God’s Word Withstands the Fire. Always.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah faced immense opposition, and in Jeremiah 36:20-25 is recorded an interesting story of King Jehoiakim’s attempts to destroy the prophet’s words, and by extension, God’s words.  The king was unable to get his hands on Jeremiah, whose allies helped him to hide, so the king takes a different approach:

So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king.  Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king.  It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him.  As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot.  Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.  Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.”

This wasn’t an impulsive, knee-jerk reaction to God’s word, but a deliberate, sustained act of rebellion.  This took time, and there’s almost a ceremony to it, as if daring God to stop him.  Many Christians today would be outraged if they witnessed something like this.  People in positions of authority disrespect God regularly, but imagine if the head of your country burned the Bible publicly on TV, and nobody stopped them, or even objected?  Sure, in modern times, people might object on their blog, on social media, or even on smaller TV and radio outlets, but in Jehoiakim’s example, nobody was able to challenge him. He “got away with it.”

Photo by raquel raclette on Unsplash

This brings up the question of: why does God allow things like this to happen?  I’ll suggest a question in response: Would it be a stronger testimony of God’s sovereignty if He had struck King Jehoiakim dead on the spot, or is it a stronger testimony that Jeremiah’s words still exist today all around the world?  If the second option is better, the next question is why do we sometimes feel such outrage and lash out (perhaps on our own blog or Facebook page) at such acts?  Do we trust God to deal with it, or do we worry that Jehoiakim is right – maybe God doesn’t care?

Part of the scroll Jehoiakim burned may have included these words of Jeremiah about the king himself: “With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”[1] And “He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night.[2]  Therefore God knew both that justice would be done to Jehoiakim, and also that his burning of the scroll had only symbolic and temporary effect.  In contrast, God’s justice and God’s word are eternally immutable and effective.  As Isaiah said: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”[3]

There’s also another question for us: if God had chosen in His sovereignty to redeem Jehoiakim, would we be angry like Jonah at the repentance of Nineveh[4], or would we praise God for His profound and measureless grace?  The same grace that brought Jeremiah’s words back from the futile fire pot of King Jehoiakim.  The grace that was purchased by Christ on the cross.

This word of God will stand as well: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:19-21

Do we believe it?


[1] Jeremiah 22:19
[2] Jeremiah 36:30
[3] Isaiah 40:8
[4] See my earlier, short post on Jonah’s anger.

Cats are Not the Only Things I’m Allergic To

Although highly allergic to cats, I love the two we have, but sometimes wonder if it’s worth the trouble.  This past Saturday night, one of the cats, named Misty, was up crying much of the night, waking us up regularly.  Eventually, I realized she must have been upset about her litter.  The store was out of the “usual,” so I tried to get away with a replacement, even though I know how finicky cats are.  Sure enough, once I changed it to what I had left of the usual stuff (kept in reserve in case of finicky cat trouble), she stopped complaining.

Why am I telling you this?  Because what happened next reminded me that God is concerned about even the most minor details of our lives, and about every living creature He has made.  Sunday morning my reading schedule began with Psalm 8, which includes this:

You have given [man] dominion over the works of your hands;
            you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
            and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
            whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”- Psalm 8:6-8

Misty, an indoor cat who may feel like she’s trapped in the ark.

Under the mandate given in Genesis, mankind is supposed to take care of whatever God has given us – the earth and everything in it.  My study Bible helpfully noted that this includes pets, which reminded me of Misty’s crying!  I thought maybe our cats were worth the trouble after all, but God wasn’t finished making the point.

Also on my reading schedule was Genesis 7, which includes: “And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.” – Genesis 7:24

During the flood, Noah and his family were flooded in the ark for 150 days with two of each kind of animal (but seven of each kind of clean animal, because provision was made not only for the survival of Noah’s family, but also provision for continued worship of God).  After the 150 days, they had to wait months longer for the waters to recede and the land to dry before coming out of the ark.  Noah’s family took care of an ark full of animals for more than 150 days.  They probably lost a lot of sleep!  As for me, I only have two cats and get to leave the house.  I also have allergy medicine to make it more tolerable.

