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Jeremiah 23:1–24:10 (LEB)

Woe to the Evil Shepherds

23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture,” declares Yahweh. Therefore thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people, “You yourselves have scattered my flock, and you have driven them away, and you do not attend to them. Look, I will punish you for the evil of your deeds,” declares Yahweh. “Then I myself will gather together the remnant of my flock from all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their grazing place, and they will be fruitful, and they will become numerous. And I will raise up over them shepherds, and they will shepherd them, and they will no longer fear, and they will not be dismayed, and they will not be missing,” declares Yahweh.

The Righteous Branch

“Look, days are coming,” declares Yahweh,

“when I will raise up for David a righteous branch,

and he will reign as king, and he will achieve success,

and he will do justice and righteousness in the land.

In his days Judah will be saved,

and Israel will dwell in safety,

and this is his name by which he will be called:

‘Yahweh is our righteousness.’

Therefore look, days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when they will no longer say, ‘As Yahweh lives, who led up the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As Yahweh lives, who led up, and who brought the offspring of the house of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where he had driven them.’ Then they will live in their land.”

The Unfaithful Prophets

Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken in my midst.

All my bones tremble.

I have become like a drunken man,

even like a man over whom wine has passed,

because of Yahweh,

and because of his holy words.

10 For the land is full of adulterers;

for the land mourns because of a curse.

The pastures of the desert are dry,

and their evil has been their way of running,

and their power is not right.

11 “For both prophet as well as priest are godless,

even in my temple I have found their wickedness,” declares Yahweh.

12 Therefore their way will be to them like the slippery places,

they will be pushed in the darkness,

and they will fall into it,

for I will bring disaster on them in the year of their punishment,” declares Yahweh.

13 “Now in the prophets of Samaria I saw a disgusting thing.

They prophesied by Baal and they caused my people Israel to err.

14 And in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible.

They commit adultery, and they walk in lies,

and they make strong the hands of evildoers,

so that they have not turned back each from his wickedness.

All of them have become to me like Sodom,

and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

15 Therefore thus says Yahweh of hosts concerning the prophets:

“Look, I am going to let them eat wormwood

and I will give them water of poison to drink,

for from the prophets of Jerusalem

went out ungodliness to all the land.”

16 Thus says Yahweh of hosts:

“You must not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.

They are deluding you with visions of their mind,

They do not speak from the mouth of Yahweh.

17 They are continually saying to those who disregard the word of Yahweh,

‘Peace it will be to you,’

and to each one who walks in the stubbornness of his heart they say,

‘Calamity will not come upon you.’

18 For who has stood in the council of Yahweh,

that he has seen and heard his word?

Who has listened attentively to his word

and heard it?

19 Look, the storm of Yahweh has gone forth in wrath,

even a whirling tempest.

It will whirl upon the head of the wicked.

20 The anger of Yahweh will not turn back

until his doing and until his keeping the plans of his mind.

In latter days you will look closely at it with understanding.

21 I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran.

I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

22 But if they had stood in my council,

then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,

and they would have caused them to turn from their evil way,

and from the evil of their deeds.

23 Am I a God from near,” declares Yahweh,

“and not a God from far?

24 Or can a person hide himself in secret places

and I cannot see him?” declares Yahweh.

Do I not fill up the heaven and the earth?” declares Yahweh.

25 “I have heard what the prophets who prophesy lies have said in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed! I have dreamed!’ 26 How long will this be in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy lies, even the prophets of the deceitfulness of their hearts, 27 who plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell each one to his neighbor, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal? 28 The prophet who has with him a dream, let him tell the dream. But the prophet who has my word with him, let him speak my word faithfully. What is straw compared to wheat?” declares Yahweh. 29 Is not my word like fire?” declares Yahweh, “and like a blacksmith’s hammer that breaks a rock into pieces?

30 Therefore look, I am against the prophets,” declares Yahweh, “who steal my words each one from his neighbor. 31 Look, I am against the prophets,” declares Yahweh, “who take their tongues and declare as prophets, ‘Yahweh declares.’ 32 Look, I am against those who prophesy dreams of lies,” declares Yahweh, “and tell them, and they caused my people to err through their lies, and in their recklessness, when I myself have not sent them nor commanded them, so they profit not this people at all,” declares Yahweh.

33 “Now when this people, or a prophet, or a priest, ask you, saying, ‘What is the burden of Yahweh?’ then you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will forsake you, declares Yahweh.’ 34 And the prophet, and the priest, and the people who say, ‘The burden of Yahweh,’ I will punish that man and his house. 35 Thus you shall say, each one to his neighbor and each one to his brother: ‘What has Yahweh answered?’ or, ‘What has Yahweh spoken?’ 36 But the burden of Yahweh you shall not mention again, for the burden is to each one his word, and so you twist the words of the living God, Yahweh of hosts, our God. 37 Thus you shall say to that prophet: ‘What has Yahweh answered you?’ or, ‘What has Yahweh spoken?’ 38 But if you say, ‘The burden of Yahweh,’ therefore thus says Yahweh: ‘Because of your saying these words, “The burden of Yahweh,” then I will send to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of Yahweh.’ ” ’ 39 Therefore look, here I am, and I will surely lift you up and forsake you and the city that I gave to you and to your ancestors from my presence, 40 and I will bring upon you an everlasting disgrace and an everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”

Two Baskets of Figs

24 Yahweh showed me, and look, there were two baskets of figs placed before the temple of Yahweh—after Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had deported Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, with the officials of Judah, and the craftsmen, and the smiths, from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon. The one basket had very good figs, like early figs, and the other basket had very bad figs that could not be eaten because of their bad quality. And Yahweh asked me, “What are you seeing, Jeremiah?” And I said, “Figs—the good figs, very good, and the bad figs, very bad, that cannot be eaten because of their bad quality.”

