The Mud Between Your Toes!

A Muddy Adventure
A Muddy Adventure: A Horror Story of a Young Boy “Stuck In The Mud”–

A Horror Story Of A Young Boy “Stuck In The Mud”–

Kids do some pretty stupid stuff and call it an adventure.  The year was 1952, and I was invited by two friends… to go on a frog hunt.  How could I say NO to such an expedition; although I had no idea what I would do with ‘dead frogs’!

One of my friends had taken an old broom handle (about 5-ft long) and nailed a spear-fork on the  end–then find a frog and stick it with this magnificent Ozark frog spear.  The three of us then would ride our bicycles over hill and dale, riding against oncoming traffic on a busy California freeway .

WHY? There was a fishing/frog pond on the other side of the highway railing that was sure to be hiding… a 10-lb. frog–hey, I was a 10-year-old boy who had a vivid imagination!

There wasn’t much water in the pond during the summer, but plenty of cat-tails and tall saw-grass surrounding the stagnant water.  All three of us carefully crawled through the fencing, pulling the bicycles through after we were safe on the other side.

IT WAS TIME TO GO FROG HUNTING!

Edge of the MUD Pit
Edge of the MUD Pit

After spending forever  finding any frogs, we decided that just maybe…if one of us could wade out a little ways in the small pond, then someone on the pond’s edge could float the “frog-gig” out to one of us.  Perhaps then–we would be successful and if nothing else, brag to all those back home on how the biggest frog we ever saw got away.  I VOLUNTEERED and grabbed the end of the broom handle.

As I carefully waded out into the shallow, algae covered pond, and I quickly noticed– I had become embedded into the mud bottomup to my knees.  I couldn’t move and was stuck in mire.

At first, I was confident, that my situation was conquerable, but then…confidence soon left.  “HELP”, I yelled.  “I’m stuck in the mud.”  I heard a friend’s voice close by:  “Throw the frog-fork back to us and we will pull you out.”  What a brilliant idea I thought as I hurled the boy-made spear on to dry land.  But in turning around to heave the projectile, I sunk deeper into the muck.  I yelled out to my friends, “I think it is ‘quick-sand’.”  It’s amazing how a young boys minds can play tricks on him.  And you know, the same occurrence can happen in adult minds.

To make  a long story longer, the guys pulled me out of the mud safely by using the manufactured frog-sticker and after returning home I had a great story to tell the neighborhood (definitely NOT my parents), along with the evidence of dried mud– from my toes to my thighs.

An Adult Horror Story of Being Stuck in The Mud–

The prophets in the Old testament  all had this one thing in common“turn or burn.”  It wasn’t a very popular message with the people in Jeremiah’s day nor is it a popular message in churches today.  After all, we certainly don’t want to be repugnant to any visitors on Sunday mornings , do we?

Don’t ‘shoot the messenger’–

In reading the story of Jeremiah’s ministry I found something troubling that happened to him–troubling for us 1000’s of years later:

JEREMIAH 38:1-6 NIV–

SHEPHATIAH SON of Mattan, Gedalia son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said,  [2] “This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live.  He will escape with his life; he will live.’  [3] “And this is what the Lord says” ‘This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’  [4] Then the officials said to the king,  “This man should be put to death.  He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in the city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them.  This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”  [5] “He is in your hands,”  King Zedekiah answered.  “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”  [6] So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern [dungeon; pit] of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard.  They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.”

We break in on the story that is outlined more completely in the previous chapter.  We see what the people did when they didn’t like the message.  When the message isn’t to our liking, the tendency is to ‘shoot the messenger.’  And Jeremiah got caught in the cross-hairs, so-to-speak.

Looking where JEREMIAH ended up–In the Mud!

An Ancient Cistern
An Ancient Cistern

JEREMIAH was put into an empty cistern-maybe even an empty well.  After the city being besieged for a some length of time, the city’s source of water storage had run dry!  But whatever the case, the bottom had revealed some unpleasantness.  Down there, where Jeremiah found himself, was a horrible slimy pit!

Probably all of us have been in slimy mud at some time in our lives.  Fortunately, Jeremiah didn’t have to stay in that predicament for very long:

Jeremiah 38:7-13 AMP–

[7]  Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian [a Cushite], one of the eunuchs who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon or cistern pit; and while the king was sitting in the Gate of Benjamin,   [8] Ebed-melech went out of the king’s house and spoke to the king, saying,  [9] My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, who they have cast into the dungeon or cistern pit; and he is liable to die of hunger and is [as good as] dead in the place where he is, for there is no more bread left in the city.  [10] Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying,  Take from here thirty men with you and raise Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon or cistern pit before he dies.  [11] So Ebed-melech took with him and went into the house of the king [tp a room] under the treasury, and took along from there old rags and worn-out garments and let them down by ropes into the dungeon or cistern pit to Jeremiah.  [12] And Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah,  Put now these old rags and worn-out garments under your armpits under the ropes.  And Jeremiah did so.  [13] So they drew up Jeremiah with the ropes and took him up out of the dungeon or cistern pit; and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.”

