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man considering decision August 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Lamentations 4-5; 2Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40-42

Forfeiting Grace

What is the danger of forfeiting an opportunity? We might lose out on an opportunity to win. We are probably most familiar with forfeiting in baseball or softball games. The win is given to the team that is currently winning because a comeback by the trailing team seems unlikely. Forfeiting opportunities happen in other areas of our lives as well. A man or woman forfeits the opportunity to settle down into a nice marriage because someone else might come by who would be a little more appealing. A good solid job is forfeited because it is not a dream job, even though there are no better prospects on the horizon. The danger of forfeiting is that we might lose out on an opportunity to win, but what do we do when we are not sure of the right course?

At this time in Israel's history (586 B.C.) the nation of Judah has been destroyed by Babylon. Under a two year siege the people suffered famine and starvation before Babylon attacked. Jerusalem’s walls were broken down and burned, its people killed or scattered, and its temple and treasuries looted. They mourned their losses and Jeremiah the prophet writes of these in the book of Lamentations. They forfeited the grace that was once theirs. Now Jeremiah laments,

How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at the head of every street.

How the precious sons of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter's hands!

Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those nurtured in purple now lie on ash heaps.

Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearance like sapphires.

But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick.

The LORD himself has scattered them; he no longer watches over them. The priests are shown no honor, the elders no favor.

O Daughter of Zion, your punishment will end; he will not prolong your exile. (Lamentations 4:1,2,5,7,8,16,22a, NIV)

The remnants of the people of Judah, both rich, poor, and even the religious, suffer great loss of life, property, and their nation. They are still famished and have to scrounge around for food and drink. They are humiliated. Is there a way to go forward or are they done? No, God is not done with them; after God allows Babylon to destroy their nation, He shares with them His future mercy and grace upon their nation. This should be encouraging to most Christians; although we may mess up, suffer terrible loss, and not know the way to go forward, God is still gracious and merciful. Even if you are not a Christian, God can give you forgiveness, peace, spiritual life and His favor (more...)

In King Zedekiah’s place, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon appoints Gedaliah to govern the area of Jerusalem. This is God's grace. Gedaliah is a good, kind governor, who wants the small remnant of Jews in Jerusalem and Judea to have peace and prosperity. Alhough they must be a vassal nation to Babylon and will have to export the great majority of their crops; yet, they will have sufficient provisions to live on the rest of what they harvest. Gedaliah is content to relinquish past animosities and offer peace to the Jewish army and other refugees who have scattered. These Jews see an opportunity for peace in their land and return home.

For a few years the Jews grow an abundant amount of grain and wine. Giving most of it away, however, is not acceptable to everyone. Under the prompting of the neighboring nation of Amon, Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, who is of royal Jewish blood, and ten men stage a coup against Gedaliah (For a complete discussion of this matter, consult The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.1187). They kill Gedaliah at Mizpah (the new center of Israel since Jerusalem is destroyed) and the Jews and Babylonian soldiers that are with him. They forfeit the grace that is theirs. Why? Their plan seems better than God’s plan for them. They take all the Jewish remnant of Mizpah, including King Zedekiah’s daughters with them to Amon, but they need provisions. That same day eighty men arrive from the northern territory of Israel and Samaria, in mourning for the calamity that has fallen upon Judah. They come to worship God at the place where the temple once stood. Ishmael feigns sympathy for them, and then kills seventy of them to take their provisions.

When the rest of the Jewish army and men of Judah discover the coup, they pursue Ishmael and are able to rescue the people of Mizpah from him. They also kill two of his men before the rest escape. However, because of the assassination of Gedaliah, they are afraid to return to Israel. Instead, they go to Egypt because they think they will find peace and safety there (Judah recently had an alliance with Egypt against Babylon before Judah was destroyed). While on their way, at Bethlehem they ask Jeremiah to seek the will of the LORD in this matter (always a good thing to do, by the way). In a very spiritual sounding proclamation, they promise Jeremiah that whatever God says for them to do they will do, good or bad. When Jeremiah gives them the wrong answer from God, (i.e., the answer they do not want), they refuse to believe him. God tells them they must not go to Egypt or they will die. If they stay in the land of Judah, however, the Babylonians will have mercy upon them and the LORD will protect them. Their course is set, however; their minds are already decided. In reality, they are just looking for God’s stamp of approval on their plans. They refuse to believe Jeremiah and continue on their journey to Egypt. Their obstinacy will lead to almost complete obliteration.

What about us? Will we accept God's plans for our life or resist them? What do we do when we are unsure of the right course to take? When do we forfeit and when do we keep playing? If God has been gracious to us, we need to keep following His will, trust Him and not forfeit, although victory may not look promising.

Lessons to Live By

  • We may suffer terrible loss, but God is still merciful and gracious, especially to those who have a personal relationship with Him (more...)
  • Our circumstances may not seem ideal, and we may be unhappy or unsettled. When we do not know the right course to take, we should not forfeit or quit. Trust God and ask Him for wisdom. Be grateful for what the LORD has given you and keep serving Him. Wait and be faithful where you are. Make no sudden moves. Be willing to accept the LORD’s answer for you and do His will, not your own. He wants to bless you for seeking Him first in all that you do.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

Psalm 101:6 “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” (NIV)

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