Bible reading for July 19 -- 20
July 19 -- Jeremiah 15 and Mark 1
July 20 -- Jeremiah 16 and Mark 2
"Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation." (Jeremiah 15:16-17)
SITTING ALONE (ch 15). The coming judgment (Babylonian invasion) will involve famine, disease, violence, slavery, and exile (vv 1-7). That the Lord is "weary of relenting" (v 6) is a human (figurative) way of saying that God's patience for that generation is coming to an end. Particularly painful will be the breakup of families, and the children's loss of their parents, as well as the loss of all their wealth (vv 8-14). On a side note, reading 2 Kings 21-25, we see that things got worse every time the city revolted against Babylon over the twenty years of occupation, before the city was destroyed in 586 BC. The Jews' pride in thinking they could successfully rebel against Babylon -- and the prophet continually said, "don't do it" -- only made their suffering worse. Meanwhile, is Jeremiah feeling that God has let him down? Is it worth it to live a holy life when nobody else does (v 17)? Jeremiah even asks, is the Lord a "deceitful brook" that dries up when water is needed (v 18)? But the Lord promises to strengthen Jeremiah, and thus he will continue to faithfully proclaim God's word (which he loves, vv 16, 19), and he will prevail against the hatred of his generation (vv 19-21). This is very similar to the promises given to us in 1 Peter 5:6-10. God does not promise to deliver us from difficult circumstances or hostile societies, but he will "...himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" (1 Pet 5:10). I'm thankful for the honesty of God's word. The biblical authors, and the Author of the Bible, are honest about life in this world. People may say that the Christian faith is a kind of wish fulfillment, which is a very strange thing to say, since much of the Christian life is not what we would naturally wish for!
WHAT'S COMING, AND WHY (ch 16). In light of the coming invasion, Jeremiah is not to plan on getting married (cf 1 Cor 7:26-27). Death by famine, disease, and sword will become a regular occurrence, and the people would be too numb to mourn (vv 1-9). Again, the reason for all of this is due to the nation's apostasy from the Lord and his law (vv 10-13). In the midst of the pronouncement of judgment -- which was in accordance with the covenant stipulations in Deuteronomy 28 -- God gives his promise of the return of the people from exile (vv 14-15). We learn that one of the purposes of the Babylonian exile was that the nations would come to know the true God, and come to see the futility of their self-made gods: "O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: 'Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit'" (v 19). God's plan of redemption encompasses the nations (Gen 12:3; Ps 86:9; 96:3-4). He will sovereignly raise up and tear down nations. Through all of this he will save men and women from all of those nations, whether Assyria, Babylon, Rome, China, Iran, Russia, or America. "I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD" (v 21).
REFLECT. Jeremiah said, "I sat alone..." Have you ever felt like that? That you are alone in being faithful to the truth of God's word? We learn from Jeremiah that we as God's children are never truly alone. The world may look upon us as a handful of evil people on the wrong side of history. But the time will come when those in the world will see that it is vain to trust in themselves and in the works of their hands. Meanwhile, Jesus promises his followers, "I am with you always" (Matt 28:20). And the Apostle John writes, "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Like Jeremiah we should stay on course even if we feel we are standing alone. We must remain faithful, for the nations are watching us and learning about God in the process (cf 1 Pet 3:14-16).
"And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'My son, your sins are forgiven.'" (Mark 2:5)
JUMP RIGHT INTO THE STORY (ch 1). Here's my intro to the Gospel of Mark.
JESUS CHRIST HAS DIVINE AUTHORITY (ch 2). Christ's authority in teaching, healing, and deliverance is generally well-received in his earlier ministry. In chapter 2 we see two claims of authority which will cause increasing opposition throughout the rest of his ministry: the authority to forgive sins, and authority over the Sabbath. The reason is, both of these prerogatives belong to God alone. Jesus is the Lord who forgives (vv 5, 10). He did not come merely to heal people's bodies. His power to heal was a sign, a pointer from the lesser to the greater (vv 9-11), that he came as a Physician to heal our greatest and deepest problem, the sin-sickness of our souls (v 17). He didn't come just to patch up Judaism, but to accomplish something new (vv 18-22). And he is Lord of the Sabbath (v 28). The Sabbath was given to mankind for rest and reflection. The seventh day was set apart to rest from work, and to gather for worship, reflecting on the the goodness of God. The Pharisees made so many rules about Sabbath observance that a person could hardly rest or reflect due to all the regulations. God created the Sabbath (Gen 2), and it was a covenant sign between the Lord and Israel (Ex 31). And so, in claiming to be the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is saying that he has a divine right over the Sabbath and its observance. This, like the authority to forgive sins, would bring him into conflict with the religious leaders of his day.
Image credit. Photo by Romaine Dancre on Unsplash. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.