December 20, 2015

Faith means caring about others

Jeremiah 37:1–38:28; Romans 9:1–12; Proverbs 23:19–35

 “Covenant” refers to an agreement between two parties. God’s covenants, with one exception, are unilateral and eternal, meaning that they are based on His character and not the response or actions of the beneficiary. In the New Covenant, the Bible is clear: not all of Abraham’s descendants are children of God, but only those who are trusting in His promises. This is why Solomon says things like: “Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” (Proverbs 23:19)

This also explains why some of “God’s people” in the OT didn’t act like it. They simply did not trust God. For instance, Zedekiah was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon choice to reign in the land of Judah before the Israelites were exiled. “But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet.”

However, this king seemed religious when he asked Jeremiah, “Please pray for us to the Lord our God.” Jeremiah replied with the same message God had been giving all along, “The Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire . . . Do not deceive yourselves, saying, ‘The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,’ for they will not go away. For even if you should defeat the whole army of Chaldeans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.” (Jeremiah 37:7–10)

Zedekiah had Jeremiah put in a dungeon, but secretly inquired again, and again Jeremiah told him, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” The prophet then asked what he had done to deserve prison, and Zedekiah ignored his request, allowing his officials to toss the prophet into a cistern. Finally some convinced Zedekiah to allow a rescue and he promised Jeremiah no harm, but he still wanted to hear only good news.

Jeremiah said again that if Zedekiah surrendered to the king of Babylon, his life would be spared and the city not burned, but if not, the city would be destroyed and he would not escape. Zedekiah swore Jeremiah to secrecy and for fear of the people allowed the prophet safety until the day that Jerusalem was taken. (Jeremiah 38:27–28)

Without faith in God, Zedekiah only cared about his own fate. With faith in God, Jeremiah cared about others, including this king who didn’t seem to care if he lived or not, only that he gave him comforting news.

The Apostle Paul was also a man of faith who cared about others. His people had rejected and crucified Christ, and eventually rejected the good news of His resurrection. But he said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.”

However, Paul also understood God’s covenant; it did not depend on nationality. The Word of God had not failed because “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’” He meant that it is not just the Jewish people who are the children of God, but all those who believe in His promises are counted as His children. (Romans 9:1–8)

Like Jeremiah, those who have faith care about people. God has taken care of my eternal destiny and is taking care of all my current issues and problems. That sets me free to love others, to care about their eternal destiny, to do what I can about their needs, to pray for them, and to tell them about the love of Christ. Like Jeremiah, caring about others may also mean sharing God’s warnings and His desire for faith and repentance so that they might live with Him forever.

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