WHAT ARE YOUR ‘MUD HOLES’, YOUR ‘SLIMY PITS’?

We ALL have them.  We all have those places let down into life which are not as pleasant as we would like them to be.

WHAT ARE YOURS?

— Maybe it’s your health–it isn’t what you would like it to be.

–You might have an ongoing or developing health condition to be lifted from you or you’d like to be lifted out of the mud pit, as Jeremiah was.

— Maybe your ‘mud pit’ is some family problem or problems that plague you!

— Your ‘slimy pit’ might be that of too few dollars at the end of the month–this is a common one in these days, for several reasons and not all of your own making.  You’d like to be lifted out.

— Maybe your ‘mud-hole’ is a poor teacher you have at school, you want to be out of that class to a better teacher.  You know you’ll be lifted out at the end of the school year, but that seems like a long way off, yet.

— Your pit might be older age–the ‘golden years’ that have tarnished and you hadn’t anticipated that to happen.

— Perhaps unemployment or underemployment is your ‘cistern’, your ‘dungeon’.

I know that you’ve at least one ‘pit’ that you are in–we all do!  We ALL have the mud between the toes; we’ve had themwe will have them–they are part of our lives.

How do you feel about your ‘pit’, and how well are you handling your ‘pit’ of trouble?

I’m sure you wish for someone to come along like they did for Jeremiah–somebody like Ebed-melech and remove you–lift you completely out of the MUD!  I was sure glad when one of my 10-year-old friends helped me get out of the ‘slimy’ mud-pit.

Some dungeons are pretty awful–I know that all to well: “too few dollars, unemployment, sticky family situations and much more.  You wrestle with doubts sometimes in the dark of night, in the privacy of your own thoughts.  Sometimes you doubt God and wonder about Him, why you’re in this muck and mire.

Psalm 34:18 says,  “The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent.”

He Looked Up!

All Jeremiah could see from where he was at was a circle of blue!  

He looked down from where he was, and watched the mud ‘squishing’ between his toes, wondering how he had ended up at the bottom of a slimy pit!

We’ve Got to Start Looking Up–Right From Where We Are!  It’s A CHOICE–

Some things we can learn from the bottom of a pit– the best view from where you are is UP.  Or, the other choice is to glare at the mud at the bottom.  But that’s depressing.

You can also focus on the stark, barren walls that surround you in life.  But, the footholds aren’t there and that’s discouraging.

And the choice of looking up can help you to see God in all His glory, with His outstretched hand.  You know too often, God is an afterthought in the good life.  When everything is going well–great job, healthy kids, loving spouse–you figure you deserve it.  After all, you’re a nice person, you’ve worked hard all your life.  And God doesn’t really enter the picture outside of the ‘mud-pit’.

Sometimes things take a turn for the worse!

This is in order for us…many times,to discover the truth.  David acknowledged in Psalm 121:1-2:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence shall my help come?” 

“My help comes from the Lord,  Who made heaven and earth.”

And so, if being in the pit teaches us to rely on God continuously, then it’s a cheap lesson.

IN THE MEANTIME…WE SOMETIMES ENJOY THE MUD BETWEEN OUR TOES and ALL OVER!

The WORD DETECTIVE in 1943
The WORD DETECTIVE in 1943

It’s easy when you are in a pit, looking around at the dark walls, and down at the murky bottom and think:

—  This is it, things will never get any better.  I might as well just give up and die!

—  The health care system is the “pits”; my child won’t get the care he deserves!

—  The economy is the “pits”; I’ll never get another job!

“Poor me, Whoa is me!”

That is the sound of mud oozing between your toes–you keep on, keeping on, wallowing in [verbally confessing] it.  In fact, you can even get use to the darkness, the mire, the slime–  telling everyone who asks you, “How’s your life treating you?”  You respond…”I’ll be fine, thanks for asking.”  And under your breath, “I wish people would just leave me alone.”

“Look Up” and see the blue sky!

You can look beyond the bottom of the pit, beyond the prison walls–see where you could be and should be.  Visualizing what it will be like out of the pit, walking around enjoying the sunshine, getting on with life.  You can’t dwell on the negative forever–well actually…you can!

“Look Up!” at the “WHATEVER s”–

Paul says something that has given me courage down in the mud:

“Whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]”  (Philippians 4:8 AMP).

Remember, it could be worse!

As Jeremiah found out by looking up, you learn who your friends are or who they aren’t.  Who in your life is your Ebed-melich?  When your down…when things are the ‘pits’…find out who your friends really are.

The philosopher William Nelson once wrote:

You’ll Always Have Someone

And if you ever find,  That fate is unkind,

An’ the devil starts takin’ his dues.

When your fair weather friends,

Leave when fair weather ends,

There’ll be someone waiting for you.

And if there are no friends waiting for you at the top of the pit, keep in mind Jesus’ words:

“I do not call you servants any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing.  But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father”  (John 15:15).

The PROMISE given in Romans 8:38-39:

“For I am persuaded beyond doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers,    Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of god which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I don’t know your pit, but I know our God:  “…be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  [I will] not,  [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)!”  (Hebrews 13:5 AMP).

