Monday, October 11, 2010

October 11

OT: Jeremiah 16:16-18:23

I'm really tired tonight, and sometimes when I'm tired, I get overly philosophical. That said, this reading made me think about the issue that God has with humans who think they are in control. It has seemed from past readings that the biggest insult that comes from idols is that humans made them with their own hands, and then they chose to worship their own creation. In fact, Jeremiah expresses his frustration with that concept in today's reading:

"Do men make their own gods?
Yes, but they are not gods!" (16:20).

Early in chapter 17, Jeremiah quotes God on a related theme:

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit" (17:5-8).

Interestingly, Jeremiah responds,

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?"

God then responds that He can (11).

What I got from all this is that the supreme insult to God is to deny Him and to instead act like you are in control. To make one's own gods is an act of control. To trust in man, in yourself, for your strength is an act of control. Even to trust in others in exclusion of God is an act of control; we can control others much sooner than we can control God. It's like how Judah tried to form an alliance with Egypt. Egypt, unlike God, can be played. Egypt can be maneuvered. To take their protection into their own hands by entrusting it to Egypt was, ironically, an act of control.

Along those lines, it is interesting that the one command that God emphasizes to the people in 17:19-27 is the keeping of the Sabbath. Giving up a whole day of work to the Lord is definitely a giving up of control. People's businesses need to keep functioning. Their households need to keep running. To stop all of that and to do nothing "productive" with one's day means to give a precious gift to God. It is the gift of your time, your production capabilities, perhaps the gift of your own reasoning, which is telling you to make the most out of your day. And God tells the people to give that up, to give all control to Him.

I find that whole concept incredibly applicable to my life, but I'll leave it there for now.

Oh, one more thing, though. In 18:18-23, Jeremiah gets angry with people for not listening to him, and so he tells God to kill their children. Starving or stabbing are equally good options for him; what matters is simply that his enemies "wives be made childless and widows" (21). Seriously, Jeremiah? That is a seriously vindictive attitude to those who merely "attack [you] with [their] tongues and pay no attention to anything [you] say" (18b). I guess that Jeremiah could argue that by their slander, they are turning people away from the truth, which will result in massive destruction and loss of life. There is also definitely some frustration being vented regarding Jeremiah's feelings of betrayal here. After all, Jeremiah asks God to "remember that I stood before you/and spoke in their behalf/to turn you wrath away from them " (20). Still, that was all pretty harsh.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3

Wow, I have really found it amazing how much emphasis Paul places on sexual sin. It's crazy how I've never seen it before. I guess I've always embraced the cliche that "all sin is equal." And yes, all sin is equal in that it all separates us from God, whether it's the smallest infraction or the grossest injustice. And yet, Paul definitely seems to make some distinctions, and one of those distinctions is in regards to sexual sins. In today's instructions about righteous living, Paul spends half of the time (the first half, by the way) talking specifically about sexual sin (3-8). And he is not playing around (8).

The rest of Paul's instructions advise the Thessalonians to keep loving each other (which they are doing well), to "lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (9, 11-12). Bases on how often he refers to those last two verses, I would say that my husband is quite fond of them. And I like that he likes them. Peace-loving people like these verses, I think.

In verses 13-17, Paul gives hope and encouragement regarding those who have already died and also seems to clearly indicate that he believes that Christ will return within a generation. At least, that's how I interpret the use of the word, "we," in verses 15 and 17.

Psalm 81:1-16

Another psalm by Asaph that again sounds very much like Jeremiah.

Proverbs 25:6-7a

A two verse rendition of what Jesus says in Luke14:9-11.

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