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October 23: The Wrath of God

Today’s Bible Reading: Lamentations 2, Song of Solomon 7, John 7:1-13, 1 Peter 4:12-19 Lamentations 2: The anger of God is not a common subject these days. In fact, so rare is it that when we talk of God’s “wrath” it becomes almost embarrassing. It is like mentioning a subject that is impolite, or indelicate, or inappropriate—certainly not politically correct. The result is that when we read preachers from previous generations, a couple of hundred years or so ago, we are so shocked to discover their frequent mention of God’s wrath that we hardly know what to do about it. They preach “Jeremiads,” warnings of God’s coming judgment; they engage in “theological terrorism.” When a contemporary preacher preaches God’s wrath, he is viewed as being manipulative, using “scare tactics.” Well, not so the Bible. The Bible is very clear about the reality of God’s wrath, and this chapter has that wrath of God as a...

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October 22: Gently Weeps

Today’s Bible Reading: Lamentations 1, Song of Solomon 6, John 6:60-71, 1 Peter 4:1-11 Lamentations 1: This Book of Lamentations appears initially to be little more than a rather lengthy “downer,” but once we start to understand its purpose and point, it becomes uniquely edifying. Probably written by Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25), probably after the fall of Jerusalem, it expresses the instruction that we are given to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), in a particular way and for a particular purpose. The purpose seems to be to put words to genuine repentance, to empathize with the pain of a person attempting to come back to God “from the dark paths of sin,” so that they might find that God’s love is “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23), the key text of the book. This chapter is filled with “mourning with those who mourn.” The city is “lonely” (1:1), tragically because it was “full of people.”...

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October 21: Longing and Praise

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 52, Song of Solomon 5, John 6:41-59, 1 Peter 3:13-22 Jeremiah 52: And so we come to the end—or so it must have seemed to many at the time. What could be worse than the litany of destruction and defeat that we read about in this chapter? The horrors visited on Zedekiah and his family, the destruction of Jerusalem, the decimation of the temple, the killing of the priest, the people being taken into exile, the undermining of all the social structures to ensure no rebellion could come from this troublesome country again—even the king Jehoiachin sitting at the king of Babylon’s table with the other kings, albeit seated above them, and even as an act of grace on the part of Babylon, even that is pathetic. How the mighty have fallen. It is no great encouragement to see the president of the country sitting at a foreign ruler’s table, dependent...

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October 20: Judgment and Salvation

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 51, Song of Solomon 4:8-16, John 6:25-40, 1 Peter 3:8-12 Jeremiah 51: The judgment from God against Babylon is recorded in greater length and at greater extremity in this chapter. Once again, we need to remind ourselves of the yet broader context, not just of God’s judgment against all sinners who have not put their trust in the God of the Bible, but of the overarching principle of God’s justice and holiness. The God who is, the God of the Bible, is a God who is holy, who will not let wickedness and evil stand, and who will defend the rights of the marginalized, victimized, the widow and the orphan. There is a final judgment place for the evil that plagues our world and ruins our own hearts. That sin, in which to some measure at least we all partake, is either dealt with at the cross where Jesus took the...

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October 19: Flee and Trust

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 50, Song of Solomon 4:1-7, John 6:16-24, 1 Peter 3:1-7 Jeremiah 50: Babylon is famous throughout the Bible, in particular the New Testament, especially because of Revelation and its depiction of Babylon, and the use of Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13, for example. Here the reference is to the historic empire—and it is noteworthy to look on the ancient ruins of Babylon, situated in modern day Iraq, and ponder these words from the prophet Jeremiah. The lesson here, much as in previous chapters, is regarding God’s judgment on the nations—that is, on those who do not turn to him in repentance and faith. The particularity regarding Babylon is because of its role, under God’s sovereign hand, in exercising discipline against his people. “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains” (50:6). Despite Babylon’s role in God’s exercise of discipline, Babylon itself will...