Getting the Picture Yet?

God didn’t forget Joseph when his brothers had left him a pit…

God didn’t forget Daniel in the pit of a lion’s den…

And He won’t forget you, no matter how deep and dark your pit seems.  So, it’s time to LOOK UP!

SPIRITUAL ‘Figs-in-the-basket’

The Tasting of Figs–

Although my experience of ‘fig-tasting’ didn’t come to my food palate until after I was married (I thought FIGS came from a type of cookie), I have enjoyed the taste of fresh figs ever since.

A Woman I know well, her  “FIG” Story:

“I grew up in Southern California, in a small suburb of San Diego.  And when I think back to fall mornings before school, I think of sweet ripe figs at the breakfast table. 

Our next door neighbors had a huge fig tree that hung over our side fence and they told us to pick and eat as much figs as we wanted.  And that fruit was so good! 

That big old tree produced so much fruit that the excess just dropped to the ground to rot–and in the Spring, there would be tiny little seedlings poking through the ground all over the place.”

THANKS for sharing honey your past memories of the one particular ‘side-yard’ FIG TREE.  It fits in nicely with my study in Jeremiah!

TWO BASKETS OF FIGS and TWO GROUPS OF PEOPLE:

Jeremiah 24:1-10–

The TWO GROUPS OF PEOPLE represent that important division that existed in Jeremiah’s day.  And it continues to have great importance even today.

Background:  Being “tuned-in” to God…

“AFTER NEBUCHADNEZZAR king of Babylon had taken into exile Jeconiah [also called Coniah and Jehoiachin] son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the princes of Judah, with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon, the lord showed me [in a vision] two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord”  (Jeremiah 24:1 AMP)

Some translations of the Bible starts out Jeremiah saying, God caused me to see” or “The Lord showed me”.  JEREMIAH was spiritually tuned into God, so God could use him in a special way.

The Vision–

And God showed Jeremiah this vision of the two baskets of figs.  God then used Jeremiah to write a letter of encouragement to the people of Judah as they went into captivity.

My hope for Christians today is to be spiritually tuned in, in such a way…that it causes US to see…that He will give us a vision…that He will be able to use each one of us to be an encouragement (Acts 18:27).

THERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT CAN DIVIDE US INTO GROUPS…

Divided by sexes…there are men and women.

Divided by race...blacks, whites, Hispanics, and so on…

Divided by religious beliefs…Catholic, protestant, Muslims, Jew…

And in our country today…it is particularly obvious…

Divided sharply by politics…

It is sad to see some of the conflicts between the different groups.

By continuing my study in Jeremiah…

I am seeing the people of Judah divided into two groups…and we will find that this same division continues today.  Of all the things that divides us, this division is most important:

More important than…man and woman; black or white; Democrat or Republican; Jew and Gentile or any other division you can come up with.

JEREMIAH 24, God uses a vision of Figs-in-the-Basket.

GOOD FIGS
GOOD FIGS
ROTTEN FIGS
ROTTEN FIGS

THE “WARNING” WAS APPARENT!

Jeremiah had been warning the people for about 20 years of God’s coming judgement.  But by and large, the people ignored him…refusing to return to God.

How often do we see the same reactions of people we know today, maybe even in our family  not reacting to God’s Word– His warnings ignored and backs turned.

The outcome of disobedience…

We see that judgement has finally arrived…Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon invaded and attacked…Jeremiah had warned the people over and over and over again…REPENT or…!

THE BOILING POT–

6870341-boiling-water-in-old-sooty-kettle-on-the-hiking-campfireThe picture to the left is a ready boiling pot over a campfire– but THE BOILING POT I’m talking about was hanging perilously over Judah and has now finally boiled over on the people–judgement has come.

Jeremiah had warned them that God didn’t want them to try to escape the wrath nor did He want them to be left behind.  God wanted them to submit to the Babylon king and go into exile.  He had His reasons for them not hiding.

We hate that word in our lives–“to submit” , to be “submissive” to anything– or to anybody.  Even in the words given to us in Ephesians  raises the hair on the backs of our necks:

“Submit to one another out of the reverence of Christ”  and “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord”  (Ephesians 5:21, 22 NIV)  That word has been left out of the wedding vows almost completely today.  But it still doesn’t change the fact.

But some of the people of Judah ran to Egypt to escape or…they were able to avoid capture in their own country.

From a human perspective…

The people were able to avoid the trauma of exile…

They were the ‘lucky’ ones…

They avoided capture…

They avoided the Exile that would eventually last 70 years…

They were able to return from Egypt back to Jerusalem…

They were probably pretty proud of themselves…

And meanwhile, they were probably saddened about their brothers and sisters who were captured.

But things aren’t always as they seem in our lives…

Lets look again at the VISION God gave Jeremiah–

The Lord showed Jeremiah 2 baskets of figs…to place in front of the temple of the Lord (verse 1).

