“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! …” -Jeremiah 31:3b-4a ESVUK
The above verses have been shared often. However, many times they are shared out of context. We tend to choose which verses we like and apply it to ourselves without thinking about the bigger picture surrounding the chosen verses. Let’s have a look at the background of today’s verses and how they relate to us now.
The people of Israel were being held in captivity in Babylon. Many false prophets rose up and shared with the Israelites they were going to be freed from captivity quickly and they also made threats towards Jeremiah when he told the truth. Jeremiah had prophesied to the Israelites about their sin and their captivity. He also prophesied during the captivity and about the future when they would be able to go home. As we know the Israelites were in Babylon for seventy years. There was no quick fix for them getting out. They were in captivity because of their sin and rebellion against God.
God still loved Israel. The captivity was actually a sign of his love. He disciplined Israel just like we, parents, would for a misbehaving child.
Imagine how the Israelites must have felt. They missed their homeland. Some of them didn’t want to admit their sins. Often, they were angry at Jeremiah and did not heed his warnings from God nor did they listen to many of his prophecies. They were anxious and frustrated, especially when false prophets came along giving them false hope because what they said sounded good, but it was not a word from God.
During this time, they were made to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue (see Daniel 3) and were not allowed to pray to their own God (see Daniel 6). This must have been very confusing to them, but instead of standing out like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, they went along with the Babylonians. They were used to worshipping other gods as they followed the cultures around them (this was one of the reasons they were in captivity). They were afraid of standing up for God in this situation as they were afraid of persecution, the pit of fire and being thrown into the lion’s den.
God wanted the Israelites to know he had not forgotten them. He promised them he would give them a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He promised Israel and Judah they will be restored (Jeremiah 30). Then at the start of chapter 31, God continues this message of hope to the people of Israel and their clans. He said, “I will be your God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:1).
God then declared to those who have struggled that he has loved them with an everlasting love and he continued his faithfulness to them. No matter what they had done, he still loves them. Nothing can ever stop God’s love for his people! He was faithful to them. He always looked after them. He always made sure their needs were met. God did not fail Israel, even if they felt he had.
God also promised he will build them and they will be built. He is declaring that he is wiping the slate clean. He knows they have rebelled against him. He knows they worshipped other gods and they may fail again. Human history has shown this cycle of failing God since Adam and Eve. God was telling the Israelites, he was starting fresh. He was giving them another chance. He was going to bless them, by building them as a nation again.
The time was coming for them to go home. They served their time in captivity. When they go home, they will build vineyards, fruit trees, etc. They will be rebuilt as a nation. There will be singing when they go back to their homeland. There will be repentance, mercy, and great joy.
We are fortunate enough to have not suffered in captivity as the Israelites had. However, we have sinned, at times backslidden, and fallen short of God’s glory.
The scripture shared is for all of Israel, including us. As Christians, we are grafted in as a part of spiritual Israel. But it is not for individuals. The word “you” in this passage is for “you” plural not singular. So, as we declare these truths for ourselves, let’s remember the context it was written in.
My brothers and sisters, God loves you and I (us), with an everlasting love! Nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). It doesn’t matter what we have done in life, he still loves us. He called us to be his children. God proved this to us by sending his son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Jesus made a way for us to be children of God and a part of his church.
He is always faithful to us (Lamentations 3:22-23). He looks after us. He meets our every need according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4.19). He promises that he will be with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b).
When we first became Christians, God began to build us. He began to build us as one body in Christ. The past is forgiven, and the future is secure. Be encouraged by God’s love and faithfulness. Be encouraged that we are a part of Christ and the wider church (spiritual Israel) across the world and in heaven. Be encouraged that we are being built as a people of God. His promises to Israel are promises to us. Praise the Lord!
So yes, these verses are meaningful. They are filled with hope and encouragement. They were written and said by God to the Israelites in captivity and they are for us as part of spiritual Israel today. Always remember, you are loved with an everlasting love. God bless you.
