakes. I couldn’t kick up those wooden stakes, and I couldn’t stop the developers from building the houses and roads that they planned.

The people who ran away from Jerusalem to Egypt to try to stay safe from King Nebuchadnezzar were just as foolish. They had heard God’s words warning them to stay in their home country, and promising that the Lord would protect them and keep them safe. But they disobeyed God and went to Egypt, and took Jeremiah with them. In Egypt, the Lord told Jeremiah to take some large stones and hide them in the pavement that led to the entrance to one of Pharoah’s palaces. These stones were to be a sign to God’s people that Nebuchadnezzar was going to come and conquer Egypt and set up his throne there. The Babylonians would do to Egypt what they had done to Jerusalem, destroying and killing and taking captive and burning the Egyptian temples. The people of Israel might be able to take the stones out of the pavement, but they wouldn’t be able to prevent Nebuchadnezzar from coming. They couldn’t stop God’s purposes.

People can’t ever stop God’s purposes, no matter what they do or how hard they try. This is actually good news for us. God’s greatest purpose in all of history is to bring people back to himself. When the right time came, he sent the promised Savior, Jesus, into the world. Jesus took the load of all the sins of the world onto himself, and he took that load to the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, God poured out all his judgment of sin onto Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for us, God forgives all our sins every day. We are free from sin to live as his people, and we know that his purposes for us are always going to be for our good. God is always working to keep us close to him, now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your good purposes for us in Jesus. Help us to trust our lives to your will. 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.

Two Choices

Bible:

At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them. Jeremiah 42:7-17 ESV

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV

Reflection:

Once there was a king who had an unusual way of finding out if a man was guilty or innocent of a crime. He would bring the man into an arena, and offer him a choice of two doors. Behind one door would be a hungry tiger who who would kill him and eat him, and behind the other door would be a beautiful woman who would marry him. The accused man would have a choice of which door to open, and whichever door he chose would determine his fate. One day a man fell in love with the princess, and this was against the law. He was brought into the arena and given his choice. The princess loved him, and she found out which door had the lady and which had the tiger. She signaled the man she loved which door to choose, and he trusted her and went to the door she told him to go to. This is only a story, and the person who wrote this story didn’t tell us whether the man met the lady, because the princess wanted to save his life, or the tiger, because the princess was jealous of the woman who would get to marry him. It’s up to us to guess–the lady or the tiger?

The people who were left in Jerusalem were facing an important choice, too. Should they go to Egypt, where they might be safe from King Nebuchadnezzar? Or should they stay home? They didn’t know what to do, so they asked Jeremiah to tell them what God wanted. God gave Jeremiah a very clear message. He told them that they should stay in their own country. If they did that, the Lord would have mercy on them and keep them safe from King Nebuchadnezzar. But if they went to Egypt, God would be very angry with them and punish them with more death and destruction. The man in the story might not have been able to completely trust the princess, but the people left in Jerusalem could trust the Lord fully. They could be confident in obeying what he told the prophet Jeremiah.

God loves us just as he loved his people of old, and he wants us to live forever with him in his heavenly kingdom. But we aren’t able to make the right choice on our own to follow the Lord’s ways and come to him. So God came to us in Jesus to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us put our faith in Jesus so that we can have eternal life. The Holy Spirit helps us follow God’s ways, and he keeps us trusting in Jesus, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to always trust Jesus and follow the way that brings us home to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/LadyTige.shtml

Looking for Guidance

Bible:

Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us—that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 42:1-6 ESV

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules. Psalm 119:103-106 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever heard how the city of Portland, Oregon got its name? In 1835 two men, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, settled on a land claim near the two rivers that flow by today’s city of Portland. Early settlers helped establish a small townsite on the claim as the two men developed it, and at first it was called The Clearing or The Village. Lovejoy and Pettygrove decided that their growing town needed a different name. One man was from Portland, Maine, and the other was from Boston, Massachusetts, and each man wanted to name the new town after his hometown. So they flipped a penny three times, and whichever man won the “heads or tails” contest two out of three times would get to name the town. Pettygrove, who was from Portland, Maine, won the contest, and that’s how Portland, Oregon got its name!

Sometimes when people can’t decide something, they flip a coin, and let the “heads or tails” decide what they should do. If a decision isn’t very important, that isn’t too bad of a way to decide, but for a very important decision it’s awfully silly to ask a coin what to do! The few people left around Jerusalem after it had been destroyed were afraid that Nebuchadnezzar would come back, and they felt very weak and helpless. They decided to ask God’s prophet, Jeremiah, what they should do. So they came to him to ask him to talk to God for them and get the Lord’s guidance at this difficult time. Jeremiah promised to pray for them and to tell them everything that God revealed to him, and the people promised to do whatever the Lord told them to do.

Sometimes we face difficult decisions as well, and it can be hard to know what to do. To pray and ask God for help, and to talk to parents or other trusted adults are good ideas. God gives us his best wisdom and guidance in his word, the Bible. The Bible doesn’t tell us every detail we want to know, but it helps us to know God and his will for us and for the world, and what is right and wrong. We can trust that God will help us understand everything we need to know through his word.

The best thing the Bible tells us is that Jesus loves us and died on the cross for us. Sometimes we make foolish or wrong decisions and rebel against God, but because of what Jesus did God will always forgive our sins. He will help us get back on track and follow his ways, and give us the strength we need every day to follow him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your word, the Bible, and for our Savior, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/portland_penny/#.WTLtYhPyvVo