Showing posts with label Jeremiah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeremiah. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Statsman Always Posts Thrice

My inexplicable obsession with statistics has been chronicled here and here, but I do try to keep a handle on it, recognizing it ain’t everyone’s cuppa. Mind you, the first stats post was in 2017, and the second only last year, so they are coming faster every time. As one hard-bitten detective might say to another on your favorite cop drama, “Uh oh, he’s decompensating!”

I’ll try not to run on too long.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

When Nobody is Listening

Major or Minor, the vast majority of the Old Testament prophetic text is made up of visions, oracles or messages from God through the prophets to individuals or nations. There are exceptions, of course. Isaiah contains a historic interlude or two, as do Haggai, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jonah and especially Jeremiah, who provides an exceptional amount of useful historical context.

In addition to the history, some prophets also recorded the personal instructions, special insights, correction or encouragement God gave them in the process of serving him, and the substance of their conversations and interactions with him. Jonah does this in every chapter.

But no prophet preserved more of God’s editorial commentary on his own messages than Jeremiah, all the way through the first 2/3 of his prophecy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Limitations of Godly Leadership

Yesterday we looked at the unnecessary death of Josiah, Israel’s last great king. Today, I’d like to look briefly at four complementary passages concerned with the period of time during which Josiah reigned over Judah. I’m hoping these may help to refine our thoughts about the relationship between leaders and the led.

We often bemoan a lack of godly leadership in our day. That is not always our real problem.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

After the Fact

The Latin term vaticinium ex eventu is used by liberal scholars and critics of the Bible to describe a prophecy they believe was made “from the event”, or literally after the fact. For example, German scholar Ferdinand Hitzig objected to prophecies about the king of Egypt made in Jeremiah 44:29-30, calling them vaticinium ex eventu. The argument of men like Hitzig is that later writers forged one or more prophecies in Jeremiah’s name based on events which had already occurred, and grafted them into the existing text of Jeremiah, presumably in order to make his writings appear more credible.

Hitzig died in 1875, by the way, so obviously this is not a new issue. And he’s far from the only expert to make such claims.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Anonymous Asks (145)

“Can the balm of Gilead heal?”

Well, there’s an obscure question for you!

I suppose first we should probably ask what the balm of Gilead is. I don’t imagine most people, even some regular readers of scripture, have the slightest idea.

Genesis 37 makes reference to a “caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead” and bound for Egypt. These men were merchants and traders, and one of the goods they had for sale was balm, salve in the form of wax or resin to be applied topically. They acquired this balm east of the Jordan River in Gilead, later part of Israel. Genesius’ Lexicon says this medicine was secreted by a plant known to grow only in that region, though the actual species is today a matter of dispute among scholars. The plant was extremely rare, its medicine believed to be very effective, and was highly valued and sought after. Once Israel conquered Canaan under Joshua and populated the Transjordan highlands, they effectively cornered the world market on Gilead’s balm.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Devotion of Youth

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride ...”

Bible students familiar with the books of Exodus and Numbers, in which Israel’s failings during their period of wilderness wandering are thoroughly documented, may be excused if they find these words from Jeremiah unlikely and supremely generous. I suffer a similar bout of cognitive dissonance when I read Peter’s words about Lot: “That righteous man lived among them day after day ... tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.”

Really? The guy who slept with not one but both his daughters? The guy who voluntarily chose to live among the Sodomites? The guy whose wife was so in love with that corrupt society that she turned back and became a cautionary tale so memorable that “pillar of salt” references still appear in secular literature from time to time almost 3,700 years after it happened?

That Lot?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Spiritual Treachery

Samuel Reproving Saul, John Singleton Copley, 1798
It is not enough for certain kinds of people to despise truth. They can’t just express their lack of interest and walk away.

I suspect every Christian who has ever shared his or her faith has run into people who have no trouble making their lack of interest clear, and no trouble beating feet. I think it’s fairly normal. Picture yourself talking to someone about the love of Christ and the things in his word that have become intensely precious to you; the things that make it worth getting out of bed every morning; the things for which you and I live.

Now of course if you’re like me, you’re not a perfect communicator.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Christianity Lite

Better entertained in goatland ...
I can’t speak to the condition of churches throughout the world, but I think it’s fair to say there is an epidemic of church-playing in North America these days. People are crowding into megachurches weekly to partake of a sort of ‘Christianity Lite’ in which scripture is still quoted as authoritative and many of the right forms are still observed.

But if YouTube reflects any sort of cross-section of Christian reality, many sermons seem to primarily involve wrestling the words of the apostles and prophets into the shape of modern secular values. And if the more popular Christian blogs show us anything, it’s that many believers lead lifestyles indistinguishable from those of someone who does not know Christ at all.

Too harsh? Maybe.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Hide and Seek

“You will ... find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

“I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.”

Do those two statements sound the tiniest bit contradictory? They aren’t really. They might contradict each other if they were both promises, and both given to exactly the same people under precisely the same circumstances, but they are not. One is a promise; the other is simply an observation, though a singularly important one for those it affects.