He who dells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” -Psalm 91:1-2 ESV
There is no record of who actually wrote Psalm 91. However, most scholars believe it was Moses. This makes sense looking at the style and wording of Psalm 90 which was definitely written by Moses.
Moses knew what it was like to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God
The dictionary defines the word “dwell” as “to live or stay as a permanent resident.”
Moses had a continual relationship with God. He stayed in his presence for 40 days on the top of Mount Sinai and plenty of other times before within the tent. Before this, he walked daily with God, becoming a permanent resident of his presence and power. Exodus 33:11 says “Thus the LORD used to talk to Moses face to face, as a man speak to his friend.”
Whilst on the mountain, Moses requested to see God’s glory. God told Moses to hide in the cleft of the rock as he would not be able to see his face and live. Whilst Moses hid in the cleft, God showed him his glory.
Moses knew what it meant to abide in the shadow of the Almighty, especially whilst in the cleft of the rock. To abide means to remain, continue, or to stay, and can also mean to continue in an attitude or a relationship. Moses remained in a continual relationship with God.
“For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler.” -Psalm 91:3-4 ESV
Moses talks about being delivered from the enemy. He said we can find refuge under God’s wings. Wings are warm, soft, and comforting. Wings are also beautiful. We don’t know exactly what Moses saw of God’s glory in whilst in the cleft, but our imaginations can join with him to see wings keeping us safe.
“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” -Psalm 91:5-6 ESV
Moses said that we don’t have to fear the arrows or the fowler that comes at night. Though the Egyptian Army followed the Israelites out of Egypt, God protected them by his fire being placed between the two groups. They did not have to fear being destroyed by the enemy.
“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.” -Psalm 91:7-8 ESV
The Israelites crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army continued to follow on the footpath through the raised waters. The Israelites were afraid. However, once the Israelites got to the other side, God allowed the waters to crash down upon the Egyptians killing every single one of them. Thousands fell that day. God protected them once again!
“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place- the Most High, who is my refuge, no evil will be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.” -Psalm 91:9-13 ESV
God was good to Moses. He protected him and delivered him and the Israelites because Moses remained in God and he prayed audacious prayers. Think about the conditions of the desert where the Israelites wandered for 40 years. There would have been snakes, lions, and other beasts that could have harmed them. God made sure they were protected and provided for. God rescued the Israelites.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” -Psalm 91:14-16 ESV
When we make God our permanent residence, he is our safe refuge. Evil will not be able to touch our souls. Yes, it may attack us. We are not immune to spiritual or physical attacks just because we are Christians. God never promised we would. We will suffer because we are a threat to the enemy, Satan. However, God’s angels will guard us. They will keep us from spiritual harm. We just need to abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
We too can have this relationship with God. We can live in Christ permanently because we have the Holy Spirit residing in us. The longer and more often we spend time with God in prayer and studying his Word, the more we will reflect him in our daily lives.
There is safety in God’s love. There is healing in his wings. There is protection in his care. God is our Rock and our Fortress. We do not have to fear whatever the enemy throws at us because God protects us.
No matter what life’s circumstances are, we can trust God. Bad things happen, but greater is he that lives within us than he that is in this world! We are more than conquerors in Christ. We are his and he is ours.
Be encouraged, my friends. God can be trusted. He knows our name. Remain in a daily relationship with him. Dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the shadow of the Almighty! God will take care of you!
The word for today is beauty. Many things can be beautiful. The world says people of beauty need to be thin, wearing the right clothes, being confident, having the right shape, and for women, the right make up.
However, God doesn’t look at our appearance, but he looks at the heart.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. -1 Samuel 16:7b NIV
I want to see beauty like God does.
I believe God sees beauty in the widow who is grieving her husband, or the homeless man on the street who was trying to makes ends meet. He sees the beauty of two women speaking in sign language next to me whilst I eat. He sees the beauty of my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
Beauty is seen in everyone, no matter their size or shape.
