devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the LORD” (v13). God directed the prophet Jeremiah to use the Rechabite clan as an example of obedience. This clan neither drank wine nor lived in houses, following the commandment of their ancestor (v8); instead they lived a nomadic life in tents (v10), which was fairly radical in an agricultural society like Israel. God declared that while the Rechabites had obeyed an earthly father, the people of Judah had rejected His commands.
Radical obedience comes from faith in the unseen God, that “He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6).”
“You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine” (v17). Under King Zedekiah, people had briefly obeyed God’s command to set free Hebrew slaves after six years (v14-15). This was supposed to prevent life-long poverty and servanthood, yet people mostly ignored the law. The freed slaves were quickly forced back into labor. God therefore “released” His people to experience war, plagues, and famine.
God cares about vulnerable people in our societies. We are called to “proclaim freedom” at every level: within families, within the church, and within our nations.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
“Therefore encourage one another with these words” (v18). Paul addressed some questions that were disturbing the Thessalonian believers as they watched loved ones die before the promised return of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died and rose again (v14), death is not the end for His followers. When He returns in glory, those who have died (fallen asleep) will rise first (v14), and then those still alive will join them and the Lord in the air (v17).
God’s promise is that Jesus’ resurrection broke the curse of death, which is separation. In Christ, we will be “with the Lord” and “with each other” for eternity.
I Thessalonians 4:1-12
“As you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (v1). Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to continue to walk with Jesus, obeying Him “more and more.” Three areas were of special concern: sexual behavior (v3-8), relationships within the church family (v9), and work/debt/finances (v11-12). In all these areas, the values of God’s kingdom would become evident in their lives as they cooperated with Him.
Filled with the Spirit (v8), we can be confident that God is at work in us; as we make an effort to “walk properly” (v12), we glorify Him and experience His peace.
“For the righteous will never be moved …He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD” (v6-7). People who honor God and follows His ways (v1) have a sure foundation for their lives because they trust the One who can never be shaken. As they “give generously” and act with honesty and integrity (v5,9), they enjoy the blessings of a good reputation, solid relationships, and a clean conscience.
Bad news strikes all of us, yet we do not have to live in fear (v8). “Light dawns in the darkness” for those who trust the Lord and follow His “gracious, merciful, and righteous” path (v4).
“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely” (v15,16). Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet” because he lived through some of the darkest days in Israel’s history. Yet through him, God promised to send the perfect King (v17) and the eternal Priest (v18), in order to save both Israel and the whole world.
“I will forgive all the guilt of their sin” (v8). Fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy, Jesus Christ, our High Priest-King, forever reigns and intercedes for us (Hebrews 7).
“I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety” (v37). While the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem and everything was crumbling (v2), God promised His people that they still had a future. Jeremiah the prophet bought a piece of land in Judah to symbolize that future (v9,43), showing the people that they would return to their homes. What they could see was only failure, defeat, and loss, but with God, they had real hope of renewal and resurrection.
“I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them” (v39).
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel” (v31). While the old covenant served its purpose (and was broken), Jeremiah said, God promised something better. His kindness and mercy toward Israel would blossom into a new covenant written in the blood of His Son (Luke 22, Hebrews 8), offering forgiveness (v34) and heart-renewal not just for Israel, but for all the peoples of the world.
All who accept this new covenant of life in the Son “shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord … their life shall be like a watered garden” (v12).
“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal” (v17). Even as the first generation of people from Judah were being led off into captivity, God was reassuring them through Jeremiah that their story was not over. His covenant with Israel was far-reaching, and even though they would spend seventy years in Babylon, in the end it would turn out for their good (v18). “And you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (v22).
God preserved Israel and fulfilled His promises by bringing forth His Son, the ruler “from their midst” (v21). In Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven and our brokenness healed (v17).
“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 …” (v11). God’s words of encouragement for the Jewish exiles in Babylon are particularly remarkable because He spoke them to a rebellious people. The Jews were in Babylon as punishment, having lost Jerusalem, and yet God offered them mercy and new life.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD” (v13-14). God is merciful far beyond our comprehension, and His desire is to give us “a future and a hope.”
I Thessalonians 3
“For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith” (v7). Paul often spoke of being comforted by the love of his fellow believers, and in this case, he was thrilled to hear good news of “the faith and love” of his friends (v6). Despite persecution, need, and prison, the apostle’s load was lightened by the unity and support of other Jesus-followers.
“For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God” (v9). Paul gave thanks to God for the gift of friendship, which helps us bear almost any weight.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (v10). When we base our lives on the One who “remembers His covenant forever” (v5), we have an unshakeable foundation. God has proven His love and His redemptive power (v6,9), so no matter what crises appear in our lives, we can be confident that He is greater.
Those who have “a good understanding” (v10) about life base their decisions not on fear, greed, or pride, but on joyful trust in the Savior who loves us now and into eternity.
"Go, tell Hananiah, 'Thus says the LORD: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron’” (v13). The false prophet Hananiah had told the people of Judah that within two years, Nebuchadnezzar would be defeated and they would be free (v2,11). Then he dramatically broke the wooden bars that Jeremiah used to symbolize Judah’s temporary bondage (v10). But Hananiah was prophesying wishful thinking, and his lies led to his death.
We cannot escape difficult times by positive thinking. We can, however, face our troubles with courage and hope because the Redeemer is on our side.
“Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon and live” (v17). God’s word through Jeremiah was that the people of Judah should bow to the Babylonian empire, temporarily. They were being punished for their rebellion, yet if they yielded, God promised that this period of exile would be limited to seventy years. Therefore, Jeremiah told them to ignore the false prophets who urged resistance against Babylon (v14).
Our perspective changes dramatically when we know God is with us. God’s mercy turned Judah’s exile from disaster into an opportunity for redemption.
April 19: Jeremiah 33 (04/19/2014)
April 18: Jeremiah 32 (04/18/2014)
April 17: Jeremiah 31 (04/17/2014)
April 16: Jeremiah 30 (04/16/2014)
April 15: Jeremiah 29 (04/15/2014)
April 14: I Thessalonians 3 (04/14/2014)
April 13: Psalm 111:5-10 (04/13/2014)
April 12: Jeremiah 28 (04/12/2014)
April 11: Jeremiah 27 (04/11/2014)
April 10: Jeremiah 25-26 (04/10/2014)
April 9: Jeremiah 24 (04/09/2014)
April 8: I Thessalonians 2 (04/08/2014)
April 7: I Thessalonians 1 (04/07/2014)
April 6: Psalm 111:1-4 (04/06/2014)
April 5: Jeremiah 23 (04/05/2014)
April 4: Jeremiah 21-22 (04/04/2014)
April 3: Jeremiah 20 (04/03/2014)
April 2: Jeremiah 19 (04/02/2014)
April 1: Colossians 4:7-18 (04/01/2014)
March 31: Colossians 4:1-6 (03/31/2014)