Looking back at Psalm 8, the last verse declares: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

This Lord is the same one who brought Noah, his family, and those animals through the flood.  He also cares about my family and even my pets.  In seemingly small acts like taking care of pets God has given us, we can declare the majesty of God’s name!  In whatever influence we have, big or small, God wants us to participate faithfully in the work started at creation, with the authority He has given us.

In addition to perhaps cats, what else might we be allergic to? Sin is not just a list of things we shouldn’t do, but it is our allergy to God’s dominion over the world and the way we each should have dominion over it and under him. We’re too often allergic to loving this world the way he did on the cross, yet we claim to hope for a world where that sacrificial love governs 100% of all actions.

Our Lord wants nothing more than to greet us in Paradise and say “‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’[1]  He literally died to make such a greeting possible.  Therefore, consider what creatures or people our Sovereign God has delegated to each of us.  What tasks or roles?  Jobs or ministries?  Do some of those things irritate and annoy us, as if we were allergic?

In aggregate, the church’s role is to have dominion over His entire creation, but not in the way the world would, exploiting everything for our own benefit and casting aside what doesn’t seem useful, but as a servant would.  Like a God who abhors all our sin as if He were allergic but decided to cover our sin with His own precious blood.  The same blood that covers us so that, like a compassionate Father, our Lord can gently say on a Sunday morning after a bad night of interrupted sleep:

“Be thankful you aren’t stuck in an ark for 150 days with thousands of animals.”


[1] Luke 19:17

Jesus was Born to Overthrow King Herod, but How?

The story of Herod and the three wise men is familiar to most who celebrate Christmas.  After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the wise men came looking for Him, having seen a star they believed signaled His coming.  Arriving in Jerusalem, they asked “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.[1]  Word of this search made it to Herod, the then-current king of that region under Rome’s authority, and his first instinct was to eliminate what he saw as a threat to his own power.  In Herod’s eyes, only he was king of the Jews.

Herod came up with a simple plan: to use the wise men to help him find this threat.  “And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.’”[2]  However, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went home after visiting Jesus.  “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”[3]

Herod believed so strongly in the necessity of the power of Rome and of his place in it that he was willing to commit mass murder.  If he couldn’t find the one child he wanted, he’d just kill them all.  He feared Jesus (or His followers) would overthrow him as king, and he was right but in the wrong sense.  Jesus would overthrow Rome.  He was born to overthrow every earthly kingdom – that is inevitable.

Much of Rome is already in ruins. Photo by Giu Vicente on Unsplash

Isaiah 40:17 proclaims that “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.”  The word “emptiness” here is the Hebrew “bohu,” part of the phrase “tohu va’bohu” translated as “without form and void” in Genesis 1:2.  This phrase represents empty things with no eternal value or purpose.  So, while Isaiah doesn’t use the whole phrase from Genesis, he uses “less than” for emphasis instead.  When compared to God’s eternal purposes, all that every nation has ever devised and achieved is less than useless.  God has nothing to learn from our political and economic visions – He transcends them all.  No nation can or will accomplish what God has accomplished and will accomplish.

Therefore, Jesus’ other mission was to overthrow Herod’s dominion over Herod.  But Herod was determined to resist.  His heart was so hard that he preferred to hang on to a government willing to commit mass murder to preserve its own self-centered ways.  He thought he could preserve the façade of “Pax Romana,” the idea that worldly government can solve all of our problems, even while he, as an agent of Rome, was killing innocent children.  Herod saw it as in his own best interest, and in the interest of Rome, but this is one of many examples of “a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”[4]

Jesus can overcome death only by overthrowing our views of our own “best interest” and what “seems right.”  He was not born and did not die and rise again just to overthrow Rome, but He came so we would have a way to overthrow ourselves and death itself.  Jesus will establish the only government that will matter in eternity: His Kingdom.  The soul of Herod, and of all of us, will outlive every society that ever existed, and ever will, on this earth.  The nations are all “accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.”  While Herod could find hope in Jesus if he wanted to, Rome itself never had any hope.

Therefore, the question Jesus asks all people is: Will we let Jesus overthrow us or will we, like Herod, go to great lengths to resist Jesus and try to preserve a world that is doomed to fail?

