Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 29- The Silent Streets

October 29, 2011

Scripture Reading:
Lamentations 1:1-2:22; Philemon 1-25;
Psalm 101:1-8; Proverbs 26:20

There are times when silence has the loudest voice. 
~Leroy Brownlow

Lamentations 1:1-2:22

"Jerusalem's streets, once bustling with people, are now silent."  After 9/11, when the twin towers had fallen and the plumes of dust and smoke had cleared, the streets of New York City near the site of the tragedy were eerily silent. Devastation and destruction have a solemn and lonely feel to them.  Today, Jeremiah gives us a poetic song of sorrow to contemplate what has happened to Jerusalem.  In this book we see the heart of God as He mourns over His jewel.  Why does God love Jerusalem?  We don't know.  The Bible indicates that God chooses what He chooses and His ways are higher than our ways.  The name Jerusalem means "place of peace" or "abode of God" and one day, God will create a New Jerusalem (city of peace), where those who are deemed worthy to inherit eternal life will live in peace. But for now Jerusalem is pictured as a widow broken with grief as she sits alone in mourning.  The queen of the nations is now a slave to Babylon.  It is a dramatic picture.

We learn that this has happened because the Lord is punishing Jerusalem for her many sins.  Verse 14 describes it this way, "He wove my sins into ropes to hitch me to a yoke of captivity."  Wow.  This is powerful imagery.  Do you have sins that God has woven together in your life and allowed to hitch you into trials?  Do you realize that your own actions can eventually take you captive?  Certainly anyone who has ever struggled with an addiction can attest to the fact that our sins can end up enslaving us.  This is what has happened to the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  They have no one but themselves to blame for the tragedy that has befallen them. God is loving.  He disciplines those that He loves.  We learn here that part of that discipline can be allowing tragedy to result from sinful lifestyles.

Verse 20 begins a part of the song that admits fault on the part of the people of Jerusalem.  With sorrow, Jeremiah asks for the day when Israel's enemies will be punished.

We learn that if the truth were known, it is the Lord, not really Babylon, who has vanquished Israel.  God must get credit for what has happened.  Remember, the Bible gives us God's perspective on what He highlights in His story about earth.  Jeremiah is giving us God's perspective that He is the one who punished Jerusalem and burned down the Temple. He is the one who made careful plans for her destruction (chap 2 vs. 8).

Jeremiah is not a man who runs from his feelings or emotions.  He embraces his emotions.  Some people might say that he is in touch with his feminine side.  Well, you tell me what poet isn't in touch with his feminine side?  Jeremiah weeps and mourns.  He accepts his emotional devastation over the destruction of the city he loves.  His is the heart of God.  Jeremiah looks back at the destruction of Jerusalem and weeps.  This is a shadow of Jesus Christ, who entered Jerusalem and wept at her future destruction by Rome.  Christ might also have been weeping at a future time at the end of time when Jerusalem will once again be under attack.  At that point, Christ, alone, will save his precious jewel.

God wants the people of Jerusalem to use this time of sorrow to reflect on why this tragedy has occurred.  He is using this trial to cause the people to mourn over their sins.  His hope is to see repentance and a turning to God in this devastation. 

Do you turn to God when you are going through a trial?  Do you realize that sometimes God brings trials into our lives to get us to turn to Him and turn away from our sins?   Learn from this story in the Bible.

Philemon 1-25

This letter is a personal letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a wealthy Christian convert in the city of Colossae in modern day Turkey.  This city no longer exists.  Philemon probably was converted in Ephesus, where Paul taught for two years in the school of Tyrannus. Philemon was a wealthy businessman.

In the times of the Roman Empire slavery was an accepted institution.  There were probably sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire.  Slaves were treated worse than one's enemy.  Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus, who ran away from his master in Colossae to Rome.  As God would have it, Onesimus meets Paul, is converted to the gospel of Christ, and begins to understand the real meaning of slavery and freedom.

Paul opens his letter by describing himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.  This is no mistake.  Paul is bound to his master Jesus.  Although Rome has imprisoned him, Paul understands that God is the one who controls our destinies.  It is God who has imprisoned Paul for a good purpose.

Philemon has a church that meets in his home.  Apparently, his wife is also a Christian and helps to host the church in Colossae. May I point out again that women are mentioned as key players in the early church. Paul addresses the letter to the people who are part of their house church also. The purpose of Paul's letter is to ask Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, Onesimus, and accept him back into his home.  I would imagine that this runaway slave has begun to realize that freedom is not an easy proposition.  In Philemon's home Onesimus would have been clothed, fed, and sheltered.  Freedom can be a slavery of sorts and slavery can be a freedom of sorts.  Many people are slaves to their freedom.  Some people are slaves to money or addictions.  Paul is hoping that Philemon will accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ.

The Holy Spirit transforms lives.  Old rivalries and enemies can be reconciled through the power of God. Paul asks that Philemon treat Onesimus as if Paul himself were coming to visit.  Paul promises to repay anything that Onesimus may have stolen. Isn't this offer just like Christ?  Doesn't Christ repay what we have stolen?  Isn't He the one who covers our debts?

I love that Paul puts a little Jewish guilt in the end of the letter by reminding Philemon that he owes Paul his very soul.  Awesome!

You and I owe Jesus our very souls.  We, too, should reconcile with Christians with whom we have had conflict.  This is an object lesson for you and me.

Psalm 101:1-8

"I will be careful to live a blameless life."  Vs. 2  This is what Paul has been encouraging the Church to do!  Can you hear Paul reading this psalm to Philemon?

Proverbs 26:20

Quarrels disappear when gossip stops.  How true this is.  God, keep us from gossiping.

What did you learn today?


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton