PBJ : Pastor Brian Jones

PBJ : Pastor Brian Jones

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a teacher of His Word, Senior Pastor at Calvary Bible Church of Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti, Michigan. I am a husband and father of three.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Bible, as well as Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry degrees.

Joshua 5:1-6:5, Jeremiah 30-31, 2 Corinthians 12

Read Joshua 5:1-6:5, Jeremiah 30-31, and 2 Corinthians 12.

This devotional is about Joshua 5:1-6:5.

For decades God had provided manna for his people to eat in the desert. For most of the people in that generation, God’s provision was all they knew. Six days a week manna was waiting for them in the morning; on the sixth day, they gathered enough to feed them for the Sabbath as well. I wonder if it ever occurred to the younger adults in Israel that the manna would stop some day? Or, if they did ever think about that, if they thought it would continue until they had conquered some territory and were settled?

Regardless of what they expected, the manna stopped when they entered the promised land. They ate a Passover meal and the manna was no more (v. 12).

Yet God was not done caring for his people. The crazy instructions that the Lord gave to Joshua about how to conquer Jericho is proof of that. Instead of laying siege to this fortified city or doing a frontal assault, God just told them to march around it.

Day after day for one whole week, they played ring-around-the-rosies with Jericho. On day 7, they did that seven times and, boom, the walls of the city sang “we all fall down.” This strategy was designed to show Israel that God was in control of their conquest and that their victories were due to him fighting on their behalf. There would be more traditional battles in the future, ones where God’s people would use conventional weapons and warfare to take cities. But this conquest of Jericho was to show them that it was God’s might, God’s power, God’s promises that would give them the land, not their military prowess.

Isn’t the Christian life just this way? We look for God to provide for us and make it easy. Sometimes he does that to show us that he is with us. But, more often, God calls us to trust his promises and cultivate the land ourselves. God commands us to claim his power but show it by doing battle with our will, our sin nature. We get deeply disappointed with God for not causing holiness to descend into our lives like manna. We are thankful when he gives victory in our lives one day, but then calls us to do battle ourselves in faith that he is fighting with us and for us.

Israel’s failure to get everything God promised them was a failure of faith. Instead of learning the lessons of the manna and Jericho and boldly taking the rest of the land, God’s people became too satisfied too soon.

Don’t allow a complacent attitude to keep you from striving, from growing strong in Christ. Although this passage has to do with miraculous food and miraculous military victory, God works in the same way in all domains in life. Trust that the God who provided for Israel miraculously until they could reap his provision providentially will provide providentially for you, too, if you work at your life in faith. Trust that he’ll be there to provide supernaturally when you need him to, but that he’s already providing what you need through his divine providence. Claim all this by faith and do the hard work of daily Bible study, daily prayer, daily fighting the sinful impulses of the flesh, daily working hard at your profession and your relationships.

Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, 2 Corinthians 11

Read Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, and 2 Corinthians 11.

This devotional is about 2 Corinthians 11.

Yesterday, as we read chapter 10, we saw how concerned Paul was about having to confront somebody within the church at Corinth. Judging from what Paul wrote at the end of chapter 10 and here in chapter 11, the person or people he was concerned about were heavy self-promotors (10:12, 18; 11:5, 21). In today’s reading, Paul was quite emotional about how effectively these people had ingratiated themselves with the church and, it seems, how they had marginalized Paul and his ministry (v. 12). While he was concerned about these personality conflicts, he was more concerned about the false doctrine these “personalities” were bringing (v. 4, 13). This chapter is one of several in Paul’s letters where he reviewed his personal history as a servant of Christ (vv. 21-33). Not only did he suffer much for the gospel throughout his ministry, he also suffered much for the benefit of the Corinthians directly (vv. 7-12). Yet the Corinthians seemed unmoved by how much Paul had done for them and had sacrificed for the Lord. To them, Paul was an inferior speaker (v. 6) and others were deserving of equal status and respect to him (vv. 12, 19-20).

