We are still hanging out in Jeremiah but will finish it up at the end of this week. Jeremiah is, in some ways, similar to Isaiah. Jeremiah was a prophet who initially fought his calling. He was called to preach destruction and eventual restoration to the Israelites. And he faced opposition as he pursued faithfulness.
One thing to pay close attention to as we read through the prophets is: there is nothing God can’t restore us from. We can so easily get caught up in our pasts and focus on how unworthy we are of God’s grace and redemption. I’ve even heard people say, and mean, that they would get struck by lightening upon entering a church.
The prophets make it abundantly clear, and open the door for Jesus to make it even clearer, that no one is irredeemable.
This week, as you read Jeremiah, hear God’s voice calling you as he explains how he will draw the Israelites out of exile and back to himself.
Growing up, whenever a crazy driver would speed by us, my mom would annoyedly say, “Teenagers.” Teenagers get a bad rap. They smell weird, their hormones make them say and do weird things, and they’re often mean to their parents. But! Teenagers, young adults, kids, and anyone else who doesn’t feel like they get the respect they deserve, should read 1 Timothy 4. Paul explains how you can earn that respect and leadership despite your age.
- 1-13 – God promises to restore peace to Jerusalem.
- 14-26 – Other nations had mocked Israel because it seemed that God had forgotten them and had broken his covenant with them. God promises to restore his covenant with them by placing David’s line back on the throne. We know that this eventually happens permanently through Jesus.
- 8-22 – God explains his punishment on all those who did not stick with their covenant. One portion of the covenant was to release slaves at a proper time. Many failed to do so.
1 Timothy 4:1-16:
- 1-5 – Paul consistently taught against certain foods being unclean or certain practices and rituals being necessary for salvation. He believed salvation was through faith in Jesus alone.
- 6-10 – There were some people in that time that believed holiness came through physical training. While taking care of one’s body is important, it is not a path towards salvation.
- 12 – The quintessential youth group verse – this verse is advice from Paul to Timothy of how to conduct himself even though it would be initially hard to gain respect because of his youth.
- 13-16 – Great advice on how to lead faithfully.
- 5-13 – One thing we seem to be missing, in general, in our culture, is awe and reverence of the Lord’s majesty. This psalm seems to indicate awe and reverence.
- 10 – References to “Rahab” are often indicating Egypt.
- 24 – Choose your spouse wisely.
Context is key in Scripture. This is why it’s so important to read the whole Bible and not just pick out words and phrases that we like or agree with. In 1 Timothy, Paul addresses women, but it’s important to know that there was a significant group of women in the church he’s addressing who were teaching bad doctrine.
- 1-11 – God promises to restore Israel and Judah but also makes it clear that they will still be punished for their sins. He assures them that it will be a lighter punishment.
- 3 – God’s faithfulness to Israel had nothing to do with their ability to reciprocate but simply because of his great love for them. Humanity can never fully reciprocate God’s love for us.
- 10-14 – What beautiful, comforting promises! God promises to turn mourning into joy, give comfort, and turn sorrow into gladness.
1 Timothy 2:1-15:
- 1-4 – We should be in prayer for all people to come to salvation.
- 5-7 – Paul assures his readers of his calling. His words assuring them he’s not lying about his calling are comically conversational.
- 8-11 – Remember that Paul was addressing problems occurring in the church. Here, he was teaching women, who presumably had entered worship with flashy, distracting clothes and jewelry, to dress modestly. He also addresses the men that have become quarrelsome over theological debates.
- 12-15 – This passage, particularly verse 12, can be problematic, particularly in our context where we affirm women in pastoral leadership. Are we practicing the faith unfaithfully or is the Bible wrong? Neither of these have to be true for us to resolve this issue. The main question we need to ask is whether or not we believe this passage was meant for its particular context. In the United Methodist church we have concluded that it was for the particular context Paul was addressing.
- 4 – This verse lists off several surrounding areas of Jerusalem (Zion). Jerusalem, and what would ultimately happen there (Jesus’ death and resurrection), were intended to be a blessing to all people. The writers of this psalm could not have known exactly how yet, but they believed that it would be true.
- 19 – When needed, these things will all ultimately fail you.
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.
The Colossians wanted to be faithful but there were a lot of things trying to pull them away from Christ. I think we can all relate.
Today, as we finish Isaiah, and read today’s psalm, we realize just how big of a deal exile was to the Israelites. To us, it’s an event in history. To them, it was the end of everything they’d known and they didn’t know if what they’d known would ever return. In order to understand the story of God’s people, it is imperative that we understand the weight and impact of the exile.
- 10-14 – People should rejoice with Jerusalem because God is restoring the city.
- 18-24 – God explains specifically what will happen to the Israelites who make it through the judgments. They will be considered the remnant. They will see others who were rejected due to their sin not to gloat but to understand God’s judgment even better.
- 4-11 – Paul explains that he would have every reason to be confident if self-righteousness were an option. He has all the boxes checked. He realizes that salvation through faith in the resurrection is the only righteousness he needs.
- 13-14 – Ultimately Paul was pressing on for an eternal prize.
- 17-18 – It should be each of our goals to be able to walk in a manner that allows us to ask others to follow us. So many would seek to be spiritual leaders but fall off the track easily.