Deuteronomy 26 talks about the Law of First FruitsVerse 2 says,

“You shall take some of the first of all produce of the soil which you harvest from the land of the Lord your God gives you and put it in a basket, and go to the place [sanctuary] which the Lord your God has chosen as the abiding place for His Name [and His Presence].”

The firstfruits were suppose to be a tithe; a tenth of the produce [fig trees generally produce 3 crops, or harvests of fruit] that the priests would then distribute to those in need.  They were supposed to be the BEST...the choice fruit.

In verse 2 of the text in Jeremiah 24…

We can see that one basket of figs was very good…they were plum and juicy, just like Dianne’s memories of the ‘sweet figs’ on the morning breakfast table.  Since fig trees can often have 3 crops, the first harvest is the most desired…treated as a delicacy.

But in this VISION, God shows Jeremiah another basket of figs.  This basket of figs ‘nasty’…they were so rotten…nobody would eat them!  You certainly wouldn’t want them on your breakfast table.

After God shows Jeremiah the vision, He interprets it for him.  God tells Jeremiah the GOOD FIGS represent the people taken out of Judah in exile.  And the BAD FIGS represented those who either escaped the eventuality or remained hidden in Judah.

I don’t know about you, but my first impression of Jeremiah’s vision should have been in reverse.  The BAD FIGS should have been the one’s who were taken captive by the Babylonian Army and the people who had escaped the devastation were the GOOD FIGS–God was protecting them–or was He?

About the “good figs”…

God has a wonderful promise for them:

Verse 6–  “For I will set My eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you ask the question, “Why me Lord?  Not again, enough is enough!”  We forget about the PROMISES found in God’s Word.

The land we find ourselves in–sickness, poor health, old age, unemployment, poverty, fear…sometimes makes us say to ourselves, “What’s the deal, am I a ‘bad fig’ or what?”  But as you meditate on the beautiful words of God’s promise, it should comfort us in knowing, “I don’t know the ‘why’s’ but I do know God’s promises!”

What other might see in our circumstances…

Now the world might look at the people who were led away captive in a strange and foreign land as defeated losers.  But that’s not what God saw–He had other plans for them…

But for the “rotten figs”…

The ‘nasty figs’ represented those people who avoided exile…contrary to God’s will for them.

God’s harsh indictment…

Because of their disobedience to God’s will, they would be treated…tossed out and trampled underfoot.  All other people in the surrounding nations would look at them and say…

“Oh, YUK.  They’re so disgusting!”

And in Rebellion, as they returned home or leaving their hiding place…

They might have been singing the words to this 1968 popular tune:

Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption

I planned each chartered course,

each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this,

I did it my way

Did you notice the “I” in the lyrics?  God had spoken to the people through the prophet about His plans (Jeremiah 21:9):

“He who remains in the city [Jerusalem] shall die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence.  But he who goes out and passes over to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be to him his only booty [as a prize of war].” 

And yet…the “I” had surfaced–I did what I had to do” Lord.  Don’t need your help!

The Key Difference Between the GOOD FIGS and the BAD FIGS:  THE EXILES and the LEFT BEHIND

The difference between the 2 Groups are found in verse 7, where God says:

“And I will give them a heart to now (recognize, understand, and be acquainted with) Me, that I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

Although the exiles were moved from their homes…to a land where they found themselves captive…  Although they were moved away from the temple…away from their families, God would take care of them…God would bless them…God would renew the covenant with them.

Because, although many turned away from God and embraced the sin of the world, through their exile they would return to God; not just in pretense.  Scripture tells us that they will return to God WITH ALL THEIR HEART!

My Detective  Work in Jeremiah 24  Revealed A Picture of Yours and My World–

The Figs-in-the-basket!.

As I was studying God’s Word, I began to picture our world today; our families, our children and grandchildren; the people who are close to us.  Some are very, very good and some are very, very bad.

The Differences…

The GOOD return to God with ALL their heart and the BAD continue on in their refusal to obey God.

When I was little, I can remember running from punishment and hiding under my parents bed.  I can almost hear my mother’s voice as I curled up into a fetal position,

“Mel, if you don’t come out here now and get your punishment…it is only going to be worse for you!

I knew the rules and the consequences of ignoring them; of disobeying.  Was I a “good fig” or was I a “bad fig”?  I like to say I was just an ‘UN-ripe fig’, not yet ready for the picking.

Overcoming the Rottenness–

Those of us who are ‘overcomers’, born-again believers, who are EXILES in this world…we don’t belong here…this is NOT our land.  Yet, God would have us to live in this land…

To strive…

To live…

To be a positive influence to those around us…

To follow the covenant…

To follow God and obey Him…

To allow Him to be our Lord and Savior…

To be a GOOD FIG!

Another Great Separation Will Take Place…

JESUS tells us about it:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats;  And He will cause the sheep to stand at His right hand, but the goats at His left.  Then the King will say to those at His right hand,  Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”  (Matthew 25:31-34).

When it comes to the coming JUDGEMENT…determining where you and people you know will be spending eternity, there are only                 2 Baskets to choose from:  The GOOD FIGS…and the ROTTEN FIGS…the SHEEP and the GOATS…the SAVED and the LOST.  There isn’t a middle ground…NO 3rd Basket for those who didn’t get saved.  And yet, they were good people or good citizens.