What Paul was saying in this chapter extends into chapter 12 as well, so we’ll see more on Monday when we read that. But the problem he addressed in this chapter continues today. It’s the myth of the greener grass, the idea that what I’m getting now isn’t as good as what I could get from others. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my adult life and in the ministry. Dr. So-and-so from out of town is a great speaker, a godly man, someone whose opinion isn’t inspired and infallible, but almost…. Meanwhile, faithful elders, patient pastors, good bosses, giving spouses, or others are taken for granted. This isn’t to say that Dr. So-and-so isn’t everything they claim him to be. He may be a godly man and a great servant of Christ or he may be a false teacher who is really persuasive (v. 4). The point is that people by nature get used to what they have and become bedazzled by the new thing, the author they just learned about, the new church in town, or the girl that caught their eye today. New things are exciting because they are new but the newness wears off eventually. Do we recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives that have been there a long time, consistently serving us well?

The church in Corinth was started by Paul at great personal cost (verses 7-9, Acts 18:1-11). He was willing to do hard things to purify the church for the glory of Christ (v. 2) and was tormented with concern for them even when he was doing God’s work in other cities (vv. 28-29). Yet the church never seemed to appreciate him very much and constantly, negatively compared him to others. There is probably some realm in your life or some point in your past where you did something similar-took for granted someone who was faithfully and deeply devoted to you and negatively compared them to someone who hadn’t done anything for you except, maybe, collect your money when they sold you a book or a seminar. I’m guilty of this as well and–just in case you are wondering-I’m not talking about myself here. This passage just reminded me of something I’ve seen more than a few times in my life. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have benefited from others who served us consistently and without complaint. Let’s be careful to appreciate and be thankful to the Lord for them instead of being quick to point out their flaws when compared to others. Whether your realize it or not, you probably have it better than you think so be thankful for the contribution other people have made to your life for God’s glory.

Joshua 3, Jeremiah 28, 2 Corinthians 10

Read Joshua 3, Jeremiah 28, and 2 Corinthians 10.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 28.

In Jeremiah 27, God commanded Jeremiah to develop a little object lesson for the kings of his era. He commanded Jeremiah to make a yoke and wear it around his neck (27:1-2), then to send a message to them urging them to submit voluntarily to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 3-12).

Here in Jeremiah 28 a prophet named Hananiah confronted Jeremiah with a prophecy of his own. He spoke his words “in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people” (v. 1) and told them that God would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon within two years (vv. 3-4). He even removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it to emphasize the message (vv. 10-12).

Jeremiah responded with an enthusiastic, “Amen!” (literally, v. 5). However, he warned Hananiah about making untrue prophecies (v. 9). With only two years or less for his prophecy to become true, his role as a prophet would either be validated or he would lose all credibility as a spokesman for God (v. 9). Later, God himself spoke to Jeremiah and sent him to warn Hananiah about the consequences of prophesying falsely in God’s name.

Predicting that God will do something within a period of time where you will probably be alive is a bad idea. If it doesn’t happen, people will know that you are a fraud. Jeremiah, however, made a prophecy with an even shorter runway to fulfillment; he predicted that Hananiah would die within the year. The reason for this prediction was God’s judgment on him “because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.” Although Hananiah’s word was rosy and optimistic and encouraged people’s hearts, it was, in fact, urging them to rebel against the Lord instead of obediently following the word that came through Jeremiah.

God honored his true prophet, Jeremiah, by causing his prophecy to come to pass: “ In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.” Hananiah didn’t make it two months (see v. 1) before God vindicated Jeremiah and discredited him.

God does not seem to bring such swift and clear punishment against those who speak lies in his name today. Why? Because God is merciful to them.

In fact, that was the point of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Hananiah. The reason he was told that his death was approaching was so that he could repent. Had he repented, God would likely have let him live for many more years. This is always why God’s word warns us—to lead us to repentance.

