1:7 The good young-boy network

7 01 2010

Jeremiah 1:7
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.”

In the spirit of yesterday’s text, today’s morsel reveals another common mystery in the path of God’s Redemption Plan.

It is not unusual for the Lord to use those we would least expect to advance His plan. In this case, He calls a young Jeremiah* to confront the sins of His people, many of whom were his grandparents’ peers.
*“youth” suggests late teens or early 20’s

In verse 6, Jeremiah humbly argues, “I don’t know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” The intimidation he may have felt is understandable, especially as we later read how he was treated.

This hits close to home with me. I began pastoring a church at 33, and I look younger than I am. When people first discovered that I was a pastor, it was not uncommon for them to say, “Aren’t you a little young to be a pastor?”.

I would always chafe at such words, not just because discrimination stings, but because such comments revealed an ignorance of God’s ways, namely that He oft looks to “lesser” people in the advancement of His plan.


  • Why did He sometimes pass over a firstborn child to continue the Redemption story?
  • Why did he choose a reluctant and tongue-tied Moses to break Pharoah’s grip on Israel?
  • Why did He appoint the runt of Jesse’s litter to kill a giant and to become Israel’s premier king, rather than entrust the task to Saul, whose stature better fit the part?
  • Why did He elect a 26 year-old (Josiah)* to call Judah back to the Law?
  • Why did He call a young pastor, Timothy, to take the baton from Paul in the crucial years of the Church’s infancy?
  • Why did He determine that Jesus’ ministry would occur in his mid-30’s (humanly speaking, of course)? Why not later, when He would have had more “credibility” among the people (see John 8:56-58)?
  • And why Nazareth as the Savior’s hometown? Could anything good come from such a place?
  • And why a birthplace among livestock, and a death in the company of criminals?

We should know why——because our Glorious Creator refuses to be hindered by humanistic barriers. He often prefers little people to big shots, for He will not share His glory with another.

*Josiah’s reign actually began at age 8, but his Law reforms hit full swing at 26.

1:6 Does immorality beget infertility?

6 01 2010

1 Samuel 1:6
And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb.

If humans had invented Scripture’s God, this text would not have made the cut.

How could a just God cause (not just allow) a godly woman’s infertility, while permitting a wicked woman to bear child after child? Did His Law not promise fertility to the obedient (Dt. 7:12-14; 28:11)? If so, why was the opposite true here? Why did the Lord close Hannah’s womb, when her lifestyle reflected righteousness?

These are the kinds of questions anyone with a pulse might ponder.

Before wrestling with them, let’s try and get a handle on the situation:

It’s quite possible that Elkanah “needed” Peninnah for little more than childbearing, which might explain her disdain of Hannah, his beloved, but barren wife. This scenario might seem bizarre in our day, but it may have been normal then (don’t read, “biblical”), even though such situations might have produced soap opera-like plots (yes, even in our Bibles!).

There are a number of things we could glean from this story. I am struck, though, by Hannah’s righteous response to her heavy grief. I assume that her suffering had gone on for many years, especially since she was likely Elkanah’s first wife (again, Peninnah, who had multiple children, may not have come along until Hannah had lost hope of conception). Therefore Hannah’s restraint is laudable in the midst of such insensitive and mean-spirited taunts.

Instead of seeking revenge, Hannah pours out her grief to the Lord (vv. 10ff; cf. Psalm 62:8; 142:1-2),
and the Lord answers Hannah’s cry a few months later. She would later be blessed with five more children (2:21).

It doesn’t always work this way in modern situations, but this is how it worked in God’s redemptive plan, which is the indispensable context of the situation, and indeed the crucial context of Scripture as a whole.

So, as we meditate on this text today, let’s consider two things we can learn about God’s mysterious, yet marvelous work in history:

1) Earthly hardship and prosperity are sometimes granted to those who “deserve” the opposite.
Yes, in the end, the righteous win; and one day all things will be made right, but as it now stands, good things happen to bad people (see Psalm 73). We can rest assured of one thing, though: The injustices we suffer on earth are part of a bigger picture, in which justice will prevail and we will share in God’s glory (Romans 8:28ff).

