Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Category: Jeremiah

Free to breathe

Remember the moment when your last head cold cleared up and, suddenly, you could breathe again?  It almost caught you by surprise, didn’t it?  And the very next thing you wanted to do was tell everyone “I can finally breathe free!”

After demonstrating Jesus’ superiority over the earthly priesthood and the earthly tabernacle, the author of Hebrews presents his ultimate theological point – that Jesus is superior to the Mosaic Law.  Since Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law, His followers are now free to interact directly with God.  To prove his point, you’ll see the author’s reliance on Old Testament scripture…

Hebrews 10:1-10
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the reality itself of those things, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year…For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said:
               You did not desire sacrifice and offering,
               but you prepared a body for Me.

               You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings.

               Then I said, “See –
               it is written about Me
               in the scroll –
               I have come to do Your will, O God.”
(Psalm 40:6-8)

After He says above, “You did not desire or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings” (which are offered according to the law), He then says, “See, I have come to do Your will.”  He takes away the first to establish the second.  By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

The author of Hebrews then provides evidence that Jesus – the Greater Messenger – has not only fulfilled the duties of the high priest, but in doing so, He has also fulfilled the requirements of the entire Law:

Hebrews 10:11-18
Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins.  But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.  He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool.  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.  For after He says:
               This is the covenant I will make with them
               after those days,
the Lord says,
               I will put My laws on their hearts
               and write them on their minds,
(Jeremiah 31:33)
and:
               I will never again remember
               their sins and their lawless acts.
(Jeremiah 31:34)

Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

The burden of following the Mosaic Law is no longer needed since the sin has been permanently removed.  We are free to breathe and partner with God(!) – and from this point on, the author examines what that freedom-based partnership looks like in the life of a believer who seriously takes up God’s offer to pursue maturity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Just as you were taught

Contrary to what advertisers want you to believe, “newer” does not automatically mean “better”.  This applies to many areas of our life, including our spiritual maturity.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems like the American church is always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing.  Every couple of years, we jump at a slick package of formula-prayers, diets, or new techniques which claim to develop spiritual maturity.  Unfortunately, it seems like most people’s idea of spiritual maturity is nothing more than being good at convincing God to give us whatever we want at the moment.

As we continue through Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae, we find that they were also being presented with a barrage of “new” ideas and techniques that would supposedly make them spiritually mature.  We’ll take a close look at each one as we come to them in this letter, but before Paul specifically addresses these other teachings, he gives the Colossians a broad statement about the true path to spiritual maturity:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Notice how Paul lays out the path before the Colossian believers – they are to root themselves and build up themselves in Jesus – just as you were taught.  No new techniques, no additional rituals, no special sacrifice or vow.  They don’t need a “new way” because they’ve already been shown the way, and it was up to them to walk the path laid out before them.

Many years prior, God gave a similar warning to the nation of Israel:

Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the Lord says:
Stand by the roadways and look.  Ask about the ancient paths:
Which is the way to what is good?
Then take it and find rest for yourselves.

But they protested: We won’t!

The Israelites refused to listen to God’s timeless advice and directions for how they were to live as His people.  They still belonged to God, for they were God’s chosen people.  However, their refusal to acknowledge God’s rightful place as King made them rebellious children.  God had shown their forefathers the path for relationship with Him and for peace in the land, but instead

Jeremiah 6:19
…they have paid no attention to My word.  They have rejected My law.

The Israelites shunned God’s revelation and His previously revealed path.  For their choices, they were susceptible to attack, both spiritually and physically.  Keep in mind that this prophecy was given to the generation that was eventually led into captivity in Babylon.

Paul’s letter doesn’t give any direct evidence that the Colossians were rejecting God or a relationship with Him.  However, the temptation was certainly there as other philosophies and human traditions were pressing in to the Colossian church.  Paul gives these believers a good self-check reminder here – they need to actively consider the path they’re on.  Will their actions truly lead to spiritual maturity, or are they trying to manipulate God?  Are they walking in the paths just as you were taught, or are they trying something different just because it’s “new”?

Keep in mind that “new” doesn’t automatically mean wrong, either…but we must make sure it follows with what Paul said to the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

House of prayer (part 3)

A few days before His final Passover meal, Jesus cleared the temple in a symbolic gesture which represented the reform needed within the Jewish religious practices.

Mark 11:15-17 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple.  He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex.

Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?  But you have made it a den of thieves!”

Growing up in Israel, children were educated and taught to read using the Old Testament Scriptures.  Constant repetition was considered an essential part of their learning process.  As such, all Israelites would memorize large portions of the Old Testament.  The priests and scribes of Jesus’ day would have the entire Old Testament, as well as the Jewish traditions, perfectly memorized.  So when Jesus quoted Isaiah with His question “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?”, everyone knew what He was quoting.

While Jesus quoted Isaiah with His question, His audience would have also recognized that He quoted Jeremiah in His emphatic statement “But you have made it a den of thieves!”.  The Isaiah passage was an encouraging invitation to foreigners, but the Jeremiah passage is one where God rebukes Israel for living for their own desires while showing up on the Sabbath and verbally praising God.  The Israelites at that time also believed that the physical presence of the temple was proof enough that God was satisfied with how the nation treated Him.  Jeremiah was warning the nation that if they did not change their hypocrisy, judgment would come:

Jeremiah 7:3-11 “This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: Correct your ways and your deeds, and I will allow you to live in this place.  Do not trust deceitful words, chanting: This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.

Instead, if you really change your ways and your actions, if you act justly toward one another, if you no longer oppress the alien, the fatherless, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow other gods, bringing harm on yourselves, I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors forever and ever.  But look, you keep trusting in deceitful words that cannot help.

“Do you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known?  Then do you come and stand before Me in this house called by My name and insist: We are safe?  As a result, you are free to continue doing all these detestable acts!  Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your view?

For their hypocrisy, judgment and exile came on those in Jeremiah’s time.  By referring back to the Jeremiah passage, Jesus was indicating that the priests and scribes of Jesus’ day also acted this way.  Of course, they did not take kindly to Jesus’ teaching.  

Mark 11:18 Then the chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to destroy Him.  For they were afraid of Him, because the whole crowd was astonished by His teaching.

As a result of their hypocrisy, the priests and scribes missed the fact that Jesus was the Messiah…and Jerusalem was soon after destroyed.  We would be foolish to think that we modern believers would never see judgment like they did.  Do we live hypocritical lives and then show up for an hour on Sunday to offer verbal praise to God?  Do we acknowledge Jesus with our lips, but walk out the door and deny Him by our lifestyle?

Will we persist in making God’s house a den of robbers, or will we take the necessary – even painful – steps to ensure that God’s house is as it should be, a house of prayer for all nations?

Keep Pressing,
Ken