Joshua 24, Jeremiah 13

Today we’re scheduled to read Joshua 24, Jeremiah 13.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 13:1-11.

Last summer I was assembling something in our backyard for my kids. Somehow I left my tools out in the yard. All fall, winter, and spring. They were discovered late in the spring when I went to put something else together out there. Most of the tools I left are still useable; they’re rusty, but still useable and I think the rust can be cleaned off. But some of them are now useless.

In the opening verses of Jeremiah 13, the prophet is told by the Lord to go buy himself a snappy new belt and wear it around (v. 1). Wouldn’t it be cool if the Lord told you to go buy some new shoes or a new shirt or even a new belt?

Except that he only got to wear it for a little while. Then the Lord told him to go geocache it in a rock crevice. (“He hideth my belt in the crevice of the rock.....”)

Anyway, when he retrieved the belt “many days later” (v. 6) it was “ruined and completely useless” like some of my tools are. Goodbye snappy new belt; I hope the Lord let him replace it from his ministry funds....

Anyway, if you’ve ever lost something and then found it ruined, you can relate to what Jeremiah experienced in this passage. This is how God felt about his people. He proudly put them around his waist so to speak but they ruined their utility by “the stubbornness of their hearts” through idolatry. Now, they were useless for what God wanted them for, namely, “to be my people for my renown and praise and honor” (v. 11).

It’s OK to say someone is “useful” these days, but it is not acceptable to say that someone “used” someone else. Being “useful” is voluntary while being “used” usually indicates someone is being manipulated without realizing it or that they are appreciated not as a person but only for what they can do for someone else. In other words, being “useful” is a compliment while being “used” is degrading. When God says that his people are useless, however, like a rotten belt, it is not degrading his people. It is not degrading for something to do what it was created to do. I am “using” this keyboard and computer to write this devotional. If the keyboard and computer had feelings, they would not feel degraded but grateful that they had been useful.

So it is with us. God created us to glorify himself. Israel--and all of us in the human race, actually--degraded ourselves by giving ourselves to sin instead of being useful to the purpose of glorifying God. When, by faith, we love and serve God we are useful to him. When his people “Give glory to the Lord your God” (v. 16) we are doing what he created us to do and that is the greatest form of satisfaction. God graciously brings “light” (v. 16e) and joy to us when we give him glory through obedience. When life is dissatisfying, it may be because we are serving idols rather than giving glory to God.

Is your life useful for God’s purpose? Are you living in a way that might be degrading your usefulness for the Lord?

Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27. 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 Joshua 24.

After seeing all the disobedience and devastation that happened in Israel during the wilderness wandering, I think having success in Canaan would have been very satisfying for Joshua. Yes, there was the painful defeat at Ai and the bad decision regarding the Gibeonites, but for the most part there was victory and prosperity after. God kept his promises to Israel and Joshua saw those promises kept and, in fact, was used by the Lord to lead Israel to those promises. Here is a man who served God with his life and lived a long time (v. 29), seeing God work throughout his lifetime (vv. 5-10) but watching the best of times in the last part of his life (vv. 11-13) . Before his death, he used his status to exhort Israel once again to serve the Lord and remain faithful to him (vv. 14-15, 19-20). God’s people affirmed their desire to serve the Lord and re-committed to following him (vv. 16-18, 21-28). Verse 31 summarized what the results of Joshua’s leadership was like: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” The past was amazing and the future seemed bright. What a way to go out of this world and into eternity.

God’s will for Jeremiah was not so happy and satisfying. Those idols that Joshua warned about (v. 23) were a perennial threat to Israel. In Jeremiah 13, which we read today, God was running out of patience with Israel’s idolatry (v. 10). He therefore spoke through Jeremiah to warn Judah of coming captivity (vv. 24-25). It was the message God’s people needed, but doing God’s will seems like a lot more fun if you were Joshua than if you were Jeremiah.

The lives of these two men and the glimpse we had today into their ministries reminds us that spiritual success is not really measured by visible results. Given the outcome of their lives, we would be tempted to consider Joshua an incredible leader, a grand slam success. We would also tend to think Jeremiah was a strikeout, an abject failure. Yet both men were successful spiritually because they did the will of God during their lives. Let the stories of these two men encourage you today; if your service to God is fruitful, give thanks and glory to God for his blessing on your faithful work. If your service to God is not as fruitful but you’ve been faithful to what he’s called us to do, commit your work and its outcome to him and keep serving faithfully. Rewards await the faithful servant, not the one who wins the biggest victories in this life.

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.