A Bible Lesson on Isaiah 52:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is a lesson about a piece of Isaiah’s prophecy that precedes the 4th “Servant Song.” In the short run, it probably had reference to the return of the nation of Judah from captivity in Babylon. Remember that as Isaiah is given and speaks this prophecy, it’s more than 100 years until the captivity, let alone the release from it. The Assyrians have done away with the northern kingdom, but Judah and Jerusalem are still intact politically speaking. In the long run, this surely points to Christ’s deliverance of His people, the church.

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.

God speaks to His people Judah and tells them to shake off their lethargy and put on their “strength.” That can only refer to what God provides. He provides both strength and “beautiful garments.” The allusion is likely to the robes of the priests. Jerusalem is the home of the temple of God and is the “holy” city because of God’s presence with His people. God promises that ultimately His people will no longer be run over or influenced by those with no regard for the God of the Universe. Israel has been laid waste by the Assyrians and Babylon will sack Judah. But ultimately, God’s people will be set apart to Him, righteous and undisturbed.

2 Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

The picture is one of the people of Judah slaves in chains, captives of a conquering nation. They are to see themselves punished, but now redeemed, not sitting in the dirt but rising to sit in a proper chair and freed from bondage.

3 For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”

Neither Israel nor Judah were given into the hands of conquering nations because those nations had made some proper deal with God and somehow paid Him off. God’s people don’t belong to others. They belong to God. Despite any human appearance, it was the work of God alone that brought judgment through conquering nations. And God then has every right to reverse the situation and grant relief to His people. “Redeemed” often has the connotation of paying a proper price. Here it does not. This instead says clearly that God simply claims (and has every right to do so) those who are His.

4 For thus says the Lord GOD: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.

The experience of God’s people to this point includes oppression both by the Egyptians, and then most recently by the Assyrians. These things happened in the great plan and providence of God, not because He was defeated or somehow bribed.

5 Now therefore what have I here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the LORD, “and continually all the day my name is despised.

This is a great mystery in the grand salvation plan of God. In His inscrutable ways, He’s willing for a time to suffer indignity and reproach for the long term good of His people and the eternal glory of His name. The misery in Egypt, the destruction of Israel, the captivity in Babylon, the crucifixion of the Son of God, all stand as parts of the amazing redemptive plan of God. At the time, who knew what eternal weight of glory was being worked as the soldiers and crowds abused and mocked and killed the Savior of the world? Indeed, as the first part of the verse essentially asks … “What in the world is going on?”

But God’s promise is that in the end, it will all be clear who is who and what is what.

6 Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

In that day … God’s people will in eternity truly know Him, have fellowship with Him, and see His awesome glory. In the short run, captives from Babylon will see His saving deliverance from exile. In the long run, at the end of time, the whole universe will wonder at His merciful redemption of the church from sin, hell, and the grave. It’s the I AM who speaks! Here He is.

This is cause for great rejoicing.

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Most likely, here is a runner carrying news of freedom from captivity in Babylon back to the remnant left Jerusalem. But more profoundly, here is the evangelist, the preacher of Christ proclaiming that contrary to all foolish human expectation and judgment, the King reigns and His apparent “foolishness” is great wisdom. Here’s the Gospel preacher bringing the good news of peace with God in Christ, bringing news of salvation.

8 The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.

Those who are watching, who care about the things that matter, see the runner and hear the news, lift up their voices and sing. The idiom “eye to eye” is not our English idiom. It’s not about agreement, but rather means that they see it as clearly as if they were staring the runner in the eye. They understand and rejoice at the coming of the Kingdom of God.

9 Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Life is tough and full of misery. Believing people can faint and begin to lose heart. I’m sure that before Cyrus completely unexpectedly declared the release of the Babylonian exiles, the remnant of Judah considered themselves “waste places of Jerusalem” abandoned by God. But not so. The LORD comforts His people, and in the long run all is well.

10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

The astonishing works of God in the Exodus, in the return from Babylon, and in the resurrection of Christ are known not only to His people, but to the ends of the earth. The humiliation of Christ and the despising of the God of the Jews was public. But His final triumph and glory will be universally known and acknowledged. It may be mourned by God’s enemies, but it will be seen by all.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

Speaking ahead to the returning Babylonian exiles, they are admonished to bring home with them none of the pagan influence of where they’ve lived. Cyrus sends them home with articles from the temple. It would simply be incongruous to carry both the utensils of the temple of the one true and living God, and baggage of paganism. That was true for the Jews living in Babylon, it’s true for Christian people awaiting the consummation of the Kingdom of God, the return of Christ the King.

12 For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Return from Babylon wasn’t like the flight from Egypt. It wasn’t a hasty getting on the road before Pharaoh changed his mind. There was dignity and even ceremony in it. So too the final redemption of Christ’s church. But just as WAS true in the Exodus, He who guarantees it is God alone. He stands at the front and the rear. It is the LORD’s doing, all of it. Indeed, as in verse 6: “Here I AM.”

Here is a .pdf of this post.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 47:13-23

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Last half of Ezekiel 47 describes the division of a future restored land of Israel among a complete people of God (including tribes that have already in Ezekiel’s time passed out of existence–having been carried off and dispersed by the conquering Assyrians–and even believing gentiles). The details of the exact boundaries are probably not so important except that they are concrete and exact and at God’s choice alone. (They are different from boundaries of the tribal regions given to Moses.)

Ezekiel 47:13 Thus says the Lord GOD: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions.

The Levites are given no land, and to keep the number of portions at a full/complete “12” portions, Ephraim and Manasseh are given separate allotments.

14 And you shall divide equally what I swore to give to your fathers. This land shall fall to you as your inheritance.

The word “equally” is important in the eternal scheme of things. God’s future provision will not be subject to the politics and gerrymandering that is standard human fare. All will be treated on the same basis. And what is done will be consistent with God’s oaths to the patriarchs. We ought to hear something bigger and beyond division of land here. This is the nature of a future eternity. All who are saved will come to God on the same basis of Christ.

15 “This shall be the boundary of the land: On the north side, from the Great Sea by way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, and on to Zedad,

16 Berothah, Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran.

17 So the boundary shall run from the sea to Hazar-enan, which is on the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This shall be the north side.

18 “On the east side, the boundary shall run between Hauran and Damascus; along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This shall be the east side.

19 “On the south side, it shall run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. This shall be the south side.