While disobedience to God’s commands may not lead to premature death, there are always painful consequences to sin. Let’s consider this when we are convicted of sin in our lives. It is unwise and unsafe to ignore the confrontations and warnings of the Lord. Conviction of sin is for our good; let’s welcome it and respond to it in repentance for God’s glory and our good (see Heb 12:4-11, esp. verses 10-11).

Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27, Psalms 78-80

Read Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27, and Psalms 78-80.

This devotional is about Joshua 2.

So much is different this time from the first time the Israelites sent spies into the promised land:

  • The first time, twelve men were sent to be spies—one from each tribe (Num 13:2). This time only two were sent (v. 1).
  • Instead of looking at the land exhaustively (Num 13:17, 21-22), they were told to “look over the land… especially Jericho” (v. 2b), so their task was to survey but with a particular focus on one city.
  • Instead of having to investigate the people, the land, the towns, the soil, and the trees (Num 13:18-20), this time they seemed to be looking more strategically.
  • Another difference was that this time the spies found an ally, although an unlikely one—a prostitute named Rahab (v. 1). Verse 1 says they entered her house “and stayed there.” I suppose that was a strategic decision; a house like hers frequently had men coming and going so maybe they decided it would be easier to avoid detection this way.

Regardless of what they may have thought, they were spotted and their mission and lives were jeopardized (vv. 2-3). While some have faulted Rahab for lying, the scriptures never suggest that she sinned; in fact, she is heralded for her faith and was protected from the death that her questioners received for their unbelief (Heb 11:31).

But above everything else that happened in this passage, Rahab provided the insight that Israel needed to move forward in faith. In verse 9 she said, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Later she said it again: “…our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you…” (v. 11).

Out of all the things they learned in their survey trip, this seems to have made the biggest impression on the spies. When they gave their report to Joshua, they used her own words to express their confidence: “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us,” (v. 24).

Both Rahab and the spies understood that this was going to be a spiritual victory; as she put it: “…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (v. 11). It was not Israel’s military might, superior weaponry, or ingenious tactics that would give them victory. It was the power of God and their faith (this time) in the promises he made to them.

But isn’t it interesting how God provided them with reassurance through Rahab? God could have found fault, I suppose, with them sending spies in the first place. There’s no indication that he directed Joshua to send them. His command was clear, as were his promises of victory, so the very act of sending spies could be seen as an act of unbelief. Instead of rebuking them, however, God gave them Rahab and her words of faith as the final boost they needed.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been ready to do the right thing morally in your life or the wise thing scripturally in your life and, just as you’re about to move forward, God provides just a little bit of reassurance that, yes, he’s in this decision? How gracious of the Lord to confirm his word; how merciful he was to spare a sinful woman like Rahab when she believed in him and acted accordingly. I hope this passage gives you some confidence today as you go out to live for him.

Joshua 1, Jeremiah 26, Proverbs 16:1-15

Read Joshua 1, Jeremiah 26, and Proverbs 16:1-15.

This devotional is about Proverbs 16:1-15.

Wealth is one of the deepest desires of many people.

For some, wealth is valuable because of the experiences it can buy. Others value the possessions that wealth can help you collect. Still others are fearful of financial ruin so accumulating wealth gives them a greater feeling of security.

Regardless of why someone wants financial gain, the temptation to be dishonest or to take advantage of someone is too strong for many to overcome. Proverbs 16:8 calls us to consider a different path. Instead of pursing and acquiring money at all costs, verse 8a invites us to consider the value of personal integrity. Would you rather do the right thing even if it meant less money for you or would you rather compromise your principles just a little bit to put some more money into your pocket? You are wiser, the Holy Spirit wrote through Solomon, if you get by on less to do the right thing than if you turn a bigger profit in an unjust way.

