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Posts Tagged ‘Judah’


Jeremiah 42: False Solutions

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A number of years ago a friend of mine pointed out the tactic that many of us use to go around an obstacle in our path.  She called it the geographic solution: When the going gets tough . . . our instinct is to get out of town.  We want to avoid the problem at all costs so rather than sort through the tangled threads of the dilemma, we avoid it . . . and hope that the conflict will magically disappear.  This is, of course, false logic.  If no one addresses difficulty, we know it will not be overcome.  Another friend adds: When you run, you take your problems with you.  This is the same warning we hear today from God who speaks to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah: If you remain quietly in this land I will build you up, and not tear you down; I will plant you, not uproot you . .

We enter Jeremiah’s story at the time that the people living in the southern portion of David’s kingdom are frightened.  They have witnessed the deportation of those living in the north and, hoping to have bought themselves a bit of safety, they have made unholy alliances with the pagan nations that surround them.  To their disappointment, not only do they find themselves threatened by these warring neighbors, they also find that their willingness to accept and even participate in pagan rites and ceremonies has cut them off from Yahweh who had so many times saved them.  They have distanced themselves spiritually, mentally and physically from God and rather than take a hard look at an effective reform of their own beliefs and behaviors, they seek the geographic solution.  They have begun to believe the myth that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  We remind ourselves, as my friend frequently intones, that: We can run, but we take our problems with us.  The people in today’s story do not believe or understand this.  Having the benefit of historical perspective, we see that the people of Judah have abandoned their belief that God can and will save them.  They do not see what we see – that running from their problems will not improve their predicament.

Jeremiah conveys God’s word: If you disobey the voice of the Lord, your God, and decide not to remain in this land, saying, “No, we will go to Egypt, where we will see no more of war, hear the trumpet alarm no longer, nor hunger for bread; there we will live” . . . the sword you fear shall reach you in the land of Egypt, the hunger you dread shall cling to you no less in Egypt, and there you shall die. 

They have forgotten Yahweh’s promise . . . For I am with you to save you, to rescue you . . .

Perhaps they believe they are beyond redemption.  If so, they have forgotten another one of Yahweh’s promises . . . For I regret the evil I have done you . . . I will grant you mercy . . .

As we hear the dialog between the Creator and his creatures, we may want to take this opportunity to reflect on our own strategies for problem solving.  When a disturbance erupts we do not have to run away or even hide; there are options.  We can turn away in embarrassment.  We can deflect the cause or culpability to someone else.  We can become defensive or passive aggressive. We can remove ourselves forever from the people and situation.  But none of these actions will solve anything.  None of this will bring us true peace for there is only one road to true harmony.

We must rely on God . . . and step forward to both forgive and be forgiven.  We must ask for God’s intervention . . . and begin the process of healing.  We must be willing to begin anew with God at the center of the storm . . . and we must remember this: There is no geographic solution that works . . . and we take our problems with us. 


A re-post from September 4, 2011. 

Image from: http://tomorrowsreflection.com/grass-greener/

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

forgivenessAmos 2

Oracles

Moab, Judah, Israel. Oracles of condemnation not only of enemies . . . but of Israel herself. Atrocities during wartime, horrible scenes of brutality beyond understanding, humanitarian abuses, corruption in places that are meant to be havens.  All of these images are difficult to read and even more difficult to comprehend.

God says: You are far too eager to look for scapegoats and for places to place blame for the woes of the world.  What I really ask is that you put violence aside and deal with one another lovingly, even as enemies.  What good comes from harboring anger?  What fruit is born from bitter seed sown in despair?  What peace to do you find by dragging your worries along with you each day. It is no wonder that the night brings you no rest.  Spend time with me.  Speak to me frankly, openly and honestly.  Tell me what is bothering you.  Tell me what stirs you.  Tell me when you are ready to surrender to me.  I wait – for an eternity – with forgiving, open, strong and loving arms.

Even the smallest gesture of goodness is a light in the darkness.  God pulls good out of all harm.  We must be patient enough to see it, humble enough to feel it, and bold enough to share our stories of conversion with those who still live in the shadows.  As we begin our Lenten journey, let us decide to move away from condemnation and toward mercy and kindness.

Tomorrow, First Word.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Abba[1]Psalm 69:35-37

Dwelling There

Let the heavens and earth sing praise, the seas and whatever moves in them! God will rescue Zion, rebuild the cities of Judah.  God’s servants dwell in the land and possess it; it shall be the heritage of their descendants; those who love God’s name shall dwell there.

Each of us has a place, a person, a concept, or an idea that fills us with nostalgia to become our personal Zion.  Each of us feels secure and safe in our private Judah.  Each of us wants to feel firm ground beneath our feet; we want a horizon that promises good tomorrows; we want an interior quiet and a life of joy with friends and companions.  These are the possessions we want to pass along to our children.  We want to know where we stand and who stands with us.  We want to know that our Zion and Judah will last forever.  We want to know that we are dwelling there . . . with God . . . for all time.  And we want our children to live securely in this place with us.

We purchase or rent homes and apartments.  We hire architects and landscapers.  We fashion dwelling places that suit our whims but these hand-made structures are not the dwelling places we will want to pass down to our children.  These temporary houses do not last forever.

We are the faithful who long for Zion and Judah.  We are the faithful who are the descendants of God’s loyal followers who have gone before us.  We are the faithful who pass down our spiritual dwellings to our children.  We are the faithful who long to live in God for an eternity.  And so we pray.

Heavenly Creator, we know that we are made in your image.  We hope to remain faithful to the divine potential you have planted in each of us.

Divine Brother, we are guided by you, our rescuer.  We hope to listen keenly to the parables and stories you use as lesson plans for us.

