Dr. Brown’s commentary on Jeremiah was released in 2010 as part of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary from Zondervan. Below are some resources related to the commentary.
Review from Jonathan Ammon: Walkabout with Jeremiah: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Jeremiah
Review from Phillip Stern: Jeremiah, by Michael Brown—Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Selection from the Introduction: Entering the World of Jeremiah
Purchase on AskDrBrown or Amazon
Posted in News, Scripture Tagged with: books, commentary, Dr. Michael Brown, jeremiah, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets
Editor’s Note: A guest article from David Ravenhill
HELPING TO SHAPE A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
‘You put to the test those who call themselves apostle and they are not, and you found them to be false.’ Revelation 2:2
23 ‘Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty- nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26 I have been in frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren.
27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure
28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches.
29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
30 If I have to boast I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.’
2 Corinthians 11:23-30 NASB.
|The New Apostles
23 ‘Are they Apostles of Christ? (I speak the truth) I more so; in far more luxuries, in far more resorts, never beaten in golf, often in danger from overeating.
24 Fifty times I received massages at the Country Club where I play.
25 Three times I suffered heartburn, once I suffered sunstroke, three times I had to fly coach, a night and a day I have spent without my bodyguards.
26 I have been on frequent cruises, in dangers from jetlag, dangers from the Stock Market, dangers in my private jet, dangers from the IRS, dangers in my limo, dangers on my Harley, dangers on my yacht, dangers from rival televangelists.
27 I have been in spas and hot-tubs, through many six star nights, in buffets and steakhouses, often without my Perrier, or without ice in my Coke.
28 Apart from all these carnal pleasures, there is the daily pressure of counting my seed faith contributions.
29 Who is rich without me being rich? Who is led to give to my ministry without my intense joy?
30 If I have to boast I’ll gladly boast about myself and my mailing list.
New Apostolic Version
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: apostles, Apostolic Church, biblical christianity, carnal pleasure, compassion, david ravenhill, godliness, gospel, Guest Writer: David Ravenhill, New apostles, prosperity gospel, suffering, televangelists
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” -Phil. 4.5
This is a unique verse, and it opens up a panoramic view of the apostolic heart of Paul. What is this “gentle spirit” that he is encouraging, and why does he tell us that the Lord is near in this context?
Philippians is Paul’s great call to a life of rejoicing in the midst of trial, and he was writing to a church that was facing great opposition from persecutors. He repeatedly exhorts the saints to rejoice in the midst of the suffering, and this verse provides for us a concentrated stream of thought from the apostle along these lines.
What is a “gentle spirit” then? To be sure, it is not cowardice, shyness, or any attempt at looking humble or sounding modest. A “gentle spirit” is not something that can be conjured by a self-conscious attempt at meekness. This “gentle spirit” imperative, following Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord always,” must be the God-breathed result of delighting in Him in the midst of great pressure and trial.
Anyone can look gentle and meek in a contrived way when men are watching and some religious reward is at stake. But when the rubber hits the road, when the turbulence of life picks up, when the ground begins to shake beneath our feet, the depth of our foundations in God is revealed for what it actually is. It takes a certain kind of soul to demonstrate the gentleness and kindness of God Himself in an atmosphere that is inhospitable and difficult, but this is the privilege and calling of every saint. This “gentle spirit” is not something calculated and performed, but rather received and demonstrated, through the very life of Jesus Himself.
The “gentle spirit” Paul speaks of denotes a disposition that can hardly be rendered in translation by a single word. It is your quite specifically grounded benevolence, gentleness, considerateness, openness, vitality, and at the same time moderation that must be manifest to all men. Luther’s “lenity” well expresses the source of this disposition: Christians are men who have been made lenis, lenient, mellow, “beaten to pulp,” as opposed to the nonrecipients of grace, who can still be stiff and bristly.
(Epistle to the Philippians, Karl Barth; WJK Publications, 2002; p. 121)
It is not in the flighty and jolly moments of positive religious experience that this is proven out, but rather in the hum-drum, grinding, pressing moments of day-to-day life. Our “gentle spirit” is not mainly displayed from a pulpit, at a conference, or at some overt spiritual function. It is in the way we approach others from our innermost being. Have we a tinge of self-righteousness toward them? Have we a hint of superiority toward them? Have we a smidgeon of stiffness or coldness toward them?