Then the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, “Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles of Judah whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. And I will build them and not annihilate them, and I will plant them and not uproot them. And I will give to them a heart to know me, that I am Yahweh, and they will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with the whole of their heart.

But like the bad figs that cannot be eaten because of their bad quality—for thus says Yahweh—so I will treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who live in the land of Egypt. And I will make them as a terror, an evil to all the kingdoms of the earth, as a disgrace and a proverb, as a taunt and a curse, in all the places where I will drive them. 10 And I will send among them the sword, the famine, and the plague, until they perish from the land that I gave to them and their ancestors.’ ”

Romans 3:21–31 (LEB)

Righteousness through Faith Revealed

21 But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified about by the law and the prophets—22 that is, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God made publicly available as the mercy seat through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness, because of the passing over of previously committed sins, 26 in the forbearance of God, for the demonstration of his righteousness in the present time, so that he should be just and the one who justifies the person by faith in Jesus.

27 Therefore, where is boasting? It has been excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we consider a person to be justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, also of the Gentiles, 30 since God is one, who will justify those who are circumcised by faith and those who are uncircumcised through faith. 31 Therefore, do we nullify the law through faith? May it never be! But we uphold the law.

Proverbs 18:1–24 (LEB)

He who is selfish seeks a craving;

against all sound judgment he shows contempt.

A fool will not take pleasure in understanding,

but in expressing his heart.

With the coming of wickedness comes contempt also,

and with dishonor, disgrace.

Deep waters are words of the mouth of a man;

a gushing stream is a fountain of wisdom.

Being partial to faces of evil is not good,

nor to subvert the righteous at the judgment.

The lips of a fool will bring strife,

and his mouth calls out for a flogging.

The mouth of a fool is ruin to him,

and his lips are a snare to his soul.

The words of a whisper are like delicious morsels,

and they themselves go down to inner parts of the body.

Even he who is slack in his work,

he is brother to a master of destruction.

10 A tower of strength is the name of Yahweh;

into him the righteous will run and be safe.

11 The wealth of the rich is his strong city,

and like a wall, it is high in his imagination.

12 In the presence of destruction, the heart of a man will be haughty,

but in the presence of honor, humble.

13 He who returns a word before he will hear,

folly itself belongs to him as well as shame.

14 The spirit of a man will endure his sickness,

but a broken spirit, who may bear it?

15 An intelligent mind will acquire knowledge,

and the ear of the wise will seek knowledge.

16 The gift of a person will open doors for him,

and before the great, it gives him access.

17 The first in his dispute is deemed righteous,

but his neighbor will come and examine him.

18 The lot will put an end to disputes,

and between powerful contenders it will decide.

19 A brother who is offended is worse than a city of strength,

and quarrels are like the bars of a fortification.

20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth, his stomach will be satisfied,

as for the yield of his lips, it will satisfy.

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

and those who love her will eat of her fruit.

22 He who finds a wife finds good,

and he will obtain favor from Yahweh.

23 The poor may speak entreaties,

but the rich will answer roughly.

24 A man of many friends will come to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

December 12

Idioms are often unhelpful because their overuse has robbed them of meaning. But the idiom “putting up walls” has a twist in Proverbs: “A brother who is offended is worse than a city of strength, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortification” (Prov 18:19).

The writer of this proverb gives us imagery that helps us understand how people react to offenses. Regardless of whether we intend to, we can raise a great structure, like a “city of strength,” in the gulf between ourselves and others. Such barriers make it difficult to reach those we have offended, which may suit us perfectly. But we’re called to live differently.

None of us can live perfectly in this life, so conflict is inevitable. If we have the insight to see that “we all fall short of the glory of God”—and more specifically, how we have fallen—we’ll see we have no right to hold a grudge (Rom 3:23). When rifts develop in relationships, we need to own our sin and bring it to God. His forgiveness and His reconciling work make it possible for us to be vulnerable with others and seek their forgiveness—even if they have also offended us.

When we choose to humbly admit our failings, we break down “the bars of a fortification” and create space for reconciliation. We might be spurned, or we might be forgiven. The other person may take responsibility for their fault, or they may not. But either way, we rest secure in God’s forgiveness.

Have you offended someone? Have you neglected to confess your sin and seek forgiveness? Reconciliation is a picture of what God has done for us—He has returned us to Himself. Be like the peacemaker: Seek and offer forgiveness.

Have you offended someone without asking forgiveness? If so, how can you step forward to confess your offense to God and the offended person?

Rebecca Van Noord is editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. She has developed content for several Bible reference products, including Lexham Bible Dictionary and Faithlife Study Bible.

Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional

Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord

Publisher: Lexham Press

Publication Date: 2012

This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.