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Jeremiah 28: God will reveal what’s true

May 13, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a while. Instead of blogging I’ve been working on other writing projects, or at least opening up the documents and staring at them blankly. I need my brain to do something else for a while I hope. Blog posts are kind of nice because they are self-contained units of thought and I don’t have to be concerned about what I want to write a hundred pages from now. Alright. Ramble over.

Jeremiah 28.2-4
Hananiah speaking –
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house… I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

Jeremiah 28.6-9

and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

So, as I’m sure you’ll remember from 10 months ago, in the last chapter Jeremiah put a wooden yoke around his neck to represent the Babylonian takeover and exile of the Israelites. A yoke is used on people and cattle so that they labor more efficiently, specifically for the purpose of carrying a heavy weight. The implication of the yoke is that Israel will be subjected to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and he will be their ruler, making them to bear his burdens and labor to his benefit. Hananiah says that God declares that this yoke will be broken in a couple years while Jeremiah has been saying that if things stay the same, Israel will be subjected to the yoke of Babylon for 70 years.

Hananiah is working against Jeremiah with his prophecies. Hananiah is countering Jeremiah’s message of the coming wrath of God through Babylon by telling the people of Israel not to be overly concerned because it won’t last long. Throughout Jeremiah’s prophetic career, he has been warning of the coming takeover and exile by foreign powers because of the sin of Israel and has been met with opposition from others who claim that everything will be fine. Hananiah is just another example among many in the book of Jeremiah of a respected person in Israel who will tell Israel what they want to hear rather than what is true.

Jeremiah knows that Israel needs to hear the truth and believe that the sin of Judah has removed God’s hand of protection from them, and as a result Babylon’s intentions of taking over Israel will be successful. At first, it was important for the people in Jerusalem to believe this so they could turn from their sinful ways so that God would turn back toward His people and save them from the encroaching armies. Then, after the point of no return, it was important for Israel to believe the message of Jeremiah so they could prepare for their exile, understand how they were to live during the period of their exile, and have hope for a return to their land. Obviously being exiled is not desirable and therefore difficult to convince people of, especially when there are others who are trying to convince people that everything is fine.

It must be incredibly frustrating for Jeremiah when Hananiah comes in and contradicts his message. Given the frustrating circumstance, Jeremiah’s response is surprising. He doesn’t argue with Hananiah. He doesn’t yell at him or debate the point. Jeremiah doesn’t even reaffirm his own prophesies. Quite the opposite. He basically says, “I hope you’re right. I hope God does what you say He is going to do. God will make it clear whether your words are true or false soon enough.” Jeremiah doesn’t need to prove that Hananiah is a false prophet.

God does that for him. Later on in the chapter, God declares that since Hananiah declared the people of Judah will be back in two years, not only will that not come to pass, but Hananiah will be dead before the end of one year. Hananiah won’t even be around to see whether he was right. Then Hananiah died.

Jeremiah didn’t have to prove to everyone he heard from God. Jeremiah was not required to act out against those who were undermining his ministry. Jeremiah wasn’t required to counter every argument those who disagreed with him put forth. Jeremiah was given God’s words and asked to speak them. It was God’s job to reveal the truth of His word. And God did, ironically using a false prophet who was spreading lies to substantiate the truthfulness of the prophet Jeremiah.

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Jeremiah 27: Seeking Those Who Lie

July 12, 2013 Leave a comment

“But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord, until I have consumed it by his hand. So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’ For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord.”

Even as Israel insists upon its own rebellion and the armies of Babylon loom outside the gates, YHWH gives Israel a way out. YHWH pleads with Israel to take the way out. There’s no need to die. There’s no need to suffer the destruction of the city and the the destruction of people. Bend to Babylon and live. Certainly this isn’t a pleasant way out. Submitting to a foreign ruler isn’t a great way to live, but it is the way to live. Israel refuses to accept it.

They don’t have to accept, because everyone else they look to, prophets, diviners, dreamers, fortune-tellers, and sorcerers, tells them its not true. They seek for another opinion from a different presumed authority on the matter, and they find people willing to tell them what they want to hear. The truth of impending destruction is too distasteful, so they look for others to tell them lies which are more palatable. Their refusal to trust YHWH’s difficult truth is their undoing.

Telling people unpleasant truth is neither a fun business nor a profitable one. It’s not fun hearing it either. Telling people lies they want to hear is a much more enjoyable experience and lots of people, even in churches, are willing to pay to hear it. People want to hear lies when the truth is irksome and will look for others to confirm their sweet deception.

