OT: Jeremiah 8:8-9:26
Reading today, it occurs to me how offensive Jeremiah's message must have been to the people. I mean, first of all, no one wants to hear that they are doing wrong, especially in the extreme terms used by Jeremiah. Secondly, no one wants to hear about their impending destruction. And third, no one wants to hear that their destruction is a result of their evil actions. I mean, remember when 9/11 happened, and different people--both Christian and otherwise--let it be known that they thought we had it coming to us? Do you remember how that message went over? Not well.
And since I do not equate Israel with America, maybe 9/11 is not a good example. Perhaps it might be better to use an example of a church. My mom told me that her church has just been hammered lately by illness and death. What if someone claiming to be a prophet from God told them that all that illness and death was the just result of their evil deeds? How awful! And yet, Paul actually said something similar to the Corinthians in I Cor. 11:27-32. Biblically speaking, it is perhaps not totally out of line to think that God punishes people today in such ways. What is totally out of line, of course, is to claim to be a prophet when you are not. When we blindly attempt to interpret the times as reflections of God's will, we too often end up sounding like Job's ignorant friends.
My point is this: I tend to read Jeremiah as though the message should be totally obvious to the people, but I can also imagine how, if I lived back then, I would be completely offended. In fact, since I distrust apocalyptic predictions in general, I would probably be tempted to go with the people who were saying "Peace, peace" when there was no peace (11).
I don't have a big application for these musings, but I'm writing them down b/c those were my thoughts for today. In general, the text kept up the theme of evil actions leading to impending doom. Today, though, I tried to imagine myself on the receiving end of such news, and I'm just not sure how well I would have reacted. I would like to think I would be the type of person to repent, but I could also easily see myself as the person trying to justify why I'm really not that bad...
NT: Colossians 3:1-17
I love this part of Colossians 3. All of it. It is my favorite part of the book. Unfortunately, that means that this post will mainly consist of my gushing. I can't guarantee that anything intelligent or insightful will come out, just giddiness.
First of all, verses 1-3 are wonderful. I think of them often as I go throughout my day, especially when I start to get swamped and overwhelmed by the mundane or the worldly. Just today, in fact, I prayed that God would help me set my heart and mind on things above, b/c I just felt generally consumed by worldliness, by the "here and now" throughout much of the day. And of course, verse 3 references dying to self, a favorite theme of mine.
Secondly, verses 5-11 clearly outline the way in which Christians are to put off the sinful nature, or the "old self," and are to "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (10). That concept blows me away. I love the idea of being renewed into the image of my Creator. According to these verses, what that specifically looks like is a life that has thrown off all sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. As with Romans and Corinthians, I note that Paul seems to place a heavy emphasis on sexual sin. I'm not saying that his list is in order of importance, but I did note that the first three sins he mentioned were all sexual in nature. Also, I noted that this whole section has parallels to Ephesians 4:22-32.
The section ends with the wonderful verses 12-17, which I actually had to commit to memory a couple years ago b/c they were just that good. And whenever I am frustrated or impatient, if I stop and recite these verses in my head, it just makes my anger dissipate. I mean, how can it not, after hearing these instructions? They just put so much into perspective. Also, like the Ephesians section, Paul counterbalances negative commands with positive commands. In Ephesians, he tends to give the negative and positive in pairs or small groups. Here, though, he gives a whole slew of negatives, followed by a big group of positives. And as with Ephesians, what I take from these verses in Colossians is that Christians are not to define themselves simply by what they don't do. Christianity is not about eliminating the negative in our life, but about replacing it with positive. You don't just take off the old self. You put on the new self, too.
Psalm 78: 32-55
Asaph continues his indictment of Israel, and like yesterday, it continues to go very well with Jeremiah.
"Finish your outdoor work
and get your fields ready;
after that, build your house."
I have no idea what that means. Clearly, it says something about one's priorities, but I don't get why working on fields would be more important than building a shelter for oneself.