Bible reading for July 5 -- 6
July 5 -- Jeremiah 1 and Matthew 15
July 6 -- Jeremiah 2 and Matthew 16
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, July 4! Throughout the years I have felt varying degrees of loyalty to this nation. The more I have studied history, however, and have observed God's working in it, the more deeply I have come to appreciate the founding principles of this country. In practice this nation has allowed a greater freedom for the gospel to go forth and for the church to flourish than any other nation. Along with the UK the US has been the sending base for thousands of missionaries around the world. The freedoms we have are not to be treated lightly. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (The Declaration of Independence)
"...my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13)
CALLING AND COURAGE (ch 1). The prophet Jeremiah will preach for forty years before the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem in 586 BC. He is called to proclaim God's word to the people of Judah, and much courage and perseverance will be needed (vv 1-10). The image of a boiling pot tipping southward is used to describe the oncoming invasion of the Babylonians (vv 13-19). The armies will come from the east but will approach Israel from the north through Syria. Jeremiah will have a long and difficult ministry, since many in his generation will not heed his words. But God promises to keep him strong. In our day, too, we need the strength of the Lord to hold forth his word to an unbelieving world (Acts 1:8; 1 Pet 3:14-16). This promise is for us too: "They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you" (v 19). Are you daily looking to God for the strength you need to stand firm in the truth? Verse 11 contains a play on words: "almond tree" (šäqëd) and "watching over" (šöqëd) sound very similar. The technical term for this literary device is paronomasia. The use of language, along with metaphors and puns, is part of the image of God in man. God is the creator of language and, as seen here, the use of wordplay or puns is a feature of communication that comes from him. Just saying...
THE UNFAITHFUL BRIDE (ch 2). Israel, and here specifically the people of Judah and Jerusalem, have traded the living God who is an ever-flowing stream of water for a stagnant and leaky cistern. Also, Judah is like a bride who has forgotten who is her husband (vv 2, 32). The nation has turned to false gods, idols, and a political alliance with Egypt for her peace and security. "Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit" (v 11). One of the passages I have also pondered is verse 5: "What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?" (v 5) When we feel ourselves drifting away from the Lord we need to ask ourselves, what fault or injustice I have found in the Lord that I should fall away and pursue worthless things? How do I think God has wronged me, or let me down, that I should be discontented and wander off?
"And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.'" (Matthew 16:17)
FOOD FROM THE MASTER'S TABLE (ch 15). We see a contrast between the hypocrisy of those who claimed to follow God (Jewish Pharisees, men, vv 1-20) and the heartfelt plea of an outsider (a Canaanite woman, vv 21-28). True religion is not about cleaning up our exterior with ceremonies but rather the cleansing of the heart from moral defilement (vv 18-20). At first reading it may seem that Jesus was hard on this needy woman, but he himself knew what he was going to do, and was testing her faith, just as he did to his disciples (e.g., John 6:6). Jesus had compassion on this poor woman as he would in the case of a crowd of four thousand people, which included many lame, blind, mute, and diseased individuals (v 32). Jesus said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (9:13). Just as the Canaanite woman appealed to Jesus for "bread from the master's table" (v 27), so this unwashed crowd, too, was given bread from the Lord's hand (vv 29-39). As Augustine said, "God gives where he finds empty hands."
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? (ch 16) Jesus warns his disciples against the influence of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (vv 1-6). But his disciples also seem unable to clearly understand what Jesus was talking about (vv 7-12). Popular opinion about Jesus seems to have been all over the map (vv 13-14). But in a moment of God-given, divinely-revealed, crystal-clear insight, Peter confesses, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v 16). We need to realize that our understanding of who Jesus is, what he has done, and how good and trustworthy he is, comes from God alone. It's a supernatural insight, as light coming into the darkness. Our faith in Christ is the result of God's initiative in revealing his Son to us. Read more on chapter 16 here, on "Jesus identified" and "the primacy of Peter".
"THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM is the problem of the heart," may be a good summary of a theme seen in both our OT and NT readings. It is much easier to clean up the outside of our life -- what others see -- rather than our heart with all of its defiled intentions, motives, malice, envy, idols, and impure desires (Matt 15:18-19). Hypocrisy is an ever-present danger for those of us who claim to follow the Lord. In our heart of hearts are we seeking to love the Lord or the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17)? One of the purposes of the continued preaching about the law, sin, and grace is that we might always be aware of our need for growth in holiness in our inner being (Eph 3:16). We still come with empty hands to receive his grace and mercy! We should be praying for a continued vision of the excellence and glory of Jesus, that we might trust him more fully. He alone is the "fountain of living waters" that we truly need and should deeply desire.
Photo credit: almond tree in blossom, source unknown. 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.
Bible reading for July 5 -- 6