Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Jeremiah 24:1-10): Just checking on the status of David’s lineage. Is King Zedekiah, “a bad fig,” of David’s descent? Maybe Daniel who was exiled to Babylon? I have lost track.
A. Yes he is (he’s Josiah’s son, who was the last of the “good” kings), and he will be the last to sit on the throne of David as we currently understand it. Daniel is of the same tribe as David (Judah), but he is not directly related to him. After Zedekiah, there will no longer be a need to keep track of David’s ancestry until Jesus and the NT.
Q. (Jeremiah 29:3): I just want to make a note of the community of families that we come across. I have just blown over a lot of the names because they are strange and too many to remember, except the major characters. However, Hilkiah stood out to me. Hilkiah is the one who discovered the scrolls in the temple and, when the scrolls were read to the king, he had one prophet killed and had Jeremiah in hiding, right? Anyway, here, we see Hilkiah’s grandson delivering a letter for Jeremiah. I just wanted to note the similarities we have now in knowing families for generations.
A. You’ve got it right. See my answer to the next question to see why family is so important to God.
Q. (29:5-9): I find it interesting that God tells the exiled Israelites to work hard and prosper in the land where they are captives. What is the purpose of this? Can we apply it to our lives today?
A. I heard a great sermon on this back in college pointing to the idea of God’s multigenerational approach to His people. In this chapter, He speaks (via Jeremiah) of “you” being restored after 70 years. But note clearly: everyone who would have heard this message as it was first written would have been dead by the time 70 years had passed. So how does this have anything to do with “you”? Simple, God is speaking to His people over multiple generations. If you consider the message from this perspective, it is easy to see, I think, why God says settle down, plant gardens, have families, and marry off your children: He is telling the people how He will redeem them- by their children and grandchildren, who will be the ones to receive the restored Promised Land, which is coming in a few weeks.
So how might this apply to us? Well, certainly, I believe that it says that God places INCREDIBLE value on family and children, in a way that our society seems to have lost. Children are too often seen as a burden today, or as a social appendage to be “in”. But, God sees great value in Christians raising their own children to know their faith and pass it along to the next generation, so that the Word of God carries on even after many generations are dead. One what we might call “unintended” benefit of this type of multi-generational thinking is that it removes much of the pride and self-centeredness that too often plagues us. If we think of children and the next generation as being more important than ourselves, then we can find it easier to love them and make sacrifices on their behalf. This type of thinking puts an entirely new spin on being “pro-family,” doesn’t it?
O. (29:24-32): God’s “gotcha” message.
Q. (30:1-24): In reading this, I just think of how our lives today compare to back then. I know we haven’t got to Jesus dying on the cross and it changing the requirements and discipline of believers, but I do wonder how much some of God’s requirements are alive today. Obviously, the leaders and many people of Jerusalem were worshiping idols and doing things that are wicked in the eyes of the Lord. There aren’t many man-made idols that the people reading this blog are worshiping today. However, I question how close we are to God. How much time do we spend with God? I definitely talk to God fairly often. But, I still let my brain swim in some problems where I should give it up. And, whenever God has spoken to me, He has shouted, which is probably because I am doing all the talking. I don’t sit and just wait for Him to talk to me. I just started reading “Jesus Calling” where the author has done the same thing, not given God some quiet time. As busy moms, we hardly have some quiet time without laundry and dishes piling up and kids being ignored and wrecking the house. But, like exercise, I just let my time with God go. So, I am trying to make time for Him … and exercise. I try to talk to Him when I exercise, but I have to admit that it does not come naturally. It feels awkward. It’s so hard to sit quietly. But, like exercise, I’m trying to make time for it. And I am looking forward to seeing the results … of becoming closer to God.
The other thing I wonder about myself is how much have I given up of myself to God. I have asked for a lot of things and not received them. He has given me a lot of things also, some that I have asked for strongly. But, I look at my life and think I still have things around that I am stubbornly hanging onto that I know He wants me to give up.
A. There are any number of important ways that we can grow closer to God, but one point that I want to make up front about the “requirement” that we do so. I want to try and distinguish between requirement or obligation and desire. I believe that God does not want us to see steps towards growing towards Him as something we are obligated to do, but rather something that we desire to do, and I hope you can see the difference. When we are in love with someone, we often change little things about ourselves to suit them, and some of these changes can be painful and difficult, but we do these things out of love, not obligation. We choose to love, and to make changes, on behalf of a spouse, or a partner.
One of the biggest paradigm shifts of early Christianity was the movement away from legalism and requirement that so dominated the OT covenant. In the New Covenant, made in the blood of Jesus, God shifted the relationship from our requirement to His. We can do nothing to earn the love and status we have with God, but are only required to believe through faith. We do not bring anything, and in that since, we are, mercifully, not REQUIRED to do anything. It cannot be earned, it can only be accepted. So here again, the steps that we take after our believing faith are steps taken out of LOVE for God and praise for His works. They are not requirements. We cannot ADD anything to what God has done in Christ, we can only respond in the way that He desires.
Some of those ways are things we have already talked about: discerning what God has done in our lives and how He desires us to use our gifts and talents. Practicing good habits when it comes to reading scripture (like, say a daily Bible reading), prayer, and other classical disciplines of the long tradition of the Church. Now responding to some of your specific questions in a way that I hope will help all our dear readers (thanks as always, for reading this by the way!) I’m a book person, so most of my advice tends to revolve around reading suggestions, and I won’t deviate from that here. But the books themselves I hope will spur us toward finding our unique path with God. Gary Thomas wrote a wonderful book called Sacred Pathways (http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pathways-Discover-Your-Souls/dp/0310329884) in which he talks about the many ways that people connect with God: some do so in nature, others via silence, still others via discussion with others (that’s mine!). One of the main ideas of the book is that there is not merely one way to connect with God. If quiet time just doesn’t work for you — it often doesn’t for me, but I can talk about God for hours — then try something different. The book is super helpful in finding the “pathway” that best helps you connect with God. If you are interested in learning more about the classical disciplines themselves, then I would recommend two works of our modern spiritual giants: Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. I would recommend any of Foster’s books, who generally writes about classical disciplines such as prayer, but if you want a good summary, read his book Celebration of Discipline (http://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Discipline-Path-Spiritual-Growth/dp/0060628391/), which I have plugged on this blog before. It is very approachable, and easy to read. Willard, who recently passed away, sadly, wrote a more technical book called The Spirit of the Disciplines (http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Disciplines-Understanding-Changes-Lives/dp/0060694424/) which is also an excellent read on how Christians can connect with 2,000+ years of Church tradition on their walk with God.
Let’s try to re-examine some of this matter as we enter the NT, especially Paul’s letters, since he will be among the most important figures in discerning how God has truly changed things in Christ, and how we should properly respond. May your walk be blessed!