Saturday, October 9, 2010

October 9

OT: Jeremiah 12:1-14:10

Today, Jeremiah vents his anger on the unrighteous in the land who are causing this suffering to come upon the people. Thinking of his ruined land, he angrily wishes that God would "drag off" the offenders "like sheep to be butchered!" (12:3). Um, I can't be sure, but I think that is what God is about to do. I'm assuming that Jeremiah's frustration is in regards to the fact that the righteous are going to be punished with them, although it seems from his words so far that the righteous are very few in number. Personally, I think of the children in those terms, but I don't know if Jeremiah does (6:11, 7:18).

God's response to Jeremiah's complaint is interesting:

"If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?"

I understand what those words mean, but I have no idea why God said them to Jeremiah right here. Any ideas? Perhaps these words have to do with what comes next, which is a warning that Jeremiah will be betrayed by his own brothers. Maybe God is saying that, although Jeremiah has been attacked before, he is about to suffer an even harsher attack. Maybe Jeremiah's frustration in verses 1-4 is a result of those earlier attacks? In that case, God is saying something like, "You are frustrated, but you have only faced men on foot, and you have only walked in safe country, metaphorically speaking. You are about to face much tougher opposition, so you are going to have to keep your anger and bitterness in check." Just a guess.

God then goes on to agree with Jeremiah's assessment of the people and the necessary mode of correction, although He still maintains that He will eventually show compassion and bring them back to their own country (12:7-17). Next, he tells Jeremiah to use a belt as an object lesson for the people (13:1-11). The linen belt, which becomes heavily soiled and ruined, represents Israel (11). God also revisits the image of forced drunkenness that has been so prevalent in the psalms and the prophets (12-13). More doom and gloom follows (14-27). We revisit the prostitution and adultery images, which include an undercurrent of animalism, which I have been trying to ignore so far (13:27). I also found verses 22 and 26 to be particularly disturbing, as they seem to describe sexual violence as part of God's plan for punishment. I mean, I guess I knew that would happen, but it is still disturbing to think that it was part of God's plan. Of course, we have already clearly established that the wrath of God involves the slaughter of children and infants, so I don't know why I would cry foul at rape. And the bottom line is that the Bible portrays all these atrocities as the result of the people's decisions. They don't originate with God, but with human sinfulness.

The rest of today's passage describes the ruin that the land is apparently already experiencing. It also contains a surprising reversal in which Jeremiah begs God to intervene and help them (14:7-9). Thus far, he has seemed deeply saddened, yet resigned to the fate of his nation. Here, however, he cracks and begs God to spare them. We only get the first part of God's response in verse 10, but it would appear that the answer is no.

NT: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9

A new day, a new book. No background research today, but I could tell by reading it that this is classic Paul. Because it is more personal, and because he says the type of things he does in Corinthians and Galatians, I'm betting that this one doesn't have a ton of controversy surrounding it, regarding authorship. In 2:1-9, Paul talks about his sufferings, emphasizes that he is working for God and not men, and defends his methods of ministry. Like I said, we have seen all this before in other letters. And as with 2 Corinthians, I was fascinated by the window this section gave into Paul's dealings with the church. He tells the Thessalonians that, "we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us" (7-8). What stands out to me is the analogy of the gentleness of a mother dealing with children, and the idea of Paul sharing his life. I think that both of those ideas are applicable in ministry today.

Two other quick things:

--In verse 3, I love the wording and parallel structure: "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." I just love that.

--Thinking of the destruction coming to Judah as a result of their idol worship in the OT helps me to understand Paul's joy in the fact that the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven" (9-10).

Psalm 79:1-13

Is Asaph a contemporary of Jeremiah? He seems to be describing the destruction which Jeremiah is only anticipating right now. In contrast to Jeremiah's typical posture, though, Asaph questions God and wonders why His wrath is lasting so long (5-8).

Proverbs 24:30-34

These verses are an expansion of Prov. 6:9-11. What is added is the picture of the ruined vineyard and wall, practical consequences of the laziness described in verse 33.

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