2) In Scripture,* a woman’s barrenness often precedes a significant marker in God’s eternal plan (the storm before the calm, if you will). This is why we must view the Bible as a redemption story before we use it as “Life’s Little Instruction Book.” One of the benefits of the First Testament is to reveal to us how God has orchestrated all things to point to Christ. And His wondrous plan often includes barrenness, followed by miraculous conception.

In the normal outworking of His plan, barrenness followed by miraculous fertility is the rule, not the exception (Sarah, Rebekah, Manoah’s wife, Ruth, Elizabeth, for example), so that when we see such situations, we should be alerted that another major jewel of God’s eternal plan is about to sparkle.

So this story is not primarily about barrenness, nor of injustice, nor of anger, nor even of prayer. Above all else, this text is another sparkling stone in the path of God’s Redemptive Plan.

Father, we thank you that You refuse to be created in our image. You are all-wise and completely good. Nothing happens apart from Your permission. We are often perplexed by Your Plan, yet we trust that it is moving according to schedule and without any divine error. We thank you today that we can trust you, even though our lives are often surrounded by injustice, pain and discouragement.
We trust that in all these things, Your marvelous plan is unfolding, and we consider it the highest privilege to be partakers in it.

*The Bible is not an infertility manual. It would be a painful error to assume that a righteous infertile woman will eventually conceive, if she’ll just pray and be patient. Such is not the point of this account, nor of similar biblical situations. For a helpful site on biblical and scientific perspectives on infertility, see aspire2.com.

January 5: No Blood, No Glory

5 01 2010

Revelation 1:5-6:
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

“Christians do not measure sin by comparing one person with another, or by how good we might feel about ourselves. Christians measure the seriousness of sin by the suffering needed to atone for it.”
-Erwin Lutzer, Slandering Jesus

A couple of years ago some Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by our home to share some  “good news” of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, their form of good news is offensive to anyone hoping in Christ alone, because it purports that one must also hope in himself. Like other distortions of Truth, their doctrine teaches that the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19) needs the assistance of man’s own efforts (even though Heb. 9:22 says—“without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins”).

This is a heartbreaking doctrine, not just because it conflicts with Man’s need for Divine provision, but also because it distorts God’s chief passion: His glory.

John counters such error by fully crediting the Son with what has been accomplished for us: freeing us from our sins “by his blood.”

We were once held captive by our sins, unable to remedy the problem and even handicapped to realize the need for a such a remedy (more on this Feb. 26). Other passages describe us as “dead” and “hostile” to God. In Romans 5:6, Paul says that we were spiritually “helpless,” incompetent to escape from the pit of our depravity.

In short, a newborn has more hope of changing his own diaper than sinners have of overcoming their sin problem.

So, it’s not simply that we were bad, as much as we were “bad-off.” We needed deliverance, not just from our sinful actions, but from sin’s delusions.

This is something that distorters of the gospel cannot comprehend, nor confess. Being oblivious to sin’s grip on their souls, they think they can help God in resolving it–a mind set that is worse than sad; it is blasphemous.

And such were we before mercy came running, which is why every last drop of glory belongs to the Lord.


Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. (Hebrews 13:20-21)


January 4: Watching Our Steps

4 01 2010

3 John 4:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

The difference between saying there is no such thing as the truth and living as if truth does not matter, is a small one, and the consequences for both are catastrophic. -Ravi Zacharias

As I write this, I am still cringing at something I said recently in the presence of a small group of Christians.

In an otherwise innocent moment, I aimed a “humorous” comment at a brother who was present, but when it left my lips, it was met with gasps, rather than chuckles. I really didn’t intend it as an insult, but it came out that way, and I immediately realized what I had unleashed in a trite attempt to be funny.

