Psalm 104:10–18; Jeremiah 26:10–27:22; 1 Timothy 6:17–2 Timothy 1:7

Psalm 104:10–18: The focus of God’s creation now descends from the heavens, the earth and seas down to a single small place in the desert. The poet speaks of the crucial importance of water in a parched land (that is very much like the California landscape) and how God provides this life-sustaining element for both domesticated and wild animals: “You let loose the springs in freshets,/ among the mountains they go./ They water all the beasts of the fields,/ the wild asses slake their thirst.” (10, 11)

Water from streams and the rain is the source of life. “He waters mountains from His lofts, /from the fruit of Your works the earth is sated.” (13) And it is water that provides sustenance–and pleasure–for humankind as well: “He makes the hay sprout for cattle,/ grass for the labor of humankind/ to bring forth bread from the earth,/ and wine that gladdens the heart of man…” (14, 15a) Water is the what brings the “bread that sustains the heart of man.” (15b)

Surely, Jesus’ listeners would have thought of this psalm when Jesus told them “I am the bread of life.” The flow of this poem is from God to creation to water to grass to bread. With the image of bread Jesus is making the direct connection back to God the creator. The Pharisees, who doubtless knew this psalm even better than the hoi polloi, would have one more reason to be incensed at Jesus’ effrontery.

But also, this psalm is a reminder of whence our sustenance comes and whence our thirst is quenched. Our technological culture is so far removed from the land that we think these things are human creations. To be sure, humans are involved just as the psalmist reminds us, “the labor of humankind,” but water, bread, and wine are the elements that make our direct connection back to God through Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 26:10–27:22: Jeremiah has communicated a message form God that the people definitely do not want to hear and they are now ready to kill the messenger. The officials only stir up the crowd further: “the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.'” (26:11). Jeremiah says, “here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you.” (27:14) but then reminds the people, “Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” (27:15)

The cooler heads of the elders remind the people that other prophets have come before Jeremiah, and they name Micah of Moreseth of prophesied similarly some years back and the people did not put him to death. They also recount the story of certain Uriah who said words similar to Jeremiah but unlike our prophet who was willing to stand there and be killed, Uriah fled to Egypt, was caught and executed by the king. Jeremiah’s courage saves him. Of course this scene of Jeremiah standing before the court presages the silent Jesus standing before the Sanhedrin.

The question here is, would I have similar courage or would I say my piece and flee the city? Would I even speak out in the first place? Is our culture coming to the point of Judah where it would kill the messenger rather than listen to a prophecy that predicts its demise?

In chapter 27, God has Jeremiah perform another object lesson. This time God tells him, “Make yourself a yoke of straps and bars, and put them on your neck” (27:2) God tells Jeremiah to tell the court and people that he has decided to temporarily turn control of Judah over to the king of Babylon: “I have given all these lands into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him even the wild animals of the field to serve him.” (27:6)

Jeremiah appears in court wearing the yoke and tells them, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Why should you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?” (27:12, 13) Jeremiah then further inflames the crowd by telling them that all the other prophets who are predicting the imminent return of the Temple treasures are wrong. Instead, Jeremiah says, “They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall stay, until the day when I give attention to them, says the Lord. Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.” (27:22)

Notice that amidst the really bad news there is a glimmer of hope: the promise of return. A promise that we still have as well: the return of Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 6:17–2 Timothy 1:7: Would that we today would follow these words if advice: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim 6:17) And yet here I am worrying about my 401(k) rather than trusting God who so richly provides for us, not just financially, but in every other way as well.

This letter, so crammed with dicta, ends with a marvelously contemporary piece of advice: “Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith.” (6:20, 21) If there are two words to summarize what is going on around us it is “profane chatter.” The other thing to remark here is that true knowledge is not contradictory.  People intent on proving the stupidity of Christianity continually post things on Facebook about the contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible. And there are others of deep faith who devote enormous effort to showing how the Bible is always consistent, which leads to equally stupid conclusions.  Both parties have failed to understand this verse and have indeed missed the entire point of God’s story that culminates in the revelation of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.

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