James is right – Jeremiah was a Deuteronomist

James has a quote and then writes,

Oh, I like that! It sounds like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Imagine finding it in Deuteronomy!

Idle musings of a bookseller: A new heart in Deuteronomy?.

Agreed. Oh wait, you don’t know what James is really saying?

I’ll help. What he is saying is that:

Jeremiah’s heart and Ezekiel’s heart and the heart in Deuteronomy are all the same. Further, he is alluding to the fact that Jeremiah was the proto-prophet of Deuteronomy 18 and the new covenant of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel is Deuteronomy.

James Spinti, as paraphrased by Joel Watts.

Scratchpad – Exegesis of Jeremiah 31.31-37 – Suggestions?

The figure of Jeremiah on the Sistine Chapel c...

Image via Wikipedia

Admittedly, I wanted a passage for this work-up which was easy because my intention is not to focus on this text, but 2nd Samuel. However, here are some scratchpad thoughts. Suggests are welcomed and encouraged:

Jeremiah 31:31-37

Preliminary Observations

Christians have, since the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, used Jeremiah 31.31-33 as a hallmark of the faith, in describing the new order of the Covenant in which Gentiles were now full participants. The original meaning of the text, however, looked forward to a future time in which the exile would be ended, Judah and Israel secure and reunited as a Kingdom and in which the covenant with God was renewed. In it we find imagery of a divine marriage, references to the Canaanite gods, and a reference to the Law which seems to more humanistic in origin and application than the standing Mosaic Law. I note that the prophecy is not about the far distant future, but about the hope of the immediate future, perhaps in relation to the end of exile when no monarchy, at least no Israelite monarchy, existed, erasing the Image of God which had nearly destroyed the Covenant.

God is seen as the bridgegroom and the father at once, with the child Israel being taken by the hand and being led away from Egypt although the scene is equal to that of a husband redeeming his wife. The (re)newed law is clearly designed to be more human and more relational, having written the law on the heart. This may reflect the thought that God’s people will not be examined by their actions. Jeremiah is also showing his anti-priestly strain in verse 34 in that he allows that everyone will now be a kingdom of priests, equal before God, and no longer needing a stand between. Gorman notes that this seems to be contrary to the Deuteronomic concern for teaching, but this may be Jeremiah’s way of speaking about the priests as the centralization of knowledge. Perhaps as well, it alludes to the notion of a literary and liturgical use of the Law in which people will be able to freely hear and read what the Law says.

Verses 35-37 refer to cosmic degrees, in which people would see a strict relationship between the events on earth and what they believed had happened and were happening in the heavens. Creation plays a part here, but seemingly not the detailed creation stories of Genesis 1-3, as written in exile. Instead, Jeremiah is allowing the knowledge of the cosmos to reside solely in the mind of the Divine YHWH. What matters here is that YHWH wants the mystery of the cosmos hidden from the people because it is His realm alone and uses the mystic language to showcase the great love of Israel which He has, as displayed by the coming new covenant. A plain reading, or a botched scientific reading rather, would force away from v.35-37 the needed divine mystery of the cosmos wherein it is the great gulfs of unknown which displays the known love between God and Israel. Not sure how Genesis 1 plays into this passage of Jeremiah, if it does at all, as Genesis 1 is still not about solidifying knowledge about Creation itself. Instead, I would gather that the stories of Creation are connected here to the fact that YHWH is the One who is ordering with purpose the cosmos.

JPS NLT NASB
31 See, a time is coming — declares the LORD — when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.

32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I espoused them — declares the LORD.

33 But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days — declares the LORD: I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

34 No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, “Heed the LORD”; for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me — declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquities, And remember their sins no more.

35 Thus said the LORD, Who established the sun for light by day, The laws of moon and stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, Whose name is LORD of Hosts:

36 If these laws should ever be annulled by Me — declares the LORD — Only then would the offspring of Israel cease To be a nation before Me for all time.

37 Thus said the LORD: If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth below could be fathomed, only then would I reject all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done — declares the LORD.

31 “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.

32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD.

33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

35 It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and this is what he says:

36 “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!”

37 This is what the LORD says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the LORD, have spoken!

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,

32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:

36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.”

37 Thus says the LORD, “If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the LORD.

Differences in Translation:

I have chosen the JPS-1985, the New Living Translation (2007) and the New American Standard Bible as the translations of choice, although I will tend to use the Hebrew where it is appropriate in the exegesis paper. While there is not much difference between the three, at least none that really matter, my attention is drawn to the final verses in which the NLT relates the passage as a positive affirmation of the God’s love for Israel. The affirmation in v36 and 37 is a positive one, and yet, the more literal readings has it almost as a threat. There is absolutely no possibility that the natural laws will disappear from the Cosmos and neither will the measuring of the heavens above be accomplished because as science tells us, the Universe is constantly expanding.

Significant Concepts:

YHWH is speaking about a day coming in which the Kingdom would be reunited, which is interesting noting that if the dating of the discovery of Deuteronomy is correct, and the sentiments that Deuteronomy is more of a northern kingdom book, then Jeremiah may be giving political cover to the use of the defunct Kingdom’s law.  I also note that the teaching of the Lord, the new covenant, will be placed inside the individual demanding, perhaps, a visual sign of deeds to express the community’s response to the Covenant. Noticeable as well is the fact that Israel is given the New Covenant out of God’s love, even after the terrible divorce and rebellion by Israel.

Creation is present in the New Covenant, at least as a backdrop. One of the common explanations of the miraculous Creation, as many understand Genesis 1 to mean, is that God ignored natural laws/natural order along the same lines as the Resurrection, although we have two very different things there. This discounts all of the theories (facts) about the speed of light, the size of the universe and other such things which must be denied in attempting to prove that the 6-Day interpretation is the only inerrant interpretation of Genesis 1. In essence, they seek to frame a literal interpretation of Creation as a miracle, something that is not actually seen in Scripture. Further, they require that God bend, break or destroy natural laws, such as the speed of light, in order to hold to their theories, although I doubt this will actually make it into the exegetical paper. However, what will make it into the paper is the fact that during the significant events in Israel’s life, the theme of Creation seems present.

If I were to choose this passage for exegetical work, and I doubt that I will, I would explore the use of Creation as a motif, divorce and remarriage between YHWH and Israel in context of social norms of the time. Of interest as well as the imagery of YHWH as that normative Canaanite divine husband. Further, I would investigate the use of future language, comparing to other such language in Jeremiah. Finally, I would examine the new Law/Teaching in regard to Deuteronomy.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Does the NLT get it right in Jeremiah 31.35-37? Even Rodney agrees…

While doing the work up on this for my OT class, I noticed something which again reminds me of why I enjoy the NLT:

JPS NLT NASB
35 Thus said the LORD, Who established the sun for light by day, The laws of moon and stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, Whose name is LORD of Hosts:

36 If these laws should ever be annulled by Me — declares the LORD — Only then would the offspring of Israel cease To be a nation before Me for all time.

37 Thus said the LORD: If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth below could be fathomed, only then would I reject all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done — declares the LORD.

35 It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and this is what he says:

36 “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!”

37 This is what the LORD says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the LORD, have spoken!

35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:

36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.”

37 Thus says the LORD, “If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the LORD.

The affirmation in v36 and 37 is a positive one, and yet, the more literal readings has it almost as a threat. There is absolutely no possibility that the natural laws will disappear from the Cosmos and neither will the measuring of the heavens above be accomplished because as science tells us, the Universe is constantly expanding.

Frankly, the NLT’s translation shines through here and relates to us God’s unending love for His people.

God Wouldn’t Have Circumvented Natural Laws in Creation – Jeremiah 31.35-36

One of the common explanations of the miraculous Creation, as many understand Genesis 1 to mean, is that God ignored natural laws/natural order along the same lines as the Resurrection, although we have two very different things there. This discounts all of the theories (facts) about the speed of light, the size of the universe and other such things which must be denied in attempting to prove that the 6-Day interpretation is the only inerrant interpretation of Genesis 1. In essence, they see to frame a literal interpretation of Creation as a miracle, something that is not actually seen in Scripture. Further, they require that God bend, break or destroy natural laws, such as the speed of light, in order to hold to their theories.

Interesting enough….