The problem is lies don’t do any good. Living in a pleasant false reality is fine for a moment but will bring destruction in the end. Surround yourself with those who speak the truth, even, maybe especially, the truths that are tough to swallow. Those who telling you only what you want to hear are leading you into darkness and destruction. Those who speak truth will guide you into light and life.

Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: Sometimes Everyone Else Is Wrong

February 3, 2013 4 comments

​Now Pashur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord.
​- Jeremiah 20:1-2

​Every character that Jeremiah interacts with and references in this narrative is upset with him. It’s as if the entire city of Jerusalem believes Jeremiah is a fool for his warnings of imminent judgment because of Judah’s idolatry. Many mock him. Some argue with him. Most ignore. The highest religious authority decided that Jeremiah’s words were so off base, so blasphemous, that Jeremiah should be beaten and thrown in stocks. The actions of everyone around Jeremiah indicate that they believe his prophecies are lies.

​The odd part is, Jeremiah is not the lone crazy fool spouting gibberish in the city; Jeremiah is the only one who knows what is really going on. His ability to stay consistently on message and continually prophesy with boldness despite feeling like “a laughingstock all the day” (20:7), is impressive, admirable, and imitable. Despite all social indicators pointing to Jeremiah being completely wrong, Jeremiah is getting his information from YHWH and thus is completely right. The key to Jeremiah seeing the world as it is and living in light of reality is not who agrees with him or how many people agree with him or how accepted his perspecitive is, but the trustworthiness of his source of information.

​The same is true for us. Understanding reality and living well within it requires that we have the right source of information and has nothing to do with the number of people who do or don’t agree with us. The majority sometimes believe some crazy shit. Society as a whole has a tendency to provide misinformation about popularity, money, respectability, fame, fun, relationships, gods, virtues, behavior, and the like. Like the chief priest in the house of the Lord, churches are often guilty of wrongly persecuting people because of the churches’ misinformation. The world is full of majorities who are wrong. You and I will be tempted to agree with these majorities to avoid being mocked or beaten, or will agree simply because it’s easier and if enough people believe something, it feels likely to be true.

​The real truth is: truthfulness is not indicated by the number of people who believe something to be true. The majority is a poor source of information. Where do your beliefs about truth come from?

For My Stuck Friends: Your Freedom Is Paid For

August 25, 2011 3 comments

Another beautiful and simple message from insightful Peter.

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. – 1 Peter 1:17-19

You did inherit futile ways from your forefathers: from your dad, from your grandpa, and most importantly, from Adam. Their ways became your ways. This inheritance was not something you had power over that you could reject, but, like a genetic inheritance, one that comes without your consent and controls you. This inheritance owns you. This inheritance holds you captive to futile ways. You cannot escape.
But there is a price that can be paid to free you. Your true Father has paid off your captors and set you free. You were trapped. You were controlled by your inheritance of sin. You were incarcerated in a dark room with no light and no visible way out. And your Dad paid your imprisoner so that you could be free. The cost for your freedom from your inheritance was beyond all riches, and Dad sent a Messiah to pay for your freedom with His own perfect blood. A sacrifice of infinite value in exchange for freedom of an infinite cost. And now, you are ransomed from those who stole you from your Father, free to run into His arms.

This passage is not a guilt trip. It’s not saying, “Look what Jesus did for you. You better live holy or else!” It’s not a passage trying to guilt you into living well. The point of the passage is to communicate how beautiful and powerful and loving the act of God was that freed you. The point is not that you would be sad about how sinful you are despite Jesus’ ransoming act of redemption. Quit making it about you. It’s about God and His Love and His Sacrifice and His Power and His Glory.

Sometimes I think we have grown so accustomed to these ideas of being freed from the slavery of sin, of being redeemed, and of being ransomed from the sin passed from generation to generation that the idea loses its impact on us. We have gotten so used to living in captivity while acknowledging that we are free that reading about the freedom of Jesus does nothing for us. The thing is people, these aren’t just ideas. Peter isn’t just giving us a nice mental image of God saving us through Jesus. It’s a metaphorical description, sure, but it’s a description of what actually happened.

The reality is that your captivity is a thing of the past. The time of being imprisoned by the futile ways of your inheritance is actually over. I know you spent a long time kidnapped, kept in the darkness, trapped and unable to escape. I know you don’t really know life outside of your cell, but it’s still available. I know that you still feel like you are in captivity to your inheritance, but that’s not the reality. The ransom has been paid. The door to your cell has been opened. You can choose to continue to sit in the dark cell, but you are now free to leave.

