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Atlanta, 19 October 2016

Vicki and I are back from my mother's memorial service in Jacksonville. 12 of our family members were able to attend. All who shared did a tremendous job, and we are grateful to the Jacksonville Church of Christ for being my mother's church home 1978-2013, before she moved up to Atlanta to be nearer us.

On Sunday I preached at North River. My text was James 4:1-10, and I gave the message the title "Torn Between Two Lovers" (God and the world). This autumn Tom Brown, Jeff Hickman, and I are offering a sermon series, "Jonah, James, Jesus." 

On Friday I'm scheduled to finish the manuscript for my next book, Night of Redemption. It's a practical study of Exodus. I've been plodding along with the writing for two years. (Not because I'm unmotivated or too busy, but because I keep finding more good stuff in Exodus, and my publisher [IPI] and I are aiming to produce a slim, readable volume.)

Soon Vicki and I are packing for Israel. We fly to Tel Aviv on Saturday, a day ahead of the main group. We will be joined by 141 other participants, from 21 nations in all. Steve Kinnard (NYC) and I will offer the tour again next summer -- details at my website.

Corrupt leadership spells disaster

Trouble Up North
This is the first lesson in the series Jeremiah, Jesus & Us. In order to understand a biblical passage, it's always good to get a handle on the context. The Northern Kingdom of Samaria has already fallen to the Assyrians (722 BC). They are suffering punishment of exile (Lev 26:33), for they did not listen to the prophets the Lord sent to wake them up from their spiritual torpor (especially Elijah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah). The 10 Tribes will be permanently lost, intermarrying with the Assyrians and other peoples. Once the tribes were lost, there was (and is) no way to undo this. (So much for legends of the Ten Lost Tribes.)

The Northern Kingdom fell because they listened to the false prophets (those who constituted the majority, and urged political correctness), instead of the true prophets (who were the minority, revered the holy God, and urged God's people to obey him). To illustrate, in Elijah's day, the true prophets were outnumbered by the false prophets 850:102 (1 Kings 18:4, 19). In the prophet Micaiah's day -- not to be confused with the canonical Micah -- the false outnumbered the true 400:1 (1 Kings 22:6)! I've often wondered whether such proportions describe the modern "Christian" scene; I fear they may. Ideas are important, and they have consequences. 

Trouble Down South
Now the prophet Jeremiah is preaching to the Southern Kingdom of Judah (626-586 BC). He knows from the Torah (Lev 26 and Deut 28), as well as from the example of Northern Israel, that exile awaits Judah if she fails to repent. 

Yet repentance will be difficult, as those who should be leading the people to obey the word of God are taking them in a dangerous direction, far away from Yahweh:

“A horrible and shocking thing
    has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy lies,
    the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
    But what will you do in the end? (Jer 5:30-31)

The religious establishment was dismally failing the people. This was no minor glitch in an otherwise efficient and virtuous system. The establishment was rotten through and through.

Notice that the Lord accuses leaders and followers -- prophets, priests, and the people -- of complicity in false religion. "The end" will come -- when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and its Temple in 587/586 BC -- after Jeremiah, supported by his disciple Baruch (Jer 32:12; 36:4; 45:2; etc.), has spent decades warning them.

What are the "lies" the prophets were prophesying, and in which the people took false comfort? Can we be more specific? Indeed we can. Come back next week.

Thank you!

Last, let me take a moment to express special thanks to the teaching ministry's financial supporters:
  • To our monthly donors -- we couldn't do this without you. 
  • To our supporters outside the U.S., in Europe, Asia, and Australia -- your generosity is making a difference all over the world.
  • To those who'd like to make an annual end-of-year donation -- despite the busy-ness of the year, several parts of the ministry are still unfunded or underfunded. (Please ask if you would like more detail.)
God bless. Until next week...

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