God says otherwise:

35 Thus said the LORD, Who established the sun for light by day, The laws of moon and stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, Whose name is LORD of Hosts:

36 If these laws should ever be annulled by Me — declares the LORD — Only then would the offspring of Israel cease To be a nation before Me for all time. – JPS

35 It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and this is what he says:

36 “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!” – NLT

35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:

36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.” – NASB

So, unless you decide that God can only be speaking after the Creation, or some other excuse for not reading the text ‘plain’, one must conclude that due to measuring the speed of light, the universe is older than 6000 years…. way, way older.

Sure, you could refer to the understanding of cosmic decrees which more than likely is what is in the Prophet’s mind, but then… you wouldn’t be reading the text plain, literal, and the what not… now would you?

Scriptural Testimony to Preservation and the Need to have a Critical Text

Textual Criticism is a necessary enterprise for the Church. Since the very beginning, men (women are off the hook here as for the longest, women simply weren’t allowed even power to pull stunts like these) have tried to change the Scriptures, what some of us call the Word of God.

Read more

Who will be a Prophet?

We often like to read from and quote the prophets. But if you’ve ever met a real prophet you know that being in the presence of a real prophet can be very disturbing. Prophets were famous for goring every one’s ox. No one left the presence of a prophet untouched. So troubling were the prophets of old, including Jesus, that most of them were persecuted, jailed, stoned, exiled and killed. Most of the Biblical prophets were beyond controversial they were way over the top. Prophets denounced sin and injustice in the strongest language announcing doom to a nation that refused to repent. Many Israelites thus considered them unpatriotic and downright dangerous. They justified throwing them into prison for their lack of patriotism and for the way their words questioned and upset the status quo and the judgements of those who held power. To many,  these were dangerous men who had to be stopped. – Msgr Charles Pope

Read more

Sirach 5.1-8 God is the Lord (Reposted – Revised and Expanded)

Sirach 5:1-8

(1)  Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, “I am independent.”
(2)  Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.
(3)  Do not say, “Who will hold power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you.

The Prophet Amos preached against the idea that wealth will shield you from the natural course of this world. It will buy you neither salvation or security from death. The greed that plagues our society is a great disease, bringing with it destruction, hatred, evil. It is not a sin to be wealthy; however, it is a sin to trust so much in your wealth that it becomes a shield to you from the Lord. The Apostle Paul gave to Timothy a great Charge in his ministry, and in one of those aspects, we read,

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;  (1st Timothy 6:17 from the King James Version)

We can read of the similarities of Paul the Pharisee and Sirach the Jewish Master and see the agreement that produces an idea that those who would entertain themselves with the fantasy that wealth will bring great and eternal things will suffer a great disappointment.

In this passage of Sirach, we find a precursor of the Lord’s parable concerning the Rich Man and his barns. (Luke 12.13-21)

Chrysostom, on this parable, offers sound words,

There is nothing more wretched than such an attitude. In truth he took down his barns; for the safe barns are not walls but the stomach of the poor – Chrysostom, Sermon 2, Wealth and Poverty

Wealth will be good for its possessor if he does not spend it only on luxury, or on strong drink and harmful pleasures; if he enjoys luxury in moderation and distributes the rest to the stomachs of the poor, then wealth is a good thing. But if he is going to give himself up to luxury and other profligacy, not only does it not help him at all, but it even leads him down to the deep pit – Sermon 7, Wealth and Poverty

John Chrysostom also says,

Rich in this world, for others are rich in the world to come.

Implied in Sirach is Paul’s thought of the other riches. It is the Lord in whom we are to trust, and in whom we can gain a steadfast wealth.

The one LORD tells us through His prophet, Jeremiah,

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 KJVA)

Before Sirach was this warning against trusting in ourselves. Salvation is not of ourselves, but of God, and is the riches of salvation that much occupy our goals.

The Three Sinners

In verses 4 through 8, Sirach examines three attitudes that sinners have –

  • Because nothing happened when they sinned, nothing ever will
  • Others sin continuously while confident that they can achieve atonement at any time
  • While others take the universalistic approach – that God will forgive all

Sirach ends the passage with a warning – do not delay in turning to the Lord.

(4)  Do not say, “I sinned, and what has happened to me?” for the Lord is longsuffering.