But why is it better–wiser–to do right instead of taking the money? Doing the right thing keeps your conscience from bothering you; in fact,  you may feel a sense of holy satisfaction if you do what is honest and right. Additionally, the Lord is watching when you choose righteousness over unjust gain. By choosing to do what God commands, you are banking on his promise to provide for you and your needs.

Will you face a situation like this in the next week? Maybe a cashier will mistakenly give you a $10 bill back instead of a $1 bill? Maybe you’ll see an opportunity to buy something for yourself with the company credit card? Maybe you’ll be tempted to embezzle funds or join a dishonest get rich quick scheme.

Remember that God is watching what we do and, if you belong to him, pleasing him with your choices will be better than stocking away more cash for yourself. If your trust is in the Lord, then count on him to provide for you by doing what is right, even if it leaves you with less money in the bank.

Deuteronomy 33-34, Jeremiah 25, 2 Corinthians 9

Read Deuteronomy 33-34, Jeremiah 25, and 2 Corinthians 9.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 34

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

Deuteronomy 34:10-12

How do you replace a man like Moses? In a real sense, you don’t because you can’t. Moses was a unique man, a servant of the Lord. He is rightfully revered by all believers in God because God used him in extraordinary ways.

Yet, it was God’s work in his life, not his own personal greatness that made him the man he was. In addition to his great faith and the amazing works God did through him, we’ve seen a man who ran ahead of God’s timing and killed an Egyptian in his impatience to deliver God’s people.

We’ve seen him become so angry that he spoke and acted independently of the Lord; in fact, it was his sin that caused the Lord to exclude him from entering the land (v. 4b) even though he was healthy and strong on the day of his death (v. 7).

Although Moses was a great man, he was also a man for his times. God chose him, prepared him both sovereignly and through direct revelation to be the leader that Israel needed. However, he was only a man; his greatness lay in the power of his God not in his strength or intelligence or any innate ability. The same God who prepared and used Moses did the same for Joshua (v. 9) so that God’s people would have the leadership they needed to receive God’s promises.

When someone you love, whom God has used powerfully in your life, dies or retires or leaves for another ministry, all is not lost. Far from it. It is idolatry to think that only one servant of God can be used powerfully by him. Spiritual leaders are important, but only because God uses them. When God decides that any leader’s time is up, he will remove and replace that leader in his sovereign will. Trust that.

If you’re a spiritual leader, think about all the weaknesses and failings Moses reported about himself in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. He was far from perfect, yet God used him.

Will you trust God to use you, too, despite your weaknesses?

Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 24, 2 Corinthians 8

Read Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 24, 2 Corinthians 8.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 24.

When we read the Old Testament prophets, we see passage after passage that condemns the people for their sins and warns of coming judgment. The language that describes their disobedience seems so all-encompassing that we might conclude that there were no faithful people in Israel except for the prophets themselves.

Today’s passage in Jeremiah 24 shows that this is not true. Although most of God’s people were disobedient to his covenant, the basket of figs shows that there were some who loved God and lived obediently to him. The fact that Jeremiah described the good figs as “very good” in verse 3 shows that there were some strong believers scattered among the idol worshippers and other unfaithful people of Judah.

But, due to the unfaithfulness of the majority, even these “good figs” were carried away into exile, experiencing the curse of the covenant for the disobedience of the whole kingdom. That seems terribly unjust, but God did not abandon these faithful believers altogether. Instead, today’s reading offers hope for these believers. God promised in verse 6, “My eyes will watch over them 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.” So his promises would be kept in his time.

However, in the meantime, God promised to reward these faithful ones with the thing they really needed anyway: a deeper discipleship with him. Verse 7 says, “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.”

Just as even the faithful among God’s people experienced the effects of God’s judgment due to the sins and unbelief of others, so we will have pain and setbacks in our own lives, even if we faithfully follow the Lord. God’s promise to us is not a pain-free life or peaceful, material abundance. God’s promise to us is himself; and that will be more than enough if our hope is truly in him.

Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, 2 Corinthians 7

Read Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, and 2 Corinthians 7.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 31.

God had made extraordinary promises to his people and he had given them the complex gift of his law. I call his law “complex” because it should have been a blessing to Israel but it was, in fact, a curse. It could have been a blessing; if they had followed God’s laws, they would have been blessed in every way—spiritually, militarily, financially, and more. However, without a new nature, sinful people trying to live by God’s laws are always destined to fail. And, the Israelites did fail! Not only did they never get all the land God promised to them, they never had the financial prosperity or the spiritual power and joy that God promised to them. 

One reason why they failed to keep God’s law is that they did not know God’s law. Verses 12-13 describe the need for all the people to hear the law of God. This passage mandates that God’s law be read to his people, aloud, every seven years at the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 10). The purpose of this reading was not only so that they would know God’s law but so that they would “learn to fear the Lord your God…” (v. 12b). Likewise, their children would hear it and “learn to fear the Lord your God…” (v. 13b).

Fearing God is an Old Testament way of expressing true belief in God; it is similar to the concept of the new birth (or regeneration) in the New Testament. A person who feared God was one who received God’s law not just as a way to regulate behavior but rather as an expression of the character of the living God. He would hear all that God required of him and would be convicted of all the ways he had failed to live up to God’s laws already. He would also be struck with his own inability to keep these laws in the days ahead of his life. Knowing what God required of him and also how weak and sinful his own heart was, he would fall before the Lord looking for mercy for his past sins and grace to walk with God in the days ahead. If Israel had treasured God’s laws for the revelation that they were, God would have done great spiritual work within them and among them for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17).

But there is little evidence that God’s people even read God’s word once every seven years as this passage commanded them. The ignorance of his revelation is one of the main reasons why they never became the nation God promised them they could become.

This should remind us to treasure God’s word—read it, hear it, and obey it in our lives. You’re off to a good start today by reading these passages and this devotional. Now, be in church ready to hear God’s word on Sunday. Join a small group and soak up the reading and discussion of God’s word. God’s word is the blood that oxygenates a Christian’s spiritual life. Let that blood pump through your life and see what God does.

Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 22, 2 Corinthians 6

Read Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 22, 2 Corinthians 6.

This devotional is about about Jeremiah 22.

How much is enough?

That’s a relatively easy question to answer when you are eating a meal. Eat enough and you will feel full. Push past that point, and your body will make you vomit.

It is not an easy question to answer when you are thinking about wealth and possessions. No matter how much money you make, you could spend it all. There is always a better car, a more beautiful home, a boat, a jet, a better jet, an island, an NFL team, or something more or better than what you currently have.

But isn’t there a point when you have enough? Isn’t there some point of diminishing returns?

That’s one of the questions Jeremiah asks here in Jeremiah 22. As he addressed the sins of Judah’s king, Shallum (aka Jehoahaz), he asked, “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?” (v. 15a-b). In other words, he was a greedy man who was driven to acquire a bigger and nicer home. He was even willing to finance his possessions with “oppression and extortion” (v. 17d). And, according to verses 13 he made “his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.”

I can’t read those words without thinking about some of the wealthiest people in our world. Jeff Bezos built an incredible business in Amazon.com and was rewarded for it. As of 2020, Bezos was worth $133 billion. I’m a capitalist and the Bible teaches capitalism, so I don’t begrudge Bezos for what he is worth. His wealth is due to growth in the price of Amazon’s stock, but if Amazon had failed as a company, his stock would be worthless.

But there is a vast disparity in how Amazon pays its employees The CEO of Amazon earns $212 million per year for doing his job. Meanwhile, the median income of Amazon’s workers was $32,855. That is quite a difference between what the best paid employee of Amazon makes and what the workers in the middle of their wage scale make.

Again, I’m a capitalist and I don’t think salaries should be regulated. There is nobody in Washington D.C. who can decide what your work is worth better than the market can.