In The Meantime…

You can choose which basket you are in!  JESUS can take the rottenness and make it clean!

THE TIME IS NOW!
THE TIME IS NOW!

For those of you who are SAVED…(ALL you GOOD FIGS), now isn’t the time to set back and wait out the exile.

No Time to Sit Back
No Time to Sit Back

Now is the time to flourish, right where you are planted.  Yes, the world isn’t our home…we are exiles here.  But while the time remains…we must be about our Father’s business!

Sundaykeepers: An Infringement or A Liberation?

1924 Olympic Photo
1924 Olympic Photo

“Instead of involving ourselves in what pleases us, the Sabbath is to be a day devoted to what pleases God!” (Franklin).

Eric Lidell  (in the film that portrayed his life, “Chariots of Fire”), was a participant in the 1924 Olympics.   As one of the world’s premier runners who was unwilling to run one day he considered the Sabbath.  If he would have entered the 100 meter event on that day–the Olympics, rather than God, would have become the “god” that determined his righteousness.

Referenced Scripture: God’s Instructions for us on the Sabbath Day–

[21]  “Thus says the Lord:  Take heed to yourselves and for the sake of your lives bear no burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem.  [22]  And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy (set apart to the worship of God), as I commanded your fathers”  (Jeremiah 17:21-22 AMP).

SABBATH BACKGROUND:  “HOW LONG HAS THERE BEEN A SABBATH?”

“THUS THE heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  [2] And on the seventh day God ended His work, which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [Heb. 4:9, 10.]  [3]  And God blessed (spoke good of) the seventh day, set it apart as His own, and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had created and done”  (Genesis 2:1-3 AMP).

*When did God make observance of the Sabbath official?

1.  CAIN and ABEL – Genesis 4:1-8.

2.  The first time the word SABBATH is used in Scripture is in The Second Book of Moses Commonly Called EXODUS:

“See, the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day the bread for two days; let every man leave his place on the seventh day.  [30] So the people rested on the seventh day.  [31] The house of Israel called the bread manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey”  (Exodus 16:29-31).

3.  The Ten Commandments (4th Command).

*How long has there been a problem with the observance of the SABBATH?

Obviously, CAIN had a problem with the SABBATH observance.

Obviously, the Israelites had a problem with the SABBATH observance:

— The Exodus manna.

— The Ten Commandments.

— The Folks in Jeremiah’s day.

— Today!

*Why is it so important?

— God created it and called for its observance!

— God “blesses” those who observe it and withholds His blessing from those who don’t!

— God wants us to prove Him (the law of the ‘double blessing’)!

COMING FROM A CHURCH BACKGROUND:

I have come to understand over the years that PEOPLE with a Christian background– usually believe their only major obligation is to attend a “church service” ; one that usually takes about an hour in duration.

The most diligent may also attend a Bible Study and or a second service, but few see the SABBATH as an entire day to be observed.  When people from this background learn about the SABBATH day in Scripture, they have little experience in how to keep it.

The SABBATH Question Today:  “What is the purpose of the Sabbath?”

This question was addressed by JESUS to the religious leaders of His day in all four of the Gospels.  I want to direct your attention to His conversation on The SABBATH Question:

ONE SABBATH while Jesus was passing through the fields of standing grain, it occurred that His disciples picked some of the spikes and ate [of the grain], rubbing it out in their hands.  But some of the Pharisees asked them,  Why are you doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath days?  And Jesus replied to them, saying, Have you never so much as read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him?  How he went into the house of God and took and ate the [sacred] loaves of the showbread, which it is not permitted for any except only the priests to eat, and also gave to those [who were] with him?  And He said to them,  The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.  And it occurred on another Sabbath that when He went into the synagogue and taught, a man was present whose right hand was withered.  And the scribes and the Pharisees kept watching Jesus to see whether He would [actually] heal on the Sabbath, in order that they might get [some ground for] accusation against Him.  BUT He was aware all along of their thoughts, and He said to the man with the withered hand,  Come and stand here in the midst.  And he arose and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them, I ask you, is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good [so that someone derives advantage from it] or to do evil, to save a life [and make a soul safe] or to destroy it?  The He glanced around at them all and said to the man, Stretch out your hand!  And he did so, and his hand was fully restored like the other one.  BUT they were filled with lack of understanding and senseless rage and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus”  (Luke 6:1-11 AMP).

Are Your Beliefs A Burden or A Blessing?

Too Much Luggage
Too Much Luggage

  Was this picture of ‘Too Much Luggage” to be burdened with, what Jeremiah was speaking about, “bear no burden on the Sabbath”?

The following are some LAWS that either still are or once were in effect in various places in the United States:

— In Iowa, it was a LAW that one armed piano players must perform for free.

— In Wyoming, you cannot take a picture of a rabbit during the month of June.

— If you keep your donkey in a bathtub in Georgia, you may be arrested.

— In Harper Woods, Michigan, it is illegal to paint a sparrow and then sell it as a parakeet.

