Day 127 – The Times in Which We Live
The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. Jeremiah 1:1-4
When you reflect on the times in which you have lived, what events and developments do you think of? I write this on my 74th birthday – asking the question all of us ask, ‘How did I get to be this age?’ And I also think like Jeremiah was thinking, ‘Why did You, Lord, place me on earth for this time in which I live?’
In the first four verses of the Book of Jeremiah the prophet summarizes the times in which he lived by referring to the politics of his time. He lived in the reigns of six kings of Judah, the southern kingdom of the people of Israel. Those reigns covered about 54 years. Jeremiah reflects on about 40 of those years, from the fourteenth year of Josiah’s reign to the Babylonian captivity, perhaps thinking, ‘Umm, I grew to manhood and was called to my office of a prophet in the days of the godly king, Josiah. I saw his great spiritual reforms, then, sadly, the decline of the nation under succeeding kings to the day when Babylon conquered us, destroyed Jerusalem, and took away many captives, including young Daniel and the prophet Ezekiel.’ Yet, here in Judah, I remain.’
How do you feel about the times in which you have lived? I have lived in times of great inventions and technological advance, years of social upheaval, an era of independence for a score of nations, times of war in a couple dozen countries and assassinations of a dozen or so political leaders, times of economic expansion – and recession, times of significant natural disasters and of climate change. It is amazing how many big events happen in one person’s lifetime! On a personal level, I have experienced all the developmental years from infancy to retirement age, and can happily reflect on a marriage of 48+ years, four children, and nine grandchildren to the time of writing. Some of my reflections include regret for failures along the way. Others are of amazing opportunities and the people who helped make them possible.
God places us in a particular time and place. Our experiences are mixed – good and bad times along the way. Jeremiah probably valued those years of reform under King Josiah and was saddened by having to live as part of a subjected people. He became a sincere follower of God, lived in wonder that God called him to witness to his generation, and faced hard times that included persecution from his own people. What blessings and struggles have been yours? What have you had to face in your days?
1. Read Jeremiah chapter 1.
2. Reflect upon the days of your life thus far. How different are your times to Jeremiah’s? Or to the times in which your parents and grandparents lived? What similarities are there?
3. Have you ever imagined living in the old west, or the middle ages, or some other era of history? Now, come back to today. “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24) What can you rejoice in about the moment in history in which God has put you? How could Jeremiah rejoice in a time of national decline, both religiously and politically?
4. On your birthday, thank God for His provisions in the good times and bad that you have faced.
Day 128 Grace and Peace
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-3
The great British preacher and author, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published eight volumes on the New Testament Book of Ephesians [available at https://www.monergism.com/node/557911 ]. Included are 35 sermons on Ephesians chapter 1 alone! In today’s devotional we will consider verses 1-2 of chapter 1. That will be followed by four more ‘Short Thoughts’ on the rest of the chapter – a total of five devotionals, not 35!
Back in the day, I was taught that a friendly (non-business) letter has five parts: the heading, greeting, body, complementary close, and signature. The Apostle Paul must have been similarly taught because his letters have distinct sections, as well. In verses 1-3 of Ephesians he gives his heading (v. 1) and greeting (v.2). I would like to focus on the words “grace” and “peace”. Together, these words form Paul’s most common greeting in his letters.
The Greek word “charis”, translated “grace” in English, means unmerited favour or gifts or blessings. Why do I need God’s grace? Because so much of life is beyond me. I am lacking in so many ways and need the generous help of God.
The Greek word translated “peace” is “eirhnh” and comes from a root word meaning “to join”. The idea is of being joined in harmony with another. Why do I need this harmony? Because I am troubled by and about so many things, feeling that there is often disharmony within me, and sometimes much against me, and that there is so little harmony in the world.
To overcome the things lacking and the troubles we face, we need these two gifts and the only One able to provide them is God: “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Now, God may use governments to enact laws to protect us and to establish programmes to benefit us. He also may use social agencies, not-for-profit organizations, philanthropists, well-meaning citizens, and churches to reach out to us in a variety of ways. So, we should be thankful for that. And sometimes, God supernaturally supplies what we are missing – in a way that is not easily explained. Also, while individual and organizational generosity is appreciated, usually they cannot reach our soul. God ministers to the inner person. He reaches beyond physical help.
Ephesians is addressed to those in Ephesus who are “faithful in Christ Jesus”. This is a message for the children of God and the followers of Christ Jesus. God is the “Father” who provides for His own. The “Lord Jesus Christ” is the Saviour who gave Himself for us. There is a deep connection between the Provider and the provided.
- Read Ephesians 1.
