The Jews Tell Their Story

Bible:

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.” Ezra 5:6-17 ESV

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
 to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God. Psalm 78:4-8 ESV

Reflection:

Roosevelt and his family were migrant workers. Once his Mamma and Papa had lived on a farm, but now they didn’t have a home and traveled around the country picking crops for other farmers. Roosevelt had two sisters and a brother, and they always asked Mamma to tell them the same stories. They wanted to hear about the farm that Mamma and Papa used to have, with cotton fields and a dog run and pigs and chickens and a garden. They also wanted to hear the story about Mamma’s wedding day, and how Papa had said he couldn’t decide what was more beautiful, Mamma or the blossoming magnolia tree. They wanted to hear about how tractors had taken over the cotton fields and caused them to lose their farm. And Roosevelt talked to his mother about a secret the two of them had together, the hope that someday the family would find a home where they could stay for always and Roosevelt and his brother and sisters could go to school. Mamma’s stories helped the children understand where they had come from, and who they were, and they helped Roosevelt understand his mother’s hope for the future.

When Governor Tattenai wrote his letter to King Darius to find out if the Jews had permission to rebuild their temple, he asked them to tell their story. This story was very important to them, and it helped them remember who they were, and where they had come from, and what their hope for the future was. They told Governor Tattenai about Solomon’s wonderful temple, and how their sins had angered the holy God they served, and how God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take them into exile, destroy their temple, and take away the temple vessels. They also told how King Cyrus had given them permission to come home again and had given the decree that they should rebuild their temple, and had also given the gold and silver vessels back so they could be put into the new temple and used again. This story gave the Jews the strength and courage to go on with their work.

We also have a story that helps us understand who we are and what our hope is. God’s story of salvation is our story, because he has made us part of his people. Our story is all about Jesus, and how he came into the world as the promised Savior, and lived and died on the cross for us. Jesus rose again from the dead, and because of what he’s done we have eternal life. The story of Jesus is our story, a story that gives our lives meaning, and a story to share with others. The best thing is that all people everywhere are invited to make this story their own.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior, and for making us a part of your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Shotwell, Louisa R. Roosevelt Grady Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1963.

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Not Learning from the Past

Bible:

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

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

Reflection:

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

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

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

Prayer:

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

Source:

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

A Forgotten Wise Man

Bible:

The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:10-16 ESV

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. I Corinthians 1:18-21, 25 ESV

Reflection:

Luke Skywalker was a young man who lived on a planet far away on a farm with his uncle and aunt. One day his uncle brought home a couple of ‘droids he had bought from scavengers, and Luke discovered part of a secret message for someone named Obi-Wan Kenobi hidden inside one of them. Luke wanted to hear the rest of the message and to understand what it meant, and he also wanted to know who Obi-Wan was. When the little ‘droid with the message left by himself to find Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke went after him, they eventually found an old  hermit named Ben Kenobi. Ben had once been a powerful Jedi knight named Obi-Wan, but most people had forgotten him, and he lived far away from others by himself. But the princess who had sent the message knew about him, and now she was asking him for help in a time of terrible trouble.

Daniel had once been the greatest wise man in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, but now Nebuchadnezzar was dead and Daniel was an old man. Most people had forgotten about him or had never heard about him, and when the ghostly hand wrote a message on the wall of the palace at a party and King Belshazzar called all his wise men, he didn’t call Daniel. Then the queen, who might have been his mother, came in and told King Belshazzar about Daniel, and how great he had been in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, and how wise he was. She encouraged the king to call for Daniel, because she was sure he would be able to help. So Belshazzar called Daniel and had him brought to court right away. He asked him to read the message the hand had written on the wall and to explain what it meant.

Daniel was old and forgotten, but he had the wisdom of the Lord. Sometimes God’s wisdom is forgotten, and sometimes people think God’s wisdom is foolish, but the wisdom of the Lord is greater than the greatest human wisdom could ever be. God’s greatest wisdom was shown in Jesus. It’s hard for many people to understand why God would become a human being and allow himself to be beaten and whipped and put on a cross to die. But God worked through the cross to defeat death and all the forces of evil and to bring us back to himself. Through Jesus’ weakness God showed his strength, and through a death that seemed foolish and pointless, God showed the greatest wisdom of all.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us your wisdom and your love through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

Lucas, George, dir. Star Wars 20th Century Fox, 1977. Film.

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.

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.

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

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.