Do you really want to sit in the futile ways of your forefathers? Haven’t you had enough? You can enter freedom if you would choose to do so. The sin which once overpowered you now has no power over you. You’re free. Conduct yourselves as free people under God’s reign. Live in the kingdom of God. Leave your cage. Stop pretending you’re still in chains. The Messiah has come and you have been ransomed.

Prophecy: I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

August 21, 2010 7 comments

I listened to people talk about Revelation a week or so ago, and thankfully held my passionately frustrated tongue, which reminded me of an old blog post by Greg Boyd that can be found here. He talks about some examples of unfulfilled prophecy in Scripture. Not just stuff that hasn’t happened yet, but examples where something was prophesied in Scripture and later Scripture reveals that what was prophesied would happen does not happen. It’s kind of outside of typical Christian conversations about the Bible, so naturally, I’d like to talk about it a little bit and maybe get the conversation ball rolling. Although normally I give the ball a good shove to no avail. I still enjoy pushing it though.

We’ll start with some examples that it would probably be good to think about before we discuss this stuff. I’m gonna do a lot of shortening up to save space, but I’ll try not to make any passage say something it doesn’t, and they are all right there so you can check up on me.

Prophecy What actually happened
Ezekiel 26:7-12

“From the north I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar… with a great army. He will ravage your settlements… He will demolish your towers with his weapons…he will kill your people with the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground…. They will beat down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber, and rubble into the sea.”

Ezekiel 29:18-20
“Nebuchadnezzar drove his army in a hard campaign against Tyre; every head was rubbed bare and every shoulder made raw. Yet he and his army got no reward from the campaign against Tyre.”
Jeremiah 22:18-19; 36:30

Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:

“They will not mourn for him: ‘Alas my brother! Alas my sister!’… He will have the burial of a donkey — dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem.”

2 Kings 24:6
Jehoiakim rested with his fathers. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king.
Jeremiah 34:4-5
“‘Ye hear the promise of the Lord, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the Lord says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honor of your fathers,… so they will make a fire in your honor and lament… I myself make this promise, declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 52:8-11
The Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah… and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon… There… the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes… Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison until the day of his death.

I’ll explain these a little for any who doesn’t want to pay attention to my table. I thought I’d try something a little new and crazy. Ezekiel says that YHWH said that the Lord will use Nebuchadnezzar to completely destroy Tyre, but we find out just a few chapters later that Nebby’s campaign was long, difficult, and unsuccessful. In fact, Tyre wasn’t laid waste for many, many years, and it definitely wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar that did it. Jeremiah said that the Jehoiakim wouldn’t be buried or even have his descendants succeed him as king, but in another part of the bible we see that Jehoiakim was buried with his ancestors and his son became king after he died. Jeremiah said that God promised Zedekiah would die peacefully be properly lamented by his people. Then Jeremiah tells us later that something totally different happened, the last thing he saw before having his eyes stabbed out was his sons being brutally murdered, then the king died blind in a prison cell held captive by his conquerors and murder of his children. This gruesome manner of death seems a far cry from YHWH’s reassuring words of Jeremiah 34:4-5.

So… these passages appear to be illustrative of a view of prophecy that calmly and quietly sits in opposition to what I have always been taught prophecy was. It’s right there, but who touches it? Who talks about this stuff? Not anyone I know. Not really. Doesn’t it seem pretty important? It forces us to rethink how we define and think about prophecy in Scripture in a way that is more true to Scripture. But these are difficult things to make heads or tails of, especially since there weren’t quarters in the bible.

How do we make sense of passages like these? How do we reconcile them? I’m asking you, but I have a few quick ideas to throw out there. First, we could simply say that the God of the Bible is either nonexistent or impotent and the Christian Bible should be disregarded as contradictory and false. That seems like a fair conclusion to me. Second, we could go Boyd on these passages and say that for reasons unknown to us (and notably unnoted in the text) God changed his mind and decided to make things happen differently. I do think God is free and is so powerful that he can dynamically change his decisions in response to our actions without compromising his integrity of character. Third, perhaps the way that we perceive prophecy is not the same way that the authors of the Bible perceive of prophecy. Certainly the prophets themselves had no issue with revealing how what they prophesied did not actually happen. That seems to indicate that they might have saw what they were saying a little differently than we do. Fourth, perhaps these passages and passages like these are the prophets referring solely to what will happen in the afterlife and communicating it in this life metaphors. Scripture definitely contains a strong element of future vindication for the faithful, wrath for those in opposition, and justice for all.