Either way, the notion that God is out there to be found — and, even better, willing it to happen — is something about which we ought to rejoice.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Inbox: Thoughts in Progress (2)

God has dealt differently with mankind during different eras of human history. That is not disputable. It is evident to anyone who reads the Bible with anything more than cursory attention.

How we think about this truth is not one of those issues too heady and esoteric for anything but the rarefied atmosphere of a roomful of full-time theologians. It determines how the average believer reads the Old Testament, how he uses it, and the place he gives to it in the Christian life. It may affect how he thinks about the nation of Israel. It molds his expectations about the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. It certainly impacts how we read the Sermon on the Mount.

And it does all these things and others to us even if we have not consciously developed our theology with respect to the various periods of human history.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Specific Enough for You?

Yahoo Answers fields a tough one:

“Were all bible prophesies [sic] written years after the events took place?”

Best Answer: Yes, the ‘prophecies’ in the bible are nothing that go beyond what a kid with knowledge about the world can’t predict. [I’m pretty sure he means “can” there — Ed.] Not to mention things that have always happened.”

That “best answer” is the sort of handwaving you often get from people who haven’t actually read and studied the later books of the Old Testament. The prophets of Israel and Judah frequently made predictions that go well beyond “things have have always happened”.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Semi-Random Musings (9)

It’s funny how the visible man and the Lord’s man are often confused.

Years ago, I attended a church where the most noticeable, likable, impressive presence was a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman who greeted visitors warmly at the door week after week. His family was well known and he had been associated with the same church for decades, so his name was one with which Christians from other churches were always most familiar.

It took me a month or two to realize that almost all the spiritual energy in that church was coming from elsewhere.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Word of Discouragement

“If you look at most successful people, somewhere in their background there is someone cheering for them and believing in what they can accomplish,” says Harrison Barnes.

“Have you ever been in a situation where you really needed someone to just say the words ‘It will be okay’? Until you reach that point, you might underestimate the power of encouragement,” say the people at

Encouragement means believing in people, cheering for them and getting them to think positively about their chances of success at what they are doing. Or at least so goes the conventional wisdom.

Naturally I disagree, or this wouldn’t be much of a post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Burden of the Lord

In the years leading up to the Babylonian captivity, God spoke many times through his prophets to the people of Judah and their religious leaders. However, the message he sent them was not to their taste. The leadership, especially the false prophets and priests, were disinclined to accept any correction of their way of life, but were understandably reluctant to be seen to defy God in any obvious way.

Then they discovered a rather ingenious solution. Instead of prefacing their own declarations with “Thus says the Lord” or some other claim to God’s final authority over the message they brought to the people, they began instead to speak of something they called the “burden of the Lord”. This “burden”, they claimed, came to them in dreams, sufficiently foggy and amorphous that it was necessary for them to explain it in their own words rather than God’s.

This approach enabled them to claim sufficient heavenly authority to maintain their prestige and position without obliging them to say anything difficult or truthful that might offend their audience. It was the perfect compromise.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Apocrypha-lypso (7)

Even if you have grown up with email rather than snail mail as your primary means of personal communication, you are probably aware some bits of correspondence have more value than others.

The criteria change depending on your current needs. When you are feeling lonely, a love letter from your spouse probably means more to you than an old “Honey-Do” list. On a cold February night at 3 a.m., instructions about how to restart your silent furnace mean more than a list of upcoming summer concerts.

All these bits of correspondence may be equally factual. Accuracy is not the issue. The question is whether or not they contain something that really matters, and that matters to you.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Visions of Their Own Minds

Saturday’s post ended with my contention that while teachers need to study scripture to be accurate, a prophet doesn’t (or rather, real, biblical prophets didn’t). A true prophet — good or bad, wise or foolish, ignorant or prudent — simply repeated what God had told him.

Interestingly, the commentary I’m reading on Daniel this morning addresses this very issue:

“We read of [Daniel] how each vision was connected with the deepest soul exercise, with fasting and prayer as well as the reading of those portions of the Word of God he possessed.”
— Arno C. Gaebelein

Now, Gaebelein’s not wrong about Daniel’s study habits.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Horse Plunging Headlong

I’ve been listening to unhappy people this week: people that have sinned, have hurt others and have hurt themselves.

It’s refreshing when someone gets it; when they realize that their own choices and desires took them places they do not want to be, and that these patterns need to be changed. It’s a good thing to see correctly the relationship between cause and effect, between actions and consequences.

But it’s even better when it dawns that our most significant sins are the inevitable consequence of refusing to take the Lord at his word.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Christians Are Not Exempt

If you think it looks easy, try a few lines ...
The prosperity gospel is bunk. This is not a profound revelation.

Anyone who pays attention to the word of God is aware that in the ordinary course of things, we Christians are not exempt from the ills of the world. Believers do not get a free pass on pain and suffering. God’s primary concern for us is not that we “have a good self-image and feel right about ourselves”, notwithstanding Joel Osteen’s latest work of fiction.