- I’m sure it is not difficult for you to think of areas in your life where there are important things lacking or where troubles are found, probably repeatedly so. As we proceed with Ephesians chapter 1, and as you read that text, keep your mind open to how this passage will answer those needs for grace and peace?
- Can you recall times when God has intervened in your life – through others or in unexplainable ways?
Day 129 PRAISE
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as Hechose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6
In this glorious statement of praise to God, the Apostle gives us five reasons to praise Him. “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Why? Because He has blessed us (“Who has blessed us in Christ”). How has He blessed us?
(1) He blesses us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3). What might these blessings be? The list that follows is most likely the best answer, and is clearly what Paul has on his mind. But, if someone asked me, ‘What spiritual blessings has God given you?’ I might reply that I am blessed to be invited to know Christ and the Father; that He has given me the Holy Spirit who lives in me; that God gave me His Word, and freedom from sin, and eternal life; that He has assured me of heaven; or that He has given me a family of believers – the church – to be part of. These surely are spiritual blessings. But so are the next four others Paul that specifically mentions.
(2) God has blessed us by having chosen me before time began (v.4) – He chose us to be holy and blameless, and, thus, able to be in God’s presence. “Holy and blameless” is another way of saying God has forgiven us and redeemed us. This was made possible in Christ, as part of the plan that sent Jesus Christ into the world to deal with the sin problem once and for all.
(3) God has also blessed us by predestining us to be adopted as His children (v. 5). Choosing us was a sign of His love for us. It was part of His purpose from the beginning and leads us to praise Him. And, again, this was accomplished through the obedient work of Jesus Christ.
(4) God has blessed us with forgiveness and redemption (v.7). This is possible because “the Beloved” Christ has given His blood on our behalf. Now we can enjoy the freedom of forgiveness through the Son’s lavish act of “grace” (v. 8), grace being God’s generous gift which we do not deserve but which is ours simply by receiving it as a gift.
(5) God blesses us by making all this known to us (v. 9). Paul explains it as a “mystery” now revealed. God had a plan that no human could understand on his or her own (hence, a mystery). The plan would fulfil the grand purpose of history – a plan to unite sinners with a holy God, and earth with heaven (v. 10).
In these verses, Paul starts a list and piles one blessing upon another. Recently, my wife said something to which I responded, “That’s why I love you. You have a desire to follow God, to do His will. I saw this in you as a teenager – a longing to know and do what God wants in a given situation.” I could give examples of how this has worked out through some difficult decisions we have had to make over the years. But is that the only reason I love her? No, I could make quite a list! And that’s what Paul does. He gets excited and makes his list.
- Read Ephesians 1:3-10.
- Why do you love God? List some reasons.
- Pick one of the five praises from Paul listed above. Think about that one and how it relates to you. For example, how does the fact that God chose you before the foundation of the world speak to you?
Day 130 INHERITANCE
“In Him we have obtained an inheritance…” Ephesians 1:11
Believe it or not, some people actually wish to decline, or wave, an inheritance. This may be because the legal recipient thinks there is someone in the family more needy. Or it may be that the inheritor prefers to avoid gaining assets that will be subject to taxation. Once, I was surprised to learn that a friend had left me an inheritance. It amounted to enough money to pay that year’s tuition for our children, who attended a private Christian school, and was a real blessing. The thoughtfulness of my friend is something special in my remembrance of him.
Ephesians 1 11-14 speaks of an inheritance believers have from God Himself. It is not a dollars and cents inheritance, nor an inheritance of property or jewelry or some valuable antique. The inheritance God gives is something that brings honour and praise to Christ Jesus. And, it is guaranteed.
In v.11 we again bump into the word “predestined” (already used in verse 5). Here, it says that God had a purpose and planned it out so that believers like Paul and the Galatian receivers of this letter would bring glory to Jesus. Further detail is added in verse 13-14 to help us understand the nature of the inheritance. These early believers heard the “word of truth”, the good news of salvation. They believed in Jesus Christ, and that resulted in the coming into their lives of God the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised (see John 14:15-26; 15:26-27). The presence of the Holy Spirit was the “guarantee” of their inheritance.
So, you might say the inheritance was the Gospel they heard, their belief, and the indwelling of the Spirit of God. The same can be said of any and all believers since Paul’s day. And there is also a future aspect to this inheritance, for Paul says, “until we acquire possession of it” (v.14). This is, no doubt, a reference to eternal life in the presence of God with all the wonder and fulfillment of heaven.
What an inheritance! Better than a sum of money or a gift of property – the inheritance of oneness with God through the work of Christ, of the daily and lasting presence of the Holy Spirit, and the wondrous eternity that is guaranteed each believer.
- 1. Read Ephesians 1:11-14.
