December 20: Looking to God and Others
Jeremiah 37:1–38:28; Romans 9:1–12; Proverbs 23:19–35
We have a natural tendency to be concerned with our own condition. As redeemed people, God is transforming us from being self-centered people—concerned with our own ambitions—to other-centered people who want to see God’s work done in and around us. Sometimes even our spiritual concerns point us inward. But God’s work in us shouldn’t be just about us.
Paul sets a startling example in his concern for those who hadn’t come to know Christ: “I am telling the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears witness to me in the Holy Spirit—that my grief is great and there is constant distress in my heart. For I could wish myself to be accursed from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my fellow countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:1–3).
Although he was called especially to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was deeply concerned about the spiritual state of the Jewish people—his own people. The promise of the Messiah was given to them, yet many refused to believe the fulfillment of this promise, the redeeming work of Christ. They weren’t aware of the fulfillment of that promise given especially to them. Paul was so grieved by their rejection of their salvation that he was willing to be accursed for their sakes.
God is at work in us—transforming us for His purpose. We should be keenly aware of His work. But our gaze shouldn’t be fixed inward. We should be looking to God, amazed by His grace and His concern for people like us. As we are changed into His likeness, we should be caught up in caring for the things that deeply concern Him. We should care about the people He wants to be transformed to His likeness. He is molding and shaping us into His likeness so that we can be His instruments, His agents on earth. The people we meet and the situations we encounter are all opportunities to reflect Christ—not because we want to be holy examples, but because we have a task to do.
How is God’s work transforming you to be deeply concerned about the spiritual state of others? Who can you pray for? Who can you reach out to?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- And King Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned for Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel made king in the land of Judah. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land would obey the words of the Lord which he spake by the ministry of the Prophet Jeremiah. And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the Priest to the Prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us. (Now Jeremiah went in and out among the people: for they had not put him into the prison. Then Pharaoh’s host was come out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem, heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.) Then came the word of the Lord unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Thus shall ye say to the King of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me, Behold, Pharaoh’s host, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it and burn it with fire. Thus saith the Lord, Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. For though ye had smitten the whole host of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained, but wounded men among them, yet should every man rise up in his tent, and burn this city with fire. When the host of the Chaldeans was broken up from erusalem, because of Pharaoh’s army, Then Jeremiah went out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, separating himself thence from among the people. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, separating himself thence from among the people. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, there was a chief officer, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah, and he took Jeremiah the Prophet, saying, Thou fleest to the Chaldeans. Then said Jeremiah, That is false, I flee not to the Chaldeans: but he would not hear him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Wherefore the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and smote him, and laid him in prison in the house of Jehonathan the Scribe: for they had made that the prison. When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the prisons, and had remained there a long time. Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out, and the king asked him secretly, in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, Yea for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babel. Moreover, Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison? Where are no your prophets, which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babel shall not come against you, nor against this land? Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the King: let my paper be acceptable before thee, that thou cause me not to return to hte houses of Jehonathan the scribe, lest I die there .Then Zedekiah the King commanded, that they should put Jeremiah in the court of the prisons, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the baker’s street until all the bread in the city were eaten up. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babel’s army, which shall take it. Therefore the Princes said unto the king, We beseech you, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the wealth of this people, but the hurt, Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can deny you nothing. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords: and in the dungeon there was no water but mire: so Jeremiah stuck fast in the mire. Now when Ebed-Melech ye black Moor, one of the Eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon, (then the king sat in the gat eof Benjamin) And Ebed-Melech went out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the Prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he dieth for huner in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city. Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the black Moor, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take Jeremiah the Prophet out of the dungeon before he die. So Ebed-Melech the black Moor said unto Jeremiah, Put now thee old rotten rags and worn, under thine arm holes, between the cords. And Jeremiah did so. So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon, and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the Prophet unto him, into the third entry that is in the House of the Lord, and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing: hide nothing from me. Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not slay me? and if I give thee counsel, thou wilt not hear me. So the King sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the Lord liveth, that made us these souls, I will not slay thee, nor give thee into the hands of those men that seek thy life. Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord God of hosts the God of Israel, If thou wilt go forth unto the king of Babel’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burnt up with fire, and thou shalt live, and thine house. But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babel’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hands of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hands. And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am careful for the Jews that are fled unto the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hands, and they mock me. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee: hearken unto the voice of the Lord, I beseech thee, which I spake unto thee: so shall it be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou wilt refuse to go forth, this is the word that the Lord hath showe dme. And behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house, shall be brought forth to the king of Babel’s princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have persuaded thee, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are fastened in the mire, and they are turned back. So they shall bring out all thy wives, and thy children to the Chaldeans, and thou shalt not escape out of their hands, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babel: and this city shalt thou cause to be burnt with fire. Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man konw of these words, and thou shalt not die. But if the princes understand that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now, what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not slay thee: also what the King said unto thee, Then shalt thou say unto them, I humbly besought the king that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah and asked him, And he told them according to al these words that the king had commanded: so they left off speaking with him, for the matter was not perceived. So Jeremiah abode still in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken. Jeremiah 37:1–38:28
- I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness in the holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in mine heart. For I would wish myself to be separate from Christ, for my brethren that are my kinsmen according to the flesh, Which are the Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the Covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises Of whom are the fathers, and of whom concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is God over all, blessed forever, Amen. Notwithstanding it cannot be that the word of God should take none effect: for all they are not Israel, which are of Israel: Neither are they all children, because they are the seed of Abraham: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: That is, they which are the children of the flesh, are not the children of God: but the children of the promise, are counted for the seed. For this is a word of promise, In this same time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. Neither he only felt this, but also Rebecca, when she had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac. For ere the children were born, and when they had neither done good nor evil (that the purpose of God might remain according to election, not by works, but by him that calleth.) It was said unto her, The Elder shall serve the younger. Romans 9:1–12
- O thou my son, hear, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Keep not company with drunkards, nor with gluttons. For the drunkard and the glutton shall be poor, and the sleeper shall be clothed with rags. Obey thy father that hath begotten thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. But the truth, but sell it not: likewise wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice, and he that begetteth a wise child, shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shal be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes delight in my ways, For a whore is as deep ditch, and a strange woman is as a narrow pit. Also she lieth in wait as for a prey, and she increaseth the transgressors among men. To whom is woe? to whom is sorrow? to whom is strife? to whom is murmuring? to whom are wounds without cause? and to whom is the redness of the eye? Even to them that tarry long at the wine, to them that go, and seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine, when it is red, and when it showeth his color in the cup, or goeth down pleasantly. In the end thereof it will bite like a serpent, and hurt like a cockatrice. Thine eyes shall look upon strange women, and thine heart shall speak lewd things. And thou shalt be as one that sleepeth in the midst of the sea, and as he that sleepeth in the top of the mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, but I was not sick: they have beaten me, but I knew it not, when I awoke: therefore will I seek it yet still. Proverbs 23:19–35