Jeremiah, chapters 21, 24, and 27; Psalm 118; 1 John, chapter 2
Jeremiah 21:11-14 (NLT):
“Say to the royal family of Judah, ‘Listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord says to the dynasty of David: “Give justice each morning to the people you judge! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Otherwise, my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins. I will personally fight against the people in Jerusalem, that mighty fortress – the people who boast, ‘No one can touch us here. No one can break in here.’ And I myself will punish you for your sinfulness, says the Lord. I will light a fire in your forests that will burn up everything around you.”’”
1 John 2:3-6 (NLT):
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
Knowing God: The Dynasty of David
Jeremiah’s ministry was not a pleasant one by any standard. God called him to speak against the leaders of Judah, both political and religious. When those leaders told the people to stay firm and oppose the Babylonians, Jeremiah told them to surrender. The leaders claimed that God would protect them; Jeremiah prophesied that God would hand them over. The leaders and people of Judah had ignored God’s commands and warnings for many years, and now the time of reckoning had come.
It’s interesting that God speaks to the dynasty of David. David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). He wasn’t perfect, but he led the people to honor and worship God. As a result, God promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne forever. The leaders of Jeremiah’s day undoubtedly knew this, and they trusted that God would fulfill that promise by protecting them.
Knowing God: Disobedience Has Consequences
But disobedience has consequences! I myself will punish you for your sinfulness, says the Lord. And God appointed Jeremiah to remind the people that God’s judgment was coming. When all of the leaders were claiming to trust in God, Jeremiah told them that they could trust that God’s punishment was upon them.
We can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. Writing several hundred years after Jeremiah had warned the people of Israel, John warned his congregation to be on guard. Several times in his short letter, John challenges his readers to walk in the light – to live as Jesus did, completely surrendered and obedient to God. If we claim to know God but don’t obey him, we lie. Four times in the four verses I’ve quoted above John calls them to obedience:
- We can be sure we know him if we obey his commandments (3)
- If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth (4)
- Those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him (5)
- Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did (6)
Knowing God: Walk in the Light
Jesus told a parable about two sons. Their father asked them to go work in his field. The first said he would, but didn’t; the second said he wouldn’t, but then did. Jesus asked, “Which one did what his father wanted?” The answer is evident: the one who actually obeyed (see Matthew 21:28-31).
“Church people” are often surprised at how many people claim to follow Jesus yet don’t follow what he taught. We shouldn’t be surprised. That’s nothing new; people have always claimed to follow or obey God yet do things their own way. It was true in Jeremiah’s day, true in John’s time, and still true today. It seems as though they assume that if they “say the magic words” they can do whatever they want without consequence.
“Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7). God will forgive our sins – if we confess them (1 John 1:9). But we have to confess them – to acknowledge that we have sinned. That acknowledgment includes admitting that our actions were wrong, and committing to “go and sin no more” (see, for example, John 8:11). As John will write later in his letter, “Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is” (1 John 3:6).
Father, we acknowledge our utter inability to walk in your way in our own strength. Thank you for giving us your Spirit, who cleanses us and empowers us to walk in your way each day! Help us today to do your will, so others may see you reflected in us. Amen.