The Apostle Peter, writing to the diaspora, says,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9 KJVA)

In our society and world today, there seems to be a silent hope among those that know by tradition the way to Christ but are eager to seek the path of the Prodigal Son, that perhaps they may keep God at bay until their death bed, and upon their death bed, in their final moments, when there is one left to impress and no more sin to pleasure themselves with, that upon this bed they may seek repentance. This is a foolhardy assumption and a dangerous method of living.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJVA)

If the Lord is slow to anger of your sin, then perhaps you no longer have the way of repentance.

Augustine comments,

O evil Christians, O ye, who in filling only press the Church by your evil lives; amend yourselves before the harvest come.  (Augustine, Sermons on the New Testament)

Returning to Sirach, we read,

(5)  Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.
(6)  Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath come from him, and his anger rests on sinners.

Sirach here writes of anger and wrath that awaits the sinner who continues to trust in the wealth of this world, waiting for the opportune moment for salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote,

Whom God had publicly put forward that by the shedding of his blood he would be a mercy seat, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint, God had overlooked previously committed sins to declare at this present season his righteousness — That God might be righteous and declare everyone righteous who has faith in the name of Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26 Commentary in Translation Version)

Now that there is an exclusive hope in Christ, we must no longer wait to be overlooked. There is no other Gospel, no other remission of sins, no other Hope for the sinner. We cannot hope to out wait the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls for sinners to repent.

John Chrysostom speaks of the sinners who wait,

Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.”  (Chrysostom on John)

Sirach issues his call for repentance, some that must be done daily.

(7)  Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and in the day of vengeance you will perish.

The one Constant in this World is the promise of the Lord. He has said that there is no other way, no hope for the sinner with Christ. He has promised that He will return one day, to bring the final judgment and to bring the Body of Christ into the same relationship that Adam had. His promises are secure and His Word eternal. Knowing this, Sirach in doubt a moment where the Divine Author gripped the pen, and seeing that soon there would come a time that would hasten all of humanity to repentance, warned those that would read his words not to delay in turning to the Lord.

Have we not wept when we seen those that have had the path to repentance slip away in death without ever having traveled the avenue? God is a merciful God, and He has required but the Faith in Jesus Christ to be saved and yet so many are unwilling to give up the riches of this life for the wealth of the World to Come.

The young man again, let him also consider the uncertainty of death, and that oftentimes, when many older persons continued here, the young were carried off before them. For, for this reason, that we may not make traffic of our death, it is left in uncertainty. Wherefore also a certain wise man adviseth, saying, “Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day: for thou knowest not what to-morrow shall bring forth. For by putting off there is danger and fear; but by not putting off manifest and secure salvation. Hold fast then by virtue.”  (Chrysostom on 2nd Corinthians)

Let us be like David who wrote, no doubt with Joy,

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.Selah I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.Selah
(Psalms 32:1-5 NKJV)

Finally, Sirach warns us that dishonest wealth, the ill gotten gain, will do nothing for us at the Day of the Lord.

(8)  Do not depend on ill gotten gain, for it will not profit you nothing in the day of calamity.

You say you want a religious revival?

So, you say you want a religious revival?

That is the ‘prophesied’ event that so many hold to, but they wish to do so in an unbiblical manner. Instead of reading the bible, and finding the heart of God, they would trust an election to bring about revival. They would fill the hearts and minds of the unlearned with great promises and zeal while leading them away from what God requires of a national revival.

In biblical times, which is especially important to us who profess biblical Christianity, we read of many times when national Israel – which in those days, was the only Israel – would backslide and leave God, forsaking the covenant with Him. So many times, would God come back to Israel, and plead with her to return to Him. As He always did, He made conditions.

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

Israel was still obeying the law in these areas, and yet, God has said that it didn’t matter. Religious observance does not bring one into a right path with God. Before these things would matter again, Israel had to do something, had to restore something:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

How clear then the picture that if Israel wanted a religious revival, they had to first cease from evil, learn the good, seek justice, relieve the burden of the oppressed, take up the cause of the orphans, and protect the rights of the widow. You say you want a religious revival in this country? Israel was given a promise if she would take heed:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  (Isaiah 1:1-18 KJVA)

And again, in Jeremiah, we read of the right way to a revival,

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.