What about our spouses or children? Have we a bit of disdain or bitterness toward them? Have we a shade of impatience or anxiety regarding them? Have we any hardness, brashness, or brazenness toward them?
Paul called the church to rejoice in the Lord always, and to allow the gentle and kind Spirit of Jesus Himself to flow through our lives and unto others in an effectual way. It will not happen in some magical and automatic way without our cooperation, for He is looking for co-laborers. We’ve got to allow the Potter to “beat to a pulp” all our anxiety, arrogance, and self-glorification, until we are wrung out souls, ready to be revivified and powered by His own resurrection life. Then shall His own gentleness and kindness flow from us, in the high places and in the low places.
He follows this call with that most striking note, “The Lord is near.”
Paul’s thought is two-fold here:
1. The Lord is near, literally at hand, and as the great coming Judge, He will not be pleased if we have walked in our own stiff-hearted dispositions. He calls us to a higher reality, namely His own gentleness, and if we have treated others unjustly or been hard-hearted toward them, it will not be well for us on the day of His return. “…. to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these…. “
2. Secondly, and most encouraging for the believer, is that the Lord, who is our great help, is not only near in the sense of His soon coming. For the soul that has been redeemed and transformed through the Gospel, He is as near as the inner-man. He is near to us in every plight and every challenge, and He is fervent and eager in His desire to walk us through the tumultuous seasons of life. We do not need to remain in a place of stiffness, arrogance, or brashness towards others. We need only to cry out to Him, and He will break up the hardened ground of our hearts, oil the dry places, and make us tender and loving and gentle towards all men. His own vibrant love and kindness will flow through us like a mighty rushing river.
So turn from your self and unto the Chief Shepherd. He is near to you, dear saint, and His gentle Spirit is ever and always our great good.
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: demons, God, Karl Barth, Paul, Philippians, Reality, righteousness, suffering, the Gospel
Jacob had a get-rich-quick strategy. He made a deal with Laban, his father-in-law that rather than being paid in cash for his shepherding services he would receive as payment all of the imperfect members of the flock; all the striped, speckled and spotted cattle, sheep and goats. Laban preferred the beautiful ones anyways. He was glad to be rid of the imperfect members of the flock and agreed to Jacob’s pathetic idea of remuneration. But soon Jacob’s motley flock had exceeded Laban’s and the lowly farmhand had grown more rich and powerful than his master.
I visited a church not long ago where the pastor was very proud of the fact that his congregation was made up of some of the wealthiest, most successful and most famous people in town. Everything from the building itself to the demeanor of the staff to the kind of people that were positioned on the platform, shouted that this was a church for the good-looking, the rich and the powerful. Anyone who did not fit into that category might not feel very comfortable there, but for those that were members it was more than a church, it was a sort of elite club for classy Christians. It reminded me of Laban’s perfect flock.
Rich people need Jesus too and I’m glad that they found a place of worship where they could feel comfortable, but somehow I think that if Jesus were pastoring in that city, his church would probably look a lot different. Jesus was known as a “friend of publicans and sinners. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18). And again, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt 9:12). And again, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). “The Son of man” He said of Himself, “is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
If Jesus pastored a church I think that it would be “on the wrong side of the tracks”. It would be filled with hookers, drug addicts and bums. It would be a church where the unlovely would feel welcomed and accepted. It would be a church for the striped the speckled and spotted members of society.
In fact, Jesus identifies with the needy to such an extent that he takes our actions towards them personally saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Mat 25) One of the two elements of “pure religion” according to James is to, “…visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need.” (James 1:27 AMP) The ones that, “…turn many to righteousness [shall give forth light] like the stars forever and ever.”
If any evangelist, pastor or church will follow the example of Jesus and Jacob they will soon make an amazing discovery. A church that is after the lost, the unlovely, the poor, the outcasts and the sinners will soon surpass in every way, the wealth of its country-club counterparts. An evangelist that is willing to leave the well-traveled circuit of itinerate preachers and venture into the dark, dangerous and remote areas of the world will discover rich and abundant harvests where no one would have ever expected to find them.
I am convinced that at the end of the day, the greatest reward will be for the ones who have gotten down in the dirt with Jesus and served “the least of these”. The greatest honor will belong to those who have preached the Gospel to the poor and the first prize will go to the ones who have invested in the striped, the speckled and the spotted.