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October 18: What Will Last Forever

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 49, Song of Solomon 3, John 6:1-15, 1 Peter 2:18-25 Jeremiah 49: If this were all the Bible you ever read, you would leave with a very skewed picture of God. Here we read God, through his prophet Jeremiah, pronouncing judgment on all peoples, without favor or fear, and the litany of judgment on these nations is only tempered by the occasional “in the latter days I will restore” them. But this is not the only part of the Bible that was ever written, nor the only part of Jeremiah, and the phrase “in the latter days I will restore” them hints at, opens a window towards, an aperture into a world of grace and mercy. That said, this chapter is also in the Bible and cannot be breezed over as if it did not exist. It is essential we read this chapter in its context of the Bible, the Book...

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October 17: Justice and Righteousness

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 47-48, Song of Solomon 2, John 5:31-47, 1 Peter 2:9-17 Jeremiah 47-48: More judgment on the nations. First on Philistia (chapter 47), and then on Moab (chapter 48). For Moab, there is a final respite: “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days” (48:47). But still, this whole section is a litany of judgment against the rebellious nations. How are we to read it and interpret it? “Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness” (48:10) refers to God’s work of judgment. To begin, we must ask ourselves whether we even wish that there was a God who exercised no justice at all. Most people want some final justice for all the foul deeds of this world—the Gulag, the concentration camps, Auschwitz. The deeds of these nations were foul indeed. What is more, they vaunted themselves over Israel (“Was not Israel a derision to...

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October 16: Seek Not Greatness

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 44-46, Song of Solomon 1, John 5:16-30, 1 Peter 2:1-8 Jeremiah 44-46: Our section today has three “words” from God given to Jeremiah. The first, in chapter 44, is regarding the Judeans who had gone to live in Egypt. You will remember that Jeremiah had already warned them not to rely on Egypt, but instead to rely on God. But now that they are in Egypt, another word from God comes to them, through the lips of Jeremiah, to flee from the idolatry with which Egypt was infested. They are “making offerings to other gods” (44:8). And what they need to understand is that not only is this a sin against God, but thereby it is also wounding themselves. If someone cannot listen to the highest argument—that their sin dishonors the gospel—they might listen to a lower argument—that their sin hurts themselves. “Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves?” Jeremiah...

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October 15: Heed the Word of God

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 39-43, Ecclesiastes 12, John 5:1-15, 1 Peter 1:17-25 Jeremiah 39-43: How difficult it must have been to see all your prophecies come true and in such a sad way. Because Zedekiah did not listen to Jeremiah, but attempted to hold out in a siege against Babylon, Jerusalem was taken, his children were killed, he was blinded (39:1-10). Tragedy upon tragedy. Jeremiah is protected by God’s sovereign hand, and he remains in Judah (39:11-14, 40:1-6). But the remnant of God’s people, instead of obeying the command to settle down, mind their own business, and God would protect them, they soon start squabbling. There is murder and civil war. Jeremiah (chapter 42) warns them against going down to Egypt to protect themselves. But they ignore his warning and go anyway, even taking Jeremiah with them (chapter 43), and again Jeremiah prophesies calamity (43:13). How apparently so easy, and yet in practice so difficult: obey...

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October 14: Evil Times

Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 35-38, Ecclesiastes 11, John 4:43-54, 1 Peter 1:10-16 Jeremiah 35-38: Jeremiah receives word from God to ask the Rechabites to come to God’s house and there offer them wine to drink (35:2). They refuse to drink wine because their forefather had commanded them not to do so and given them other rules by which to live (35:6). This then allows Jeremiah, by God’s word, to paint an ironic picture for God’s people. Here the Rechabites are obeying the word of their father, but you, God’s people, are not obeying God’s word! (35:16) Then comes the famous instance with the scroll. Jeremiah is commanded to write down all the words of his prophecy, and so asks Baruch to transcribe what he dictates to him and then go and read these words to the people (36:1-6). This prophetic warning is so that God’s people might hear God’s word and so repent and turn and...

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