Gracious Spirit, we are nurtured and comforted by you, our counselor.  We hope to rest in God’s wisdom and grace as we prepare to dwell with you for an eternity.

Grant us this day your grace, your love, your joy.  Amen.

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As we draw close to the end of this week in which we give thanks, let us reflect on winning and losing, gain and loss, living and dying, the eternal and the mortal.

Saturday, November 24, 2012 – 2 Maccabees 8 – Nicanor

Gustave Dorè: Judas Maccabeus before the Army of Nicanor

Here we return to the heroic story of Judas Maccabeus from an earlier portion of the Maccabees’ story; and the role the Maccabeus family plays as a thorn in the side of the Selucid Empire as it struggles to retain control of its territories and holdings.  We see Judah gathering his troops’ we watch military maneuvers and battles.  Winners divide spoils; they celebrate victories.  There is not much different from the evening news except the level of technology we use in killing one another. 

The last verses of this chapter focus on Nicanor, a man who intensely dislikes the Jewish people and all they stand for.  He will appear later in Jewish history and he will eventually be killed in battle; his head and right hand will be on display in Jerusalem for all to see.  But here we read of a time of humiliation for him and we might spend time with this verse: he was eminently successful in destroying his own army.  So he who had promised to provide tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem testified that the Jews had a champion, and that they were invulnerable for the very reason that they followed the laws laid down by him. 

This new Champion is Judas Maccabeus; the laws are those of the Lord.  The man who intended to be slave-dealer flees like a runaway slave, leaving behind him the clothing that designates him as “A Friend of the King”.  He will later return, but his end will be ignoble.

http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/N/NICANOR+(1)/

All of this brings me to thinking about those who float through life establishing their worth as friends of those in power; rather than finding a way to live a genuine life of devotion to God. 

It brings me to thinking about how those who “live by the sword also die by the sword”; ending their lives in the very way they had intended to end the lives of others.

It brings me to thinking about my own life, my own circumstances, and how and where I spend my spiritual and emotional self.  Whom do I value and why?  What do I value and when?  How do I value anyone or anything . . . and do I come to my evaluation with or without God?

We might eliminate a good deal of treachery and betrayal from our lives if we first find a way of doing all things through, and for, and with God alone . . . for God alone guarantees an honorable path for living.  God alone assures us a life spent in eternal serenity.  God alone makes promises that are fully and truly kept. 

For more on Judas Maccabeus and the Selucid Empire, go to: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/353851/Judas-Maccabeus  and http://www.britannica.com/search?query=selucid+empire

Written on November 24, 2010; re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Captivity


Easter Thursday, April 12, 2012 – Jeremiah 25:1-14 – Captivity

Here Jeremiah foretells the continuing conflict between warring nations in the Middle East.  As we have observed before, the political environment has not changed much over the millennia despite the changing of political systems and figures, and the names of sovereign nations and their leaders. Cultures, religions, and peoples continue to clash.  And Jeremiah uses the round number of 70 to say that the present generation may not return – they must die and a newer, perhaps more faithful generation, will renew Hebrew history. Notes from the ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE tell us more (Zondervan 1234).

  • Since the numeric systems in this region of the world at this time were often based on ascending groups of six, the logical maximum number of measurement would be 60.  The amount of 70 indicates a number of major proportion – and importance.  In this case it represents the fact that the present generation must die out before the exile will end.
  • Jeremiah foresees a time when Judah will serve Babylon, and that following this time Babylon herself will serve another nation.  This history plays out as Jeremiah predicted.  Judah became a vassal state of Babylon in 604 B.C.E. and although the arithmetic is inexact, almost 70 years later Babylon was taken over by Persia.  The people of Israel will return home from exile under the Persian king Cyrus as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • Another calculation that may be seen as predicted from this prophecy is the span of time between the physical destruction of the temple in 586 B.C.E. and its re-dedication in 515 B.C.E. 
  • In either case, Jeremiah predicts an exile which outlasts the present generation and thus serves as a punishment for the wayward Israelites.  The exile Jeremiah describes does take place.  And exile will occur in each of our lives in some way at some time. 

This we can also predict.

I have come to understand that periods of separation and loss in our lives cannot be avoided.  No amount of planning or good behavior exempts us from the sort of exile that Jeremiah forecasts for his people.  The prestige of nations will rise and fall almost whimsically; power will ebb and flow.  This is something we cannot avoid.  Our personal influence and authority will likewise rise and fall.  We may even be held captive for a time by invader ideas; new policies and procedures, new fads and crazes will overtake us.  We have only to stand still for a day in our fast-paced world and the advances of technology fly past us to leave us feeling disconnected.  Some of us self-impose this kind of exile while others are forced into it by economics and talent. 

We can never have control over the cataclysmic changes that happen around and to us.  In reality we seldom control much more than the small details of our lives and for some of us even that is a reach.  We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we have made the most of life by choosing the proper career and the proper life partner when our personal and economic status is often chosen for us; our political destiny is driven by many whom we do not even know exist.    

So is there anything we can do about who we are and how we live?  Absolutely.  Is there any way we can control nature?  Not much.  What are our options when it comes to our political and civic lives?  Depending on our nation of origin we have various degrees of input.  Some of us live in flourishing democracies while others live in closed societies that stifle any cry for freedom.  What do we do about improving our status and making a difference in the world?  When we join in the struggle to build God’s kingdom . . . all the rest falls into place.

Jeremiah speaks to an ancient nation but he also speaks to us when he describes the coming whirlwind that threatens on the horizon. When we see the impending peril and sense the advent of our own bitter captivity, what are we to do? 

We will spend some time during the rest of this Easter Week reflecting on our options.

“The 70 Years of Captivity.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

For more on the gifts that come out of captivity, go to Ultimate Fulfillment at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/09/ultimate-fulfillment/

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