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Jeremiah 4:1-10 1
1 “If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, 2 and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.” 3 This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it. 5 “Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: ‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’ Cry aloud and say: ‘Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!’ 6 Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction.” 7 A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. 8 So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us. 9 “In that day,” declares the Lord, “the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled.” 10 Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”

hornBackground 2

The members of Jeremiah’s family were priests. They lived in the town called Anathoth. It was about 3 miles away from Jerusalem. Jeremiah prophesied during the 7th century BC, when there were great political problems. Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, recorded the messages that Jeremiah dictated. But King Jehoiakim burnt that record (Jeremiah chapter 36). So Baruch wrote it again and Jeremiah added more messages. Many of the prophecies are poems. Sometimes Jeremiah used dramatic actions to make the people understand his message. The various messages are not in the order in which Jeremiah gave them. So sometimes we do not know to which period in history they refer.

Jeremiah loved his country called Judah. But God would punish the people from Judah because of their wicked behavior. Jeremiah had great mental pain when he had to warn his own people. Also he had troubles because many people insulted him. They attacked him too. On several occasions, he was close to death. But many years later, people respected Jeremiah. Some people thought that he was the Servant of the LORD. Isaiah wrote about the Servant of the LORD in Isaiah 52:12–53:12. Some people thought that Jesus was Jeremiah. They thought that Jeremiah had become alive again (Matthew 16:14).

Jeremiah had a close relationship with the LORD. One of the most important things that Jeremiah spoke about was the New Covenant. It replaced the covenant that the LORD had made with the Jews during the life of Moses. In the first Covenant, the LORD promised to look after his people, the Israelites. Because they were the LORD’s people, they had to obey his orders. In the New Covenant, the LORD promised that his people will want to obey him. And the LORD promised to forgive their sins (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Biblical Truth 3

Sin must be put away out of one’s heart. Otherwise, it is not put away out of God’s sight, for the heart is always open before God. Ground that is untilled is like a heart without humility. Ground may be improved; God gives us our hearts just like the earth, to work and enrich but it can be empty of nutrition. It is over-grown with thorns and weeds, the natural product of the corrupt heart. We must go to God, our Lord, to create in us a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within us. Unless we are born again, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.The fierce conqueror of the neighboring nations was to make Judah desolate. The Jeremiah was troubled by what he saw, the people lulled into security by false prophets. The passage describes the approach of the enemy. While some attention was paid in Jerusalem to outward reformation, it was still necessary that their hearts should be washed, in the exercise of true repentance and faith, from the love and pollution of sin. When lesser calamities do not rouse sinners and reform nations, a sentence will be given against them. The Lord’s voice declares that misery is approaching, especially against wicked professors of the gospel. When it overtakes them, it will be plainly seen that the fruit of wickedness is bitter, and the end is fatal.

Items for Discussion

  • Biblical history shows us that there have always been consequences for not listening to our God. Why do we as a people not understand this?
  • What could some of the modern warnings be that we are receiving today about the sinful nature of our society?
  • Who might today’s false prophets be and how would we know that their message is not true?
  • What are some of the idols of today and what are the dangers that they possess?
  • So if the human heart is like soil, in need of tending and nutrition, how do we “till” the human heart?

 

1 Thessalonians 5:10-12
10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.

Background 4

This letter is from Paul, Silas and Timothy. From these three, the apostle Paul was the main author. We do not know how much of the letter Silas and Timothy wrote. But all three of them were in agreement with what the letter contains.

This letter may be the earliest of the letters of Paul that we have. Paul and his friends wrote it between AD 50 and AD 53. That is about 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul was on his second main journey in which he spread the good news about Jesus. He and his friends were in the city of Corinth when they wrote the letter. We can be sure about this, and about the date, from the things mentioned in this letter and the book of the Acts.

  • Paul had to leave Thessalonica and he went to the city of Beroea. From there, he went to the city of Athens (Acts 17). From Athens, he went to Corinth (Acts 18:1). Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia and were with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). Then Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see what was happening with that church (1 Thessalonians 3:5). They wrote this first letter soon after Timothy had come back to join Paul and Silas in Corinth (1 Thessalonians 3:6).
  • Silas and Timothy were with Paul when they wrote the letter (1 Thessalonians 1:1). Silas was only with Paul on his second main journey. So, we know that they wrote the letter during that journey.
  • The ruler in Corinth was a man called Gallio. The Jews there, who were against Paul, brought him in front of Gallio (Acts 18:12-17). They accused him of breaking the law. Gallio was the ruler for one or two years, and that was between AD 51 and AD 53. As Paul was in Corinth for about 18 months, the date of the letter must have been in the period AD 50 to AD 54.

Timothy came back to Corinth with news about the church at Thessalonica. He told Paul and Silas that the church was strong but that there was much persecution. Some people were saying bad things about Paul and his friends. These people claimed that Paul’s intentions were false. Then the Christians had many questions and were in need of more teaching. So the purposes of the letter included:

  1. To express the joy that the writers felt and to give thanks to God for the good news that Timothy brought.
  2. To tell the Thessalonians how much they loved them. And to tell them that they cared about them. The writers wanted to encourage them as they tried to live for the Lord Jesus.
  3. To answer the false things that the Jews and other people had said about Paul and his friends. These people said that Paul had come to make a profit from those who believed his message. They said that the message was not from God, but that Paul had made it up. They said that the fact that Paul had not come back showed that he did not really care about the Christians.
  4. There were questions about Christians who had died. They wanted to know what would happen to those Christians when Jesus came to earth again. The authors wrote about this (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and taught some more about the return of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
  5. To teach that those who trust in God must not be guilty in matters to do with sex (1 Thessalonians 4:4-8). Such sins were common in the city in which they lived.

Biblical Truth

Here we are told how Jesus Christ obtained our salvation for us. He died for us. He died the death that should have been ours because of our sin. God judged all our sins and Jesus took the punishment for us. So, he will save all those who accept that Jesus died for them and trust him. He will save them from the anger of God. So great was that death that we can be sure about the future life. All who believe in him shall live with him. This is true whether we are alive then or have died. Christians need not fear missing the Lord’s return. When the Lord Jesus comes, he will raise them up. And then they will enjoy being with him.

All who believe in the Lord Jesus have his promise. The promise is that, when he comes, they will live with him. So, they can encourage each other as they speak about these things. They can help those who have doubts and fears. They can help them by showing them that the Lord accepts them. The writers want them to help each other to be strong and certain in what they believe. They need to help each other to know God better and to love him more. They were doing this already but they should go on doing it.

The writers now ask the Christians at Thessalonica to know and to respect their leaders. This would be the proper attitude toward them, because they worked so hard for the church there. They should appreciate all that these workers do for the church. It was the leaders’ task to direct and to care for the church. When any of the members did what was wrong, the leaders would have to correct them. This can be hard to do. So, those who do it well deserve respect. When any members were in need, the leaders would try to help them. The leaders had to guide the church in the right way. They made sure that the teaching in the church was true to the word of God.

Items for Discussion

  • We are told to be thankful for those among us who admonish us:
    • What is our responsibility?
    • What is their responsibility?
  • What are the ways one can encourage church leaders?
  • How can we encourage one another?
  • Why is encouragement important?
  • What happens to the “Church” when encouragement is absent?

Discussion Challenge

  • How can a church avoid the accidental discouragement of its leaders and members?
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