Bible reading for weekend Aug 13 -- 15
Aug 13 -- Jeremiah 41 and Psalm 17
Aug 14 -- Jeremiah 42 and Psalm 18
Aug 15 -- Jeremiah 43 and Psalm 19
"Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the LORD, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land." (Jeremiah 42:11-12)
YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE (ch 41-43). These chapters are an historical postlude to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The newly-appointed governor, Gedaliah, is murdered by Ishmael and his companions, incited by the Ammonites. Captives are taken. Johanan, a Jewish leader, intervenes and defeats Ishmael, frees the captives, but they now face the problem of what the Babylonian authorities may do. The people ask Jeremiah to pray for them, which he does, and the Lord gives promise of safety for them in the land and calls them to trust in him. But now the people say (again) Jeremiah must be lying. Driven by fear, and the hope of asylum (and protection) in Egypt, they depart, taking Jeremiah with them. Upon arrival, Jeremiah gives a prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would invade Egypt. Heliopolis, in the Nile delta region, is specifically mentioned for destruction. Nebuchadnezzar did this in the year 568 BC, although the complete subjugation of Egypt would take place later in 525 BC under Cambyses II, the son of the Persian king Cyrus.
LESSONS. First, here's an important truth about God -- he is Lord not only over Israel and Judah, and Babylon, but also Egypt. Geographical distance and political power does not matter with the Lord: "Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD" (Jer 23:23-24). This was a hard lesson for the Jews to learn (see the book of Jonah). Their Lord, being God of all creation, was not a local deity bound by geography. He rules the nations; he rules all of creation. You can run from him, but you cannot hide (Ps 139:7-10). Secondly, we see truths here about mankind -- how people pray in impressive ways but still do what they want in the end; how people, when faced with truth they do not like, quickly dismiss it as untrue (or "misinformation"); and how people are driven, not by truth and their trust in God, but by their fears and the false hopes they cling to. These characteristics are still true today, being evident in the lives of many people.
"This God - his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? -- the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless." (Psalm 18:30-32)
SEEKING REFUGE (Ps 17). King David seeks refuge in the Lord: "Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings..." (vv 7-8). The Psalms speak often of being in the shadow of the Lord's wings (Psalms 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4). This is a figure of speech (technically, a zoomorphism) which means that the Lord himself is a place of protection and care for his people. As you read the Psalms pay attention to the many images and metaphors being used to describe the Lord and his relation to us.
THE ROCK (Ps 18). This is a psalm of David (also recorded in 2 Sam 22) celebrating his deliverance from the hand of Saul. David spent a number of years on the run from Saul's murderous pursuit. His deliverance from this man of violence (v 48) is described in epic and cosmic terms. Again, take note of the many metaphors and images he uses. David is a key figure in the history of redemption, and God's covenant with David is fulfilled with the coming of our Lord Jesus (Ps 2; 89; 2 Sam 7; Rom 1:3; Rev 5:5). Two questions often come up about David: 1) how can David appeal to his own righteousness (vv 20-24), and 2) how can David's violence be condoned (vv 37-42)? As to the first, David never claimed sinless perfection (Ps 32; 38; 53) but he was a believer who sought to walk in the ways of the Lord, and trusted in the grace and mercy of God. So his righteousness was a righteousness of faith (Rom 4:4-8). As to the second, we should know that evil is inherently violent in nature (Gen 3:1; John 8:44; 10:10) and thus will meet a violent end (Rev 19:11-15). We who live in the relatively peaceful west do not realize that violence is a daily reality for many in the world today. As well, Satan and his spiritual forces are always -- whether subtly or openly -- attacking God's people. Jesus ruling the nations with a rod of iron (Ps 2:9; Rev 2:27; 19:15) means that one day evil will be forcefully banished forever and God's perfect will and good design will be enforced throughout all of creation. King David's reign is a picture, however imperfect, of that coming perfect reign of Christ.
THE HEAVENS DECLARE HIS GLORY (Ps 19). God has revealed himself in creation (vv 1-6; cf Rom 1:20; Acts 14:17) and in his word (vv 7-11; cf Ps 119:89; Josh 1:8; 2 Tim 3:16). These are sometimes called the "two tables" of God's revelation. Creation is referred to as general revelation, and Scripture as special revelation. The sun can give warmth to the earth (v 6), but it's God's word that brings light to the understanding and healing to the soul (vv 7-8). And it is this special revelation in words -- intelligible language -- that brings light to our hidden faults that we might confess them and so walk humbly with God (v 12). Theologian Carl F. H. Henry wrote, "God stoops to state his purposes in our language and thought-forms which he first fashioned that we might think his thoughts after him, commune with him and serve him." (God, Revelation and Authority, V:16)
LESSONS. In these three psalms by David there is a wealth of information about the Lord. God reveals his attributes in creation, and also, gives us in the words of Scripture a clearer view of his character, his mind, and his will for us. The Lord raises up a righteous king, David, and will raise up a descendant of David, the Righteous King, to rule justly and banish evil from the earth forever. And the Lord takes care of all those who seek refuge in him. This is the gospel of these three psalms, and we find it's the same gospel as in the New Testament!
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me, / let me hide myself in thee; / let the water and the blood, / from thy wounded side which flowed, / be of sin the double cure; / save from wrath and make me pure." ~ Augustus Toplady (1776)
Image credit. Photo of sunrise in Fribourg, Switzerland, taken by Frederico Respini. 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 weekend Aug 13 -- 15