Most Christians understand this in principle, but when it’s my life that’s being put through the wringer, I may have a little more trouble than usual believing it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Testing, Testing …

What happened in the garden of Eden — and the resulting fall of mankind and the subjection of creation to the futility that we observe daily — has been the subject of near-endless discussion over the centuries. Much speculation is on record as to the motives of God in the test presented to Adam and Eve.

And that’s what it is: speculation. We may have all kinds of ideas why God did what he did, but in scripture we do not find the answer spelled out for us. Wise men are careful not to draw conclusions that go beyond the available evidence.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Despising the Clans

I was working on Thursday’s post on denominationalism when I came across a little statement in Jeremiah that may give us some insight as to how the Lord feels about divisions in the church.

Sorry, this one needs a little setting up, as I’m not going to assume all our readers are currently engrossed in simultaneous study of the Old Testament prophets.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Liars and Motivation

Positivity and truth are not interchangeable
What drives a person to say something he or she knows is false?

When the stakes are fairly insignificant, without some counterbalancing sense of right and wrong, almost any trivial motive will do: desire for attention or status, concern about the potential consequences of an action we’ve taken and now wish to disclaim, a wish for petty revenge on a rival or even a distaste for the conflict and complications that often arise when one is completely honest.

But what about when the issues at stake are significant, maybe eternal? Whatever would possess someone to lie about the testimony of God?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Many Fishers and Many Hunters

In France: the Telegraph declares “the exodus has begun”.

In Germany, according to the BBC, “anti-Semitism is acceptable again”. They tell the story of a rabbi who no longer wears his skullcap in certain parts of Berlin after being assaulted last year. 

And The Tower says Denmark — all of Scandinavia, really — has become “home to a scary, new form of anti-Semitism”.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Horse Plunging Headlong

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

When the End Comes

So what will you do when the end comes? It’s a really good question.

Relax, this is not another regular instalment in my frequent “end of the world looms imminent” meme. I’m not thinking about the end of our current world order, or about the end of the Church Age, or even about the end of our own natural lives.

The quote comes from Jeremiah, actually, and “the end” has to do with the time that God’s judgment falls. That’s not God’s eternal judgment concerning where your or I will spend eternity, and it’s not God’s future judgment of the world and its nations. It’s the point in life, individually or corporately, in which things get so bad and so damaging and so pointless and selfish that God simply cannot fail to step in and demonstrate the folly of our ways in a very tangible, painful way during this life.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Implacability of Hatred

Some bright spark (okay, got it now, it was a former Dutch cabinet minister, not just your garden-variety bright spark) last week suggested a unique solution to bring about peace in the Middle East.

Ready? Okay, here it is: Force Israel’s entire population to move to the United States.

Leave aside all the other current mid-east hotspots, the “Arab Spring” that turned out to be an Islamic Spring, ISIS, U.S. failure to change hearts and minds on the ground in Iraq and so on, and let’s suppose Herman Heinsbroek’s idea has a hope in Hades of actually bringing about lasting peace in Palestine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Christianity Lite

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Spiritual Treachery

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rhetoric and Dialectic

Cry of the Prophet Jeremiah, Ilya Repin, 1870
If we were to read only the King James Version of the Bible, we might be forgiven for imagining that there is some sort of distinctive manner in which its characters converse or write on God’s behalf; some sort of major communication hurdle which either repels us or needs to be laboriously surmounted over time.

Of course a moment’s reflection would tell us this idea is nonsensical. When accurately rendered in a current iteration of English or any other language, the Bible is much easier to read and understand than is often thought. Its translators do their job more efficiently and with increasing frequency as years go by, which is very much to our benefit.

In fact, we often make understanding the Bible far more difficult for ourselves by failing to recognize in it the same features of language that we employ day after day in our own conversations.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

“It’s All Under Control …”

“Nothing happening here. You can move along any time now ...”
How many times have you heard that line?

If someone doesn’t come right out and say it (or something quite like it), a distraction is served up in the timeliest possible fashion. Remember Bill Clinton’s famous four-day bombing of Iraq just as the House of Representatives commenced his own impeachment hearing?

Or the problem may magically just go away, as in the disappearance from the news for the last month or so of anything whatsoever to do with the Ebola virus, when well over 1,000 Americans are now potentially infected.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Grief is Not a Sin

Over the last year or so I’ve been reading through the Bible at the rate of about a chapter a day. I just finished Jeremiah yesterday, which is a really emotionally tough book if you identify even slightly with Jeremiah, and as I was reading the first chapter of Lamentations I was struck by a thought that’s been creeping up on me for a while.

Grief is not a sin.

Well, duh, you may say. Of course it’s okay to grieve. We lose people or hear terrible news or suffer disappointment, we feel sad; it would be monstrous if we didn’t react that way. And I think most people would agree that this is the case.

And yet it’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting that grief, or lamentation, should only last so long or go so far. Just a nice neat little grief, not too long, something you can swallow back and force a watery smile and then put your chin up and keep marching with a smile on your face. Especially if you call yourself a Christian, because Christians are supposed to be full! of! joy! and count themselves blessed when they suffer tribulation, etc.