20 “On the west side, the Great Sea shall be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This shall be the west side.

21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel.

Ethnic Israel was the original people of promise. To this point, it seems that God has been speaking of future provision for that people. But in a way goes way beyond anything most devout Jews would have expected, God goes on.

22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

The provision, the promise, the future is not just for the ethic people, but also for sojourners who “reside among you and have had children among you.” This is gentiles who come to God as do Jews who properly worship Him, who love Him and have faith in Him. This is more than just hanging around, this is participation in the genuine spiritual life of God’s elect. And those who come to the light have the same place in eternity as those “born into” real Faith.

23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord GOD.

So, consistent with His eternal promises God will in the end treat with equity His peoples that to human reckoning are completely obliterated. His people will be complete, figuratively speaking all 12 tribes will be there. And outsiders, sojourners, ones not originally counted among the chosen people will have a part! Gentiles like most of us, will be in the number of true Israel. There will be religious purity but ethnic diversity.

The apostle Paul saw this and gloried in it.

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The last sentence of the book of Ezekiel is a definitive description of the final state of the redeemed.

Eze 48:35b And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD Is There.”

The end of history, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him eternally. God is eternally with His people. This is the Bible story from beginning to end. God will have a people who are His and reflect His glory, and He will dwell eternally with them.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 47:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This lesson concerns the first 12 verses from Ezekiel 47. It’s important to hold them in perspective regarding Ezekiel’s prophecy, regarding the short run situation, regarding the New Testament, and regarding eternity.

In Ezekiel 11 the prophet spoke of God’s judgment on the leaders and prominent people of Israel. That word came to Ezekiel in Babylon on September 17, 592 BC. On that day, Ezekiel was given a vision of the glory of the LORD passing out, first of the temple area through the east gate (where the movers and shakers were busy discussing real estate), and then out of Jerusalem to hover over the Mount of Olives. In intervening chapters and years Ezekiel has prophesied to the exiles, promising a real shepherd for them, promising new hearts, hearts of flesh not stone, for God’s own glory, not theirs. He’s prophesied about new life to dead bones, to dead dead bones, this, while the exiles are in Babylon and Jerusalem and the temple have been laid waste, the destruction coming in 586 BC.

The vision that begins in Chapter 40 comes April 28, 573 BC, some 19 years after Ezekiel sees the glory of the LORD leave the temple by the east gate. It’s not until 539 BC, yet some 34 years after this vision we’re looking at, that Cyrus the Persian takes Babylon and tells the Jews to go home to rebuild. And the rebuilding of the Temple isn’t finished until 516 BC. There were rough days in the 23 years between the decree of Cyrus and the finishing of the temple. Even the ones who returned to build despaired and were ready to throw in the towel. Haggai on October 17, 520 BC said

Haggai 2:6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.

7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.

9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.'”

So surely on the date of this vision, there is absolutely no evidence to the natural mind that anything good is in store for God’s people. The remnant is in Babylon and Jerusalem is in ruins. But in Chapter 43 we’ve seen the LORD send him an angel to show Ezekiel a future Jerusalem and a future temple, and Ezekiel has seen the glory of the LORD come from the east and fill the temple. There can be no doubt that ultimately Ezekiel was seeing what John spoke of in Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

It’s in this context that we consider the verses of chapter 47. The angel has been showing Ezekiel around a future temple, perhaps in the short run and concretely, a rebuilt Jerusalem temple, but most truly and fully, a heaven in which God is in the midst of those who truly love Him.

Ezekiel 47:1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

So Ezekiel is at the temple and sees this spring of water, flowing east. It’s flowing from the near the altar, from where man is made right with a holy God by sacrifice. And there is a stream originating there. The “sons of Korah” saw this stream before Ezekiel:

Psalm 46:1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

John the apostle saw this river long after Ezekiel.

 Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Jeremiah knew that God alone is the fountain of living water.

Jeremiah 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.

In John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well that He is the source of living water.

Ezekiel 47:2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Ezekiel has been led out the north gate because the east gate is shut, because the LORD has entered by it.

Ezekiel 44:1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut.

2 And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.

Presumably the implication is that His entry is final. Neither He nor another will exit by that gate again. Ezekiel sees the water flowing outside the city. The first appearance may be that the source is not so big. The water only trickles. But that’s not really the way things are.

Ezekiel 47:3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.

The angel leads Ezekiel away from the city toward the east. And 500 meters from the city he’s ankle deep in water. What seemed like a trickle is really a substantial flow.

4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.

500 meters further, it is up to Ezekiel’s knees. 500 meters further, it’s up to his waist.

5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.

2 km away from the city, the river is both deep enough and fast moving enough that it’s impassable. It’s more than a human can negotiate on his or her own. What initially seemed small is a torrent. Notice that there are no tributaries here. There is only once source, and that is God Himself.

6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river.

7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other.

In revelation John sees the tree of life on both sides of the river. Ezekiel sees many trees on both sides. It’s reminiscent of the Garden before the Fall.

8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.

The water is flowing out of Jerusalem through the dry region between it and the Dead Sea, and it’s no ordinary water. Ordinary water doesn’t make salt water fresh. But this is the work of God alone, to make what’s dead live.

9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.

Everything will live where the river goes. The picture is one of superabundance, things as they were meant to be from creation.

10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.

The Dead Sea will be productive like the Sea of Galilee.

11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.

This too has no natural explanation. While the water is fresh, yet there are salt marshes.

12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

There will be constant fruit. John saw 12 kinds, yielding every month. Ezekiel saw “much” fresh fruit every month. All of this is flowing from the presence of God. There is plenty and healing, things as they were meant to be from the beginning of time. This is God’s doing.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 43:13-27

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the second of four lessons from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel has seen a vision of the return of the LORD to a future perfect temple, to dwell in the midst of His people. He’s next given a vision of the altar in this future temple and instruction concerning it.

Ezekiel 43:13 “These are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth): its base shall be one cubit high and one cubit broad, with a rim of one span around its edge. And this shall be the height of the altar:

14 from the base on the ground to the lower ledge, two cubits, with a breadth of one cubit; and from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge, four cubits, with a breadth of one cubit;

15 and the altar hearth, four cubits; and from the altar hearth projecting upward, four horns.

16 The altar hearth shall be square, twelve cubits long by twelve broad.

17 The ledge also shall be square, fourteen cubits long by fourteen broad, with a rim around it half a cubit broad, and its base one cubit all around. The steps of the altar shall face east.”

