Have you ever heard someone say, “God’s timing is perfect”? I did, just today. It’s a phrase we like to use when God seems slow in answering our prayers. Peter calls out that big old elephant in the room for us. He starts out by explaining that God’s clock works differently than ours. “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”
Is that a helpful reminder for you? Are you waiting on God for something big in your life to happen? It seems like we are always waiting for something, whether it’s a job promotion, finding the right house to move into, getting pregnant, getting married, being able to retire and start living life the way you want. What is it for you? When we welcome God and expect him to move in these life events, we can trust he is working out the “best” solution for us. Could that be why one of the gifts of the spirit is “patience”? We must continue to wait.
This will be your shortest reading ever! But it was a verse that packed a powerful punch, and it didn’t seem to fit with what came before or after. I chose to reflect on this single verse on its own. Here it is again from the NLT translation:
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”
James’ audience would know about sin. Those Jewish believers would even have flashbacks to following the law of Moses and all the sacrifices they now didn’t make. But what James is talking about here is not being sinful by breaking a law you should know better than to break, but to not do good when doing good is the right answer. Does that make sense?
Unlike the promise of restoration given for Jerusalem, Babylon’s destruction is final. According to my study notes, the first four verses of this passage are likely referring to Cyrus, God’s partner for paying back Babylon for all the wrongs done to the Israelites. God is going to work through someone else to complete his purposes.
It’s texts like this that prompt people to say God is frighteningly cruel. When people avoid God saying he’s mean or vengeful, the example of his plans for Babylon is on point. I view what God is doing here as being loving toward his people. Like a protective parent rushing to defend a child being bullied, God means business.
To the political world as well, including nations surrounding Israel, God has spoken. Today’s passage is devoted to Egypt. We can’t help but pay special attention to that nation’s fate since that’s the last place we know Jeremiah to have been. However, the destruction Jeremiah prophesies about here was fulfilled years before Jeremiah arrived.
When I first read through this, I thought this prophecy was the exact thing Jeremiah was now walking into. I had marveled at how surreal that would have been. We already encountered the fact the chapters in the book of Jeremiah aren’t in chronological order.
I can’t imagine purchasing some land while in prison, even if it were a good deal. From the sounds of it, Jeremiah would be helping a relative by taking this property off his hands. In the real estate market of that day, this property was probably virtually worthless. The value would lie in the memories and traditions the family had invested in this land!
I’m not sure Jeremiah felt he had any choice. He had received a vision from God that his cousin, Hanamel, would come forth with this very offer. We already know of Jeremiah’s great faithfulness. Listening to God was his priority even while enduring hardship, mockery, and imprisonment. It seems God was giving Jeremiah the opportunity for an inheritance which was certainly a strong declaration of hope for the future.