Because we are all made in the image of God. And, God is the creator of beauty.
Father God, may I see beauty in everyone you created because you are beautiful and we are made in your image. Help me to look at people’s hearts instead of their appearances. Amen.
Jesus prays for us and prayed for us before he was crucified. We know he prayed the simple but difficult words of “Not my will but yours be done.” We know how he was so anxious about what was to come, he sweated drops of blood. This is very important to remember because it was here where Jesus made the decision to go through the betrayal, arrest, beatings, and crucifixion.
However, there is a beautiful prayer tucked in the book of John that Jesus prayers for us. Yes, us. You and me. This prayer was prayed after the last teachings Jesus taught the disciples on Maundy Thursday right before he entered the Garden.
Jesus was already nervous. He knew what lied ahead. However, he prays for all believers. He first prays for his twelve disciples and then he prays for us and all believers. John 17 is where this prayer is found.
Jesus begins the prayer by declaring he is the glorification of the Father here on earth. He accomplished all God had asked him to do. He knows his death and resurrection to follow was how he will be glorified just like he was before the world began.
He continues by praying for his disciples. He share how he taught them, giving them the words God have him. He reminds God how he watched over them. He gave them everything he had. He shared communion with them not just in the upper room but in his teachings and daily relationships with them.
In verse 11, Jesus said, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Jesus prayed for his friends despite how anxious he felt. He prayed for them even before he prayed for himself in the Garden! Jesus wanted his disciples to be united as one. He knew he was longer going to be with them. As we see later before Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection, several of them went back to their earlier professions, such as fishing. God did answer Jesus’ prayer as they were united as one in the upper room waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus taught the disciples so much. He knew that the world hated him and because the disciples were with him, they were hated as well. Jesus knew the trials and sorrows they were to race ahead. He asks God to no take them out of this world but sanctify them (make them pure and holy). Jesus was going to send them out into the world to tell the world the good news. Jesus asked God to sanctify them before and as they went out. They had to be holy as Christ is holy. This holiness would separate them from the world but also empower them as Christ would live within them through the power of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:11).
Then Jesus prayed for us. He prayed for all who would come to know him since his resurrection and Pentecost. He prayed for unity for us as he did for the disciples. He prayed we would be one so the world would see Christ in us and would come to know him as their Lord and Saviour. He asked God to give us his glory (his Spirit living within us).
In the mist of all that Jesus went through, he not only prayed for his disciples, he prayed for us. Jesus always put others before himself. Jesus death and resurrection was for our salvation. He loves us so much he prayed for us before his betrayal and the rest of the events of that Holy Weekend.
I am personally humbled that Jesus prayed for me. I am grateful for his unselfish love. What an example for all of us. I am amazed that even in the midst of the most anxious, terrifying, and sad moments, Jesus loved you and I so much he prayed for us. And, he continues to intercede on our behalf on a daily basis. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV).
Be assured, we are so loved Jesus prayed for us and continues to do so. We are never alone. Christ is always with us, praying for us. What an assurance! No matter what we go through in our lives, Jesus knows, he cares, and he prays. He is our example for praying without ceasing.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -Psalm 73:25-26 ESVUK
Surrendering my life to Jesus has not been as easy as I thought. It’s easy to sing and pray the words “All to Jesus I surrender” when things are going well. But guess what. Life hits you, and sometimes it can hit very hard.
I was busy being a minister preparing to move to a new hall. I preached every Sunday, and ran women’s programmes and toddler groups, etc. Severe fatigue kicked in and made things harder and harder to manage. This was just the beginning of a downward spiral to becoming housebound.
My health went from not just being exhausted all the time to having pain as well. Everything hurt. I got angry. I cried. I grieved. I fussed at God about everything. The last thing I wanted to do is surrender everything to him. I thought he had taken away the core of who I really am.
Then as I began to realise this was not going away any time soon, I just gave it all to Jesus. I gave him the pain, fatigue, emotions, everything.