This is pretty big, probably somewhat bigger than the altar of Solomon’s temple and much bigger than the original altar of the tabernacle. Unlike the original tabernacle altar, where steps were specifically forbidden (see Exodus 20:26) this is big enough to require steps to reach the top. These steps are “to face east,” the direction from which the LORD has entered Jerusalem and the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. It seems likely to me that this detail is a reminder that all of is God’s doing. It’s all at His initiative. He’s the only One really qualified to make sacrifice (to Himself) for mankind at such a perfect altar.

Now Ezekiel is given instructions for purification of this altar. What he’s shown stands in contrast to the impurity of the worship that led to the fall of Judah and the Babylonian captivity. There is to be a means of effective acceptable sacrifice, and that means will be utterly pure.

18 And he said to me, “Son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: These are the ordinances for the altar: On the day when it is erected for offering burnt offerings upon it and for throwing blood against it,

19 you shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares the Lord GOD, a bull from the herd for a sin offering.

20 And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. Thus you shall purify the altar and make atonement for it.

This is a bloody thing. It is serious. It is life and death. Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. In this vision, the altar is to be marked and purified with blood, and in its function there are to be burnt offerings and blood thrown against it.

The “horns” are on the corners at the top of the altar and such are mentioned specifically in the consecration of the tabernacle altar. When Adonijah rebels against Solomon and fears for his life, he runs to the altar and hold onto the horns, pleading for mercy. It seems like they may represent the very focus of atoning work done at the altar.

21 You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place belonging to the temple, outside the sacred area.

22 And on the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering; and the altar shall be purified, as it was purified with the bull.

23 When you have finished purifying it, you shall offer a bull from the herd without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish.

24 You shall present them before the LORD, and the priests shall sprinkle salt on them and offer them up as a burnt offering to the LORD.

25 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided.

26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it.

These sacrifices are a one time matter. Again, they stand in contrast to the impure unacceptable “worship” that ended in judgment and exile for God’s people. They represent a purity that is completely “other.” What Ezekiel is seeing is not just a vision where humans get it right if they get another chance and follow proper ritual. It simply has to be more than that, since it is plain that such will never suffice for any of us individually or for a people corporately. We need a purity from outside.

Christ is all of this that we desperately need. He is the Sacrifice. He is the Priest and Intermediary. He is the pure and perfect Atonement for our sin. All that is pure and acceptable about Ezekiel’s vision, about this altar He is.

27 And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord GOD.”

Here is the most precious and important phrase “I will accept you.” This breath-taking vision Ezekiel is having is surely one of awesome holiness and “otherness.” But God is not there simply to remind His people of their unacceptability in and of themselves. He’s there to be with them, to have fellowship with them. Christopher Wright, in his commentary on Ezekiel says of this phrase, “This is the language of love, of welcome, of warmth and of invitation. This word smiles at us and greets us with open arms. The altar was the place that actualized that invitation.”

How it is that this awesome holy God will bring this to pass must be a mystery to Ezekiel. But the real and effective altar that he sees is a picture that by His initiative, the Lord God will provide righteousness for His people and be permanently among them. Thanks be to Christ!

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 43:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the first of four lessons from the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet to the people of Judah in exile in Babylon. In the first parts of the book, he has “bad news” for the people regarding the necessity of judgment and the fact that there will be no immediate relief from exile. He records several awesome visions of God, beginning with his call in Chapter 1, and a vision of the LORD leaving Jerusalem in Chapter 10. The LORD instructs him in a number of very public symbolic prophetic acts (including the famous lying on his side for 390 days as a picture of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem). He speaks prophecies against the evil of both God’s people and the surrounding nations.

Chapter 37 is then the famous “dry bones” chapter and a vision of God’s restoration of His people, bringing life where there is none. Chapters 38-48 describe God’s setting things right and revealing His glory both among the nations and more specifically again among His chosen people.

Chapter 43 describes Ezekiel’s vision of God’s return to the Jerusalem temple and some of its implications.

Ezekiel 43:1 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east.

Ezekiel has been having a tour of a future new and more perfect temple in Jerusalem (Solomon’s temple having been destroyed by the Babylonians) guided by an angel. Now that angel takes him to the east gate.

2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.

This is 19 years or so after Ezekiel’s call and his vision of God leaving Jerusalem. It’s 12 years or so after the arrival in Babylon of the news of the destruction of the fall of Jerusalem. This has surely been a trying time for Ezekiel, but here in this vision, God comes in awesome majesty and power, returning to His people. The misery of exile and Jerusalem in rubble must seem completely swallowed up in glory.

3 And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face.

This is the same God that called Ezekiel and he’s overwhelmed at His awesome presence and complete holiness. Humans are not in God’s class, and Ezekiel is acutely aware of that truth and he prostrates himself on the ground.

4 As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east,

5 the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

As the visible presence of the Creator and Sustainer of all that is returns to Jerusalem, Ezekiel is given an aerial view of a new perfected temple and courtyard, and sees and hears what had been seen when the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5). He sees and hears very much what was seen and heard on the Day of Pentecost when the Glory of the LORD came to rest on Christ’s church.

6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple,

God interprets for Ezekiel the significance of the vision. The promise is that God will dwell permanently among a holy people. He’s not seeing here Zerubbabel’s temple (built after the exile). He’s seeing something far more lasting and far more important and far more grand.

7 and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places,

This permanent dwelling will be characterized by the holiness of the people. There will be no more coming short of the holy character of God. There will be no more idolatry. There will be no more false religion.

Some of the kings of Judah had been buried on Mount Zion and it seems that there may even have been idols raised to some of them. That’s inconsistent with a right understanding of the real grandeur of the God of the Bible. Ezekiel is promised a “temple” and a time and a people where none of that will be present.

8 by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger.

The royal palaces had encroached on the temple space on Mount Zion. That physical situation was a symptom and picture of the reality that the hearts of God’s people were not wholly His. They were trusting as much in politics and international alliances as in God. They cared more for wealth and comfort than for holy religion and obedience to the real King.

9 Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.

If God is to dwell with His people, these things can’t be. God will not abide apostasy. He will be with His people forever, but not under these standard human conventions. There is a real problem here outside of the saving and sanctifying work of Christ. This future temple (that can only be Christ’s church) must be holy. And we don’t have it in us to live up to or generate this perfection in and of ourselves.