About an hour later, I apologized to the brother, but I wish I had done so in front of the group, because I knew better, and they knew that I knew better.
As much as my mind knew the truth, my lips were not walking in it.

Speaking of this, David Kinnaman, in the book, unChristian, has made some sobering observations about American Christians, based on an intensive 2005 Barna surveys:

When asked to identify their activities over the last thirty days, born-again believers were just as likely

to bet or gamble,

to visit a pornographic website,

to take something that did not belong to them,

to consult a medium or psychic, to physically fight or abuse someone,

to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk,

to have used an illegal, nonprescription drug,

to have said something to someone that was not true,

to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did,

and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.


When it comes to truth, no other New Testament author can spar with John, who is responsible for half of the appearances of “truth” and “true” in the NT (68 out of 137). But as we see in today’s text, John reminds us that the adornment of doctrine is as important as the absorption of it (see 2 John 4, as well).

So nothing would delight John more than hearing that those he influenced were living markedly different lives than their ungodly peers–lives of action (not just intellect) in tune with the Truth.

So as we chew on this verse today, let us remember to “watch our steps,” and repent quickly when our actions do not align with our beliefs.

January 3: Take heed, lest ye fall

3 01 2010

Obadiah 1:3:

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”

Years ago, boxing champion Muhammad Ali was on an airplane that had run into some turbulence. As the aircraft began to bounce, the pilot turned on the “fasten seatbelt” sign, but Ali did not budge. A moment later, a flight attendant asked Ali to comply with pilot’s orders, to which the champ replied, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.”

The witty attendant simply replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.”

I’m not sure where this account falls in the timeline of Ali’s career, but there was a time when Ali seemed invincible. In the boxing world, he truly was, “The Greatest.” Yet no matter how inflated we appear to ourselves and/or others, the Scriptures often remind us that our confidence is vain if it rests in anything less than the Almighty.

Obadiah is one of the smallest books in our Bibles, but its testimony from the Lord serves as one of these reminders. Obadiah was a “minor prophet,” (meaning that he was under 21, I suppose :) ), and not much is known about him, except for two things:

1) His name means, “servant of Yahweh,” or perhaps, “worshiper of Yahweh.”

2) His brief prophecy (21 verses) was a warning of future judgment against Edom.
The Edomites (originally descendants of Esau) were a constant thorn in Israel and Judah’s side (Ezek. 35:5; Amos 1:11). They were the “poster child” of every Israelite nemesis.
The Edomites also viewed themselves as invincible, as Obadiah confirms in the revealed attitude of their hearts. “Who will bring [us] down to the ground?” This prideful attitude had a lot to do with their geography:

“Edom’s natural defenses were imposing. Its main centers of civilization were situated in a narrow ridge of mountainous land southeast of the Dead Sea . . . This ridge exceeded a height of 4,000 feet throughout its northern sector, and it rose in places to 5,700 feet in the south. Its height was rendered more inaccessible by the gorges radiating from it toward the Arabah on the west and the desert eastwards. “In addition to these natural fortifications, Edom was strongly defended by a series of Iron Age fortresses, particularly on the eastern frontier where the land descended more gradually to the desert.” Armerding, Carl E. “Obadiah.” Vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, pp. 342-43

In spite of their security, the Lord warned Edom (through Obadiah) that no creature could defy the Creator forever. The Edomites’ hearts had “deceived them,” and a day would come when they would be “brought down” from their lofty perch (v. 4). This prophecy was fulfilled 400 years later, according to Malachi 1:3:

Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.

Obadiah’s warning and Malachi’s fulfillment remind us that humanity’s only hope of invincibility is found by hoping in nothing less than the Invincible One.

Let me ask you a question:

Who is “The Greatest” in your life? Who is your champion?

Is He a Man seated at the Father’s side . . .

. . . if so, just remember that He didn’t need no airplane to get there.

January 2: Reader’s Digestion

2 01 2010

Psalm 1:2
his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.

The first Psalm is short and sweet, yet far from shallow.

