false-hope

1 Samuel 7-8, Jeremiah 44

Today’s readings are 1 Samuel 7-8, Jeremiah 44.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 44.

The remnant in Judah went to Egypt (v. 1) even though God told them not to do that. They dragged Jeremiah there, too (Jer 43:6c). I’m not sure why they brought him because he did what he had always done, namely, confront their sins and call them to repent.

Recall from Jeremiah 42 that God had promised peace and prosperity for the remnant if they stayed in Judah (42:10) and disaster if they went to Egypt (42:19-22). Despite the fact that God had done exactly what Jeremiah prophesied when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jerusalem, the remnant still went to Egypt in open defiance to God’s word through Jeremiah. Why?

The answer to that question is contained in the way this chapter is framed: a direct confrontation between God and “the Queen of Heaven.” The people of the remnant reasoned that they were better off worshipping the Queen of Heaven. In verses 17b-18 we read, “...we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.” So they re-interpreted God’s judgment as a bad consequence for forsaking the Queen of Heaven.

Jeremiah knew that God was more than equal to this challenge. Put God’s word up against the Queen of Heaven and God will win bigly. Verses 27-28 say, “...the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed.... Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand—mine or theirs.”

There are plenty of false religions offering false doctrine today. There are also a bevy of self-help gurus offering much different advice than God’s word does. They preach the message that happiness is not found in Christianity or in dying to self. Instead, they tell us to be true to ourselves, to follow our passions, to find a life that is worth living. In contrast to these false message, the Bible says that “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The fact that everyone does wrong and suffers for it is daily proof that God’s word is true. Yet people still cling to the idea that truth to improve one’s life is available outside of God, outside of his word, and definitely outside of His church. When sinful life-happiness strategies crash, bringing disaster, sorrow, great pain, and death, God’s word is vindicated. When false doctrines fail to deliver what they promise, God’s word is likewise vindicated.

We cannot help but be exposed to false ideas and doctrines because we live in this world. But, are you believing their lies? Are you taking in those lies in greater number, not incidentally but deliberately? Be warned that God will prove his word to be correct; if you choose to sin because someone else is telling you that sin is the way to happiness, you will pay a heavy price as God’s word proves itself true again.

So, be wise. Believe God’s word and do what it says, even if someone makes a compelling argument for something else.

Deuteronomy 29, Isaiah 56

Here are today’s OT18 readings: Deuteronomy 29 and Isaiah 56.

This devotional is about Isaiah 56:10-12.

Everyone wants to feel optimistic about the future. Because there are always problems and struggles in this life, we always hope that things will be better in the future. There is a market, therefore, for teachers and prophets who will tell you that things are going to get better. They assert that God’s blessing is coming even if his people are living in sin or worshipping idols.

In these verses of Scripture, God confronted Judah’s leaders. Although these leaders are not directly specified, they are called “watchmen” (v. 10a), “dogs” (v. 10c, 11a), and “shepherds.” These titles suggest spiritual leaders. They might mean false prophets, priests, Levites, or all of the above. What are these spiritual leaders like?

  • They are supposed to be watchmen but they are blind (v. 10a-b) so they are unable to see spiritual danger when it comes.
  • Similarly, they are called “dogs” in verse 10c. Dogs were despised in ancient Judaism, so they were not bred and kept as pets but as helpers to shepherds. Instead of being on alert for predators of the sheep, however, these dogs “cannot bark... lie around and dream” because “they love to sleep.” Like the blind watchmen of verse 10a, they were worthless for alerting God’s people to spiritual danger.
  • Finally, “they are shepherds who lack understanding,” meaning that they do not care for the sheep but for their “own gain” (v. 11e) and pleasure (v. 12a-b).

The greatest indictment of these bad spiritual leaders is what they teach which Isaiah gave us in verse 12c-d, “tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.” Instead of warning Judah that God’s judgment was coming like a good shepherd, a good watchdog, and a good watchman would, these false spiritual leaders prophesy better days to come. Their intention is not to get God’s people to repent but to reassure God’s people that the best is yet to come.

One sign of a false teacher in any age, then, is a relentlessly positive message. When someone speaks for God but prophesies prosperity and hope only, with no discussion of sin, no warning about God’s judgment, and never a word (in this age) about the blood of Christ, that person exhibits the signs of false spiritual leadership described here in Isaiah 56.

I know what kind of teaching you get in our church but I also know that my voice is not the only spiritual influence you hear. Whether you read stuff on the Internet, listen to radio preachers or watch them on TV, think carefully about what you are being taught. Turn off anyone who prophesies only better days ahead with no call for repentance, no warnings of God’s judgment, no offer of hope through the death and resurrection of Christ. The good news, the best news, is that Christ died for our sins not that Jesus wants you to be rich and free from pain. So get your good news from that kind of teacher.

Joshua 14–15, Psalms 146–147, Jeremiah 7, Matthew 21

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 14–15, Psalms 146–147, Jeremiah 7, Matthew 21. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Jeremiah 7.

I believe in the doctrine of eternal security. If God has saved you, then you are saved forever and never need to worry about being eternally lost (see John 10:27-28). This doctrine can be misinterpreted and misapplied, however. If a person thinks that being “saved” means merely praying a prayer to get out of hell, that person has an incomplete view of biblical salvation. Salvation does require calling on the Lord in faith (Rom 10:13), but faith is accompanied by repentance—a turning from sin to follow Jesus Christ as Lord (see Acts 26:20). You don’t obey Jesus to be saved but everyone who is saved has a desire to obey Jesus. But many people think that if they pray to receive Jesus, they are set for life. Their hope is in God’s promise, yes, but they have been misinformed or have misunderstood that promise; therefore, they misapply that promise to themselves. 

Jeremiah seemed to be facing a similar kind of misapplication. It is true that God had promised to dwell among his people in the Temple. It’s true that he promised to be with them and fight for them. But apparently some false prophets were telling the people that these promises were absolute. Verse 4 warns the people not to “trust in deceptive words” (also verse 8); those deceptive words were about “the temple of the Lord” (x3)! In other words, God’s people thought they could live however they want. They could treat people unjustly (v. 5b), take advantage of the vulnerable (“the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow,” v. 6a), do violence to the innocent (v. 6b), and even commit idolatry (v. 6). Verse 9 recaps these sins and then asks—incredulously—if God’s people will do all these sins then, verse 10, “come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?” 

No.

God’s promises to Israel were based on a covenant. They were to look to him in faith but that faith meant giving him exclusive worship and service, obeying his commands, and doing what is right in God’s eyes. Their struggles and failure to do these things meant that the curses of God’s covenant—his judgment—would fall on them instead of his blessings. All of this was to illustrate how impossible it was for anyone on earth to obey God’s will on our own (see Galatians 3:21-27). Those like Jeremiah who truly believed in God’s promise were able to serve God just as we are. Like us, they were saved by grace not by works. Those who thought they could stand on God’s promises without trusting in and worshipping God had distorted God’s word and were subject to his judgment.

Jesus warned us that many people think they belong to God but will be disowned by God on the day of judgment—not because they lost their salvation but because they never had it (see Matthew 7:21-23). They are like the people Jeremiah prophesied against in today’s passage. They think they are safe in the promises of God but they’ve never really become true worshippers of God by faith. While we should not become so fearful and introspective that we constantly question our salvation even though we are following Christ, we should also not allow a good doctrine like the promise of eternal security blind us to our true spiritual state before God. If we act like good Christians on Sunday but live unrepentant, sinful lifestyles the rest of week, then we are like the people in Jeremiah’s times who falsely trusted “deceptive words.” 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.