The days are still no easy. I enjoy the few “good” days but I rest assured that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I have to surrender myself every day to God’s will and way. I also have to surrender my family to him as my illnesses affect them.
God still uses me despite of my many shortcomings. He loves me just as I am. I continue to discover the core of who I am and I will continue to surrender all to Jesus. He is my strength for each and every day.
The more we spend time in the presence of God, the more we get to know him. The more we get to know him, the more we can talk to him as a friend. The more we talk to him as a friend, the more we move his heart.
Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days talking to God. God’s presence surrounded him. The people at the bottom of the mountain feared God’s presence and stayed away from the mountain. They didn’t know how to deal with the thundering, the cloud, and the booming voice of God. They told Moses he could go up to talk to God on their behalf by they were not getting any closer. How many times have we been afraid to enter God’s presence? Have we ever stayed away from God because we felt uncomfortable with what he was telling us?
After a while, the people became quite annoyed because they had not heard from Moses for over a month. Some thought he was dead. Because of their frustration, they demanded for another god. They fussed at Aaron (Moses’ brother) until he gave in and asked them for all their gold to create a god. They gave him jewellery, cups, utensils, etc. and this gold was made into a golden calf. The people began to worship the calf as their god.
Of course, our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saw everything. He was beyond angry. God wanted to consume them and make Moses and his family into a great nation. Moses begs God to hold his wrath. Moses talked and reasoned with God has he would have with a very close friend. Just think, he spent 40 days conversing with God and just being in his presence. God trusted Moses.
Moses reminds God of how he brought the Israelites out of Egypt. God chose the Israelites as his special people to be a holy nation, separated from the rest of the nations around them. Moses asks God, “Why bring the Israelites out just to them?”
Moses thought the Egyptians would gloat about the deaths and then disbelieve in the one true God, despite the plagues and the drowning of their guard. Moses asks God to turn away from his burning anger. He reminds God of the promises he made Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God relented from the disaster he was going to bring on the Israelites.
Moses came down form the mountain after this conversation and saw the golden calf and the Israelites worshipping and dancing to it. He was so angry at what he saw, he threw down the tablets with the commandments God had written on them and broke them. He also burnt the calf in a fire and grounded it to powder. Then he scattered the powder onto water and made the people drink it.
Moses then asked to see who was still on God’s side. Only the sons of Levi came and stood together. Levi’s family were ordained as priests by God (see Exodus 28 + 29). The sons of Levi then killed his brother, companions, and neighbours. This was a part of God’s anger and wrath. About three thousand people died that day.
The next day Moses goes back up to the Lord and asks God to forgive their sin and if not, to blot him out of the book God had written. But God said to Moses he will just blot out those who had sinned against him. God told Moses to lead the people where he tells him. The Lord sent a plague upon the people because they worshipped the calf.
Because of Moses’ relationship with God, he was able to have them saved from being destroyed and wiped out. He also was able to see God’s glory and he was able to change God’s mind about removing his presence from the Israelites (see Exodus 33).
We too can change the Lord’s mind in situations. We can pray for our family members, friends, nations, and the world. In order to truly intercede for others, we need to be in the presence of God and follow Moses’ example…
Moses was able to talk straight with God because he
- He had a relationship with him
- Spent time in his presence
- He trusted God
- He obeyed God.
- God saw him as a friend and spoke to him as a friend (see Exodus 33:11)
Moses had a great relationship with God. The more time Moses was with God he trusted him, talked to him as a friend and was able to move God’s heart.
I pray we will be a friend of God and that he will talk to us as a friend. I pray our relationship with God is strong and we would not hide from his presence from God’s presence but welcome it even if it feels uncomfortable at times. Remember, when Moses was first called by God through the burning bush, Moses was very uncomfortable with what God was asking him to do, yet, he obeyed, and his relationship grew substantially after this choice. May we too obey.
The more we follow Moses’ example, the more likely we will move the heart of God. Ask God to take you deeper into his presence and a relationship with him today. Every blessing.