Singleness of Heart and Action

From Lynda Lindsey 

 They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. Jeremiah 32:38-39

Jeremiah responding to the word of the Lord: So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. ... For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land. Jeremiah 32:9-10;15

The word of the Lord: Once more fields will be bought in this land... Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, ...because I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 32:43(a);44

God’s ways are definitely not our ways. Were we real estate investors looking to snap up prime property, Jerusalem, during Babylon’s brutal siege, would certainly not have been our first choice! And yet. And yet, even as the enemy’s siege ramps were being used to assault Jerusalem, God told Jeremiah to buy property there! Jeremiah obediently bought the land, paying the price with silver coin, and had the deed signed, sealed, and witnessed. Why? God, who invites us to call to Him for answers, who longs to tell us great and unsearchable things we don’t know, wanted to give His people a triumphant visual picture: Jerusalem would fall, but she would rise again by God’s divine plan.

God is, and always has been, in the restoration business. God would bring His people back from captivity and restore to them the years the locust had eaten. Houses, fields, vineyards would be purchased, restored, replanted. Peace and security, health and healing would come abundantly from God’s gracious hand. God would give His beloved people singleness of heart and action. Cleansed from sin and unrighteousness, once more the sounds of joy and gladness would be heard in the land; the jubilant voices of brides and bridegrooms would be heard in the once silent streets.

After the land had enjoyed its sabbath rests, during the seventy years of exile, God moved Cyrus, king of Persia, to allow the exiles to return to Jerusalem. Fields once more were bought; deeds were signed, sealed, and witnessed. The exile over, rebuilding began. That’s still God’s heart; God longs for us to return from our exile, our wandering in sin’s darkness. Turn to, or return to, Jesus, who not only paid the redemption price, but has already signed, sealed, and witnessed the deed. Enjoy His sabbath rest. Accept His restoration; let the rebuilding begin. Ask Him for singleness of heart and action...then listen anew for the sounds of joy and gladness that result!

Refreshment for the Weary; Satisfaction for the Faint

From Lynda Lindsey  

God’s word regarding His people’s return from captivity: I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25

‘I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. I am with you and will save you,’ declares the Lord. Jeremiah 30:10(b)-11(a)

They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—-the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:12-13

Israel’s beloved Jerusalem under siege. Looting, burning, destruction. Separation from family and loved ones. Fear. Famine and starvation. Death and loss. Cruelty. Forced marches. Captivity. Most tragic? Understanding that their own disobedience brought God’s cup of wrath to their lips. Willfully, purposefully, the people and nation continued to sin until God, in holy and righteous anger, thrust His people from His presence. God’s people, weary both physically and spiritually, were spent, exhausted, dispirited. Into this milieu comes God, our God, the God of all hope and strength to comfort, refresh, revive and renew!

In future days, God promised, He would bring His people Israel and Judah back from captivity in a distant place, restoring to them their land and life. Jerusalem would be rebuilt; once again, with yokes and bonds torn away, God’s people would serve Him. A coming King through David’s line would arise; Messiah, the great I Am, near and dear to God, near and dear to us, our Peace, would come to us, dwell with us. Layers and layers of meaning overlap concerning the timing of these events; past, present, future, all interweave into a tapestry of joy and praise! Our God will fully accomplish the purposes of His heart. And His heart is good.

Our response? Shout for joy! Rejoice in the bounty of the Lord who removes our sorrow and gives comfort and joy to overflowing! His gracious provisions of grain, new wine and oil, flocks and herds dotting the hillsides, are all for our refreshment and satisfaction. After walking in captivity in the ways of sin and death and then being restored to God in sweet fellowship, what other response can we make but to overflow with praise and thanksgiving? We’ve exchanged death for life, turmoil and war for peace, temporary pleasure for eternal security; so shout, sing, dance, and praise God, the God of all hope, who refreshes the weary and satisfies the faint with all good things!

Freedom to Choose

from Lynda Lindsey

God’s word to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah proclaimed freedom for the Hebrew slaves: So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free. But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again. Jeremiah 34:10-11

The Word of the Lord: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you…’freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. Jeremiah 34:17

The Word of the Lord to the house of Judah: Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—-burn with no one to quench it. I am against you, Jerusalem… Jeremiah 21:12-13(a)

God is not a God of coercion. He sets before us the way of life and the way of death; we are free to choose the path we will take, but we are not free from the responsibilities or consequences of our choice. It pleased God when the officials and people under King Zedekiah covenanted to set their Hebrew slaves free, for this had been God’s command since the days of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. But afterward when they changed their mind and revoked their former slaves freedom, God angrily declared His people had profaned His name. 

To make a solemn promise to God was, and still is, a holy and reverent act. To renege on the terms of that covenant made in God’s holy Presence in the Temple and to openly flout their disobedience brought shame and disgrace both to God and to His people. To make a covenant with God, to pass between the cut-open halves of the animal sacrifice, was to say that should they break the covenant, they too would be open to death at God’s hand. Freedom to choose sin, to transgress our covenant with God, brings freedom to reap devastating consequences. God’s people, by revoking the covenant to set the slaves free, robbed the slaves of justice, oppressed the poor, weak and helpless, and robbed God of His holy reputation, all in the name of freedom.

