December 21, 2015

This takes faith . . .

Jeremiah 39:1–41:18, Romans 9:13–29, Proverbs 24:1–22

Perhaps the most difficult teaching in the Bible is that only God can save sinners because we cannot save ourselves, yet He holds sinners accountable and punishes those who do not repent. Even more confusing is that the Bible teaches that God grants repentance.

Solomon adds to the confusion with statements like, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11–12)

That we are responsible for sin is clear in the life of Zedekiah. Through Jeremiah, God warned him over and over to not resist the Babylonians but willingly go into exile. When the king of Babylon besieged the city, Zedekiah went against what God told him by trying to escape. He was captured and “The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes” and all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. His house and the others houses were burned and the city walls broken down. They were carried into exile. (Jeremiah 39:6–9) This was the fate of those who disobeyed God.

However, Jeremiah fared well. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave this command concerning Jeremiah . . . “Take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.” (Jeremiah 39:11–12)

The prophet was not only delivered, but able to tell his captors how to treat him! God said to Jeremiah, “I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me . . . .” (Jeremiah 39:17–18)

While obedience seems key to pleasing God, the New Testament says that God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

Readers then question how God can find fault with those who have not been given the ability to obey Him. Paul writes a simple yet puzzling response: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”

He points to the right of God to show his wrath and make known his power, but also His ability to endure with much patience those He calls “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” He holds these in contrast to the “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”

Not only that, He calls out His people from both Jews and Gentiles. Centuries before, the prophet Hosea spoke for God saying, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved”  . . . and ‘sons of the living God.’”

Isaiah also said of Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” (Romans 9:18–29)

Faith is about believing what I cannot see and trusting God with the things that I do not understand. Sometimes I am holding opposites in each hand but knowing that both are true because God says they are true. However, faith also believes that one day the Lord God will make sense of it.

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