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Jeremiah 45: Proper Interpretation

In Jeremiah 45, everything seems to be a little bit out of order. Given the chronology presented in the first verse, this chapter was written prior to the conquering of Jerusalem. That then makes these last two verses much more understandable.

Jer 45:4  Thus shalt thou say unto him, The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.

Jer 45:5  And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.

With the proper chronology, this is obviously pointing to the fact that Judah will be overrun. Fulfilled prophecy is interesting in and of itself, but I want to do with a little more technical issue today regarding God bringing evil.

In the world today, we have a very specific meaning of the word evil that it has not necessarily had throughout history. The Hebrew word that was used here is ra’. I am not a Hebrew scholar by any means, but as you read the definition in the concordance, this word does not necessarily carry the connotation of evil that we think of today. Some of the proposed ways to translate this word are adversity, grief, or trouble.

This kind of clarifies the issue that we might run into when people take this verse out of context and say that it necessarily indicates that the perfectly good God creates moral evil.

As we have been reading this entire narrative about the people of Judah, there was a choice. They could do what God told them to do, or God was going to allow adversity and trouble to come to them. There is certainly a difference between bringing evil, in the modern sense of the word, and bringing adversity or something like disaster.

The lesson I hope we all take away from this is that Biblical interpretation is not easy. We want to be very careful that we do it properly. There are cases like this where misinterpretation causes potential theological problems, but there are also cases where misinterpretation might not cause a problem per se, but it arises from not viewing the text in the right way. For example, we could read the Psalms as poetry since that are what they are meant to be, and there are certain characteristics of that genre. To read the Psalms as a historical narrative might not create a theological problem, but it would not do the text justice because we would not be understanding it in the way it ought to be understood. We need to make sure that we do not take this lightly.

Isaiah 18: Coming to Ethiopia

Isaiah is interesting in chapter 18 because he doesn’t come right out and say what nation he is talking about. We know that it is the land beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. Not that political boundaries are the same as they were in Biblical times, but in modern-day Ethiopia, there are an awful lot of rivers spread out throughout the country. Therefore, if we are referring to the first rivers in the land, then the land beyond those rivers would be the land of Ethiopia itself.

That might be significant. This entire chapter is talking a people who are going to be beat up pretty bad, but they are going to end up coming to the God of Israel.

Isa 18:7  In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.

This is also prophesied in Psalms.

Psa 68:31  Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

Ethiopia is going to be a country that ends up reaching out to God, but that wasn’t immediately. We see the first convert a little while later. In Acts 8, Philip teaches the Ethiopian eunuch. Ethiopia is a pretty good distance away from Israel, that that did not stop the prophecy from being fulfilled.

In fact, it is even more interesting that Africa in general is one of the fastest-growing Christian areas in the world. Thousands of years ago, it was prophesied the Ethiopia would turn to God, and we can see that prophecy being demonstrably fulfilled throughout history and continuing today.

Psalms 150: Continually Praise God

Can you believe it? We made it through Psalms! We made it through the longest book in the Bible, and we made it through the halfway point of the Bible. Thanks as always for coming along for the ride.

Psalms 150 is all about praising God. In fact, it doesn’t really matter how you praise God, but you need to be praising God.

Psa 150:3  Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

Psa 150:4  Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Psa 150:5  Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Psa 150:6  Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

Obviously, there are bunch of instruments here. They make a variety of sounds, and they are used for different purposes. Listening to harp is different than listening to a trumpet which is different than listening to cymbals. However, you can apparently praise God with all of them.

This makes me think about worship styles. For some people, they like contemporary worship. Some people prefer that hymns that they grew up with. I would even be willing to bet that there are some people who wish that there wasn’t music at all since they would prefer more peace and quiet for contemplation.

I don’t think that God has a problem with any of these. Read verse six. We are commanded to praise; we are not commanded to make a certain kind of music or even make any all. We are commanded to praise God.

It doesn’t even limit us to some kind of designated praise time. It just says to praise God which implies that we ought to be doing all the time and everywhere. It is more of a lifestyle choice; it is something that we need to be putting into our life continually.

Psalms 149: Biblical Authority

Psalms 149 is not very long, but it seems to cover an awful lot of ground. The ending is somewhat perplexing, so I guess that is what we will focus on today. Maybe we can make some sense out of it.

Psa 149:5  Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.

Psa 149:6  Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;

Psa 149:7  To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;

Psa 149:8  To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;

Psa 149:9  To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.

I think that it is interesting to first of all draw a parallel. There is a reference elsewhere in the Bible to a twoedged sword.

Heb 4:12  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Although Hebrews had not been written yet, the obvious parallel makes me think that there is something here. It also makes sense in relation to that Psalm. We can with the praise of God in our mouths, but we also need the word of God in our hands.

Now why do we have this?

There is one very important word. We’re executing the judgment that is written. In other words, the judgment that is in in the Bible.