Isaiah 9:6, recently the focus of my Christmas series on 4 names describing Jesus, also says “and the government shall be upon his shoulder.”  His Kingdom will be the only government we need, and He alone is uniquely qualified to establish and rule it.

For to us a child is born,
            to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
            and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
            Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”


[1] Matthew 2:2
[2] Matthew 2:8
[3] Matthew 2:16
[4] Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

What We Need For Christmas Summary

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thank you for reading my series about what we need for Christmas.

Remember that whatever mess we find ourselves and the world in, Christmas is a reminder that God has not given up on us and on the world.  Isaiah 9:6, a prophecy from around 700 BC describes the Christ we celebrate each Christmas:

“And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

To meet our deepest, most significant needs, this Christ is provided for us.
         As Wonderful Counselor, He is our source of wisdom; (covered in this post)
         As Mighty God, He will empower us to live as He did; (this post)
         As Everlasting Father, He invites us with unconditional love into His family; (this post)
         As Prince of Peace, He buys peace between us and Him, and between us and others. (this post)

“Four gifts for Christmas. They are the greatest gifts that anybody can give or we can have, and they are all in Jesus. They are for us. They are for you, if you will have them.” – James Montgomery Boice

Celebrate these gifts today!

In closing here is a video of the Royal Choral Society performing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, for He, the Christ of Christmas, shall reign forever and ever:

A Prince of Peace: What We Need For Christmas…Part 5

Over recent weekends, I’ve described Jesus as filling our need for a Wonderful Counselor, guiding us into the choices that are best for us, as Mighty God, empowering us to love Him and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and as Everlasting Father, who meets our need for relationship in His holy family. These names come from from Isaiah 9:6, a prophecy from around 700 BC concerning the Christ we celebrate each Christmas:

“And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

We may not feel we deserve the gifts in Christ I’ve described in these posts.  We may know for sure that we don’t, and so we don’t accept them.  As James Boice wrote: “We are also conscious of having done wrong things. We need to be forgiven. We need somebody to deal with our guilt”.  Which is why there needs to be a fourth name, and gift.  Our need for peace and unity is met by the Christ of Christmas, as described in Isaiah 9:6 as our Prince of Peace, who Boice says “highlights the gifts of peace both between ourselves and God and internally.”

What kind of peace?  Most of the New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek, and the word “peace” often comes from a Greek word meaning “to join.”  Peace does not just mean we aren’t fighting; it means that we are joined in a beneficial relationship.  This peace came at a steep cost, but He bore it all.

Jesus was born to live the perfect life so that we won’t have to earn His approval, and He was destined to die as payment so we may have peace.  He did not have to rescue His people.  He could have left this world without a Savior, but as Prince of Peace, He instead took the initiative of joining us to Himself and to each other.  Our failures are not ignored, but our Prince of Peace willingly takes these failures upon Himself.  This is what He was born in the famous manger of Christmas to do.

Consider the story of Good Friday: Hours passed while Christ was on the cross.  He was mocked as helpless and unable to save Himself, while knowing that at any moment, He could just save Himself.  In those hours, our Prince of Peace considered all the sins of His people and decided: “Worth it”.  The all-powerful actively chose to embrace powerlessness in the face of hours of torture to save His people.  If God wanted to change His mind about you, He’s had plenty of opportunity before now.  He will not turn His back on you now, or ever, if you have accepted Him.

By bearing the cost for us, our Prince of Peace can accept us into His eternal family.  He can empower us to live lives like His, of love and sacrifice for others, giving meaning to our lives.  He can open our minds to His wisdom, providing the ability to make better decisions.  It won’t happen instantly, but it can begin today.  He was born on Christmas to make sure this all happened.

This Christmas Eve, we have the gift of Jesus as Prince of Peace, who meets one of our deepest needs:
“To be forgiven and at peace! Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He has made peace for us by his death.” (Boice)

He gives us peace with God, within ourselves, and toward others, granting us forgiveness and overcoming our guilt.  He asks us to also take the initiative and bring His peace to others, forgiving them as He forgave us.

This is the fourth gift of Christ in Christmas, and it makes possible all of the other gifts.  Have you accepted it?