Israel was faced with expulsion, yet God gave them a means of remaining:

Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:

Again, we return to a common theme among the prophets, to seek justice for those that are without – the poor, the orphans, the widows, the oppressed. Here, though, God tags His requirements with two other issues – do not trust in religious means as a path to revival. And if Israel would do these things, then:

Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.  (Jeremiah 7:1-7 KJVA)

And in Amos,

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name: And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.  (Amos 2:6-8 KJVA)

From the LASB:

God condemned Israel for five specific sins: (1) selling the poor as slaves (see Deuternomy 15:7-11; Amos 8:6), (2) exploiting the poor (see Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:19), (3) engaging in perverse sexual sins (see Leveticus 20:11-12), (4) taking illegal collateral for loans (see Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:6, Deuteronomy 24:12-13), and (5) worshiping false gods (see Exodus 20:3-5).

And then, of true religion, we have the Apostle James,

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  (James 1:26-27 KJVA)

If any of this country, or any country – they are all equal in the eyes of God – seeks a true religious revival, let him first start with the poor and the oppressed, and learn what Micah learn,

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  (Micah 6:6-8 KJVA)

From the Bible that is Rarely Read: Sirach 5.1-7

Sirach 5:1-7 from the Revised Standard Version

(1)  Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, “I have enough.”
(2)  Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.
(3)  Do not say, “Who will have power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you.

The Prophet Amos preached against the idea that wealth will shield you from the natural course of this world. It will buy you neither salvation or security from death. The greed that plagues our society is a great disease, bringing with it destruction, hatred, evil. It is not a sin to be wealthy; however, it is a sin to trust so much in your wealth that it becomes a shield to you from the Lord. The Apostle Paul gave to Timothy a great Charge in his ministry, and in one of those aspects, we read,

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;  (1st Timothy 6:17 from the King James Version)

We can read of the similarities of Paul the Pharisee and Sirach the Jewish Master and see the agreement that produces an idea that those who would entertain themselves with the fantasy that wealth will bring great and eternal things will suffer a great disappointment.

John Chrysostom says,

Rich in this world, for others are rich in the world to come.

Implied in Sirach is Paul’s thought of the other riches. It is the Lord in whom we are to trust, and in whom we can gain a steadfast wealth.

The one LORD tells us through His prophet, Jeremiah,

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 KJVA)

Before Sirach was this warning against trusting in ourselves. Salvation is not of ourselves, but of God, and is the riches of salvation that much occupy our goals.

(4)  Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger.

The Apostles Peter, writing to the diaspora, says,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9 KJVA)

In our society and world today, there seems to be a silent hope among those that know by tradition the way to Christ but are eager to seek the path of the Prodigal Son, that perhaps they may keep God at bay until their death bed, and upon their death bed, in their final moments, when there is one left to impress and no more sin to pleasure themselves with, that upon this bed they may seek repentance. This is a foolhardy assumption and a dangerous method of living.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJVA)

If the Lord is slow to anger of your sin, then perhaps you no longer have the way of repentance.

Augustine comments,

O evil Christians, O ye, who in filling only press the Church by your evil lives; amend yourselves before the harvest come.  (Augustine, Sermons on the New Testament)

Returning to Sirach, we read,

(5)  Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.
(6)  Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners.

Sirach here writes of anger and wrath that awaits the sinner who continues to trust in the wealth of this world, waiting for the opportune moment for salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote,

Whom God had publicly put forward that by the shedding of his blood he would be a mercy seat, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint, God had overlooked previously committed sins to declare at this present season his righteousness — That God might be righteous and declare everyone righteous who has faith in the name of Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26 Commentary in Translation Version)

Now that there is an exclusive hope in Christ, we must no longer wait to be overlooked. There is no other Gospel, no other remission of sins, no other Hope for the sinner. We cannot hope to out wait the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls for sinners to repent.

John Chrysostom speaks of the sinners who wait,

Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, “There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins.”  (Chrysostom on John)

Sirach issues his call for repentance, some that must be done daily.

(7)  Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish.