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: evangelist, Jacob, Jesus, Laban, Pastor, people, repentance, righteousness, society, the Gospel
Psalms 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
David was one man personally and intimately aware of the deep darkness that lurks within the human heart. He had, himself, sunk to depths of depravity he would have never thought possible as a harp playing, shepherd boy. But situations, opportunities and regal power had brought to the surface the gruesome reality of the human heart condition.
When Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) he spoke like an insurance adjuster who writes off a damaged vehicle as a total loss. There seemed to be no hope for salvaging some good thing in it. Paul declared, “I know that nothing good lives in me”. And in Psalms reads, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one”.
I used to think that when David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” he was asking God to clean his heart. Suddenly I realized that I had been reading it all wrong! David is not asking God to clean his heart, but rather to create a new clean heart…one that will replace the hopeless, desperate, unmitigated disaster he was born with. David wastes no time asking God to heal his old diseased heart. Instead he asks for a new one…a clean one. Such a thing, only God could create.
Spurgeon said, “Human nature is too far gone ever to be mended. It is not a house that is a little out of repair, with here and there a slate blown from the roof, and here and there a piece of plaster broken down from the ceiling. No, it is rotten throughout, the very foundations have been sapped; there is not a single timber in it which has not been eaten by the worm, from its uppermost roof to its lowest foundation; there is no soundness in it; it is all rottenness and ready to fall. God doth not attempt to mend, he does not shore up the walls, and re-paint the door; he does not garnish and beautify, but he determines that the old house shall be entirely swept away, and that he will build a new one.”
David’s words, “Create in me…” conjure eerie images of the pre-adamic earth. A bottomless soup of boiling bedlam reigning unchallenged for untold eons. The thick darkness and horrifying chaos seemed impenetrable. “The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep…” Then God spoke and His word created order out of disorder, light out of darkness, beauty out of chaos and life out of extinction.
David, like the primordial earth, needed more than a good washing. He cried out to God to give him a heart transplant; to vanquish the old peutrifying horror and create in its place a new heart, as fresh as Eden’s first morning. Unfortunately for David, this was impossible in his day. In fact it is as though you can hear his perpetual frustration in his writings as he struggled throughout his life with that old troublesome heart.
But what a privilege is ours! Today, through Christ, a new heart is available to whosoever will. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) It is a wonderful mystery; the greatest “creative miracle” possible.
As a college student I had a job working for Wal-Mart. For those of you who live outside the USA, it is a chain of massive discount department retailers. It is the largest private employer in America and the largest corporation in the world…and for good reason. Whatever may be said of their imperialist business model, Wal-Mart knows how to treat its customers. While I was working there, someone walked up to the customer service counter with an old garden hose, weathered and worn, apparently years old. They claimed to have purchased it at Wal-Mart but had no receipt and now wanted a new one. At any other store this would be utterly unthinkable, but at Wal-Mart the customer got a replacement, because his satisfaction was more valuable than the price of a hose. He walked in with an arm-full of worthless rubber and walked out with a brand new garden hose.
Wal-Mart may be generous, but there is someone more generous still. When we come before God with our worthless, hopeless, helpless hearts, He is willing to accept them. He doesn’t patch up that old rubber hose of our hearts. Instead he offers us a brand new one; fresh and clean. Now that’s a great exchange.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”—Ezekiel 36:26.
