OT: Jeremiah 26:1-27:22
I referred to my chronology of Jeremiah, and interestingly, it places chapter 26 between 7:15 and 7:16. In other words, according to the chronology, chapters 1-7:15 were the earliest portions of Jeremiah. Then came chapter 26. And then 7:16-20:18. I looked back at Jeremiah 7 and have no idea how they deduced this.
As for chapter 26 itself, I found it to be quite poignant. Here, you actually see people besides Jeremiah doing something right! But first, Jeremiah goes to the temple and tells the people that unless they turn from their ways, then the Lord "will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth" (6). Because he said such a negative-sounding thing about his country, Jeremiah was branded as unpatriotic, and everyone seemed to be in agreement that he should die. When the officials heard about all this, they came out to investigate, and both sides pleaded their cases. I especially love Jeremiah's conclusion: "As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood upon yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing" (14-15).
Well. Nothing quite makes an impact like a man willing to hand over his life for what he believes. After Jeremiah speaks, the elders totally (and reasonably) side with him, and in the process, prove that they know their history! They point out that Jeremiah has not done anything different from Micah, an earlier prophet from God. And they seem to take Jeremiah's words to heart. Although they don't explicitly say anything about repenting themselves, it is all so hopeful. And that kind of makes it sad, knowing how it all turned out.
Chapter 27 comes much later in the timeline of Jeremiah, according to my chronology. This time, Jeremiah sends messages to various nations via their envoys to Zedekiah. Can you imagine the impertinence? I bet Zedekiah was sooo mad when he found out that someone was claiming to be a representative of God and was communicating with other nations through envoys sent to him, without his approval. And from the message itself, you'd think Jeremiah was Babylonian! He forecasts Nebuchadnezzar's power and advises everyone to bow down and submit to him. It all sounds crazy, but understanding it from Scripture's perspective, Jeremiah is trying to save lives here. He's saying, "Look, this is going to happen. Submit to God's plan, and you will live." God's plan may not have looked the way they wanted it to look, but it certainly beat total destruction!
NT: 2 Thess. 3:1-18
Paul continues to encourage the church in the midst of persecution, and he concludes with a nice blessing: "May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance" (5).
The rest of this section is used by Paul to warn the Thessalonians against idleness. He prescribes hard work for them, and reminds them of a rule that he gave them: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." I am all for that, but b/c this verse has been used for such a variety of purposes, I would also like to point out that, like all of Paul's instructions, this one was intended specifically for those in the church. That said, I also believe it makes for a pretty good rule in general, but I don't think it should ever become an excuse to not help the poor. I don't advocate enabling people's bad habits, but I also don't think that we should become cynical against poor people just because some take advantage of the generosity of others. I need that reminder, as I have been known to err on the side of cynicism sometimes.
I love verse 13: "As as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right."
Lastly, I thought that the verses regarding church discipline were interesting (14-15). This is not the first time that Paul has recommended that we shun people. I see where he is coming from, but I think that we as a church have had a hard time applying that today. So often, that type of judgment and "punishment" seems so hypocritical and hateful. Clearly, Paul's purpose is the restoration of the person, and yet, often that kind of treatment pushes them away. I don't know. I just don't know how to apply this type of instruction.
Another psalm by the Sons of Korah, in which they plead with God to turn from his wrath and to "revive us again" (6).
On the importance of moderation. There is such thing as too much of a good thing!