— In Connecticut, a pickle must bounce to be considered a pickle.

— In Hood River, Oregon, you need a license to juggle.

And in the State of Vermont, it is illegal to whistle underwater!

I can imagine that the stories behind these LAWS are just as humorous as the LAWS themselves.  Did someone drown underwater during a whistling contest in Vermont?

Two Incidents Concerning the SABBATH LAW Are Brought Forward in Luke 6:

The mounting opposition from the religious leaders was reaching a climax.

1.  The first occurred on “the second-first Sabbath (literal translation).  EXPLAINED: “the first Sabbath was the first one after the Passover.

2.  The second was next after that: 

Wiersbe:  “By their strict and oppressive rules the Pharisees and scribes had turned the Sabbath Day into a BURDEN instead of a BLESSING God meant it to be, and JESUS challenged both their doctrine and their authority.”

What does it mean to ‘not work’ on the Sabbath?

The SABBATH was made for humanity not humanity for the SABBATH!  The Sabbath is to be a BLESSING for us.  It’s a GIFT, not a set of rules and regulations to burden us, but a gift to be received.

Burdens or Loads we sometimes carry as “Sundaykeepers”–

According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary (page 145), burden, a heavy load, but also psychological and spiritual anxiety (Deut. 1:12; Gal. 6:2, 5).  Now the Hebrew word for burden in Jeremiah 17:21-24 is referring to ‘carrying goods’, but I believe it can also refer to the psychological and spiritual ‘burdens’.  The ones which can weigh heavy on our spirit (heart), to the point of feeling a load upon on our shoulders. 

How then, can we lighten the load?

JESUS tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you rest. [I will ease and relief and refresh your souls.]”  (Matthew 11:28 AMP).

A “Sundaykeepers” Burden–

Oh how I remember when our kids were living at home and the JOY of going to church on Sundays.  Sounds great doesn’t it? But many times, the experience would become a curse instead of a blessing.  A load that parents must bear!  Really?

Waking them up on Sunday mornings, fighting with them to get ready– so we could leave and arrive on time.  And when they were little, and riding in the car, they would say such awesome and inspiring words to mom and dad: “He hit me; her leg is on my side of the backseat; I want to go back home.”  And when we all arrived at our destination (the “church”)…we’d climb out of the car and say, “Try to smile everyone, okay?  It’s Sunday!”  Then Dianne and I praying as we walked down the steps to the Worship Center’s entrance, that God would accept our thanksgiving and praises for the Sunday services.  Was I carrying too much luggage? Was I carrying a load, a burden before Worship ever began?  Could I even worship at all?  The answer was obvious:  “NO!”

If I would have only meditated on the words of the prophet Jeremiah during those particular Sunday mornings:  “And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day”  (Jeremiah 17:22).

OUR BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF THE SABBATH SHOULD BE BASED ON GOD’S RULES!

God’s Word [His “rules”] are for our benefit and not our misery. 

God doesn’t say, I’ve got you now, you dirty rotten sinner!  You’ve broken My rules again (ha, ha, ha).  Our beliefs should have its basis on God’s Rules (His Word) and under the Lordship of Jesus.

“He is Lord of the Sabbath”–

O.T. :  Many Laws and few principles.

N.T. :  Two laws, many principles.

Christians are not required to keep the SABBATH LAW but should observe the SABBATH PRINCIPLE:

“[9]  So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath rest reserved for the [true] people of God:  [10] For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own [Gen. 2:2]”  (Hebrews 4:9-10).

QUESTION:  “What is Our Duty then on the Sabbath?”

Some may say…it’s to REST!  But ‘resting’ is not our duty.  RESTING is only one of the things we should do on the SABBATH.  I like how Moses puts ‘keeping the Sabbath’ for the Israelites and the sign given by Jehovah God:

“It is a sign between Me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and was refreshed”  (Exodus 31:17).

Some may say…to do good to others!  But this is not our duty!  HELPING OTHERS is only one of the things we should do on the SABBATH.

ANSWER:  Jeremiah 17:22, 27   tells us, first and foremost, “Keep the sabbath day holy”.

The word “HOLY” means to “sanctify to separate from the world; to consecrate or dedicate to God.”  I like the way Dan Allender speaks about the word “holy” in his book SABBATH:

“Holy beauty must be crafted from material that’s loved.”

HOLY means set aside, not lost in the sea of everything else.

Throughout Scripture, God stresses the importance of making this day a holy day:

“But if you diligently listen to and obey Me, says the Lord, and bring in no burden [‘physical’ or ‘mental’] through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath say holy (set apart to the worship of God), to do no work”  (Jeremiah 17:24).

THE BLESSINGS RECEIVED DURING JEREMIAH’S DAY AND THE BLESSINGS RECEIVED TODAY!

I wanted to focus on the BLESSINGS for being “Sundaykeepers” and not all the religious implications of observing the SABBATH:

National Perpetuity–

JERUSALEM was the center of the theocracy during Jeremiah’s day and it should remain forever.  The essential and fundamental position occupied on the Sabbath amongst Mosaic institutions of his day.   It was in this way that the idea and authority of Jehovah God be perpetuated in the heart of Israel.