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: David, heart, holiness, psalms, purity, sin
Blameless On That Day
Holiness and Love
Justified believers are urged to pursue holiness. We are promised that the pure in heart shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) We are warned that without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) In the hope of seeing Him as He is we are exhorted to purify ourselves as He is pure. (1 John 3:3) Our hearts’ holiness is analogous to God’s heart: we are commanded to be holy as He is holy. (1 Peter 1:16) This pursuit of holiness is really a response to the wooing of God. He is seriously courting us and looking for our commensurate, loving, consecrated commitment. (James 4:5)
Remember, our holiness doesn’t save; the blood of the incarnate Holy One saves. (Romans 5:9) Our consecration is a result of His atoning blood purifying us so we may, with open hearts, encounter God as He is. (Hebrews 1:3, 9:14) The Bible relates many instances of people who came face to Face with true holiness. Practically every occurrence of this happened to someone who was already in a relationship with God. For example, Isaiah and John were in covenant and communion with their creator before they heard heaven’s courts cry out, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
I believe there will always be increasing revelatory light which exposes the motives and works of every growing believer. Yet, for us this light has a red tinge. It is “light through the blood.” It is life giving light. (John 1:4) God desires to give a deep rooted security which absolutely rests upon the work of Calvary. (Ephesians 3:17) As this happens, He brings us into increasingly frequent, deeper, lasting encounters with His purity. Lest we shrink back, to avoid feeling “undone” and falling at His feet like a dead man (Isaiah 6:5, Revelation 1:17), we must consider that we are not saved through our response. We are saved through Calvary. (John 3:16) It is in the light of Calvary that we must bring to mind that the Messiah is going to judge every soul who ever lived.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2 Timothy 4:1)
Here are two pictures of this awesome Day:
A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10)
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12)
One day every justified believer “will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12b) This does not have to be a threat. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes a lot about the Lord’s return and coming judgment. (3:11-15; 4:1-5; 5:5; 6:2,3; 11:26-32; 13:10; 15:24-28) Please read the following verse and find a surprising promise:
… the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5b)
Many live with fear of coming condemn-ation. How can we live in a way that we are assured of coming commend-ation? Paul was not insecure about the coming judgment. He looked forward to a “crown.” (2 Timothy 4:8) I believe Paul employed a key which opened a door to anticipatory confidence. This key is not a mystery. Look:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10)
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)
In these prayers it is revealed that our love for others is a key to being established, “blameless in holiness.” Holiness looks like the fulfillment of the two great commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40) Lest we forget, Jesus added another:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you (John 13:34a)
In the same way we must consistently enter into the experience of God’s love for ourselves, so we should cultivate and consistently express our love for other believers. This love, fulfilling every moral standard, is the heart of holiness. (Romans 13:8-10) We will love because He loved us first.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:16-21)
Let us set ourselves apart and highly prioritize loving the brethren. (1 Peter 1:22) As we abide in Jesus’ love (John 15:9) we will be transformed by His perspective and love others in a way that glorifies Him in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12) We will be blameless, holy, in the presence of the living God.
Jesus commanded this. Paul prayed for its fulfillment. Let us confidently ask the Lord to perfect this love in our lives.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: consecration, David Harwood, holiness, Jesus, judgment, Knowledge, Matthew, Paul
Are you intimidated when so-called “Biblical Scholars” attack the trustworthiness of the Scriptures? To preach the Word of God with boldness requires confidence in its authority and it is upon this authority that our faith rests (Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). Satan knows that if he can put a wedge under the foundation of our faith he has a better chance of toppling it. In Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project”, R.C. Sproul says, “If we can establish the existence of God and the trustworthiness of sacred Scripture, 90% of the work of the defense of Christianity has been solved.” No wonder the authority of the Scriptures is constantly under fire by those who seek to undermine the Christian faith.
The Post-Modern, liberal, higher critics that grace contemporary television shows and magazine articles are not the first to attack the authority of Scripture and they surely won’t be the last. In self-conceit, puffed up by the tiny sampling of regurgitated information they have swallowed, they confidently conclude that the Bible is untrustworthy and flawed.
But there is no reason for the faithful to sit by, nervously chewing their fingernails as the higher critics pose clever new attacks on the consistency of Scripture. Their arrogance, which is as old as the Bible itself, has always come to nothing and their arguments have been proven wrong time and time again. In fact, perhaps it is their incessant attacks that are the greatest proof of the supernatural origin of the Bible, because amazingly, in spite of all of it’s critics and enemies, the Holy Bible remains the best selling and most read book of all time. By contrast its many historical opponents and their once-profound arguments lie rotting in the ground together.
In 1776 Voltaire said, “100 years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” 100 years later Voltaire’s home was being used as a distribution point for spreading Bibles throughout Europe* and within 26 years of his death the British & Foreign Bible Society had been founded, sparking an unprecedented era of Bible distribution**.
In 1778 Voltaire, boasting of himself said, “It took 12 men to start Christianity; one will destroy it.” That was the very year that he died*.
Robert Ingersoll said, “In 15 years I will have this book [the Bible] in the morgue.” Fifteen years later, Ingersoll himself was in the morgue and in his estate sale a preacher bought his desk and spent his life writing sermons on it*.
