Friday, July 17, 2009

Doom and Gloom

I recently finished studying the book of Matthew and wanted to turn next to the part of the Bible I least understand - The Hebrew Prophets. When I have read books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk etc. I find myself lost. This is manly due to the fact that these are mostly filled with prophetic speeches (sermons basically) to a specific group of people long ago in a land far, far away. It is impossible to read these prophets and understand them unless you look into the history of what was going on at the time. I have only ever barely scratch the surface of this history and never taken the time to really know the context. With that said, I have decided that it is finally time to do that and I am going to start with study the book of Jeremiah. And oh, I am excited!

One of the most famous verses people memorize from the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11.

"'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the LORD. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

Not only is this one of the most famous, it's also a verse that is usually taken way out of context. Yes, I am sure that God has plans and a purpose for you and me, but this verse was not written to us individually. It was actually written in a very dark time to a nation, Israel, who was God's nation. That nation happened to be in exile, taken captive because of their massive disobedience. Jeremiah spoke these words to encourage God's people that there was still hope even though the judgement had came. Oh, and you know that hope and prosperous future that he talks about? Yeah, that will come after 70 years in Babylonian captivity, so hold on Israel. I bet they didn't tell you that in Sunday school when you memorized that one.

There are some pretty crazy things that happened in Israel's history during the time of Jeremiah. In the midst of this, God calls Jeremiah while he's still a youth to be his mouth piece to the people. The only problem is that God's message is not a pretty one. It's a warning of doom, gloom, destruction, and judgement. How's that for a purpose and plan for your life? Sucks to be that guy.

I could go on and on, for there is a ton of detail to Jeremiah and the times he was living in, but if you are interested I have a few quotes from some of my preliminary reading that I found to be rather insightful. Enjoy some history if you choose. There will be many more posts to come about Jeremiah and the history of Israel.

From John Bright's History of Israel

"The persecution that such words earned Jeremiah, and the agony it cost him to utter them form one of the most moving chapters in the history of religion. Jeremiah was hated, jeered at, ostracized (chs.15:10f, 17; 18:18; 20:10), continuually harassed, and more than once almost killed (chs.11:18 to 12:6; 26; 36). In thus dooming state and Temple, he had, as the official theology saw it, committed both treason and blasphemy: he had accused Yahweh of faithlessness to his covenant with David (ch. 26:7-11)! Jeremiah's spirit almost broke under it. He gave way to fits of angry recrimination, depression, and even suicidal despair (chs. 15:15-18; 18:19-23; 20:7-12, 14-18). He hated his office and longed to quit (chs. 9:2-6; 17:14-18), but the compulsion of Yahweh's word forbade him to be silent (ch.20:9); always he found strength to go on (ch15:19-21) - pronouncing Yahweh's judgment. Yet when that judgment came, it brought him the deepest agony (chs.4:19-21; 8:18 to 9:1; 10:19f)."

From Elmer Marten's JEREMIAH: Believers Church Bible Commentary

"We read a book like Jeremiah for its message and insights. This book has a weighty message. It may shock us into reassessments and realignments; it will almost certainly change our values. The story in this book may strike us as dark and dismal. We shall hear about Israel's failures, her fascination with substitute deities, her disregard for just dealings. We will hear passionate appeals for change, admonitions, laments, exhortations, and threats. We will also hear promises. The underlying message has two faces: God disciplines people and punishes them; yet there is also forgiveness - the promise of new covenant. The gospel of Jeremiah reads: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love' (31:3)."

"For all its difficulty, the book of Jeremiah has great charm and power. 'No Old Testament prophet used a wider variety of literary forms or showed more artistic skill than Jeremiah' (LaSor: 418). The book touches issues of life and death. It depicts the love of God in the face of the sin of the people; it shows the sin of a people in the face of the love of their God. It is a book of exclamation marks. Like a Picasso painting, it yields its contents slowly - but with what force!"

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Le Tour De France

I've been watching the Tour De France a little bit and have just been fascinated by it. I never really realized just how long this race actually was. Here's some information about the race in case anyone is interested. Oh, and Lance Armstrong is currently in 3rd place.

The route

Running from Saturday July 4th to Sunday July 26th 2009, the 96th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,500 kilometres.

These 21 stages have the following profiles:

* 10 flat stages,
* 7 mountain stages,
* 1 medium mountain stage,
* 2 individual time-trial stages,
* 1 team time-trial stage.

Distinctive aspects of the race

* 3 mountain finishes,
* 2 rest days,
* 55 kilometres of individual time-trials,
* 20 Category 1, Category 2 and highest level passes will be climbed.

8 new stop-over towns

Brignoles, Gérone (Espagne), Issoudun, Martigny (Suisse), Saint-Fargeau, Tonnerre, vatan, Verbier (Suisse).