(Confession: This subject is never far from my mind, and this article was months in the writing. I send it forth not because it’s finished or has “truth,” but in order to light a match under someone else’s thinking.)
I slipped out of the house this afternoon with no particular destination in mind.
I drove to the mall, a mile from my house. I’d not been inside Dillard’s Men’s Store in six months, and I’m always on the lookout for their sales. The “Gold Label” dress shirts are the best anywhere, but I buy them only when they’re half price or less. Today, I bought two shirts that had originally sold for $115 for $9.95 each. Even if they don’t work out–always a possibility with me–I’ll pass them along to nice people at Goodwill.
Then, I stopped at McDonald’s which is a few blocks from home. Inside I ordered a small caramel mocha and sat in the back reading a “business” book I’d bought on sale in Office Depot several weeks ago. That book and one other, bought for 3 dollars each, had been waiting in the trunk of my car for the right moment . Today was that moment.
Note: I love to read outside my field. I’ll find an insight that works for a sermon or has an application for pastoral ministry, and feel confident no one else is using it.
Tracey Kidder’s “Truckload of Money” tells about an entrepreneur who made a billion dollars with his computer savvy, then went out and started over. The insights on every page about how he dealt with people are easily worth the price of the book.
“He honors (God) who has mercy on the needy” (Proverbs 14:31). “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what He has given” (Proverbs 19:17). “The poor you always have with you, but Me you do not have always” (Matthew 26:11).
Scripture has a lot to say about God’s people caring for the needy. But it can be twisted and made to say something other than was intended.
A friend sent me a letter from a disgruntled church member who was complaining that after he lost his job the church did not pay his bills and support him. The friend says the church gave him a great deal of help and “I personally gave him money.” But it wasn’t enough for the guy, who is now slamming the Lord’s church and wondering “Where is Jesus after 2,000 years?”
I suggested my friend ask the guy how many needy people he assisted when he had a job.
I think we know the answer.
(First in a series of unforgettable passages in Jeremiah. It’s a huge book–52 chapters–so this series will be ongoing.)
1:4-5 The Foreknowledge of God
“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Paul said, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles….” (Galatians 1:15) He’s saying, “God set me apart when I was still in the womb.”
Other scriptures on this subject are Isaiah 49:1, Luke 1:13-17, and Romans 9:10-23. And of course the pre-eminent passage on “before you were born” is the 139th Psalm.
1:4-19 The call of God upon Jeremiah. You will enjoy comparing this call–and Jeremiah’s response!–to Moses’ in Exodus 3-4, Isaiah’s in Isaiah 6, and Paul’s, given in three different places in Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 24).
–First, God gives His plan for His spokesman
Betrayals. Disappointments. Constant conflict. Second-guessing everything you say. Griping. Negativism.
Like herding cats.
It takes a toll.
Most church members have no clue that the constant murmuring (the KJV’s favorite word for it) among the flock is offensive to the Heavenly Father and burdensome to the shepherd He has sent.
Moses is a great case study for us. For forty years–think of it!–he gave faithful leadership to the people of God who, far from appreciating him, were relentless in their eroding, grinding, burdening undermining, questioning, and outright opposition. Scripture gives a reason for this: Among the flock was a group of strangers, aliens to the faith.
They were the main problem.
Scripture says when they left Egypt’s slavery, “A mixed multitude went up with them” (Exodus 12:38). Some translations call them “rabble.” Since the Hebrews were not the only slaves of Pharaoh, when God threw off the shackles it must have been like a massive jailbreak. All who could flee the country did so. And since this Moses fellow seemed to have a glorious destination in mind, with no other place to go, many of the “mixed multitude” decided to accompany the Hebrews..
This bunch became the source of a thousand problems for Moses.