In the late 1800’s a scholar named General Lew Wallace, a Territorial Governor and former U.S. Senator, set out to disprove the Bible. His quest led him to discover the wonders of Scripture and he ended up becoming a devout Christian and writing Ben Hur; a Christian novel, widely considered a true classic of American literature**.
Another scholar, Sir William Ramsey, had a similar experience. He traveled to Asia Minor on a mission to find geographical and archeological evidence that would disprove the claims of the Bible. Instead he was amazed to find that the Bible was remarkably accurate and was ultimately so convinced of it’s authority that he himself became a believer and biblical scholar**.
Today, in spite of many generations of opposition, by countess assailants, the New Testament has been translated into 1,168 languages***. It is by far the most popular and widely circulated printed material of all time. Even today, it remains a best seller and is printed in so many languages, translations and versions by so many publishers that it is literally impossible to calculate how many millions, if not billions have been printed and circulated.
Its critics and opponents along with their books and institutions have proven to be about as formidable as a gnat battling a hurricane. The contemporary voices that arrogantly rail against scripture will soon be as cold and silent as the grave, as are all those that came before them. But the voice that spoke the worlds into existence will still be thundering through history to every nation and generation through His revealed Word, “Thus says the Lord”.
All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD STANDS FOREVER. ~ 1 Peter 1:24-25
* Dr. Del Tackett in “The Truth Project” by Focus on the Family (http://www.thetruthproject.org)
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: biblical scholars, christianity, conceit, focus on the family, liberal, post-modern, rc sproul, the bible, the truth project
“…. no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” -2 Pet. 1.20-21
Please hear this remarkable word from Nathaniel West:
In the hour of affliction we learn more of God’s word, and God’s way, than in a whole age of sunshine and prosperity, and it is well to remember that the prophecies were spoken first in that moment when Israel’s night was the darkest. Paradoxical indeed, it was then that the light was the brightest, the promise the sweetest, and the devotion the deepest. So will it be again. Israel will be able to say, when emerging from the last great tribulation, as when returning from Exile to build the Temple:
“The Lord hath chastened me sore,
But not abandoned me to death.
The Lord is God. He hath given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords,
Even to the horns of the altar!”
Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.
(Nathaniel West, The Thousand Year Reign of Christ; Kregel Publications, p. XVI)
It is often said that we form our theologies and interpret the Scriptures based on the lens through which we look. Depending on the stream of our religious upbringing and our experiences in life, we often interpret passages with our own particular presumption and bias.
It is also said that we often interpret the Scriptures based on the level of willingness we possess to truly hear what they require and promise. In other words, we find in the Word what we want to find, and discard that which demands a higher call to the death of the self-life. We see what we want to see, and no more.
Nathaniel West wrote that “Affliction, Light, and Consecration” are the greatest and most necessary helpers for a true interpretation of the Scriptures.
What do we know of affliction? West is speaking of Israel’s affliction under judgment and exile, but is there an affliction that we willingly give ourselves to, and that would make way for a better interpretation of Scripture? I believe, in at least one aspect, that our self-made value systems, bumptiousness from familiarity, and “know-it-all” attitudes must be afflicted before the Light of interpretation can be opened. We’ve got to crucify our own wisdom, and lay our souls low before the same Spirit that moved the prophets. Are you reading the Scriptures categorically and robotically, or are you turning away from your own frozen knowledge and facing the burning bush that the Scriptures constitute?
Next, there is the element of light. When our own wisdom has been afflicted and set aside, then we are postured inwardly to receive the Light of God through the Scriptures. We must receive Light from the Spirit of God, or else the Bible is an impossible book to engage, enjoy, and receive from. If the same Spirit who rested on and moved the prophets does not rest on us, we will not gather from the Scriptures what the Lord has desired to give. We must ask the Spirit to come with His own Light, otherwise we will not be reading rightly. Therefore, dear saint, we ought to pant for the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our reading, so that Light may come, and our reading may itself become an act of Communion with God.
Lastly, the element of consecration. If we come to the Scriptures with no true intention of consecrating our lives to the Light that He gives us, we are not likely to come into a true interpretation. The Scriptures were not merely given for the formulation of eschatological ideas, the constructing of Doctrinal charts, or any such thing. They were given so that the Eternal God, and His great purpose, would be exposed to Israel and the nations, and that men would come into the reality of what He has always intended; namely, the revelation of Himself, and the glorification of His ways.