10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan.

The necessity is complete holiness. We ought to have grief and shame for our unholiness. Ezekiel can’t know at this point the full plan of God for the salvation of humanity. But he is to preach repentance.

11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.

Ezekiel is to let the people know the glorious holy nature of God’s dwelling with man. Where there are soft hearts and is sorrow for sin, the people will have to throw themselves on His mercy.

12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.

And the extent of this is even beyond what Ezekiel has seen. It’s not to be that only the Holy of Holies is most holy. Rather all of it, what was temple territory and what was “secular” territory, all of it is to be most holy. God’s dwelling with His people will not be some thing limited to very special locations and circumstances, it will be pervasive. All of existence for His redeemed people will ultimately be most holy and full of His Glory.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Job 38-42

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the third of three lessons on Job. The official ISSL text covers the first verses of Chapter 42. It seems to me that one is better off to read most of 38-42 and get the feel of the passage and say less about it, than to say more, and miss the awesome sense that it conveys about who God is and what is our place as humans. This is God’s answer to Job. Remember that Job has maintained his innocence in spite of the fact that conventional wisdom of his time would be that his sufferings could only be explained in terms of God’s punishment for some sin. In Chapter 31 he asked for a bill of indictment or else public vindication. Job wants an explanation. He wants a hearing. That, he doesn’t get. What he does get is a much deeper understanding of who God is and God’s loving care for him. And that is what he in all reality needs. Job’s pain began with the loss of his kids in a great wind in Chapter 1. Now God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind.

Job 38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

This sentence is apparently not absolutely clear in Hebrew. Another (quite possibly better) reading is more like “Who is this who is speaking without having right counsel or knowledge?” Job is in the dark because of lack of counsel and knowledge.

3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

We hear this as harsh, and almost surely shouldn’t. It is the gentle challenge of a loving father to a foolish child, to think through a silly position that the child has taken. There’s probably a wry smile on the face of the Almighty as this conversations begins. Job is going to the school of God’s wisdom here. God takes Job on a tour of the world. This is not God slamming Job into his place, this is God gently talking to friend and helping see what really is. If Job is going to criticize God’s management of the world, he needs to first think through

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

Surely you know! Indeed! Were you there at creation, helping out? If so, perhaps you have a basis of criticizing or questioning how things are going at the moment.

6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,

7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Do you control the sea?

8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb,

9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band,

10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors,

11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

Well, then if we grant that you really haven’t been around too long, since coming onto the scene, have your duties included making sure the sun rises, marking off the days of your life?

12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,

13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment.

15 From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.

Have you been deep into the earth? If you have, I’d like to hear about it.

16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?

17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

In the beginning God said “Let there be light.” Job, do you know where it came from?

19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness,

20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?

21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!

Really, to have a proper perspective on how things ought to run, shouldn’t one be able to look under the hood and know how things work? How is one to fix a car engine if one has never seen one before?  Job, are you in charge of the snow and hail?

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?

24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

25 “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt,

26 to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man,

27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?

Job (with the rest of us) is fixated on only his world. But God not only sends rain on the just and the unjust, He waters parts of the world where there are no humans! We think in terms of only ourselves. If we’re worthy to call shots in the universe, shouldn’t our vision and powers be a bit wider? God’s providence is bigger than just Job’s situation.

28 “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?

29 From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?

30 The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

What about the heavens?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?

32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?

33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?

34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you?

35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?

37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?

What about the animal kingdom? The implication of Job’s suffering being unfair or unjust could be that God doesn’t care for Job. But God cares for the animals … or, is that Job’s job?

39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket?

41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food?

Job 39:1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does?

2 Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time when they give birth,

3 when they crouch, bring forth their offspring, and are delivered of their young?

4 Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open; they go out and do not return to them.

Job, if you don’t feed the animals, do you at least control them? How about something as simple as the wild donkeys or wild oxen?

5 “Who has let the wild donkey go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,

6 to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place?

7 He scorns the tumult of the city; he hears not the shouts of the driver.

8 He ranges the mountains as his pasture, and he searches after every green thing.

9 “Is the wild ox willing to serve you? Will he spend the night at your manger?

10 Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes, or will he harrow the valleys after you?

11 Will you depend on him because his strength is great, and will you leave to him your labor?

12 Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain and gather it to your threshing floor?

No, Job, you don’t completely control the animals. Do you understand their purposes or even their behavior? How about a creature as silly as the ostrich? What do you make of it? Why does it do what it does? What utility does it have for you, if you are the center of all things?

13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love?

14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground,

15 forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them.

16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,

17 because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding.

18 When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider.

What about the horse? That’s a pretty tame creature, but did you make it? Are you altogether sure that even one that has been broken for riding will always do what you expect?

19 “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?

20 Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.

21 He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.

22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.

23 Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear and the javelin.

24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.

25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

How about the birds?

26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south?

27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?

28 On the rock he dwells and makes his home, on the rocky crag and stronghold.

29 From there he spies out the prey; his eyes behold it afar off.

30 His young ones suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is he.”

Job has been given a quick tour of creation. He’s walked with God through His garden. He’s now given an invitation.

Job 40:1 And the Lord said to Job:

2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

Job, if you understand creation better than God, He’s ready to be instructed.

3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.

5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

Job has nothing to say. He spoke earlier, but given a walk through God’s garden, he’s now got less to say. The problem of “undeserved” human suffering has very few “logical” solutions. One might be that God isn’t wise enough to work it out that our circumstances match what we deserve. God has just pretty much demolished that possibility. Another might be that God isn’t really just or moral. That’s the “How could a good God let bad stuff happen?” school of human silliness. God turns to the question of His justice.

6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

7 “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

Job is innocent of the charges his friends assume him to be guilty of. Does that then make God unjust if he is in misery? Is it necessary to question God’s morality in order to maintain that it’s possible for innocent people to suffer? Here comes another challenge to Job. But it is really a very gentle rebuke from a loving parent. G.C. Morgan said there is here “satire as gentle as the kiss of a mother when she laughs at a child.”

9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?

10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor.

11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.

12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.

13 Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below.

14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

If Job is going to charge God with treating him unjustly, then perhaps it’s time for him to put on his judicial robes and take care of punishing all evil in this world. Only if he’s up to that, does Job have any logical place to claim that he’s been done an injustice by God. Only then will God grant that he has a perspective from which to demand a change of circumstances. But, of course, he’s not equipped to handle God’s role as judge.

