Bible reading for July 12 -- 13
July 12 -- Jeremiah 8 and Matthew 22
July 13 -- Jeremiah 9 and Matthew 23
"...let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:24)
A BAND-AID ON CANCER (ch 8). The Babylonian invasion would be terrifying -- many would die, families would be divided, people carried off into captivity, and even ancestral tombs would be ransacked and exposed. The Babylonians would seek to eradicate Jewish history and culture. It was a severe judgment. One of the things that the people were saying was, "We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us" (v 8). But they did not really love God nor practice his commandments. They lived in "perpetual backsliding" (v 5) and treated sin lightly. The prophets and priests were putting band-aids on their society's cancer, saying that everything was going to be all right (v 11; cf 6:14). They thought they knew the Lord, but they did not (cf Matt 7:21-23; Jas 2:17-20). This is true for many of us -- we do not realize the seriousness of sin from God's holy perspective, until it's too late.
TO KNOW THE LORD (ch 9). What does it mean to "know the Lord"? Verses 23 and 24, as well as the surrounding context, help us to understand this better. It is not merely to know his name, or that he is God, or to give some homage to him. It's not about great wisdom, power, or wealth. It is to find delight ("boast") in the Lord and his holy character, to the point that we walk in his ways. He practices and delights in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness, and therefore, so do his children. Jesus said something very similar: "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:21a). How do I know that I know the Lord? It's not because I have a good set of Bible commentaries and systematic theologies on my shelf -- these are helpful -- but because I apply what I have learned, and obey him, and seek to do his will. "Trust and obey, for there's no other way..."
WHAT HOPE IS THERE FOR US? When we think of the holiness of God's character, his hatred of evil, the depth of our sin, and the great judgment to come, we may be tempted to despair. But this should drive us to have a higher view of the glorious work of Christ upon the cross. Pastor Jack Miller used the diagrams above to describe how Christians, when they were converted, would have a view of the cross that was sufficient for their early walk with Christ, but did not grow with them as they grew in awareness of God's holiness and their own sinfulness (top diagram). They would be tempted to fill in the gap with their own works, or else turn away in despair. However, Christ's death -- the one sacrifice for sins for all time (Heb 10) -- is fully sufficient for all of our needs for mercy, forgiveness, and grace. There is no lack or shortfall in Christ's atonement. What needs to grow is our own view and estimation of the greatness of the work of Christ in our redemption (bottom diagram).
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)
CONFRONTATION (ch 22). Jesus gives a parable portraying the gracious and lavish invitation of a king, and the insolent reactions given from those invited. He answers several questions that his opponents had designed to trick him and so discredit his authority. He answers them, and then plainly states that the greatest commandment is to love God wholeheartedly, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Finally, he turns and asks them a question that ends the debate. Psalm 110 is the most cited passage from the OT in the NT. In it King David says, "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool'" (Ps 110:1).
WHO IS DAVID'S LORD? Traditional Jewish thought held that a son was not greater than his father, and that those who went before were greater than those who came after. Likely, many thought that the Messiah, the "Son of David", might be a great king but not necessarily greater than David. Jesus points out that King David calls his son, "Lord." This increased the gravity of the discussion. If Jesus was the true "Son of David", they would be rejecting One with greater authority than King David himself, one who is called "Lord" and seated at God's right hand. By this time the opponents of Jesus stopped asking him questions.
WOE TO YOU (ch 23)! Jesus calls out seven "woes" to the leaders in Jerusalem, specifically upon the scribes and the Pharisees, the influencers of the day. He described them as blind guides, proud, obsessed with their own honor and appearance, hypocritical, without compassion, neglecting the weightier matters of the law, outwardly clean but inwardly defiled, and a "brood of vipers." Pronouncing woes was common among the OT prophets, being a prelude to God's judgment. Sadly, though their city would be left desolate, Jesus speaks tenderly of his willingness to gather them to himself. Just as Jeremiah's generation faced the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, so the Jews after Jesus' day would see Jerusalem fall to the Romans in AD 70. (Keep in mind that these two judgments were 600 years apart, and as one of our pastors recently said, "God has a very, very, very, very long fuse.") Both Jeremiah and Jesus wept for the suffering of the people. Jesus continued to offer them a safe refuge in himself. May we be so willing and tender to receive those who may yet turn to Christ, even from the brink of judgment. The story's not over until it's over.
A BENEDICTION. Here is an appropriate blessing from Charles Spurgeon: "Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock! May your faith be no 'baseless fabric of a vision,' but may it be built of material able to endure that awful fire which shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires earnest. May your whole life be so settled and established, that all the blasts of hell, and all the storms of earth shall never be able to remove you." (From Morning and Evening, July 11.)
Image credit: diagram concept by C. John Miller (1928--1996), OPC pastor and founder of World Harvest Mission. 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.