The one Constant in this World is the promise of the Lord. He has said that there is no other way, no hope for the sinner with Christ. He has promised that He will return one day, to bring the final judgment and to bring the Body of Christ into the same relationship that Adam had. His promises are secure and His Word eternal. Knowing this, Sirach in doubt a moment where the Divine Author gripped the pen, and seeing that soon there would come a time that would hasten all of humanity to repentance, warned those that would read his words not to delay in turning to the Lord.

Have we not wept when we seen those that have had the path to repentance slip away in death without ever having traveled the avenue? God is a merciful God, and He has required but the Faith in Jesus Christ to be saved and yet so many are unwilling to give up the riches of this life for the wealth of the World to Come.

The young man again, let him also consider the uncertainty of death, and that oftentimes, when many older persons continued here, the young were carried off before them. For, for this reason, that we may not make traffic of our death, it is left in uncertainty. Wherefore also a certain wise man adviseth, saying, “Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day: for thou knowest not what to-morrow shall bring forth. For by putting off there is danger and fear; but by not putting off manifest and secure salvation. Hold fast then by virtue.”  (Chrysostom on 2nd Corinthians)

Let us be like David who wrote, no doubt with Joy,

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.Selah I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.Selah
(Psalms 32:1-5 NKJV)

Devotional 6/30 – In the Wrong Place

Thus says the LORD:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer 17:5-8 NKJV)

Gill says,

The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “myrice”: and so the Latin interpreter of the Targum; but the word that paraphrase makes use of according to R. Hai, mentioned by Kimchi, signifies something that is thorny without, and eatable within; but this is not likely to be intended here. The Septuagint version renders it, “wild myrice”; it seems to be the same that is called “erice”, or “ling”, and “heath”; which delights to grow in wild and waste places; hence such with us are called “heaths”, whether this grows upon them or not. It is a low shrub, fruitless and useless; and, because neither bears fruit nor seed, is reckoned by Pliny among unhappy plants, and such as are condemned or forbid religious uses; and very fit to represent such persons as truest in men and in themselves, and not in the Lord:

Basil, whom the Catholics and Orthodox calls the Great, said, “Think again of the double life of the tamarisk; it is an aquatic plant, and yet it covers the desert.” What the ancient helps to point to is the clear comparison of those that trust in the flesh and those that trust in God. We have a tamarisk, something that should not be in the desert, but readily makes it home there. It has no roots and no supportl; it is literally born to die. The righteous man, however, the righteous man he is seen as a stout tree, something that is planted by the source of health, and is born to live.

So many times, we find ourselves in a desert land not because we got lost, but because we were led astray by those that we put our trust in. People, saints, those that crave water and need water (Spirit) to live, find themselves in the desert, a place that they do not belong. Some choose to stay there, perhaps out of apathy, while others stay in the desert out of pride.

I grew up at a Church in Louisiana in which we were led to put our trust only in the man behind the pulpit. When this man fell, so did my faith. Instead of having my trust in God, my faith was in flesh and thus I found myself in a desert place, left in the hot burning sun, near burning, and craving water. This is not to say that we do not need pastors and ministers, but they cannot save us. We trust them in as far as they follow God, yet our faith is not in the man or the position, but in God who called them. But then, for that man, he positioned himself as the sole arbiter of Truth. He chose to instill in us a separation that wedged us from the body of Christ so that his ego might be sustained.

So, he brought us into the desert and would have left us there, but for the grace of God who called us and gave this man’s congregation a second chance.

I had friends (yes, I actually had friends) that were not in Church, professing or non-professing, and I quickly followed them into those things that I should not have done. In college… well, I was a somewhat typical college student. I sought friendship and companionship above the things of God. I found myself always falling and failing. I never got my head on right and ruined some wonderful opportunities. I did things that declared openly my allegiance to flesh and each time, I lost the battle.

But when I began to trust in God, and place my faith in Him alone, I began really traveling with God. I was actually able to plant some roots and to begin to flourish, not just with my family and professional life but first and foremost with God.

If you are in a desert place, the first thing you have to do is to call out to God. Don’t worry about examining how you got there, but just get out. Did your friends lead you there? (Or did you follow them there?) Did you blindly trust the man, forgetting that God had to be followed first, and only faith in God inspires the man? Who cares, as long as you get out.

And when you do, if God allows you, then stay where you are planted, grow there, thrive there, serve God there.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
(Psa 92:12-13 KJVA)