If God is wise (and the tour of nature has convinced Job of that) and moral/just (and there is surely no vantage point for a human being to contradict that), then the only logical “out” that remains for “explaining” innocent suffering is that He lacks the power to see that things go the way they should. God closes that possibility in the balance of Chapter 40 and Chapter 41 by describing two of His creatures: Behemoth and Leviathan. Commentators don’t agree as to whether these are real or symbolic creatures. If it is the former, the hippo is usually mentioned as the likely meaning of Behemoth and the crocodile the likely identity of Leviathan. The gist of the chapters is that God is the Maker of these creatures that a mere human would be foolish to even think about messing with. There is no question about His overwhelming power, should He choose to turn it on humanity.

15 “Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox.

16 Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly.

17 He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together.

18 His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.

19 “He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword!

20 For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play.

21 Under the lotus plants he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.

22 For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him.

23 Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.

24 Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?

Job 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?

2 Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?

3 Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words?

4 Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever?

5 Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls?

6 Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants?

7 Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?

8 Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again!

9 Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him.

10 No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me?

11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

12 “I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame.

13 Who can strip off his outer garment? Who would come near him with a bridle?

14 Who can open the doors of his face? Around his teeth is terror.

15 His back is made of rows of shields, shut up closely as with a seal.

16 One is so near to another that no air can come between them.

17 They are joined one to another; they clasp each other and cannot be separated.

18 His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.

19 Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth.

20 Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.

21 His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.

22 In his neck abides strength, and terror dances before him.

23 The folds of his flesh stick together, firmly cast on him and immovable.

24 His heart is hard as a stone, hard as the lower millstone.

25 When he raises himself up the mighty are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves.

26 Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.

27 He counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood.

28 The arrow cannot make him flee; for him sling stones are turned to stubble.

29 Clubs are counted as stubble; he laughs at the rattle of javelins.

30 His underparts are like sharp potsherds; he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire.

31 He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment.

32 Behind him he leaves a shining wake; one would think the deep to be white-haired.

33 On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.

34 He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.”

In the end, Job has no place to go trying to discern a logical reason for his suffering. He is never told of the initial dispute between God and Satan about the nature of the relationship between God and Job. He’s never made aware that the ultimate test is whether God is to be loved for who He is, without buying human loyalty. But what he does know is that God is wise, just, powerful, and cares about him so much that He’s responded to Job’s cries and visited him. And that changes his heart and makes him content in God.

Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’

5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;

6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job realizes that he’s come close to impertinence. He ceases with his “I must be told why this is happening to me” routine. He doesn’t even presume that God will have to answer him in the afterlife. He simply throws himself on God’s mercy and grace in the hard things of life. It is absolutely sufficient that he’s loved by the Holy One. And this knowledge is new and deep and fresh. It was no fun coming, but it’s now as if he sees for the first time. He repents. Of what? Surely not of what his friends accuse him of. Rather, of foolish self-sufficiency, the sin of his friends and us all.

7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

This is interesting. Those who had indicted Job are called on to seek his help. It is also interesting that Job is called on to forgive. And it’s interesting that it’s after he behaves graciously to those who maligned him that his circumstances are restored.

9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.

13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.

14 And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch.

15 And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.

16 And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.

17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days.

The end of this Gospel story is good. It is one that only makes any sense for those who know and love the Sovereign of the universe. But a good end awaits all who come to the place that Job did.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Job 24

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the second of three lessons from the book of Job, and frankly it’s an uncomfortable chapter to consider, in that it doesn’t wrap everything up into a complete statement about the full nature of divine justice (that Job can’t in any case know). We see Job struggling to understand life in this broken world, repudiating the wrong mechanistic view of his friends, but not at this point completely articulating the whole picture. Essentially what he says very passionately and effectively is “The fact that the wicked are NOT always judged in this life is convincing evidence that your theory of how God’s moral justice works is just wrong. It is wrong in the case of many of the obviously wicked. (And it is wrong in mine too!)”

The claim that evil behavior always results in unpleasant life outcomes and good behavior always results in pleasant ones has been the explanation of Job’s friends for his suffering. That is shallow, obviously untrue, and completely unhelpful/unkind in Job’s situation. It would again have been far wiser if the friends has treaded more carefully and humbly as they spoke with Job.

Here is part of what Job says to them about their theory.

Job 24:1 “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days?

Job (and every other thinking believing person) longs to see the fullness God’s righteous rule. He wonders why it is not constantly evident in his experience. He looks and sees terrible social injustices.

2 Some move landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them.

3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

4 They thrust the poor off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves.

5 Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert the poor go out to their toil, seeking game; the wasteland yields food for their children.

6 They gather their fodder in the field, and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.

7 They lie all night naked, without clothing, and have no covering in the cold.

8 They are wet with the rain of the mountains and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.

Job (and the God he serves) cares especially for the downtrodden and helpless. That the powerful and wealthy abuse them is an outrage. It breaks Job’s heart (and that of his God) to see the misery that the powerful think nothing of inflicting upon the fatherless and poor. Sometimes what is done is just outright violent. They make slaves of the helpless.

9 (There are those who snatch the fatherless child from the breast, and they take a pledge against the poor.)

10 They go about naked, without clothing; hungry, they carry the sheaves;

11 among the olive rows of the wicked they make oil; they tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst.

12 From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.

In this broken and fallen world, wrongs aren’t always made right. Evildoers aren’t always punished and the weak don’t always or even often have an advocate. In His providence, God doesn’t always balance the books in this life.

13 “There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.

14 The murderer rises before it is light, that he may kill the poor and needy, and in the night he is like a thief.

15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he veils his face.

16 In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light.

17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.

Murders, adulterers, house-breakers get away with their stuff under the cover of night. What they do is awful, genuinely and deeply evil. But God doesn’t always bring retribution to them in this life.

The next few verses are apparently hard to render. The ESV makes them to be the words of the friends spoken back to them by Job, words indicating there is some measure of visible justice coming to evildoers. It seems that it’s also possible to render them as Job’s thoughts, and make them descriptions of the more or less ordinary non-violent passing and forgetting of evildoers. That understanding would again indicate that there is no sure retribution for serious evil in this life.

18 “You say, ‘Swift are they on the face of the waters; their portion is cursed in the land; no treader turns toward their vineyards.

19 Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters; so does Sheol those who have sinned.