But God cares about the poor. It matters to him if the wealthy use the labor of others to enrich themselves without also rewarding the labor of those who work for the wealthy. God also calls out the futility of seeking more money and more stuff. He compared king Shallum to his father, a godly man, Josiah, who also ruled over Judah. I quoted the first part of verse 15 earlier but look at the whole verse: “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.” In other words, Josiah was a good and fair king. He was content with having enough and his life was blessed. Shallum would be held accountable by God for his endless greed and for exploiting others to try to satisfy that greed.

While none of us is a king, or a billionaire, the principle in this passage is still worthy of our consideration. If you own a business, do you pay market wages to your employees when you could pay better because your company is doing well?

If you don’t own a business, are you focused on “more and more cedar” (v. 15b) as a metric for how successful your life is? Have you noticed yet that no matter how much you earn or how much stuff you acquire, it doesn’t translate into greater and greater happiness?

Materialism and greed are so pervasive in our culture that we sometimes don’t notice how much they drive what we think about and what we do. God calls us to contentment and generosity. Are you content with what you have? Are you generous with others, using what you have to provide for and enrich their lives?

Deuteronomy 29, Jeremiah 21, 2 Corinthians 5

Read Deuteronomy 29, Jeremiah 21, 2 Corinthians 5.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 29.

Having repeated God’s laws and the terms of his covenant in the previous chapters of Deuteronomy (29:1), these last few chapters of Deuteronomy record some of Moses’ direct teachings to God’s people.

Verse 2 indicates the beginning of one of these talks when it says, “Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them….” Today’s passage emphasized once again the importance of obedience to God’s laws. Although God’s people were hardheaded and hardhearted (vv. 2-4), Moses reminded them of how God had provided for them (vv. 5-6) and fought for them, when necessary (vv. 7-8), on their long journey to the promised land.

Then, in verses 9-28, Moses stated his intention to have Israel re-affirm their covenant to the Lord (vv. 9-14), reminding them not to worship idols (vv. 16-18) and that curses would come if they did turn aside to idols (vv. 19-28).

Then verse 29 droped this intriguing statement: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” There is so much about God that is impossible for us to understand.

  • How can one God be three persons?
  • How can Christ be both human and divine?
  • When will Christ return?
  • Why did God allow a particular trial into my life?

These and other questions are beyond us. They require infinite knowledge to understand; therefore, they are secrets for God himself only to know. The middle of verse 29 reminds us that “the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever….” That refers to the promise of blessing they would have if they obeyed God’s covenant and the promise of curses if they disobeyed. God had revealed these things, so Israel should have known them and should have claimed them as belonging “to us” (v. 29). The reason God revealed these things is “…that we may follow all the words of this law” (v. 29c). The promises of blessing and curse exist to provide God’s people with all the motivation they should need to be obedient to God’s covenant commands.

This is a verse to memorize or at least remember, because we tend to reverse it in our thinking. We can easily become obsessed with “the secret things” that belong only to God. They can occupy our minds and thoughts and become the sole subject of our discussion and debates with others. When that happens, we tend to forget “the revealed things” that “belong to us.”

In other words, we ignore God’s commands–which God has revealed–and give ourselves to meditation on things that not only are not necessary for our obedience but are not even possible for us to understand. If parts of God’s word do not make sense to you–if you have unanswered questions, especially if they begin with the word “why”–this verse is a good one to keep in mind.

Some things are understandable only to God. In those cases, we are not responsible to understand the “secret things;” instead, we should give ourselves to obedience to “the things revealed.” There is more than enough truth revealed in scripture for us to learn, think about, and live out. Focus on those and leave to God the stuff that only he is capable of handling.

Deuteronomy 28, Jeremiah 20, Psalms 75-77

Read Deuteronomy 28, Jeremiah 20, Psalms 75-77 today.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 20.