God in holy and righteous anger set His face against Judah and their evil acts; God proclaimed His freedom to allow Jerusalem to fall to the approaching Babylonian army. God’s people, set free from His protection, reaped a great harvest of trouble. It’s no different today. We are free to choose God’s way of life or the way of death. Once we’ve chosen life in Christ and experienced God’s mercies fresh each morning, to return to sin’s slavery and bondage, to free ourselves from His protection, can  only bring freedom to suffer devastating consequences. Free to choose? Yes. Choose wisely. 

Keep Going! Move Forward!

from Lynda Lindsey

God’s word to the exiles in Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:4-7

God’s gracious promise to bring the exiles back to Jerusalem after seventy years are completed: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14(a)

Regarding the basket of good figs the Lord showed Jeremiah: My eyes will watch over them (the exiles) for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.  Jeremiah 24:6-7

Enmeshed in sin, deceived by their kings, priests, leaders, and false prophets, Jerusalem is carried away into Babylonian captivity. Making matters worse, the Lord’s people, by their refusal to repent and turn away from evil ways and practices, had brought the harm upon themselves. Facing the consequences of their blatant disobedience, the exiles, in humiliation and shame, surely wanted to slide into depression and despair. And yet. And yet, God had a plan for His people. 

Through Jeremiah’s written counsel, the exiles are instructed to keep going, move forward, and not give up. They are to build houses, settle down, plant gardens and eat the produce. They are to marry, raise children, and increase in number. Perhaps most puzzling from man’s perspective, the exiles were to pray for and to seek peace and prosperity for their pagan captors and the city where they were taken. What? Why? Because if Babylon prospered, so would God’s people.

God is a God of hope; God’s followers, even while suffering terrible consequences of rebelliousness, have hope in God. His eternal plan will move forward despite our dismal sins and failures; nothing can frustrate God’s purposes. Are you returning from a long period of exile? Keep going, move forward, call, come, seek, pray! God earnestly desires a relationship with us; when we seek Him wholeheartedly He hears, answers and allows us to find HIm. Accept His gifts: a new heart, restoration, forgiveness. Allow Him to replant, restore, and rebuild you in the fertile soil of grace and redemption. Don’t stop, keep going! Move forward! 

Straw or Grain?

From Lynda Lindsey 

 “Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:28-29

Regarding the lying prophets: I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.  Jeremiah 23:21-22

The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. Jeremiah 23:20

God minced no words. Stubborn hearted, godless, evil, lying, wicked prophets and priests had chosen to prophesy by Baal and were spreading ungodliness among God’s people. Ignoring Jeremiah’s words from God, the offenders held out false hope, peace and security to the nation. “Peace, peace,” cried the false prophets while the Babylonians were nearly at the door. The lying spokesmen for God had become each their own oracle, distorting the truth of God’s words. Like a dog running in the wind after absconding with the butcher’s meat, so were these lying prophets that ran with their own made-up messages from God.

One who has God’s word should always speak it faithfully; to spread lies by distorting God’s life-giving words is equivalent to stealing. The false prophets stole God’s words; robbing the people and the nation of truth. Because of their grievous sin and unrepentant hearts, the people forfeited their relationship with God, eventually resulting in exile. A person regarded as having no substance or integrity is referred to as a straw man; the deceiving prophets were just that. The false prophets, like straw, were of little substance or integrity; they were useless in God’s service. God’s word, by contrast, is like grain; nourishing, life-giving, of great substance.

A roaring fire gives light and heat, yet it can also devour everything in its path. A hammer carefully wielded is useful for builders, yet it can also be used as a sledge to strike destructive blows. The Word of God roars like a fire, devouring sin while shedding light and heat into the world and our hearts. The Word of God builds us up into strong dwellings able to withstand adversity or it crushes and levels hardened hearts. God’s anger will not turn back until He fully accomplishes the purposes of His heart. The choice is ours. Obey God’s Word, live in His light, and be useful for His kingdom purposes? Or not, and face God’s anger and judgment? Straw or grain?

Hearts: Hot or Cold?

from Lynda Lindsey

This is that the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

The Lord’s words: “So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.” But they will reply, “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.” Jeremiah 18:11(b)-12

Judah’s sins, dark and blatant, were so deeply etched into their lifestyle it was as if sin had been engraved on the tablets of their heart. Pridefully, willfully, the people turned their hearts away from God, forfeiting their rich inheritance to become Babylonian slaves. The choice is ours; follow God or follow the way of the world. If we stubbornly refuse to submit to God, foolishly trust in our own ways, and arrogantly elevate man’s wisdom over God’s, we end up enslaved to sin. 

God, a heart knower, freely offers us life and blessings. As God-dwellers we are as a deeply rooted tree planted by a stream of life giving water. Times of severe drought, heat, trials cannot unseat us, for those who continually abide in Christ will continually be fruitful. God, a heart knower, offers us a choice. If we reject God, we through our own fault, have chosen a life of non-blessing. We will dwell in parched wastelands and salt flats where growth is minimal, stunted, fruitles. 

James 1:21 admonishes us wisely, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Humble acceptance of God? Or arrogant rejection? Acceptance at a deep heart level? Or arrogant, superficial, just-mouth-the-words-but-don’t-mean-it level? The choice is ours. Blessings or non-blessings? May our choice be as Jeremiah’s! Although Jeremiah was persecuted, lonely, ridiculed, weary, and ignored, he could no more withhold God’s word than he could shut up a fire in his heart or in his bones! He couldn’t hold in God’s message! Search your heart for an ember of God’s word and fan that ember into a roaring flame!