20 The womb forgets them; the worm finds them sweet; they are no longer remembered, so wickedness is broken like a tree.’

21 “They wrong the barren, childless woman, and do no good to the widow.

22 Yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power; they rise up when they despair of life.

23 He gives them security, and they are supported, and his eyes are upon their ways.

24 They are exalted a little while, and then are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like the heads of grain.

25 If it is not so, who will prove me a liar and show that there is nothing in what I say?”

We would like, but don’t get a clear statement from Job that though he is speaking here of this life only, he’s sure that in eternity, an all-powerful, holy and just God will set all things right. That we know to be true. But this chapter is more limited in its argument and intent, simply repudiating the “life outcomes will of necessity be pleasant exactly in proportion to the moral behavior of a person” theory of his friends.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Job 19

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the first of three lessons from the book of Job, and we begin with one of the very high points of Job’s testimony to the ultimate goodness and sovereignty of God. He has suffered and is suffering great misery and loss. He is in agony and his friends have no real compassion for him. By their calculations “outcomes” are perfect functions of righteous or unrighteous “inputs.” Since Job suffers, their unanimous conclusion is that he must be guilty. With no real compassion or feeling for him they hammer away with speeches declaring this.

Job 19:1 Then Job answered and said:

2 “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?

3 These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me?

His friends (and in particular Bildad who has just spoken) don’t know what they are talking about. Their mechanistic view of suffering and pain being only God’s punishment for evil is just wrong. In fact, Job suffers because he is especially righteous. In any case, it’s not the business of man to be preaching such logic in the absence of any evidence of real wrong on Job’s part.

4 And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself.

Better they extend sympathy and compassion (and in the absence of evidence of wrong-doing on Job’s part) take his word that his conscience is clear.

5 If indeed you magnify yourselves against me and make my disgrace an argument against me,

6 know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me.

The friends make Job’s misery out to be God’s punishment. They are wrong in that. But Job doesn’t attribute what he suffers to bad luck or accident. This is in the sovereign will of God. Job knows this and he’s miserable in the knowledge of it.

7 Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice.

God is perfectly just. He’s altogether good. In the long run, His righteousness and holy will will be vindicated. That’s absolutely true and Job knows it. But in his small part of God’s universe in the short run, his righteous life is not being vindicated. God has seemingly not intervened when he’s called for mercy and help. In fact, it seems that

8 He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths.

9 He has stripped from me my glory and taken the crown from my head.

10 He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, and my hope has he pulled up like a tree.

11 He has kindled his wrath against me and counts me as his adversary.

Job is a friend of God. His short term experience seems as if God is treating him as He has promised to treat His enemies. This is misery for Job. He is personally suffering, but more than that, there is the question of whether the world is upside down. Does God uphold righteousness?

Job’s personal misery is dark and deep. It seems like he’s surrounded by a hostile army.

12 His troops come on together; they have cast up their siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent.

There is misery on every side and there is no comfort anywhere.

13 “He has put my brothers far from me, and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me.

14 My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me.

15 The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger; I have become a foreigner in their eyes.

16 I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy.

17 My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother.

Family, friends, servants and even his wife are of no comfort. They bring him no aid. Their analysis is seemingly like that of those who are speaking to him. Job is a center of misery and no one really wants to be around him. His profane wife has said “curse God and die.”

18 Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me.

Insolent kids on the street mock a broken and afflicted old man.

All this is personally unpleasant for Job. But it is even more profoundly dark and utterly depressing in terms of what it says about the state of the world. People ought not act like this. Job is living in a horribly broken situation … and he’s God’s friend. What is the meaning of this?

Job turns again to those who are with him and are offering him philosophy instead of mercy.

19 All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.

20 My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

21 Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!

22 Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?

One good commentator points out that rather than wondering at and treading with humility concerning Job’s suffering and that of a good God who in His righteous purposes must ordain the suffering of His friend, these guys prefer to debate points of philosophy. If they are right (and they aren’t) really, isn’t Job’s misery enough? Would it really be wrong of them to allow that they aren’t sure what is going on and offer him compassion? Do they really need to pile on?

23 “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book!

24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!

What Job knows is something that is profound and needs writing down. He knows that the problem of pain and suffering of God’s people is not something he alone will face. He knows the darkness he’s experiencing will come to others who live as friends of God in a fallen world. In our time, from believing people dying of Ebola to those being slaughtered in the advance of militant false religions, there will be the kind of questions he’s facing.

Here’s the real end of it.

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

God, the One who has ordained Job’s suffering is also his “kinsman-redeemer” his “vindicator.” Everything around Job seems to be in chaos and misery. But in the long run, “at the last,” this One who seems to be acting as his enemy in the short run “will stand upon the earth.” This is profound faith. God will ultimately set all right. Why should His people expect that all will always go well for them in time? Do I really think that He’s obligated to give pleasant circumstances to me (and everyone else who is His) as He works His purposes in His creation? But what Job knows is that He lives and is indeed Job’s friend and “family” member. And in the end, at the last, He will stand upon the earth and all will be right.

26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,

27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

And this whole business is not just a play in which Job is an expendable bit actor. “Yet in his flesh” he and all who love God will see God. Job’s an eternal being. His body is fading and his life is miserable. But God his friend will at the end order and govern the cosmos in justice and beauty and righteousness. Creation will again be whole and good. And those who love Him will have a part and place in that as real physical beings.

The thought of that takes Job’s breath away.

Turning to his friends present, he cautions them that their talk is impudent and profane and arrogant. They don’t know what really is, and there is real danger for them in presuming and acting as if they do.

28 If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’

29 be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.”

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Habbakuk

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

We know very little about the prophet Habakkuk, except that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah in the last days of Judah. We can’t say for sure when God spoke to him the things that he recorded in his book. The best guess seems to be that it was late in the reign of Josiah or in the days of Jehoiakim, Josiah’s evil son that was placed on the throne in Judah by Pharaoh Neco. But even this isn’t completely clear. What is clear is that Habakkuk looks around him and is appalled with what he sees. And what he sees is a lot like what is around us.

Habakkuk is unusual among the prophets in that he doesn’t so much speak to the people a message from God, as he speaks with God concerning the people (and the surrounding powers). The book is composed of two questions or complaints that Habakkuk puts to God, the answers that God gives, a prayer and accompanying vision of God, and a final testimony of the prophet’s faith in light of what he has been shown.

