Bible reading for weekend Aug 20 -- 22
Aug 20 -- Jeremiah 49 and Psalms 26-27
Aug 21 -- Jeremiah 50 and Psalms 28-29
Aug 22 -- Jeremiah 51 and Psalm 30
"Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire." (Jeremiah 51:58)
SURROUNDING NATIONS (ch 49). We are continuing in Jeremiah's pronouncements against the nations near to Judah. As we read such biblical prophecies, often written poetically, we may need a scorecard or program to know who's who and what's being said. For example, "Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad, and his people settled in its cities?" (v 1) Milcom (aka Molech) was the national god of the Ammonites, and Gad was one of the tribes of Israel. At some time in the past the Ammonites had forcefully taken and settled in some of the cities of Israel. Now it's their turn to be resettled (by Babylon). Judgment upon nations included judgment upon their gods. In this chapter the nations of Ammon, Edom, Syria (Damascus), Kedar, Hazor, and Elam are addressed. "Drinking the cup" (v 12) meant to endure judgment in repayment of sin, which gives us insight into Christ's use of that term, meaning his suffering God's judgment on behalf of sinners (Jn 18:11). Despite the judgment coming upon these nations, God gives hope for their future (vv 6, 11, 39).
HOPE FOR GOD'S PEOPLE (ch 50). Meanwhile, the Babylonian exile accomplished God's purpose: "In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, 'Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.'" (vv 4-5). Once they realized that they were lost sheep, gone astray, following deceitful leaders, they turned again to the Lord and toward Zion. Like the prodigal son they "came to their senses" (Lu 15:17). In much the same way we too have come to the good Shepherd (Jn 10:10-15). God promises, "I will restore Israel to his pasture..." (50:19-20). The Jews returned to the land from Babylon, and later they would return from many nations to Israel's land. But the true end of the exile will be realized when the nation embraces her Messiah (Zech 12; Rom 11:23-31).
THE FALL OF BABYLON (ch 50-51). From the founding of Babel in ancient times to the "mystery Babylon" of Revelation 18, the city of Babylon has represented human wisdom, wealth, and weaponry gathered into a community opposed to the reign of God. The pride of man will be humbled (50:31-32), along with the deities in whom they trusted (50:2, 38). A Medo-Persian alliance would topple Babylon in 539 BC. The city would again be attacked in 520 and 514 BC. Verse 58 describes the city's end, with walls leveled and gates burned. Though Saddam Hussein had sought to rebuild the city of Babylon, today it remains largely a waste place.
MAN V. GOD. In these chapters we see a contrast between God and the fallen human race. Of the nature of God, it says, "It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens" (51:15). He is the strong Redeemer of his people (50:34). Of the nature of man, we are told, "Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish" (51:17). Augustine noted that in history there has always been a City of Man, defiant toward God and his City. We see this tension and conflict today, as well. Etienne Gilson wrote, "Unless we resign ourselves once more to the false unity of some empire founded on force or of a pseudo-society without a common bond of minds and hearts, it is necessary either to renounce the ideal of a universal society or to seek again the common bond in Christian faith... If the earth’s temporal unity is possible, it will not be enough that humans should fervently desire their city... The City of Man can only be built in the shadow of the cross, as a suburb of the City of God." (Étienne Gilson, quoted in Public Discourse)
"O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells." (Psalm 26:8)
GOD'S HOUSE (Ps 26). Psalm 26 is about knowing of which community we are members (cf. Ps 1:1), and which name we confess with our lips (Rom 10:9-10; Heb 13:15). Integrity here means soundness, wholeness, or being entire and undiminished. Though King David prayed this prayer, only the Lord Jesus fulfilled it perfectly with his entire life. One application for us is to pray through this psalm and confess where we have failed to find our wholeness -- our entire identity -- in Christ.
ONE THING (Ps 27). This psalm is a favorite of mine. It tells us that we need not fear anything coming against us, and that in time we will see the goodness of the Lord. Like the previous psalm this one also calls for integrity in the pursuit of God. We too should pray, "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire (or meditate) in his temple" (27:4). Jesus once told Martha that her sister Mary had rightly chosen the "one thing" necessary (Lu 10:42). The Apostle Paul also said, "one thing I do..." (Phil 3:13-14). One thing, one direction, one over-riding purpose in life! Too many of us dabble in too many things, going too many different directions. Lord, give us singleness of purpose, and make us wholeheartedly yours!
THE GLORY OF HIS HOUSE (Ps 28). King David loved the house of the Lord (Ps 26:8), and it is where he wanted to dwell forever (Ps 27:4). He lifted up his hands in prayer toward God's sanctuary (Ps 28:2), and it was the place where he worshiped with God's people (Ps 29:1). The house of God -- first the tabernacle and later the temple -- was the place where the Lord revealed his glory and where believers might come near to him in fellowship, prayer, and praise. Our Lord Jesus is now the dwelling place of God (Jn 1:14; 2:19-21). We draw near to God through him (Jn 14:9), and he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us forever (Jn 14:16). As Christians we do not gather in a holy building to worship God, for we ourselves together are the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16). We should ask ourselves, do we love to meet with the Lord and gather with his people?
JOY IN THE MORNING (Ps 29-30). The Lord is enthroned in power, and he gives power to his people (Ps 29:11). He himself is their strength (Ps 28:8). The Lord enabled David to stand strong in his reign as king (Ps 30:7). Today, God imparts to us the strength we need to face any and all circumstances (Phil 4:13). In this life we will experience sorrow and humbling, and there will be nights of weeping (Ps 30:5). But our confidence is that God will turn our sighs and sorrows into shouts of joy (Jn 16:20; Rev 21:4). Again, we should long for and seek out the gathering of God's people in worship. The church gathered should be our happy place. We have every reason to sing God's praises! He will strengthen us and bring us through it all, and safely home to himself.
I love thy kingdom, Lord,
the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.
Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heav'nly ways,
her sweet communion, solemn vows,
her hymns of love and praise.
-- Timothy Dwight (1752--1817)
Hear this hymn as sung by Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Austin, Texas.
About this newsletter: I'm Sandy Young, and 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.