- Have you ever received an inheritance? If so, what did you appreciate most about it and the person who left it to you?
- One day you will leave this life behind. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” What inheritance will you leave? It’s nice to leave some monetary inheritance for family or friends or people in need, but perhaps you have little in the way of material things to leave for others. What else can you leave as a gift to succeeding generations?
- Consider these verses about God’s promised inheritance: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup.” Psalm 16:5 “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:29 “…[Be] imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:12
DAY 131 PRAYER
‘I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…” Ephesians 1:16
People have found help in different models for what to include in your prayer:
ACTS: Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication
PRAY: Praise – Repent – Ask – Yield
HEART: Honour God with praise – Examine your life – Ask for help/needs – Request for others – Thank God
PAST: Praise – Acknowledge – Supplication – Thanksgiving
HAND #1: Family/ friends -Teachers – Leaders – Sick / poor – Yourself
HAND #2: Praise God – Confess – Thanksgiving – Intercession – Petition
In Ephesians 1:15-19, the Apostle’s prayer contains two of the often-found elements: thanksgiving and request. Paul continually gives thanks to God for the Christians in Ephesus. He thanks God for their faith in Jesus and their love that is expressed toward the saints. Both these reasons for his gratitude involve an outward focus. He is thinking of the sincerity of their faith and of how they care for one another, as well as believers elsewhere. This is not a prayer about himself – for example, Paul could express thanks for gifts he had received or other blessings in his personal life. And he could ask for help in some area of personal need. In fact, he does these things elsewhere in the New Testament. But, here, his focus is on the spiritual life of the Ephesian believers – their faith toward God and love toward others.
Then, Paul asks for something –again, not for himself – something for the people in the church in Ephesus. He asks God that these folk would have the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, as found in knowing Christ more and more. The wisdom, I think, would be an understanding of God’s will and the revelation a greater insight into who God is. In verse 18 he elaborates on this request, saying he wants them to better appreciate the hope God wants them to have and the glory of the inheritance God is eager to give them. Furthermore (v. 19), Paul is asking God to give them a view of the greatness of the power He worked in Christ when He raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is a long way from the tomb now – seated at the Father’s right hand “in heavenly places”! Truths like this are so much beyond us that we need God’s Spirit to open our eyes and minds to them.
- 1Read Ephesians 1: 15-19.
- Can you think of some others believers whose faith in God and love for others is exemplary? Thank God for these folk.
- How awestruck are you of the power of God? Do you ask God for a greater sense of this power, as seen in the resurrection? According to these verses, Jesus’ resurrection is so amazing that we need God to enable us to understand it. It should not be surprising, then, that in Britain, a 2017 survey showed that half the people surveyed did not believe in the resurrection. Among actively religious people, only 57% accept the biblical account. [ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39153121 ] In the United States, a 2021 survey found that 66% accepted the biblical accounts of Christ’s resurrection. [ https://lifewayresearch.com/2021/03/26/what-do-americans-actually-believe-about-the-resurrection/] In light of Paul’s words and of these survey results, how should you pray for others in regard to Christ’s resurrection? How should you pray for yourself, even if you do believe, when it comes to understanding the greatness of the resurrection?
DAY 132 FAR ABOVE
“[Christ is] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:21
A piece of furniture, found in a bathroom, and consisting of a table or cabinet with a mirror is called a “vanity”. Daily, we stand in front of this piece of furniture and take a look at ourselves, probably washing our face, combing our hair, and perhaps applying make-up. All of this attempt to look our best is fine until we excessively dwell on our appearance and conclude that the person we see in the mirror is either most lovely or most unlovely. It is unlikely that neither extreme is true, but if we conclude we are most lovely, we might be rightly described by the name of the piece of furniture, a person of vanity.
Many rulers in history have succumbed to vanity and inflicted all kinds of sorrow on their subjects while trying to exalt themselves. The historical figure Paul has in mind in Ephesians 1 is the only one who truly was and remains “above all” (Eph. 1:21).
When we get to verse 21 we see it is part of a sentence begun earlier (verse 15). What has come before establishes the foundation for Paul to say of Jesus that He is “far above all”. Jesus called us and promised an external inheritance that is guaranteed by His powerful resurrection. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father “in the heavenly places” (v. 20). Compared to any human, earthly or spiritual ruler, Jesus Christ is far above whatever authority and power and reign you can imagine. He is far above anyone else’s claim to fame or accomplishment – above anyone from any era in time past or time to come (v. 21). He has rightful authority over “all things” and that includes the church (v.22). God has given the Son to the church (the church universal – all true believers) and works through the church, as a head directs the body, to fill all things everywhere as He sees fit.