Here is the first question/complaint.

Habakkuk 1:1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

 4 So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

This is the question, not of a skeptic, but of one who trusts God. He’s not railing and complaining that there can’t both be an omnipotent omniscient God and things be this bad. Instead, he knows that God is both all powerful and all knowing, and looks around him and sees stuff that is just outrageous in terms of being an affront to the character and will of this completely holy God. And he can’t figure out why God doesn’t correct things. He’s appealing to God to bring order in accord with His revealed character. Violence, injustice, strife, conflicts, no law, no justice … these are a description of any time and place where men turn their backs on their Creator and suppress the truth of the Scriptures.

God answers Habakkuk, but not altogether in a way he’d like.

5 “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.

6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.

7 They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.

8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.

9 They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand.

10 At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it.

11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

God is going to send judgment on Judah’s sin by means of the Babylonians. Note in verse 5 that Habakkuk is told that it will not really be expected, and it won’t. The Assyrian Empire crashed amazingly quickly, and the Babylonians sort of came from nowhere to fill the void left by the Assyrians. But there’s an apparent problem or two here. For one thing, this is maybe stronger medicine than Habakkuk had in mind, and besides, these are not at all admirable folks. Look at the description of them. They are bitter and hasty, a law unto themselves and promoting their own honor. They come for violence. They laugh at authority. They are guilty men whose own might is their god.

Habakkuk objects, or at least scratches his head and admits he doesn’t completely understand. So we hear his second question/complaint.

12 Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.

We shall not die. That’s true of a remnant, of the real people of the covenant, ones preserved by God’s great goodness. But it’s not true of the physical nation at large.

But God, you’re holy. How can these vile Babylonians be a tool in your hand?

13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?

F.F. Bruce said, “But here is his question: Should not Yahweh’s instrument for the accomplishment of his purposes reflect something of his own purity and righteousness?” After all, God, surely Judah isn’t as vile as the people you are ordaining to bring judgment!

14 You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.

15 He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad.

16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich.

17 Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?

This is a legitimate problem for Habakkuk. This doesn’t fit with his systematic theology. How is it that God is going to execute judgment in this way? How is God going to let Babylon go proudly on, thinking that because of its own wisdom and power it can treat other nations as if they were fish in its net? Again, the prophet is not shaking his fist at God. He is saying that he doesn’t understand it all. And he DOES know that God will answer him. So he prepares to wait for an answer.

Habakkuk 2:1 I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Now comes God’s reply. In His time He will in turn punish the Babylonians for their sin as well.

2 And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.

3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

The revelation awaits an appointed time, but it will not prove false. Habakkuk (and modern believer) God’s Word is sure! You’re finite and can’t see the end of it from your present position. But it’s as sure as the eternal character of Him who guarantees it. Your job Habakkuk (and modern believer) is to wait patiently. History is linear and headed for the great Day of the LORD and the establishment of God’s kingdom, in His time. This revelation isn’t just for Habakkuk alone, he’s to write it down for others too.

4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

The violent, arrogant man will ultimately receive his punishment. This is in contrast to you, Habakkuk (and modern believer) who will be preserved through calm, consistent, humble reliance on God. Paul quotes this principle (that it is reliance upon the goodness of God that sets one right with God) in both Romans and Galatians.

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

This is one of the very high points/most important verses of the whole Bible. It answers the basic question of “How does hopelessly corrupted man have any hope in God?” The answer is “Only by moment by moment relying not upon self but upon the great mercy of God and living not to the glory of self, but to the glory of God.”

In the form of a dirge/ a series of 5 “woes” Habakkuk looks again at the Babylonians and sees that although at the moment they seem invincible, by 539 BC God will bring them low at the hands of the Medes and Persians.

5 “Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.”

6 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?—and loads himself with pledges!”

7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them.

8 Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm!

10 You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life.

11 For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.

Bruce said, “An empire founded on violence, plunder, and exploitation is like a jerrybuild house: it is bound to collapse because it has no inner coherence … The prophet’s insight here has been vindicated repeatedly in world history …”

12 “Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity!

13 Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing?

14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

In the middle of this dirge for Babylon, there breaks through a wonderful ray of sunshine. There’s the promise that at the appropriate time, God’s goodness will be evident to all of creation. In the short term (as far as Habakkuk was concerned) the judgment of evil in Judah and the subsequent judgment of the Babylonians would be evident, showing clearly the sovereignty of God. In the long term, all of creation will see things as they really are at the finish of a linear history. And the “knowledge” here is more than just “knowing about.” It is the Biblical concept of having intimate personal experience with. Looking all the way to the end of time, the earth will be covered with those who truly “know” God.

Now back to woes coming on Babylon.

15 “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness!

16 You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory!

17 The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!

19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.

20 But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

Habakkuk (and modern believer), God is sovereign. All will be right in the end. Don’t chafe in the meantime. Again, you are finite and your job is to wait with patience, knowing who God is and what He has both already done and has promised for the future.

The questions, God’s answers, and the dirge for Babylon are now followed by a Psalm of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 3:1A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.

2 O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk sees the awesome holiness of God and is staggered by the horrible fate that is justly coming on Judah. But though he admits that there must be justice, he knows that God is also a God of mercy. He asks for mercy, and in his mind’s eye he sees again the God of Israel’s history.

3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise_ Selah

4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.

5 Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels.

Habakkuk sees God coming to the rescue of the people of Israel in captivity in Egypt. He sees God coming from the north in great power, bringing what is needed to set the people free, including the plagues.

6 He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways.

The picture is probably of the giving of the Law at Sinai. The earth shakes. The law He gave is far more permanent than the mountain where it was given!

7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.

Again Habakkuk addresses God and he describes Him as a mighty warrior marching across the earth and the natural world being at His complete command and disposal.

8 Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation?

9 You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers.

10 The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high.

11 The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear.

Not only the natural world, but all peoples of the earth feel the presence of God the great Warrior. The Egyptians and the other peoples of the region felt God’s might during the Exodus and conquest of Canaan.

12 You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger.

13 You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck_ Selah

The connection of this Psalm to the first two chapters of the book is here. Far from ignoring wickedness, or letting the oppression of His people go unnoticed, God has worked in the past for the salvation of His people, and Habakkuk knows that He will continue to do so.

