Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The power of God in the lives of sinners



Jeremiah 44:1–46:28, Romans 11:1–10, Proverbs 25:1–28

What happens if God speaks and I don’t listen? The Bible says that God will chasten those who belong to Him. He might use His Word, or circumstances, or another person, but as Solomon wrote, “Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” (Proverbs 25:12) God is pleased with those who speak for Him as well as those who listen for He knows what my ‘deafness’ and refusal to heed Him will do to me. Again, Solomon says, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28) God does not want that to happen to me.

But it has happened to His people. Through Jeremiah, He asked the remnant left in Judah after the exile why they took off to Egypt instead of listening to His command to stay put. 
He said, “Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, so that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth?” (Jeremiah 44:8)

Then He told them, “I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, so that none of the remnant of Judah who have come to live in the land of Egypt shall escape or survive or return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return to dwell there. For they shall not return, except some fugitives.” (Jeremiah 44:13–14)

The people defied God and said to Jeremiah: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” (Jeremiah 44:15–18)

This is a huge disconnect. They did not realize the true reason for their chastening. They blamed failure to be good idol worshipers rather than their failure to obey God! Incredible!

Jeremiah told them again, “The Lord could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day. It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you . . . .” (Jeremiah 44:21–23)

Yet in all of this, there was grace. God said, “Behold, I am watching over them for disaster and not for good” yet He also said, “Fear not, O Jacob my servant, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” (Jeremiah 46:28)

The fate of the Jewish people, obedient or not, has always been in God’s hands. When Jesus came, and they rejected and crucified Him, Paul asked, “Has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” (Romans 11:1–2) He reminded them of Elijah who thought he was the only one left who trusted God, but it was not so. God preserved a remnant then, and “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”

As Paul said, salvation is always by grace, not on the basis of works, but Israel failed to obtain what they sought by their works. Only the elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened. (Romans 11:5–7)

This was illustrated in Jeremiah’s time by the remnant preserved, and is proclaimed in our time by the promise of God that He has not forgotten Israel. As for now, it is “through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:11–12)

God was not done with those who disobeyed Him during the exile. He is not done with the Jews who rejected His Son during His incarnation. He will accomplish His plan.

This gives me encouragement and increased faith; the God who can do all this is also taken upon Himself to save this sinner, me, as part of the remnant He has chosen to preserve. Hallelujah!


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