It is not the believers who are setting the standards. God is the one setting the standard. The judgment has already been written. As Christians, it seems as if we have a responsibility to tell people what we know. We have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in such a way that we uphold the law of God. Perhaps we even have the responsibility to take action and speak out against things that we know are Biblically wrong.

This Psalm makes me think about the value that we place on the Bible. In verse six, it is clearly mentioned that we ought to have the word of God as our sword. Then, beyond that, we ought to be people are willing to stand for what was been written. Throughout history, Christians have been influential politically, culturally and intellectually. That is what the end of this chapter feels like to me. Based upon the word of God, we can be revolutionary. Even if we are going against the world, we can be carriers of what has been written.

Psalms 148: Walking Nearer to God

I think that we all want to be close to God. If you are a Christian, that is a large part of your daily walk. We try to follow in the path that He would want us to be on. Psalms 148 has something to say about people who were close to God.

Psa 148:13  Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

Psa 148:14  He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.

Israel was obviously a special nation throughout the Old Testament. From the Biblical record, it is not hard to notice that. They were set apart.

In this Psalm, they were called a people near God. What really set them apart was the fact that they were the people who followed God. They had the law which was given to Moses, and they were the only people on earth who created a nation based upon that law at that time. Think about it. Babylon didn’t have that kind of system. Egypt did not have that kind of system. The people of Israel were the people near God first of all because He chose them to be special, but they were also the ones who were trying to walk in the law that He had provided them.

I think that applies as today as well. As Christians, we believe the Bible, and as a result, we do have a set of documents that can help us live our lives in a way that brings us closer to God. That can help us come near, but it does seem like there needs to be some decision on our part. It is great to be a Christian. However, we also need to think about Israel as they are presented here. They were near to God because they tried to live in a way that brought them nearer to God. I am not talking about any type of works-based salvation. I am talking about the process that comes after salvation. If we want to get nearer to God, we need to take advantage of the resources we have at our disposal.

Psalms 147: God Delights in…

Psalms 147 gives us an interesting perspective on what God really wants.

Psa 147:10  He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.

Psa 147:11  The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

I think that is interesting. God does not necessarily delight in His creation. Sure, horses and people are amazing beings that have been created, but God does not receive His joy from simply the fact that these beings exist.

God receives His joy basically when we worship Him and put Him in the right position in our lives. Think about it this way. Verse 10 thoughts about the strength of a horse. That is simply a fact. A horse has a certain amount of strength. It is a biological fact based on muscle mass. Similarly, most humans have legs. It is not the kind of thing that we choose or don’t choose to have. It is just a fact that exists, and we all know that.

Verse 11 talks about things that we either need to decide to do or not do. We can decide to fear God and put our hope in Him. I have done it, and millions of other people have done it. However, we can also decide not to do that. Millions of people have similarly made that decision.

That is the contrast here. The first set are basic scientific facts. This second set refers to a choice. God delights in the choice. He wants to see us come to Him and recognize the reality that He is the God of the universe.

It feels like God is after something more than simply biology. Obviously, as the Creator, He must have thought that it was a good thing for horses to be strong or for people to have legs. As the Creator, He obviously had the authority over that decision.

Is interesting that God doesn’t really delight in that. He delights in relationships with humans who put Him in the appropriate place in their lives. The appropriate place is number one.

Psalms 146: What Can God Do?

Psalms 146 tells us that we ought to worship God because of all the amazing things that He has done for us. We are advised not to put our faith in people, but we should trust in God instead. Why are we supposed to put our trust in God?

Psa 146:5  Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

Psa 146:6  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Psa 146:7  Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

Psa 146:8  The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

Psa 146:9  The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

Well, He is the creator, the keeper of truth, the righteous judge, the provider, the miracle worker, the loving God, the caretaker, and also the protector from evil.

Those are certainly some pretty good reasons, and I guess we could take every one individually and read through the Bible to find examples of each of these characteristics in action. If you want me to do that, we certainly can, but for the purposes of this post, trust me that all of these things are demonstrated in the writing of the Bible. If the Bible is true, then God certainly is all of these things.

However, I think that it is even more impressive to think about God as all of these things rolled up into one. Think about it. When you were a kid, your parents were generally your providers. They probably put food on the table for you. In that way, they were able to provide for you (although you could definitely make the argument that God provided for them). However, I don’t know very many parents that were literal miracle workers. Most parents don’t give sight to blind people for example.

I know that my illustration might not be the best, but I hope you can understand the sentiment. When we think about each one of these characteristics, we might be able to think about people who embodied them in our lives. However, there is no one that is able to keep them all perfectly. No human has that kind of capability.

We do serve a God who does though.

Psalms 145: God Is Really Good?