14 You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.

15 You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.

16 I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

The vision or reminder of the great majesty of God and His mighty works in Israel’s history essentially takes away Habakkuk’s breath. The fate coming to Judah is terrible—absolutely deserved—but terrible. But Habakkuk can now see beyond it to the punishment of those who will decimate Judah, and beyond.

And for the present, he is now ready to calmly face what is to come, not in a fatalistic or stoic kind of way, but trusting the One who is sovereign. The book ends with one of the most wonderful affirmations of true reliance on God in all of the Bible, an affirmation that is not premised on avoiding the difficult, but on the gracious presence of God, and the sure knowledge that it is He who is at work in all of life.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

The “though the fig …” is not “if …” it is “in spite of the fact …” Habakkuk absolutely has been told what is coming: judgment. The Babylonians are going to spoil the land and leave it in the state described here. What is coming in Judah is horrible. What is necessary to sustain life will be destroyed by conquering armies. But in the midst of that, Habakkuk will rejoice in the LORD. He will rejoice in the author of his salvation and strength. Tough times are coming, but the central fact is that the God of creation will sustain those who love Him.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Jeremiah 33

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jeremiah is still under arrest and the city of Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonians. God has told Jeremiah to redeem the family field in Anathoth and he’s obeyed despite the fact that humanly speaking, there is no guarantee that the purchase will ever be worth anything. And God has promised that there will be a return from exile and the restoration of ordinary peaceful blessed life for God’s people.

Jeremiah 33:1 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard:

It almost seems that the leaders of Judah think that if they can get Jeremiah to change his story, things will be better … as if rather than simply telling what God is doing and has revealed, Jeremiah has some power to change things. Not so.

2 “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name:

It’s the I AM who is in charge, the One who made all that is from nothing, and He speaks.

3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

This is profound. God speaks … but it is those who ask, those who call, who get to hear. Those who turn their backs on Him (or even are indifferent to Him) don’t get revelation forced on them. Rather, He speaks to those who come humbly in prayer.

4 For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword:

Buildings in Jerusalem, even the houses of the rich and powerful have been torn down to provide materials to repair the city wall and fortify its defenses … to no avail.

5 They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.

What is happening to Judah (and has happened to Israel) is not about defense measures or the geopolitical situation. It is about the relationship of God’s people to the LORD. It’s ultimately the hand of God that is striking down the defenders of Jerusalem. The people haven’t looked to God with upturned faces and humbly obeyed His word. And so, He has figuratively turned His merciful face away from His chosen people.

But, consistent with what He’s said in the previous three chapters, the misery that is and will be in the exile will not be the last of God’s dealings with His people. There will be (in both the short and long runs) restoration.

6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.

Just as defeat and exile don’t ultimately come from politics or military sources, neither do abundance or prosperity and security. These come from the I AM. They are His “revelation” to those He loves and who love Him.

7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.

In the short term (70 years) this promise was fulfilled to Judah. Israel awaits any literal fulfillment. But in the grand prophetic vision ahead to Messiah, God has set in motion restoration of His original creation purpose of a good and blessed existence for a people that are His.

8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.

Judah has rebelled … so too has every human being born on earth except Christ. Some way somehow this will be rectified. Jeremiah doesn’t know details. But he is given this gracious word that sin doesn’t win in the end, that God will somehow act in a just forgiveness.

9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

Here’s a contrast to what presently is as Jeremiah sits under guard in a besieged city. God’s people will be a source of praise and glory for the I AM. There is a shadow of this in time, first in the Jewish nation and then in the Christian church. The eternal reality is pictured in Revelation, a blessed throng of human beings gathered around the throne of God eternally giving thanks for His goodness and mercy. That’s what His people long for, but it is a terror for His enemies. Jeremiah didn’t have any delusions about how the blessing of the Jewish nation would be viewed by its enemies. Sometimes post-modern Christians are not so clear-headed about (the logical) reaction of those who have chosen a life opposed to Christ to the prospect of the final coming of His Kingdom. The preaching of this end is both foolishness and the stench of death to the rebel against God.

10 “Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again

11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: “‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD.

What a beautiful, glorious, blessed promise. God will turn upside down the present circumstances of His people. To the human eye, there is nothing but misery present or ahead for Judah. But in both the 70 year short run and especially in the Messianic long run, there is instead great blessing and joy in store for God’s people. Indeed, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good and His mercy endures forever! This promise speaks to both Jeremiah’s original hearers and to the entire people of God pressed hard in a broken and fallen world.

 

This is a wonderful complete reversal of the consequences of judgment that Jeremiah was earlier called to proclaim.

Jeremiah 7:34 And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.

Jeremiah 16:9 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

 

12 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks.

13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the LORD.

This is a wonderful picture of the shalom of God, the final destination of all who love Him and long for the coming of His Kingdom.

Now Jeremiah is given assurance of the fulfillment of God’s promises of an eternal good King and an eternal holy Priest.

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

Verses 15 and 16 are very much like Jeremiah 23:5-6. But there is one significant and perhaps surprising difference. In Chapter 23 it is the righteous King who is called “The LORD is our righteousness.” Here, the promise is that that name will be extended to God’s people! That’s just marvelous, wonderful beyond all imagination, absolutely Messianic, and almost surely beyond the immediate understanding of Jeremiah who was given the words.

17 “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel,

18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

The reformed catechisms correctly tell us that we frail humans need both a King and a Priest. Westminster says:

Q25. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

Q26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king.

A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

But to be careful, Christ is not a Levitical priest, but rather (as Hebrews says) One “after the order of Melchizedek.” He is the perfect Priest and His sacrifice was once for all. Jeremiah at some level understands that God’s people need such and that God has promised that to His people. But he must also understand what Peter speaks of.

1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Christ Jesus/Messiah is the eternal high Priest. His people that bear His name though, comprise a holy nation, a holy priesthood … one whose prayers, adoration, and eternal gratitude are the reality that the Old Testament thank offerings prefigured. There is a coming a whole “nation” of Levitical priests.

And Jeremiah is reminded just how sure God’s word is.

19 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

20 “Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time,

21 then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers.

God’s promises are more unshakable than the regularity of the universe He made. He’s promised a King and priests.

22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”

There is but one true offspring of David and eternal priest. But God promises a great multitude of “offspring” of David and the Levitical priests. In the long run, this is a multitude that stretches far beyond physical Israel.

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Again, Jeremiah is assured of the permanence of God’s promises.

23 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight.

25 Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth,

26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

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Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.