If we are unwilling to consecrate our lives to the Light that He gives, we will invariably miss what He is speaking. But if we come to the Scriptures in the same Spirit by which they were written, all the glories of His nature and will become intensely available to us.
“Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.”
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: affliction, Christ, communion, consecration, God, judgment, Knowledge, Nathaniel West, prophecy, prophets, Reality, sacrifice, the bible
“I brought you into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, and My inheritance you made an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me…” -Jer. 2.7-8a
The situation with Judah in Jeremiah’s day was desperately grim. The once holy functions of the temple had been tainted with hypocrisy and idolatry, and the leaders of the nation, along with the nation itself, had been lulled to sleep by the spell of sinful pleasures. Jeremiah was one of a remnant of souls who still valued the word of the Lord, but even though the Spirit of God was resting profoundly upon him, and even though he had been praying and prophesying with clear statements from heaven, his words were not being heeded by the priests, the prophets, or the rulers of Judah. The nation’s response to his life and ministry is here summed up by Dr. Michael Brown:
…. despite forty years of incessant prophetic ministry by Jeremiah and clear indications that his words would be fulfilled- his people remained deaf to his warnings, suffering crushing defeat and exile.
(From his forthcoming commentary on the book of Jeremiah; Zondervan Publishing)
Verses 7 and 8 of Jeremiah 2 are a picture of the dramatic contrast between the fickleness of Judah’s leaders, and the unwavering faithfulness of the Lord. We see here a remarkable view of His kind intentions toward His people, and His plan to bring them “into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things.” It becomes obvious that His desire is to bless them with a revelation of Himself, to crown them with lovingkindness and mercy, and to set them apart as His own Beloved people, a “light unto the nations.”
Tragically, as is elsewhere found in her history, Israel fell totally short of the Lord’s glorious intentions, and the downward spiritual spiral was so steep that the land, its leadership, and the nation itself was shot through with idolatry, presumption, indifference, and deception.
The priests had become so numb and accustomed to apostasy that they weren’t keen-hearted enough to ask, “Where is the Lord?” The glory of God had departed from the temple, but they were no longer jealous for His honor, no longer hungry to know Him in a vital way, no longer eager to come into that which He had desired for their lives or for their nation.
Instead, they had found a dubious niche in a self-serving paradigm, and the Lord of Creation, as He had revealed Himself, was excluded from their loyalties. Yahweh was grieved beyond measure, and so was His prophet Jeremiah. Hear Walter Brueggeman regarding the condition of Judah in that day:
No healing is possible. The sickness is too deep. The idolatry is too pervasive. Judah refuses the medicine that is available. The poet (and God) are pressed by this awareness to a new wave of grief.
…. The hurt in the face of Judah’s death requires and evokes more grief, more crying, and more tears than his [Jeremiah’s] body is capable of transmitting.
(A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile & Homecoming, Walter Brueggeman; Eerdmans Publishing, 1998; p. 94)
“Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (9.1)
The prophet Jeremiah, and Yahweh all the more, had been shattered with sorrow over the condition of Judah. The Lord had lavishly offered the blessing of Himself, and His people- unwilling to rightly value His ways- had fallen headlong into sin, and made His inheritance into an “abomination.”
How is it that an inheritance, something which God Himself has initiated and given, could be distorted to the extent that it becomes an abomination? How can land that He has made holy and given so freely become a defiled land, if He Himself is the Author of that covenantal gift? True to His word, He will keep His promises with Israel, and all that He has intended for them will be fulfilled once and for all when He has His way in the hearts of His people. But the tragic reality is that in Jeremiah’s day, the vast majority of those who had heard His name and been touched by His promises had allowed the power of sin to snuff out the presence and word of the One who had given Himself to them so unselfishly.
“Yahwism,” as the OT scholars call the faith of Israel’s patriarchs and prophets, required an ultimate consecration of the heart and life to Yahweh. He had revealed Himself to Israel as the One true God, and He required an allegiance of the utmost kind. Any measure of affection given to other gods was an abomination in His eyes. “Yahwism” became too much for a people who desired to cling to their sin, and the events leading up to Judah’s judgment and exile are filled with backslidings, the hardening of hearts, and a turning away from the reality of worship. O.T. scholar Adam C. Welch had these remarkable thoughts to add to the picture, suggesting that “Israel trades gods because this One is too demanding”:
…. Israel forsook Yahweh, because the relation to Him was full of ethical content…. Yahwism had this iron core in it. The iron core was that Israel could only have Yahweh on His own terms…. Yahwism was no colorless faith which was simply the expression of the people’s pride in itself and its destiny. It laid a curb on men, it had a yoke and bonds. The bonds were those of love, but love’s bonds are the most enduring and the most exacting.