In only six verses, the Psalmist contrasts the righteous and the wicked. There are no commands, only descriptions, and here it says that the man blessed by God is one who obsesses over God’s ways. In contrast to the wicked man, who clings to the path of sinners and scoffers, the righteous man “delights” in God’s Law.

Don’t read here that he loves rules, but that he is passionate about God’s ways, which are the heart behind His Law.

The term for “delights” can describe intense desire, as when speaking of one’s passion for the opposite sex. It can also refer to “taking pleasure in” something. No matter how it is used, the term speaks of one’s innermost cravings, so the righteous man here is described as “craving” God’s righteous ways.

In other words, he does not conform to God’s Law because he has to, but because he wants to.

Therefore he can’t help but meditate constantly on this Law. In its literal form, “meditation” means to “mutter” or even to “growl,” so it would involve the habit of repeating Scripture over and over again to oneself, perhaps in quiet vocal tones (necessary since printed text was scarce). It’s kind of like what your mother used to do, when she hummed songs out loud in the grocery store. It embarrassed you then, but then you turn 40, and find yourself repeating the family tradition.

Interestingly enough, when the Lord commissioned His new servant, Joshua, he did not give him military strategy, but a charge to “mutter” the Law to himself continually:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

The same was true for the Lord’s plans for Israel’s future kings, whose success would stand or fall on Scriptural meditation:

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. -Deut. 17:18-20

Perhaps it’s safe to say that everyone “meditates” on something. The question is, “on what?”

A primary purpose of solidfood366 is to provide a daily diet of tasty, biblical nuggets for our souls to “chew upon” all the day long.

  • As you go about your day, what will you be “muttering” to yourself? Will it be the Word of God or something less?
  • If daily meditation on the First Testament was indispensable to the success of Israel, should it not be all the more crucial for those of us who possess “the rest of the story”?

Let’s meet again tomorrow to chew on something else—an obscure verse from a tiny book.

January 1: Everything else is Duck Soup

1 01 2010

John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Just last week we were basking in the Wonder of Christmas, but today closes out the Holiday season, and if you’re like our family, you will spend part of the day packing up decorations and returning to “normal.”

Such is an opportune time to remember that putting away Christmas is no time to cease meditations on Christ, the God-Man.

Matthew and Luke open their gospel accounts from an earthly perspective—through the eyes of Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, shepherds, Magi and beasts.

John, however, offers a view from Heaven.

“In the beginning,” he writes, calling us back to another 1:1, where the only Being was the Creator, and the time was not 2,000 years ago but forever ago.

John then identifies his gospel Subject as “the Word” (logos). The devoted Jew would have perked up here, remembering that “by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made” (Ps. 33:6), and John would tie this in two verses later, saying, “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

But we need not part from verse 1 to see an astounding claim: that this Word was not only with God (the Father); He was God.”

The NEB reads, “What God [the Father] was, the Word was.” The Word was made up of the same “divine stuff” as the Father–yet He became simultaneously fully Human (1:14). Apart from this astounding truth, the rest of John’s Gospel would unravel, as would our Christian faith.

As Calvin Miller said a couple of years ago:

“In the New Testament there’s only one really great miracle and that is the Incarnation. Once you believe that, everything else is duck soup.”

Christianity parts with other belief-systems in several ways, one of which is the Incarnation—our faith rests on the notion that the One true God clothed Himself in human flesh without compromising His divine nature. He became what He had never been, without forsaking Who He already was.

It was an unspeakable choice He made to walk in our shoes, confining himself to a wrecked creation, and suffering indignity too low for any other god or human—both at His birth and at His death.

When we  consider this, do we have any choice but to wonder?

As you put away Christmas decorations, don’t put away Christ.

As you put away the manger, keep your mind fixed on the God who became an infant.

As you take down the tree, cling tightly to the cross.

BEGIN this year with a resolve to keep the God-man in your heart, not your attic.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, light from light,

true God from true God, begotten,
not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.

(From the Nicene Creed)


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