Jeremiah’s fears in chapter 18 finally materialized here in chapter 20. Despite the fact that he is doing the will of God, God wills for him to suffer persecution. As a direct result of his prophesies (v. 1b-2a), one of the priests had Jeremiah beaten and confined to the stocks (vv. 1-2). When Jeremiah was released the next day, he had a few choice prophesies for this “man of God,” namely that he would personally experience the Babylonian exile and die there in that foreign land (vv. 3-6). 

Jeremiah has a few choice words for the Lord, too, following (or perhaps during) this episode. He complained first about the social cost of serving the Lord (vv. 7-8). Imagine being a prophet of God in a culture that was supposed to belong to God but where nobody but you cared anything about following God’s word. Imagine that even the priests were out to get you and, when they persecuted you, they did it in public so everyone entering the temple could make fun of you while you were bound in the stocks. That’s the tough job God had called Jeremiah to do.

It was so tough, in fact, that he decided to shut up and stop doing it. But according to verses 8-9 God’s word refused to be contained within his heart and mind, so he resumed his prophesies against his better judgment. As a result, even those he considered to be friends wanted him to pay for what he was saying (v. 10). Here, then was a man who was caught in an absolute quandary. Speaking up was too costly. Being silent was impossible.

What to do?

The only thing Jeremiah could do was appeal to God. In verses 11-12 he committed his persecutors to God’s justice. In verse 13, he resolved to praise the Lord for the deliverance he received, but that did not keep him from experiencing deep anguish over what his life had become (vv. 13-18). It would be nice to see this chapter end in a more tidy way, wrapped up with a nice pretty bow of worship and thanksgiving. However, Jeremiah’s prayer in this chapter ended with painful words wishing he had never been born. Spoiler alert: Jeremiah 21 just moved on to the next situation Jeremiah faced. There was no happy resolution to the trauma of his heart.

What do we make of all of this? First, that we should not expect a pain free life just because we are serving God. In fact, serving God may make life more painful and troublesome than it is for those who only pretend to serve God (like Pashhur the priest at the beginning of chapter 20). God’s will for your life may involve suffering. That suffering may be the direct result of the fact that you are serving him–not because of any defect in Godbut as the result of living in a sinful world which hates God, seeks to suppress his truth, and persecute his people.

Second, we should understand that God is not angered when we speak to him out of our emotions—even when those emotions are negatively directed toward him. While it is certainly sinful to blaspheme the Lord, God compassionately understands how painful this life and doing his will can be. No one felt the pain of doing God’s will more than Christ himself did. So there is no inherent sin in questioning God’s will or wondering about God’s ways.

At the end of our anxious cries, however, we need to look to the Lord in faith even if we never understand in this life. What we should not do is look away from him in unbelief; eventually God’s justice will be done and there will be rewards and comfort for those who serve him, even when it is hard. Let Jeremiah’s prayer in this passage, then, encourage you to be straight with God in your praying. He knows what your thoughts and feelings are anyway, so why not pour them out before him rather than bottling them up?

Deuteronomy 27, Jeremiah 19, Proverbs 15:18-33

Read Deuteronomy 27, Jeremiah 19, Proverbs 15:18-33.

This devotional is about Proverbs 15:18-33.

“It’s for your own good” is a phrase people say when they are about to say something you won’t like. Oftentimes, they’re not really saying for your good but as justification for the verbal punishment they are about to let you have.

Every one of us hates criticism. It hurts to receive and often feels unfair. Yet the Bible says that wisdom comes through hearing critical feedback and changing your life accordingly. Verse 31, which we read today says, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” If you receive criticism–even harsh, punishing criticism–and learn something from it, you will become a wiser person.

By contrast, verse 32 says, “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves….” We do ourselves no favors–and lots of harm, really–when we hit back at our critics and refuse to receive anything they say. The path of wisdom is found through correction; wise is the man who listens carefully to any criticism and tries to learn and get better from it.

Is that who you are? Ask God for the grace to grow through the negative encounters we have with others in our lives.