The Good, New Days

The destruction of Jerusalem brought inconsolable grief, a deep longing for the good, old days, but God had something new and far better planned.

Today’s reading: Lamentations 3-5; Hebrews 8

21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us. Lamentations 5:21-22

6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:6-7

The writer of Lamentations pours out his grief for Jerusalem, which lies in ruins. The best he can imagine is some kind of return to the wonderful days of peace and prosperity, maybe the reign of Solomon when Israel was one kingdom, rich in wealth, politically dominant, free from oppressors.  Ah, to return to those days again!

But Jeremiah had already prophesied that there would be a new covenant, not like the old one to which the people were unfaithful. [See Jeremiah 31:31-34.] The writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers that the new covenant made the old one obsolete. The good, old days were not so good, after all. The old covenant only served to show the sinful condition of the nation and the need for a better covenant, a better priest, and a better sacrifice. That is exactly what God did through Christ.

In the midst of difficult and trying times, it is easy to look back to some past era that seems to have been better. Resist that temptation and let go of the longing for some golden age of yesteryear. God, in Jesus Christ, has brought us a whole new covenant that far exceeds anything ever known. Pray that we may be faithful and live in anticipation of that day when His kingdom fully comes and all things are made new.

The Perfect and Eternal Priest

Fallen mankind needed a priest to intercede for them before God, but only the perfect and eternal priesthood of the Son of God Himself would prove to effectively bring man and God together.

Today’s reading: Lamentations 1-2; Hebrews 7

6 He has laid waste his booth like a garden,
laid in ruins his meeting place;
the Lord has made Zion forget
festival and Sabbath,
and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest.

7 The Lord has scorned his altar,
disowned his sanctuary;
he has delivered into the hand of the enemy
the walls of her palaces;
they raised a clamor in the house of the Lord
as on the day of festival.                                       Lamentations 2:6-7

28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.                                                                  Hebrews 7:28

The Book of Lamentations tells the sad, bitter story of the consequences of the sin of Israel and Judah. Despite the law of God which established the priesthood of Aaron, the sacrifices, the worship in the temple, none of this was done without sin. The glories of the past were wiped away as God sent Babylon to kill and destroy the city that had been called “the joy of the whole earth” (2:15). The writer of Lamentations was completely clear that this had occurred as a result of the sin of the people. God brought about the wreckage for the gross failures of king and priest and citizenry.

But He had another plan all along. He would send His own Son as a king and priest. The destruction only served to prepare the way for that Messiah who would come. The letter to the Hebrews explains eloquently how the ministry of Jesus Christ, the High Priest who is perfect and lives forever far exceeds the flawed and tarnished priesthood under the law.

It was necessary for God to show the world that only Christ could be the Priest that was needed, One who had no sin to atone for and who would live forever to make intercession for His people.

All we need is Christ as our High Priest. His priesthood is after the order of the king of righteousness and the king of peace. In Him we find righteousness and peace forever. Look no further for the way to be accepted before the Holy and Eternal God. It is found in Christ alone.

God’s Absolute Control

Today’s reading: Lamentations 3:1-5:22

My selection: Lamentations 3:37-39

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,

unless the Lord has commanded it?

38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High

that good and bad come?

39 Why should a living man complain,

a man, about the punishment of his sins?

My reflections: God is sovereign, that is, He rules absolutely over all things and all events of human history and the cosmos. Nothing is out of His control, not one “rogue molecule,” as RC Sproul has said. People can say what they will but their promises and decisions are still in God’s hand.

Knowing this should free the believer from the fear that anything bad can come to him apart from God’s direction. It should relieve the Christian from anxiety that he can ask for something bad and get it, or fail to ask for something good and not get it. We do not control God like some genie in a bottle. God is completely free and acts according to His purposes and infinite wisdom.

My challenge: Believe God. Trust Him to send what is right into your life: punishment and correction, blessing and prosperity, trials and discipline. All are from His hand. All He sends is for good.

Tomorrow’s reading: Ezekiel 1:1-5:17

Learning from Fools

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 52:1-Lamentations 2:22

My selection: Jeremiah 52:7

Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled and went out from the city by night by the way of a gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, while the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Araba.

My reflections: Humor and pathos. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. I find the phrase “…the men of war fled … by night…” as funny. An oxymoron. Were they men of war or did they flee? Don’t real men of war fight to the death? So I chuckle.

But the next paragraph wipes the smile off my face as I read of the sad specter of Zedekiah. The last thing he saw before having his eyes put out was the slaughter of his sons. So I weep. Well, OK, maybe I don’t literally weep, but I feel sad.

All of this was, of course, unnecessary. Jeremiah had spent his life crying out to the kingdom that God had sent Nebuchadnezzar against them to defeat them. There was a way out: surrender. But they would not submit to God’s discipline through Nebuchadnezzar anymore than they submitted to God’s law which would have brought them blessing and security in the land.

My challenge: It’s easier to see the grave failures of historic fools than to detect and avoid our own failures. Learn the lessons of those who refused to listen and obey. (See I Corinthians 10:6-13).

Tomorrow’s reading: Lamentations 3:1-5:22

The False Confidence of Pagan Nations

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

My selection: Jeremiah 50:6-7

6 “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. 7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’

My reflections: God uses all the forces and powers of the earth for His purposes, even those nations who officially do not beleive in Him, like Babylonia in Jeremiah’s day. These unbelieving peoples had enough theological knowledge to understand that Israel had sinned against her God but not enough to realize that they too stood guilty before the Lord. Their day of judgment would come as today’s reading shows.

It is possible to know just enough truth to be dangerous or, in some cases, blissfully ignorant. God is a God to be feared. He will not be manipulated. We may not assume, as the enemies of Israel did, that our sin will not catch up with us.

My challenge: Walk before God in reverent fear and awe. Do not grow complacent or comfortable in your sin. Worship Him in humility and repentance. He rules all, including you and me.

Tomorrow’s reading: Jeremiah 52:1-Lamentations 2:22