(Jeremiah: His Time and His Word; Adam C. Welch, Oxford: Blackwell, 1951; p. 183, as quoted in Brueggeman’s Jeremiah)
The history of Israel is marked with awesome demonstrations of the nature and power of God, but in Jeremiah’s day, they had set aside the revelation of the Lord to follow after gods of wood and stone. The prophet was a lonely, weeping figure, calling them back to Yahweh, back to holy ethics, and back to the primacy of whole-hearted worship. Catastrophically, the majority of the nation rejected Jeremiah and his message, and by doing that, rejected God Himself.
This is the horrific result of what becomes of a people who are being led by priests and rulers that handle the law, but do not know the Lord. To know the Lord is to be overcome with His kindness and mercy. To know the Lord is to bask in His ways and to relish in the place of prayer. To know the Lord is to tremble delightfully at His word, and to despise that which grieves His heart. To know the Lord is to desire the setting forth of His Son in the darkest places of the world. To know the Lord is to long for justice to “roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Am. 5.24)
I am afraid we are facing the same grave conditions in the Church of modern America that Judah was facing in Jeremiah’s day. We have swept aside the Gospel of Jesus and the apostles and replaced it with a message that is less requiring, less demanding, and altogether inglorious. Our congregations are often made up of souls who are not willing to “have Yahweh on His own terms.” We want to have a packaged religion, one that we can control, that will never surprise us, and that is devoid of the element of inward consecration. The glory of God has departed from the temple, and scarce few are discerning or truthful enough to ask, “Where is the Lord?” We have grown content with something so far beneath the glory of His intentions that we hardly know how to hunger after Him.
So many of our pastors have lost a value for the Scriptures, and are relying on all kinds of methods and novel ideas to enlarge their congregations. The “iron core” of “Yahwism,” which is whole-hearted worship and obedience, and the clarion call to righteousness and selfless love can be seen on precious few occasions. Idolatry is mingled throughout the Body, with saints gawking at American Idol, chasing after greater and more pricy possessions in entertainment and fashion, and our bellies are our gods. Fasting is a rare phenomenon in most places, and buffets are hit the hardest on Sunday afternoons. We know very little about self-control, and it raises a question as to how deeply we have really been immersed in the Holy Spirit. The nation is perishing under the weight of sin and rebellion, and we are often paying its way, having bought in to the consumeristic lie.
The word of Jeremiah is the same to the American Church as it was to Judah:
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,” declares the Lord. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (2.12-13)
I am convinced that we have hewn up broken cisterns for ourselves. We have settled for a few hours of religion a week, while the abiding life of Christ is neglected in the realm of real life. We get an emotional lift in a church meeting and think we are doing God a service, but we have shirked off the true call of the cross, which Jesus said His disciples would take up daily. Our compartmentalized Christianity- this pathetically broken cistern- does not hold Living Water, and the lives of the saints show it. We need to break loose from the bonds of this age, shut down the distracting forces and all that robs our affections from Him. We need to return with all of our hearts to the Lord, the Fountain of Life.
We need desperately to enjoin our hearts with the prophet’s cry before it is too late for our nation. If the Church doesn’t come into the reality of faith, truth, and consecration, our witness and testimony will become a mere religious opinion; a harmless spiritual option among many; a diluted, powerless consideration, rather than an apostolic Gospel which, when proclaimed, will cause men to turn “from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1.9-10)
Can we break off the mingling of our hearts with the lies of this age, and plunge headlong into the Fountain of Living waters? Can we shatter the broken cisterns of compromise and timidity, and allow the Lord to make us into vessels of the abiding Life? Can we cease religious performance and twice-a-week emotionally based Christianity, and take up our crosses daily, following the Lamb wheresoever He goes? O, for a total consecration of our hearts to Him! O, for love that springs always from the Fountain of Life! O, for holiness that burns brightly in this crooked and perverse generation. O, for God to be glorified in His Church, and an apostolic witness to “turn the world upside down” again!
