OT: Jeremiah 2:31-4:18
So yesterday, as I read the comparison between Judah and a prostitute in 2:20, the thought did occur to me that I hoped we were not going to have a plethora of prostitution metaphors, the way that Isaiah used childbirth metaphors.
Well. After today's reading, I think I can safely say that we all need to settle in for a lot of prostitution metaphors. In today's reading alone, we saw them in 2:33, 3:1, 2, and 3. In fact, the only reason we got a break after verse three is because Jeremiah switches to adultery as his metaphor of choice for the rest of the reading.
I have to say that the figurative language here did cause me to pause and contemplate the implications of sexual sin, as elaborated in Paul's writings. Understanding the way God feels about that sin helped me to see more clearly how He felt about Judah's actions.
[Update: Reading over the text makes me think that in the first section--2:31-3:5--God might be talking to Israel, since He addresses Israel in 2:31. Then in 3:6-7, he transitions to Judah, and the rest is about Judah. If that's the case, then Israel is the prostitute, and Judah is the adulterer. Make of that imagery what you will.]
So why did God view Judah as a prostitute and/or adulteress? He saw them this way because of their widespread worship of idols (referenced in 3:6-7, 9, 13, 23-24). Also, they persecuted the "innocent poor," and flatly denied their sin (2:34-35). Unless that part is about Israel. I don't know. There is another reference to Israel in 3:20, so that makes me think that maybe Jeremiah is talking to Judah this whole time. Have I confused you yet? B/c I'm certainly confusing myself...
Anyway, there does seem to be a passing reference to Josiah's reforms in 3:10, but the reference only highlights their superficiality: "'In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all heart, but only in pretense,' declares the Lord." Wow. Kings and Chronicles really hold up Josiah's reforms as wonderful, and I think that they were, but unfortunately, it is a lot easier to reform laws and outward practices than it is to reform hearts. And that is probably why God emphasizes to Judah that they need to, "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,/ Circumcise your hearts,/ you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem" (4:4a, emphasis mine). Paul talks some about circumcision of the heart in Romans 2:29, and I really think he does so elsewhere, too, like in Galatians or something. (Plus, when I looked it up, I saw that the phrase was also used in Deuteronomy. I can't explain exactly why that interests me, but it does.)
Like in Isaiah, God threatens that the result of the people's prostitution/adultery will be untold suffering and disgrace, but also promises that if they repent, there will be restoration. There was also an odd reference to the ark of the covenant being outdated (3:16), which I took to allude to the coming of the new covenant, formed by Jesus' death.
NT: Colossians 1:1-20
Even though we will be hanging out in Jeremiah for awhile in the OT, we will continue zipping through the letters in the NT, which is nice. I like Colossians. It has a lot in common with Ephesians, so that's always good.
The first thing that occurred to me while reading is that it doesn't seem like Paul knows the Colossians personally. The letter says that they heard the gospel from Epaphrus, and that Paul has only heard about them (7-9). Hmmm. Gotta look it up....
Yep. Apparently, 2:1 proves it, so stay tuned for that. And 4:21 lets us know that Paul was a prisoner with Epaphrus at the time he wrote this letter. They had both heard rumors of some problems the Colossians were having, and the letter responds to some of those issues.
My favorite part of this reading was Paul's prayer, which combined many of my favorite themes. Like all of them, this one is wonderful, so I just need to type it out:
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (9-12).
You know the drill by now: I love the part about knowledge and wisdom and understanding. I love the reference to living a life worthy of the Lord (a la Phil. 1:27 and Eph. 4:1). And I love the idea of "bearing fruit in every good work." Really, I love it all. And I especially love it b/c this seems exactly like the prayer I need to be praying right now. I want all these things so much right now, especially "knowledge of his will," power to "live a life worthy of the Lord" and to "please Him in every way," and the ability to continually bear fruit, continually grow, and continually be patient. I am seriously going to start praying this. It has so much of what I need.
I also like the image of all things being held together in Christ, discussed in verses 16-20. It's a really deep paragraph, and frankly, I'm still too enamored with the prayer to properly explore its implications, but I do love what Paul is saying in this section.
A psalm describing the power of God to defeat His enemies.
On submitting to authorities, both heavenly and earthly.