December 13, 2015

Listening and believing is vital!

Jeremiah 25:1–26:24, Romans 4:1–24, Proverbs 19:1–29

As a parent, I know what it feels like to teach a child over and over, yet they will not listen. As a child, I also know what it is like to hear the same advice many times yet think that I know better and refuse to listen.

Jeremiah was charged by God to speak to the children of God, but for twenty-three years the Word of the Lord came to him and he spoke persistently, but they did not listen.

He said to them, “You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the Lord persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ Yet you have not listened to me, declares the Lord, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.” (Jeremiah 25:3–7)

Refusing to listen to our heavenly Father has consequences. In their case: “This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.” (Jeremiah 25:11–12)

This area of the world is a waste in the sense that the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit is not there, but one other thing startles me in this passage. In verse 9, God calls the king of Babylon “my servant” revealing that even the enemies of God’s children obey His bidding. How shocking that would be to their ears!

Yet if I consider this, then I must realize that my enemy, Satan, is also His servant – and whatever that old liar does in my life happens only because God allows it. God is not the source of evil, but those who are evil can only act because He has a purpose for what they do, so He gives permission.

This makes sense, because Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” God can deliver us. No matter how powerful this enemy appears, he is still God’s servant.

Solomon’s words for today also make sense: “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” (Proverbs 19:23) I am not to fear Satan or be in awe of the power of evil, but instead remember that God is in charge of the whole universe. Nothing that happens escapes His scrutiny or His permission. He allows what He allows for reasons. I may not understand what He is doing, but I can still trust Him and believe in what His Word says.

The Bible stresses the importance of believing what God says. It is in believing Him that we become His people. The Apostle Paul reminds readers of what the Old Testament Scripture says: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)

Abraham was given many promises that seemed utterly impossible. For instance, he was told that he would have a child even when he and his wife were too old to have children. Yet, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’”

Those words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. We are asked to believe another promise, that He has accomplished our salvation. We are to believe in Him “who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” for this also means He counts our faith as righteousness. (Romans 4:20–25)

What does it mean to be considered righteous by God? Verses 7-8 give the main meaning: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Had the people of Israel believed God’s Word spoken to them by Abraham, they would have stayed in right relationship to God, stayed in their land and not been visited by harm. Their failure to believe brought disaster.

For me, believing God’s Word means I trust the eternal blessing He has promised. I might suffer in this life, but because I am counted righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, my relationship with God is secure for now and forever.

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