Psalms 145 is a pretty good praise Psalm. It highlights many of the characteristics that we as Christians recognize that God has. I don’t want to do them all for you today because that would take an incredibly long time, but let’s look at one of them in a little bit more depth.

Psa 145:9  The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

The first statement is undoubtedly controversial. As Christians, we accept that. We understand that we serve a God who is perfectly good all the time. However, the problem of evil is the largest objection that I would believe most people have to Christianity. How can God be good, have the ability to eliminate evil, but decide not to?

I have addressed this one before, but I think that it is a good exercise for us to think about it since it does seem to be so popular, and I would argue that it is the most powerful argument that we will ever see used.

That being said, I think that we can address it. It is not the final deathblow to Christianity by any means.

First, it is important to keep in mind that the approach I tend to prefer hinges initially on the existence of God. By using things like the cosmological argument and the fine-tuning argument, we can show that it is probable for the existence of some kind of god. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Christian God is the true one, but using these demonstrates kind of a more Deist explanation of god. There is some kind of supreme being out there.

If this type of god exists, then we need to figure out what kind of god this being is. This is where we need to go and deal with comparative religion. Is there good enough evidence to decide that Christianity is a better choice than Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or any other belief system out there? This is where I would go into quite a bit of work on the person of Jesus Christ and the evidence for the resurrection. If that is true, and if resurrections do not normally happen, then Christianity has a major evidence on its side. It is a kind of proof that shows that Christianity is indeed something special and the Christian God has power that other worldviews cannot reliably claim. The Christian God demonstrated power and that does not naturally happen.

Now, if Christianity has that very unique piece of history on its side, then I think that the Christian God is a very probable being. After all, no other religion makes that kind of claim specifically about Jesus Christ. Christianity is unique in that regard.

So, now we are at a point where if everything I said is true (which I understand that I have not exhaustively proved through my own writing since I am not writing an entire book for you), we are at a point where it is reasonable to believe that the Christian God is the God that exists.

We are also an experiential point where we recognize that there is evil in the world. I don’t think that any of us would or could deny that.

Now, if people say it is impossible for a God to exist who has the characteristics of the Christian God because there is evil in the world, they find themselves in a contradiction. If they do the research and find that all of my claims hold (which I believe they do), we have the simultaneous existence of the Christian God and evil which certainly means that evil does not disprove the existence of God.

Psalms 144: How Great Is God?

Psalms 144 is a popular one, and I am going to highlight the most popular part of this one for you. It really helps put everything in perspective.

Psa 144:3  LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

Psa 144:4  Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

I don’t know about you, but I think that humans are pretty impressive creations. I think that the way our bodies work and the complexity of our psychological and emotional makeup are both pretty amazing things. I think they are great things that point toward intelligent design, but I digress.

God made these amazing creatures, and even something as simple as the human cell is not simple. However, the verse is pretty crazy. David is talking about a God who is so much greater than humanity that we ultimately don’t even deserve to receive His attention.

It really helps put everything in perspective.

It might seem like our lives encompass a very long time, and some people do live quite a while. However, even if you compare a person who lives 100 years to a God who is eternal, it is obvious that that 100 years is infinitesimally small. If you had an infinitely long number line, it is semi-obvious that a span of 100 years would appear so tiny that eventually you would not even be able to see it if you zoomed out enough to try to find the theoretical ends of an infinite number line.

Again, this is something that helps me to recognize where we are relative to the God of the universe.

Humanity was an incredibly complicated part of creation. The way that God decided to create our race is pretty remarkable. However, even with all of that being said, Psalms 144 reminds me that there is a God who is infinitely greater than we are. That greatness is a large part of why He is worth worshiping.

Psalms 143: Ask God What You Want

I think that we can be afraid to ask God questions sometimes. I think that we can get nervous and feel like we are somehow bothering God or troubling him with something that is insignificant compared to all of the things He handles everyday in the universe. Or, we can feel like our questions are embarrassing or something that we should be able to handle ourselves.

However, after reading Psalms 143, you get the picture that it is fine to be specific and to be straightforward with God about what we are looking for.

Psa 143:11  Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

Psa 143:12  And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

David was not afraid to lay it on the line. He knew the outcome that he wanted to happen. He also knew that God had certain attributes, and, at least in his mind, his requests were consistent with those attributes. For example, he knew that God was merciful, so he wanted God to help him defeat his enemies.

Now, what we don’t know in this situation was God’s response. As we have talked about before, God hears all of our prayers, but He is not required to give us everything we want. He gives us what He feels is best.

A little bit of speculation here: David got an awful lot of what he wanted from this prayer. He did not die at the hands of any enemies, so whenever it was in his life that he prayed this prayer, God protected him in the way that he had asked. David was praying in a way that aligned with the will of God.

Asking God is great, and we can ask God for anything. We can approach God with courage just like David did. He will hear us, and He will provide an answer in some fashion even if that answer is that we have to wait.