Do you have any other ideas? I have more thoughts to post on this issue at a later time. It feels important. At the least, it’s somewhat unique. We owe it to ourselves, Scripture, and God to ask these kinds of questions about what many of us say is the very word of God. I think it is humble, intellectually honest, trustworthy, and faithful to consider and discuss the things that challenge our perspective and contradictions in the Bible, not writing them off because a contradiction in Scripture is inconceivable.*

*See title, and please, someone tell me they get it. I don’t know how well my sometimes subtle references work…

Some Pondering About Intuition…

October 2, 2008 4 comments

I read into what people are saying.  On the phone, I hear and note the frequency and length of their pauses.  I hear voice intonation.  I notice the speed of their words.  I think about diction.  I mark overall volume in voice as well as variability in voice volume.  When we speak face to face, I not only notice things about their voice and the overall nature of the conversation, but I perceive body language.  I notice posture.  I consider level of eye contact as well as what points in the conversation they make eye contact and what points they shun it.  I notice their hand motions or lack of.  I see how close they are to me, when they back away and when they come closer.  I take all of this information, and indeed, probably more, and fit it into a system that helps me understand what a person is really saying and what lies behind what they are saying.  I do all this without thinking.

I’m not trying to impress anyone.  It’s not impressive.  Everyone does it.  That’s just what we do as humans.  We’re intuitive.  We naturally listen to unspoken words.  Well, I’m sure I had something else, but I guess I’m done… nope, I remember now.  The majority of people passively intuit during a conversation; they integrate nonverbal communication into how they interpret without thinking about it.  If any of the following sounds arrogant, sorry.

I seem to intuit more carefully and more accurately than some people.  Sometimes I move into an active mode of interpretation, where I not only take information about voice characteristics and body language in, but I remain actively aware of the information pieces and my natural interpretations of them.  To give an example: I am mentally aware that the person’s intermittent eye contact, trepid voice, and posture, in combination with what we’re talking about, means that they long to connect even though they are afraid to.  The point is, I notice the actions of the person, I notice my interpretation of what that means, and then am able to evaluate that interpretation based upon what is being said, what has been said, what I know about this person, and other cues that tell me something about what is really going on within.  Man, I’m writing a lot and not quite getting there.  I’ll try to just get there.  I actually have three separate ponderings to develop related to intuition

The first is about tricking people you’re interacting with.  For those who are acutely aware or choose to become acutely aware of how their own body language is being interpreted, they actually have the power to manipulate what others perceive to be true about them even if it is not.  Being aware of how people are responding to our nonverbal communication allows us to manipulate our nonverbal communication in such a way that it communicates something false about what is going on within us.  We can completely hide everything going on inside of us while making people feel like they know everything about us because we’re completely communicating that they do know everything about us even though it isn’t true.  Why do I even think about these things?  Because I’ve thought about doing these things.  I could.  I have.  I refrain from doing so now.  Scary possibility though, isn’t it?  To know nothing about the person you think you know everything about.

That brings mean to my next question.  When we intuit something, are we intuiting something  beyond nonverbal communication, or are we just passively processing information?  Is the conversational intuition we have merely about nonverbal communication cues?  Or when we “sense” something is true about a conversation, are we sensing something otherworldly?  I don’t know for sure the answers to these questions, but my initial suspicion is that we don’t have  an ability to intuitively sense anything other than what the person is physically manifesting.   If that is true, then our intuition is vulnerable to being foiled by those that would fool us.

Is there another way that we can know what is really going on with people when they are lying to us in every way possible?  I think so.  The answer is in the prodding of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus sees all truth.  He knows what is going on beneath this veneer of light that someone is putting forth.  If we have cultivated such a relationship with God that in the heat of these circumstances we can hear His quiet voice, we can see the reality of someone’s life even when they’re hiding it.  Of course, it is God’s choice what He would reveal, and certainly His decision to reveal it to us is not so that we know and can judge or gossip, but so that we can exhort the individual to bring the dark to light and incessantly demonstrate a love that is without condition.

Please feel free to answer any of the questions I’ve posed, and to answer differently than my superficial, brief thoughts.  Also, there’s another way we might be able to discern the reality of someone’s life – the connection of our spirits.  But my experiences with this seems to be in circumstances where either both parties are willing or one party has let his/her guard down and incidentally put their spirit out there to connect with.  An unwilling spirit may not connect, and then there would be no perception of reality.  Thoughts?

Sorry for the messiness of all this.  I wrote it in my hermeneutics class.  It’s completely unrelated.

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