National Prosperity–

It is a godly banner raised by Israel, presented with a promise, to the surrounding regions and nations.  There is no lack of gifts nor of willingness to give.  Only a time of PEACE and abounding HARVESTS.

National Unity–

JERUSALEM is the ‘bull’s eye’; focal point, the meeting place of many ‘spiritual trains’:  “…from the cities of Judah…from the land of Benjamin…from the Lowland, from the hill country, from the South”  (Jeremiah 17:26). In this way, the brotherhood and the solidarity of the people were sealed.

National Faith–

This is the national outcome, even the beginning of religious observances.  It is the tendency of true religion (true Christianity today), it increase upon itself and cannot remain stationary.  Therefore this outburst of enthusiasm of Divine services are evident in peoples lives.

HOW ARE TODAY’S “SUNDAY-KEEPERS” VIEWED BY OTHERS?

Now that should be easy to answer at the end of this blog:  Insert the word “Christian” in place of the word “National” :

Christian Perpetuity–

Christian Prosperity–

Christian Unity–

Christian Faith–

When you enter your particular place of worship this week, to honor and praise His holy Name during the Sabbath, remember to separate yourself from life’s ‘doings’, ‘stresses’, heaviness and be liberated and refreshed on the Sabbath Day:

BLESS the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me,

bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits–

(Psalm 103:1-2)

Set Free on the SABBATH
Set Free on the SABBATH

There’s Still A Balm in Gilead!!!

Jeremiah 8:19-23

Behold [says the prophet, listen to the voice of] the cry

of the daughter of my people [for help] because of those who dwell

in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion?  Is not her King in her?

[But the Lord answers] Why have they provoked Me to anger

with their carved images and with foreign idols?

The harvest is past, the summer has ended and the gathering of fruit

is over, yet we are not saved!

For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I [Jeremiah] hurt;

I go around mourning; dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?

Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people restored?

[Because Zion no longer enjoyed the presence of the Great Physician!].

When I Was A Child…

When growing up,  it seemed I would get ‘the common cold‘ at least once a year.  Mom would always have her stand-by remedy in the medicine cabinet: “VICKS VapoRub”.

She would coat my chest with the salve, put some at the end of my nose and…though the label says to use for ‘external use’ only— mom would stick her index finger in the dark blue jar, then pulling out a large glob and say, “Mel, put this in your mouth and swallow.”  Give me a break, it was my mom’s instructions!  Did the remedy help cure the cold?  Well, I’ll put it this way: I still have a large plastic jar of VICKS nearby in case of colds [I don’t swallow the medicine anymore!].

What does all this have to do with Scripture?  The investigation begins!

There’s a song (a spiritual) of old, based upon the Scripture found in Jeremiah 8:22:

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounds whole;

There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”

So as we look together at the referenced Scriptures, we will look more at why this is mentioned in the Bible and its significance then and now.

Where is the Region of Gilead?

Gilead is important and mentioned along with this balm of the region of this particular plant or tree.  Many people came to the area to obtain this well-know substance and if the ‘moms’ of that day had medicine cabinets–they most likely would have a large jar of the ‘balm of Gilead’  on the lower shelf and easy to get at!

The Natural Aspect of this BalmWhy it is mentioned in the Bible?:

This particular balm was famous as a gum or spice used to heal wounds and also as a cosmetic.  The substance of this particular balm was similar to honey; had a pleasant aromatic smell to it.  It was sometimes mixed with olive oil and was swallowed [like “Vicks”] or put on wounds and sores.

In my detective investigation, I uncovered a current recipe for the balm found @ LearningHerbs.com/ Balm of Gilead/Cottonwood Oil.  I wonder if it would be cheaper to make than buying a jar of VICKS?

A Few Scriptures Where We See the Balm Mentioned (particularly the value, sought-after substance):

1.  Genesis 37:25:  “Then they sat down to eat their lunch.  When they looked up, behold, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites [mixed Arabians] coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum [of the styrax tree], balm (balsam), and myrrh or ladanum, going on their way to carry them down to Egypt.”

— A caravan of Ishmaelites, coming from the region of Gilead, took Joseph after his brothers sold him to them on their way to Egypt.

2.  Genesis 43:11:  “And their father Israel said to them, If it must be so, now do this; take of the choicest products in the land in your sacks and carry down a present to the man, a little balm (balsam) and a little honey,aromatic spices and gum (of rock rose) or ladanum, pistachio nuts, and almonds.”

— Father Israel had Joseph’s brothers take back gifts to Joseph when they went to Egypt to purchase more food.

The items they took were considered highly valuable, specialty items not found common in Egypt.  Because of the famine, even more rare.  And as you can see among theses items, balm is mentioned.

Let’s go back to Jeremiah 8:22 (our theme Scripture for this ‘blog-study’)–

I thought it somewhat interesting in the Amplified Bible, the adding to this verse in brackets: [Because Zion no longer enjoyed the presence of the Great Physician!].