- 1-8 – The psalmist mourns over the Israelites’ exile. God has turned away from the Israelites, the temple has been destroyed, and he wonders how long this will continue.
- 9-23 – The psalmist is reminded of the great things God has done, proving his ability, and asks God to restore the Israelites.
- This warns against sliding into a pattern similar to those who seek to harm righteous people. Those unhealthy patterns ultimately lead to destruction.
This week, in our reading, we have an interesting juxtaposition as we finish Isaiah and begin Jeremiah. Jeremiah, who like Isaiah, at first explains the reasons he couldn’t possibly accept his calling, eventually becomes an effective prophet.
As we begin Jeremiah, we once again see God calling his people out for their sins. Like Isaiah, Jeremiah accuses God’s people of idolatry and unfaithfulness. Punishment, specifically exile, is imminent.
The juxtaposition comes in our also reading the end of Isaiah this week. The end of Isaiah explains God’s restoration of the Israelites back to him. When that happens, they will have received their punishment and God will bring them back to himself.
This contrast between punishment and restoration is important for us to recognize. Just like children only go to timeout for an appropriate period of time and like you’re only frozen in Freeze Tag until someone unfreezes you, exile is only for a time. Ultimately, all our sufferings and punishments are temporary and restoration to God is the goal for all of us.
Prove it! This is yelled across many a junior high lunch table as one testosterone-rich adolescent boy claims he can do something that he most likely cannot. This is also basically what Paul says to the Philippians. Prove your salvation in front of others by living righteously and faithfully. This should be true of our lives too. If we are saved, it show in our words, actions, and decisions.
- 1-22 – God explains in great detail all the ways Israel will be restored to glory. When they went into exile God and the Israelites became a laughing stock. That would soon change.
- 1-2 – Jesus quotes this passage exactly in Luke 4:18-19 in his first public sermon.
- 1-11 – God declares his year of favor. Debts are forgiven. Those who suffer and mourn will be comforted…and a lot of other great stuff.
- 1-5 – God continues to proclaim wonderful restorative acts for Israel.
- 27-30 – Paul calls the Philippians to live with integrity in their faithfulness so that others who are watching would be convinced of their salvation.
- 1-11 – Paul calls the Philippians to humble themselves and serve in a similar fashion as Jesus did.
- Note that this psalm is written by David’s son, Solomon, the third king of Israel.
- Solomon asks for blessings for the king. This is presumably when he is starting out as king because it says that David’s prayers have now ended.
- We cannot claim ignorance and pretend not to know that people are moving towards death and destruction. If we ignore them, it says God will do the same to us.
Christ’s sacrifice set us free from sin and death and took us out from under the weight of the law. We now receive salvation as a free gift offered through God’s grace. But Paul reminds us, in Ephesians, that our freedom should be used to become more Christlike and to serve more selflessly. Freedom was not extended so we could use it frivolously and sin more simply because we can. Let us, as believers, use our freedom for the good of others and glory of God.
- 1-17 – God acknowledges that he did allow the Israelites to go into exile, but tells them that he is going to restore them and their enemies will not be able to overtake them anymore.
- 1-13 – The words to the Israelites are restorative and healing. God paints a picture of taking great care of the Israelites.
- 1-13 – Here the Lord explains what happens if sinners don’t repent. He continues to mock all kinds of idolatry.
- 5-9 – Though we are free, this is a good word for how each of us should work too. We are to work hard for good. That good will be returned to us.
- 10-17 – These verses remind us that God gives us all kinds of tools to protect us from any attacks that might come our way. We simply have to use them.
- David is quick to encourage the hearer to praise God and remain humble that God is the one with the power.
- This goes further than don’t do evil. Don’t even plan to do evil.
Do you know that person who always offers to help after the work is done or always “wishes” they could help? Those sentiments are pretty meaningless – about as productive as a dog chasing his tail. That is how God feels about sacrifices to Him when people go on sinning and worshipping other gods. The sacrifices don’t mean anything. They’re empty. It sure makes you think, are our offerings of worship and service, at times, pretty meaningless?
- 1-8 – This is a prophecy promising to return Jerusalem to what it was intended to be.
- 9-11 – A call to arms to prepare to bring the Israelites back from exile.
- 17-2 – Jerusalem is being urged to wake up and prepare for restoration.
- 6 – So often, including the prophet Isaiah, biblical characters have responded with “here I am”. Here God explains that he will answer in this same way when it’s time for Israel to be restored.
- 7-12 – The “good news” this passage refers to is the salvation of Jerusalem. This beautiful, poetic explanation is a great reflection of the beauty of salvation.
- 1-12 – Now read this again recognizing that it is foretelling Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
- 1-5 – Following Christ is an act of allowing ourselves to be transformed to look more and more like him. We cannot continue on sinning and say that we are being transformed.
- 6-14 – There are lots of folks who will try to steer us off our pursuit of following Christ. This is easiest when our sins are hidden. When we bring them to the light they are far easier to deal with.
- 22-33 – This passage is often disliked and/or ignored in modern society. But if both spouses choose to love and respect one another as Scripture calls us to, both parties get a really good deal.
- 19-28 – David asks God to punish his enemies.
- 30-36 – Several times in Scripture God asks for humility or obedience instead of a bunch of meaningless sacrifices. David promises to do just that.