Old Testament: Jeremiah 16:16-18:23
Jeremiah 16:16-18:23 Heart Sick
Jeremiah continues to prophesy judgment for Judah.
Chap. 16:16-21 Jeremiah continues to write of Yahweh’s promise to restore Judah in the future despite their judgment and destruction.
Chap. 17 I have had six heart bypasses. That isn’t my worst heart problem. Jeremiah states my heart condition in verse 9, ““The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” My heart condition is worse than I thought. In fact, your heart condition is probably worse than you thought. That is a pretty bad description, isn’t it? “More deceitful than all else”? “Desperately sick”? No one can understand how bad our hearts are? That’s pretty bad. The best of us have a terrible heart disease. Don’t ever trust yourself. Your heart is “desperately corrupt” (cf. RSV). This gives a certain connotation to Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are much worse than we might think. “All our deeds are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). We can’t even understand it. The people of Judah certainly did not understand how bad their hearts were.
Here’s an illustration. In verses 19-27, Jeremiah warns the people of Judah to keep the Sabbath. They were supposed to take off every week. Goodie-goodies might be inclined to work through the day of rest. Their hearts were corrupt. If you think you are serving God by working hard and not ever taking a break, think again. You are sinning. See what I mean? We even sin when we think we are being righteous.
Chap. 18 The first part of chapter 18 is an illustration of a potter and clay. A potter can do what he wants with clay and Yahweh can do what He wants with the nations. However, if they repent (v. 8), He will show mercy.
Jeremiah’s life is once again challenged by a conspiracy (vv. 18-23). Jeremiah loves Judah but they are trying to kill Him. This is the life of a true minister. It was also Paul’s life and, of course, Jesus’ life. “No good deed goes unpunished,” as a friend of mine always says.
New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3 What A Catch!
The Thessalonians were doing pretty well in their Christian lives but Paul exhorts them to do even better (v. 1). Are you wondering what God’s will is for your life? It is to grow in holiness. That is what sanctification is. Specifically, Paul is concerned that they don’t get pulled into the immorality in the pagan temples or anywhere else for that matter (v. 3-8).
Paul again commends them for their exercise of love toward each other (vv. 9-10, cf. 3: 6, 12). The Thessalonians are not to be trouble makers but should lead “quiet” lives, working with their hands so they will be seen as respectable by those outside the church (v. 11). They were to take care of themselves so they wouldn’t have to mooch off others (v. 12).
The Thessalonians had apparently asked Paul about what had happened to their fellow believers who had died. (Paul didn’t want them to be “ignorant brethren,” v. 13, KJV, but maybe that means he doesn’t want them to be”brethren” that are “ignorant.” Yeah, that’s probably it.) Paul’s answer is one of the greatest statements of comfort in the Bible (v. 13). Paul does not tell the Thessalonians that they shouldn’t grieve when someone dies in the Lord. They can grieve but they shouldn’t grieve in the same way as unbelievers grieve about one of their own. We have hope that believers who have gone on will be in Heaven.
This leads Paul to explain a “mystery” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51, a mystery is a truth not understood in the Old Testament but explained in the New Testament). Those believers who are still on earth when the Lord returns will be taken up into the air to be with Him (v. 17). This is commonly referred to as “The Rapture.” Rapture is Latin for “caught up” which is exactly the language of v. 17. However, those who had already died will be raised first to be with the Lord (v. 16). Paul is telling the Thessalonians these things to “comfort’ them (v. 18). What a comfort it is! The funerals of believers are always more like celebrations. On the other hand, the funerals of unbelievers are like . . . well . . . funerals.
The Thessalonians already knew that the time of the end, “the Day of the Lord,” will come suddenly, “like a thief in the night” (cf. Matt. 24:43). The Thessalonians and other believers like them will not be surprised when the Lord comes but others, “they” (v. 3 as opposed to, “you,” v. 1-2) will be surprised since they have been living in relative “peace and safety” (v. 3a). They will slip into the seven year period of Tribulation after the church has been “caught up” (4:15-17). It will be a time of “destruction” and will come on them as quickly as birth pangs come upon a pregnant woman (v. 3c). In contrast to the church that will be “caught up” (4:17), “they” will not escape (v. 3d).
It is interesting that we seem to be living in a time that Jesus described as being like the time of Noah. The people in Noah’s time were marrying and given in marriage, partying and carrying on (Matt. 24:37-38). I’ve talked to many non-believers who seem to realize that we may be at the time of the end but they don’t seem affected by it enough to seek out the Lord. Just like in Noah’s day. There are like a pregnant woman who knows that her day is coming but still doesn’t take precautions and is still surprised when she goes into labor and a baby comes out! The unbelievers will be caught off guard and will not escape (v. 3d).