Enduring trials and trusting God to take care of you doesn’t mean you have to pretend to enjoy the trial. Trials are hard. They’re not fun. God wants us to be honest with him about our pain and difficulties and then to trust him with the outcome. Jeremiah shows us a good example of this in our reading today. He willingly accepts persecution but is not excited about it. Faithfulness does not equal fake-ful-ness (yes, I made that up myself).
- 1-13 – Jeremiah proclaims the coming destruction of Judah because they have worshipped false gods.
- 1-6 – God told Jeremiah he would be persecuted but that God would ultimately protect him and destroy his enemies. Passhur the priest is the first example of this.
- 7-18 – Jeremiah is confident in God’s protection of him, but is still not excited about the suffering he will endure.
- 2-14 – Jeremiah does not have good news for King Zedekiah and his crew.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-28:
- 9-11 – God created us for a purpose and that purpose is to know and follow him, not to walk towards destruction.
- 12-19 – God calls us to gentleness and humility and Paul gives us good specifics on how to accomplish this.
- Asaph calls for God to take care of his enemies.
Hastiness comes up again as a bad thing. Wisdom definitely falls in line with patience and thinking through things.
Death is fascinating and terrifying all at the same time for a lot of us. “Who done its” are all over television and yet, when faced with death, many of us experience crippling fear. This is nothing new. Paul, in today’s 1 Thessalonians reading, addresses the Thessalonians’ fear of and/or questions about death.
- 19-4 – Jeremiah continues to harp on how ridiculous and wrong it is for people to worship idols that people can make.
- 5-13 – Jeremiah contrasts the idiocy of trusting in a person with the wisdom of trusting in God. He also lists the consequences.
- 14-18 – This portion is very reminiscent of a psalm asking for protection and also for destruction of his enemies.
- 19-27 – Jerusalem had a choice to be faithful and flourish or to be unfaithful and face destruction.
- 18 – Like God told Jeremiah, he started facing persecution from his own people.
- 19-23 – Jeremiah hopes for the destruction of his enemies. Unlike Jesus who wanted God to forgive his enemies, Jeremiah wants them to be punished for what they’ve done.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3:
- 2-8 – A theme throughout Paul’s letters is a call to holy living. Sexual morality and giving oneself to substances, and anger/self control are standard topics addressed.
- 13-18 – Those who “are asleep” are people who have died. The Thessalonians must have been concerned about what happened when people died and what could be expected after death.
- 6-10 – God asks Israel to remember the good things he has done for them so they will follow him.
- 11-16 – The people did not obey and God lets them know what they’re missing out on.
- Jesus gives similar advice on choosing where to sit at a banquet. Choose humbly and be pleasantly surprised if you’re honored.
It’s hard for most of us to understand persecution for our faith. The worst we normally have to face is someone ridiculing us for our beliefs. In today’s 1 Thessalonians reading, Paul praises the Thessalonians for enduring persecution for the gospel. As you read it, take a second to pray for those around the world who daily face persecution for the gospel.
- 13-22 – There were many false prophets who were opposing what God was saying through Jeremiah and they were leading the Israelites astray. God tells Jeremiah what to say in response to the false prophets.
- 1-9 – God is not backing down in coming after the false prophets and everyone who follows them.
- 10-21 – Jeremiah is afraid of the people and God confirms his commitment to and protection of Jeremiah. God’s response in verses 19-21 are very powerful.
- 1-15 – The first 13 verses are very bad news for the Israelites. They will face a great deal of destruction. The last two verses give hope, though, that they will eventually be returned to God’s intent for them.
1 Thessalonians 2:10-3:13:
- 13-16 – The Thessalonian believers clearly faced a great deal of persecution as they initially pursued Christ. Paul, multiple times, expresses gratitude for their faithfulness in the midst of it.
- 17-5 – Paul explains why he hasn’t visited Thessalonica again, but why Timothy visited instead.
- 1-13 – Asaph, the psalmist, asks God why he would bother bringing the Israelites out of Egypt only to forsake them later.
- 14-19 – Asaph asks that God returns to the people and restores them.
- 2-3 – God’s mind is far greater than that of a king, but a king’s mind is greater than that of a common person.
- 4-5 – Kings, in order to be faithful and successful, should be taken away from bad advisors and influences.
Today’s psalm reading gives us a helpful insight into the culture of the ancient Israelites. It was widely believed among many cultures of that time that if bad things happened to you, you were not cared for by your god or that your god did not have the power to bless you. The psalmist asks for God to take away their punishment so other nations would stop taunting them and recognize the power of God. We now know (whether we like it or not) that our consequences for our sins do not reflect weakness in God.
- 1-4 – Jeremiah, like many other faithful people, complains to God that, at times, unfaithful people prosper.
- 5-13 – God’s response to Jeremiah is not ideal. He lets him know that things will get worse and that Jeremiah will be attacked by some of those closest to him.
- 1-11 – God gives Jeremiah a very tangible sign of his plans for Judah who once clung to him but now has fallen into pride, which would ultimately lead to destruction.
- 15-27 – God threatens to send Judah into exile unless they turn back to God. Particularly in verse 23, he does not seem hopeful for a good outcome.
- 1-10 – This is talking about an actual drought on the land. People felt forsaken when they were not provided for through rain and plentiful crops.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9:
- 1-10 – Paul states how grateful he is for the good things he has heard about the faith of the Thessalonians. Though they received the gospel amidst persecution, Paul had already heard evidence of them spreading the gospel to others.
- 1-9 – Paul confirms that his intentions in sharing the gospel with the Thessalonians were pure. He justifies this with examples.
- This psalm confesses the sins of the people and asks for God’s forgiveness and that he would end the consequences. Other nations are taunting them as if their consequences mean that God is not caring for them.
- It is easy for us to become lazy and to fall into destruction. It usually starts small and builds without us noticing.
This week we have a bit of a dichotomy in our reading. Paul praises the Thessalonians for their faithfulness to Christ. Jeremiah preaches destruction to the Israelites for their lack of faithfulness.
One major point for why the Thessalonians were faithful and the ancient Israelites were unfaithful is attached to their willingness (or lack there of) to endure difficulties for their faith.
Over and over Paul praises the Thessalonians for enduring persecution for their faith and their diligence in sharing the gospel. On the other side, Jeremiah explains that the Israelites continually seek out idols and, when given the opportunity, turn towards the sinful practices of other nations.
What do we tend to fall back on when times are tough? Faithfulness or anything else?