These are glorious words, hard to grasp. Consider how John Piper, pastor and theologian, tries to explain it:
“Picture him as the king over many territories that are not fully subdued to him. This text is declaring that Christ is indeed the king of the universe. He is “above ALL rule” (v. 21). He is over “EVERY name” (v. 21). God put “ALL THINGS” under his feet (v. 22). He is head over “ALL THINGS” (v. 22). And by this authority he will sovereignly fill all his territories with absolute sway. He will accomplish his purpose in every sphere. He will make himself unmistakably known in every place. He will be preeminent in every nook and cranny of the universe. Even the outer darkness of hell will be filled with his authority and his power and his wrath and the knowledge of his wisdom… God AIMS to fill the universe with the glory of his Son, Jesus, by making the church the showcase of his perfections. Or, to put it another way, and include the idea of body: God means to fill the universe with the glory of his Son by putting the church on display as the embodiment of his Son. Christ fills the universe with his glory by showing the universe his body—how he chose her, how he destined her, how he came for her and taught her and suffered for her and died for her and rose for her and reigns for her, how he called her and justified her and cleansed her and kept her and will raise her and glorify her and satisfy her forever and ever with himself. “ [ John Piper, “His Body: The Fulness of Him Who Fills All in All,” Sept. 20, 1992, Desiring God. ”https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/his-body-the-fullness-of-him-who-fills-all-in-all ]
Remember, this is a prayer begun in Ephesians 1:15 and this section is part of the request that the Ephesian believers would know more fully the unspeakable power that raised Christ from the dead.
- Read Ephesians 1:20-23.
- Now, read the verses again. Make an effort to wrap your mind around this great prayer and its description of what Christ Jesus accomplished. “Think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
- That the resurrection was always in God’s plan is evident through a study of Old Testament references and pictures of the coming resurrection. Paul says the resurrection happened “according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:4). Peter linked Psalm 16:9-10 (“..You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let my body see corruption”) with Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:29-32, “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that He would set one of his descendants on his throne, [David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ…”). For other Old Testament foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus, see Psalm 22:22-31; Isaiah 53:10-11; Daniel 12:2-3; Jonah 1:17b; and Hosea 6:1-2.
- Reflect on what you know of earthly rulers who thought they had ultimate power only to face a sudden and utter dismissal from their position. It has happened repeatedly in history, even our own times. How did their “power” compare with that of God who raised Jesus from the dead?
- What have you learned about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit from Ephesians chapter 1?
DAY 133 DON’T GO TO EGYPT
19 The LORD has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day 20 that you have gone astray at the cost of your lives… Jeremiah 42:19-20
In Matthew 2:13 an angel appears to Joseph, telling him that he is to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt: “Flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.” King Herod was about to search for the young Child with the intent to kill Him. Egypt would be a safe place to be for the duration of Herod’s reign.
Approximately 600 years earlier, the Prophet Jeremiah gave God’s instructions to the leaders of Judah. Jerusalem was about to fall to the Babylonians and some influential people planned to escape to Egypt. But God told them to remain. God would look after them and in a future day they would enjoy freedom from the Babylonian captivity. They rejected God’s message and fled to Egypt taking Jeremiah with them against his will, and there, after further ministry, is where he probably died. The leaders found out that whether in Judah or in Egypt they could not avoid the advancing Babylonian army.
I wonder how often God has warned us not to go to Egypt. I’m thinking of how we, like Judah’s leaders, seek to escape some problem by placing our trust in some short-sighted, ineffectual solution rather than in God’s protection and supply. We face a financial dilemma and God says, ‘Trust Me. I will supply your daily bread and shelter,” but we trust a credit card. We face loneliness and God says, “Trust Me. I will supply My presence and what human companionship you need,” but we rush into a bad relationship or marriage. We face insecurity and desire power and God says, “Trust Me – all power is mine; I have a plan for your life.” We want happiness and grasp at worldly entertainments, and God says, “Trust Me for peace and an abundant life.”
Our “Egypt” may be these things we rely on that are in place of God’s purposeful and fulfilling supply. We must be careful regarding on what or to whom we go to meet some perceived need.
Your Turn :
- Read Jeremiah 42.
- Notice that the leaders came to Jeremiah and asked (42:1-3) him to inquire of God what they should do. They even swore to do what God said (verse 6). Yet, when God replied through the prophet, they refused to obey (43:4). God expects us to be sincere when we ask for direction..
- In Luke 12:16-21 we find the parable of the rich fool. He thought he had it made, with his barns full of supplies, but God required his life and others got the spoils. The man was a “fool” because he paid no heed to God. His trust in his material things was misplaced.
- Can you think of a time when you misplaced your trust? What are you likely to rely on as your “Egypt”?