No Hope for the Future

Bible:

In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it. In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city. Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Nergal-sar-ezer of Samgar, Nebu-sar-sekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, with all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon. When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. Jeremiah 39:1-7 ESV

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:6-9 ESV

Reflection:

In October of 1929, the United States stock market crashed. What this meant was that people who put their money into stocks of different businesses suddenly lost a lot of their money, perhaps even all of it. The problem was, the stock market had been growing before this, and many people thought that they should put as much money as possible into stocks. Some people took out mortgages on their houses, which meant that they didn’t own the houses anymore, but instead their banks owned the houses, and the people took the money the banks gave them and put it into the stock market. Other people took the money they had been saving for their future and put it into the stock market. When the stock market crashed, many people lost all their hope for the future. Other things happened to make life even worse. Many people lost their jobs and couldn’t find new ones, and many banks failed. People who had money in the bank lost all the money they had saved. It was a sad and hopeless time for many people.

When Jerusalem fell, it was also a sad and hopeless time. Jeremiah had warned King Zedekiah more than once that he should surrender to the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar, but Zedekiah was afraid to do that. He stayed inside the walls of Jerusalem until the Babylonian army broke through the walls, and then the king and his soldiers ran away and tried to escape. But soon the Babylonian army caught up with them and arrested Zedekiah and the leaders of the people who were with him, and brought them to Nebuchadnezzar. All the noble leaders of Jerusalem were killed, and all of Zedekiah’s sons were killed while he watched. This was a very cruel action, but Nebuchadnezzar’s purpose was to make Zedekiah understand that there would be no son to sit on the throne after him. Watching his sons die was one of the last things Zedekiah saw. Nebuchadnezzar put out his eyes and took him as a prisoner to Babylon. By making Zedekiah blind, Nebuchadnezzar intended to make him weak and helpless. Without his sons and his noble leaders, there was no hope that Zedekiah would be able to start a rebellion and regain his kingdom in the future.

We were also weak and helpless, prisoners of sin and death with no hope for the future. But God sent Jesus to be our Savior, and Jesus gave us a wonderful hope for the future. He died on the cross for us when we were helpless to save ourselves, and because of Jesus all our sins are forgiven and we have life forever with God. We don’t have to worry about the future, and not even about the judgment of God, because Jesus’ took God’s judgment on himself. Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love, now or ever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the great love you show us in Jesus, and for giving us a wonderful hope for our future with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.britannica.com/event/stock-market-crash-of-1929

Buying Some Land

Bible:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah.

Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. Jeremiah 32:1-2, 6-8 ESV

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
 he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Psalm 57:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever heard of a white elephant? A white elephant is something a person has that is useless to him or her, something that isn’t needed and perhaps is a bother to take care of. In Haiti there is a fortress called the Citadel La Ferriere. It sits in the mountains on 20 acres of land and has walls that are up to 130 feet high. When it was built it was equipped with a printing shop, garment factories, a hospital, schools, a distillery, a chapel, and military barracks, and it also had 365 cannons and a large supply of cannon balls. The Haitian King Henri started building it in 1805 so that he could defend himself against an invasion from France, but the French never attacked him, and none of the cannons was ever fired. The Citadel La Ferriere still sits on top of its mountain, but now it’s a historic monument. This fortress might be considered a white elephant, something that the people of Haiti didn’t really need and that took a lot of effort and hard labor to build.

When God spoke to Jeremiah about buying a field from his cousin Hanamel, the prophet was being held in prison, and many people hated him because he had told them that the city of Jerusalem was going to fall to the Babylonians. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar were besieging the city, and the whole country was weak and devastated. Jeremiah must have felt as if God were asking him to buy a white elephant. In prison, with a foreign army surrounding Jerusalem, why would he want to buy some land? What could he possibly do with it? But when his cousin came to sell him the field, just as the Lord had said, Jeremiah knew that God must have a purpose in this.

Sometimes it’s hard to see God’s purposes in the things that happen, and it can be hard to obey God’s will when it doesn’t seem to make sense. But the Lord promises that he will always accomplish what he plans to, no matter what happens. When he sent Jesus into the world, it was hard for many people to recognize the promised Savior. He wasn’t a noble prince or a mighty soldier, but a humble and gentle teacher. When he was put on a cross to die, everyone thought that he couldn’t have been the one that God had promised to send. But God’s purposes were working through Jesus’ death to defeat sin and all the forces of evil, and Jesus came out of the grave the first Easter to show his victory over death and the devil. Because of Jesus, we can always be sure that God’s purposes will stand, and that he will always work good for his people.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to always trust in your purposes, and keep us close to you whatever happens. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://msu.edu/~williss2/carpentier/part1/citadel.html