To tie this thought in with this verse in Jeremiah, lets look at Exodus 15:26 to answer the question…is there no physician there?:

“If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God and will do what is right in His sight, and will listen to and obey His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord Who heals you.”  Hopefully your answer is…YES!!!

When it came down to their own choosing and they had rejected the One Who can apply the healing balm they would not use as the remedy–they would not apply (or go to) the healing of the Great Physician.  Therefore, they could no longer enjoy His presence (not walking in obedience).

Thinking about that in application of your own life…where you may have hurts/wounds of any kind–

Have you gone to the Great Physician?

Let me rephrase that question:  Do you just take what He offers as “matter of fact”, not really in the depths of your being, knowing He is the only answer?

More Questions to Ask–

We can sometimes know this in our minds, but do we really know it from our hearts and apply it? 

Do you “draw the line” when it comes to some areas of obedience to His Word…because it hurts?

Let’s move on in Scripture:  Jeremiah 46:11–

“Go up into Gilead and take [healing] balm, O Virgin Daughter of Egypt!  In vain do you use many medicines; for you there is no healing or remedy.”

What really “jumped out” at me in reading this particular verse in the Amplified Bible, is that it states that– “in vain you use many medicines and for that one, there is no remedy.”

What about your life?  Have you tried many other “remedies” for healing?  Have you looked to others to find the answers instead of the One Who has the balm for the remedy?

IS THERE A SOURCE FOR “BALM” TODAY?

The Sin-Sick Soul–God’s Word:

–Man has a sin problem

1.  Romans 3:10 and 23- 

[10]  “As it is written,  None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no not one.”  [Ps. 14:3].  [23] “Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.”

2.  Greeks have sinned.  Romans 1–Perverted the natural.

3.  Jews have sinned.  Romans 2–Become Hypocritical.

4.  Therefore, all have sinnedRomans 3.

John says that if we say we have no sin, we–

1.  Deceive Ourselves– 1 John 1:8.

2.  Make God a liar– 1 John 1:10.

3.  The Truth is not in us– 1 John 1:8.

4.  God’s Word is not in us– 1 John 1:10.

QUESTION: “What are the consequences of sin?”

Romans 6:23-“For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Notice this picture portrayed of sin as a cruel master:  “Sin is regarded as a sovereign who demands the military service of its subjects, levies their quota of arms and gives them their soldiers pay of death.”  (Lightfoot).

SIN is an ugly sore that is placed upon our souls [our ‘heart-soul’] and it festers and festers until we wash it away!

God’s Word gives us freedom from sin:  John 8:32; 17:17; Romans 6:17-18; Romans 8:2.

God’s Word supplies us with everything for life and godliness–2 Peter 1:3:

“For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).”

If a doctor prescribes medicine, it is supposed to meet the needs for which it was prescribed.  Is there a physician who has prescribed the medicine of the sin sick soul?

THERE IS A PHYSICIAN WHO HAS PRESCRIBED GOD’S WORD–JESUS THE CHRIST!

JESUS is God’s WORD!  (John 1:1, 14)–

JESUS said to the Pharisees,  “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to arouse and invite and call the righteous, but the erring ones (those not free from sin) to repentance [to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins].”  (Luke 5:31, 32 AMP).

How do we learn of the Christ?

“And this report concerning [JESUS] spread through the whole of Judea and all the country round about”  (John 7:17).

The Hippocratic Oath–

DOCTORS Taking the Oath
DOCTORS Taking the Oath

DOCTORS take this oath at their graduation of medical school, promising to give their patients the best care they can give.  How much more shall the Great Physician give the best care to His patients?

There Are Sin Sick Souls Needing to Apply the ‘BALM’– You and Me!

In Revelation 3:14-22, JESUS talks to the church at Laodicea.  He sees their spiritual poverty and is prescribing ‘spiritual medicine‘ to the church.  They are to apply this eye-salve, ointment, BALM, to their eyes to see the TRUTH and this ointment is GOD’S WORD.

James says, “But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience)”  (JAMES 1:25 AMP).

Notice, a continued comparing of ourselves with God’s Word, along with a doing attitude bringing spiritual blessings.   Readers, this is how we apply the “balm”!  Comparing ourselves with God’s Word and do what is right.

JESUS Himself says,  Not everyone who says to Me,  Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven”  (Matthew 7:21). 

It would be foolish of us to receive the doctor’s prescription, then never get it filled.

THERE IS STILL A BALM IN GILEAD–“Will you and I apply it?”

1.  Are you looking into God’s “perfect law” every day?

2.  Are you applying the “Balm of Gilead” to your life?

3.  God’s Word is still here!

4.  JESUS’ prescription is still the same!

5.  All you need to do is apply it to your life!

6.  Will you be willing to do that?

7.  If you are a Christian…

8.  If you are NOT a Christian…

a)  Hear Romans 10:17.

b)  Believe  Hebrews 11:6.

c)  Repent  Acts 17:30.

d)  Confess  Romans 10:10.

e)  Be Baptized  Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16.

9.  Remember, a doctor’s prescription can only do us good if we get it filled!