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: christianity, cisterns, Holy Spirit, israel, jeremiah, Jesus, jews, pastors, priests, the Gospel
“For because of your trust in your own achievements and treasures, even you yourself will be captured; and Chemosh will go off into exile together with his priests and princes.” -Jer. 48.7
The Moabites were a people who lived in what we now know as Jordan, mostly making their abode along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Their kingdom was often in conflict with Israel, and the God of Israel had a long-standing controversy with them. The prophets testify to this controversy.
Moab, as it is addressed in the prophets, presents the picture of a people poisoned by the spirit of pride, independence, and arrogance. This oracle from the prophet Jeremiah gives them an undesirable promise, that because of their pride and self-sufficiency, they will be captured and even their priests and princes, along with their god Chemosh, will go off into exile. This is to say that even their most ‘divine’ authorities and royal potentates would be of no aid to them in the day of the Lord’s judgment.
One of the characteristics that marks Moab is that as a people, she has been casual and laid back to the point of neglecting the truth of her condition, and the reality of God Himself. Listen to this description the Lord gives of Moab:
“Moab has been at ease since his youth; he has also been undisturbed, like wine on its dregs, and he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile. Therefore he retains his flavor, and his aroma has not changed.” (v. 11)
We may have commended Moab for its uniqueness and self-expression, for maintaining its distinctive cultural and religious qualities in the midst of changing times. But the Lord saw Moab as arrogant, non-pliable, and resistant toward Him. He saw them as vessels that had “not been emptied,” and though their “aroma has not changed,” the prophet indicates that the Lord is not pleased with the spiritual “smell” that Moab gives off. Hear the words of J.A. Thompson on this:
Moab is here compared with wine which has been allowed to settle down with its dregs and sediment to age and mature and improve its flavor. It had settled quietly on its lees and had never been disturbed by being poured from vessel to vessel. The picture is one of complacency. But this would soon change.
(J.A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah: NICOT; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI: 1980, p. 705)
The Lord would not continue to endure the presence of Moab’s complacency, and the trust in her own achievements that she feverishly held onto would soon be toppled by the work of His hand.
“‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will send to him those who tip vessels, and they will tip him over, and they will empty his vessels and shatter his jars.'” (v. 12)
Can it be said that much of the Church is living on Moabite grounds? Trusting in our own achievements, proud and self-sufficient, vessels that have yet to be tipped over and emptied of the wine of this age?
What aroma are we releasing into the atmosphere? Forget the way you look in ministry or at some religious meeting. What about the aroma you release in your home… in the work place… in your neighborhood… at the grocery store, etc.? Are we filling the air with our religious opinions? Are we lacking a true expression of the love of God? Are we grumpy and crotchety when the sanctuary lights aren’t shining on us? Are we loose on sin, flatterers of men, or timid weaklings? Are we swept up by the same waves of entertainment, media, and fashion that move and jerk the undiscerning hearts of those who are walking in darkness?
How much of our upbringing and culture that is not of the flavor and aroma of God’s kingdom still lingers in our lives, and what excuses have we secretly made to permit that kind of a mixture? How often are we quenching the Spirit of God and going into modes of speech and conduct that are in keeping with attitudes which our culture may have always accepted and sanctioned, but that the Lord is not in harmony with?
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” -2 Cor. 2.15
Are we functioning as vessels that have not been emptied, that are still filled with the wine of this age? Are we willing daily to be tipped over, emptied entirely, and filled with the Spirit of God Himself? I am convinced that the Church is in a mostly ‘Moabite’ condition, and before the final day comes when the rebellious ‘jars’ are tipped over and shattered, we need to tip over our vessels without reservation, that God may fill us with His own love and purity.
The Lord will only fill those vessels which have been tipped over willingly. The ones that remain upright, recalcitrant and resistant toward His heart and call, will in the last day be tipped against their wills, and shattered by His hand.
We need to be tipped and emptied of the wine of this age, that we may taste of the powers of the age to come. Having been filled with the Spirit of life, we will live and speak as vessels that have been fit to set forth the Son of God to Israel and the nations.
“Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” -Is. 52.11b
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: Christ, darkness, israel, jeremiah, Jordan, moabites, prophets, War