Bible reading for weekend July 9 -- 11
July 9 -- Jeremiah 5 and Matthew 19
July 10 -- Jeremiah 6 and Matthew 20
July 11 -- Jeremiah 7 and Matthew 21
"Thus says the LORD: 'Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, "We will not walk in it."'" (Jeremiah 6:16)
FAILURE OF THE ELITES (ch 5). The leaders of Jerusalem and Judah also have fallen away from the Lord. The prophets (so-called), priests, scribes, judges, and royal officials alike are all on the moral skids. Education in and of itself will never save a society (v 5). These elites are more interested in sex and extra-marital affairs than in leading with righteousness. Popular opinion holds sway, and there is no remorse or shame, for "they love to have it so" (v 31).
SOCIETY-WIDE FAILURE (ch 6). Note how widespread is this apostasy: "For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely" (v 13). Both religious and political leaders treated sin in a superficial way: "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (v 14). They felt that as long as the temple stood in its grandeur, and services there were bustling, then everything was going to turn out all right. But the Lord was not interested in outward show (vv 20-21), for he was calling them to walk in his ways (v 16). A cruel and merciless army was soon to be on its way to the land (vv 22-26). Jeremiah's prophetic ministry to them, and their complete disregard of his call to repentance, were proof that they had become a worthless people prepared for judgment (vv 27-30).
THE JUDGMENT TO COME (ch 7). Without a change of life and morals the Jews' trust in the presence of God's temple was in vain (vv 1-7, 21-26). They had gone beyond the point of no return, and Jeremiah was not to intercede for them (vv 16-20). In their worship of false gods they were even practicing child sacrifice (vv 30-31). The place where this occurred, the valley of Hinnom, eventually became a public dump for burning waste by the time of Jesus, and was used as an image for everlasting judgment. "Gehenna" thus became the word for "hell". What sad words end this chapter: "I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste" (v 34).
SPEAKING OF JUDGMENT... I found a recent video by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus to be very disturbing, even though the originators claimed it to be satire. Here's Rod Dreher's take on it.
"Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 19:14)
FOLLOWING JESUS (ch 19). Jesus and his disciples are approaching Jerusalem. In answer to a question about divorce he cites Genesis 2 and adds, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (v 6). In accord with the OT our Lord upheld God's standards for sexual integrity. In this chapter and next there is also the repeated theme of childlike faith and humility (see 18:2-4; 6, 20, 14; and 21:15). Despite the disciples' reproof Jesus receives and blesses the children (vv 13-15). The rich young ruler then comes to Jesus to find some good thing he can do to inherit eternal life (v 16). Like many moral people, then as now, he had an inflated view of his own capacity for goodness. He is unable to give up his property to follow Christ, however. Jesus is not presenting eternal life as something achievable through renouncing material possessions (see vv 17, 26). Rather, the man's property was preventing him from following Jesus in a simple and childlike way. His response contrasts with the response of the blind men in chapter 20. Jesus' statement, "But many who are first will be last, and the last first" (v 30) is repeated in 20:16.
GREATNESS AND SERVICE (ch 20). Jesus continues, in the parable of the day laborers, to show that salvation (or greatness) does not come by working harder or longer than others (vv 1-16). We don't earn eternal life by our effort. The central truth that Jesus reiterates on their journey to Jerusalem is that salvation will come through his own humiliation, suffering, and death, followed by the resurrection (vv 17-19). Denying oneself, that is, taking up the cross and following Jesus, is what marks greatness among God's children. What then follows is a mother's ironic request: for her two sons to sit at places of honor and glory in Christ's kingdom (vv 20-24). Jesus plainly teaches them that greatness comes through serving, even as he came "to serve and give his life a ransom for many" (vv 25-28). The chapter closes with two blind men who cry out for Jesus to have mercy on them. He heals them of their blindness and they begin following him on the road. This is in stark contrast with the rich young ruler earlier. These two poor men do not appeal to their ability and goodness, but rather call out for Jesus' mercy. And when mercy was shown, they immediately began to follow him on the road.
BY WHAT AUTHORITY? (ch 21). Jesus enters Jerusalem as the long-awaited King of Israel, and he comes in peace. The donkey miracle (vv 1-6), known only to the disciples and the donkeys' owners, demonstrated that Jesus was in complete control of the unfolding events in Jerusalem. He cleanses the temple (vv 7-17), a direct confrontation to the priestly authorities in Jerusalem. Again, it is the children who give the proper response to Jesus (vv 15-16). The cursing of the fig tree (vv 17-22) is a symbol of Christ's coming judgment upon the nation, as well as a lesson in faith. The nation's leaders challenge Jesus' authority in what he's doing (v 23). He asks them to state the nature of John the Baptist's authority (which they won't do), then gives two very plain and pointed parables, and cites Psalm 118:22-23: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." This chapter centers around the issue of Jesus' authority: seen in his miracles, in the testimony of John the Baptist, from Scripture, and as witnessed by the disciples.
REFLECTION. Both Jeremiah and Jesus experienced rejection by their respective generations. The bondage of sin blinds the hearts and minds of the unrepentant. Often, a society's leading influencers are most blameworthy. What God desires of us, all of us, is that we humble ourselves, being honest about our sin, and place our trust in the mercy of God given to us in his Son Jesus. "Let the little children come to me" is addressed to all of us.
Image credit: my photo taken on a trail at Holly Point Nature Park in Deltaville, VA. 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.