2 TIMOTHY 2
Discipleship is key to church growth: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (v2). In once sentence, four generations of believers are identified: Paul, Timothy, Timothy’s disciples, and the disciples of those disciples. Mathematically, a method of reproduction where 1 becomes 2 becomes 4 becomes 8 etc is the quickest way to fill the earth with a population – or, in our case, with the glory of God. Paul previous said: “What you have seen in me, copy and put into practice” (1:13).
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (vv3-4). Our prime focus should be the Kingdom of God, rather than meddling in worldly affairs. Whilst it is true that some Christians are definitely called to serve in the realms of politics and government policy, we all need to be careful not to become engrossed in the heated arguments and vitriol of the party-political environment. We are part of the ‘Royal Family’ of Heaven (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6) and royalty should in general be above party politics. So let’s exercise heavenly wisdom in what we say and in the ‘sides’ that we take.
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” (2:8). It is a good summary of the gospel for us to take away too. Jesus Christ is a historical figure, fully human (descended from David) and fully God (raised from the dead for ever). As fully human, He can be our substitute and representative on the cross; as fully God, His death has infinite value for forgiveness and cleansing.
“Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (v10). Paul is aware of the existence of God’s chosen ones who are yet to experience the new birth – he works tirelessly and patiently, putting up with all kinds of hardship for their sake.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (v15). A great workman knows exactly how to use his tools. Paul applies this to Timothy in particular and encourages him to apply the gospel in exactly the right way to each person he meets. If we can effectively use the tools of the gospel, we are more likely to use them regularly, and so we will be better placed not to be ashamed of the gospel. On the other hand, poor workmen do a shoddy job and prefer to remain anonymous!
“God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’” (v19). This is a portrait of the church and another example of God’s sovereign protection of it, coupled with the responsibility of believers to guard their own salvation walk as much as they are able.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” (vv24-25). You cannot argue anyone into the kingdom, but you can entice them with your godly character. Applying the truth gently to their minds is rather like holding a sharpened wood chisel against a piece of unfinished oak; it requires the hammer of the Holy Spirit to make a sufficiently deep cut to affect the heart. (Sorry about mixed metaphors here!).
Notice, in the above verse, that it is God who grants repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth; if you think that you can pick and choose the moment you will submit to him, then think again! If God has opened up a window of opportunity for blessing and forgiveness, then dive through it, rather than admiring the view from afar!
JEREMIAH 49 and 50
Ammon was east of the River Jordan and about half-way up the eastern boundary of Israel. God now brings a message of judgment – via Jeremiah – to the Ammonites (not to be confused with the Amorites). The Ammonites apparently captured some of the towns and territory owned by the Israelite tribe of Gad, one of the Transjordan tribes.
The Ammonite God was Molek, to whom the Israelites were enticed to offer some of the sons ‘through the fire’ as human sacrifices to this demonic ‘deity’. Our God has had enough and determines that it is time for Ammon to lose all its own sons though the fire of battle! Their riches and their armies will not protect them anymore. (Nebuchadnezzar conquered Ammon in 582 BC, the 23rd year of his reign.) But, just as with Moab, there is a postscript of hope: “Yet afterward, I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites – declares the Lord” (49:6). Perhaps this too is looking forward to Messianic times and a different level of prosperity?
The following prophecy about Edom (descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother) is very similar to the one given by Obadiah, especially in Obadiah’s first six verses. Teman was a vital Edomite town, positioned south of the Dead Sea. Edom’s long-awaited punishment, for behaviour perhaps even dating back to the actual days of Jacob and Esau, is about to be meted out. Certainly, the more recent hostility from Edom towards Judah and Israel was far from ‘brotherly’ and the Lord had had enough of it! “I will strip Esau bare; I will uncover his hiding places, so that he cannot conceal himself… Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive. Your widows too can depend on me” (49:10).
“Bozrah will become a ruin and a curse, an object of horror reproach; and all its towns will be in ruins forever”. Bozrah was the capital of Edom and a mountain stronghold that regarded itself as invincible. The Lord is about to gainsay that false sentiment ‘in spades’! It will be like a new Sodom and Gomorrah; the new ‘Eagle’ that will swoop down is a reference to Nebuchadnezzar, followed by the Nabatean Arabs in about 550 BC.
Damascus is often in the news today; it was in the news then too! Amos 1:3 and Isaiah 17 also refer to this: “Surely her young men will fall in the streets; all her soldiers will be silenced in that day – declares the Lord Almighty” (49:26).
Kedar and Hazor were to the North-East of Northern Israel. They were probably small nomadic settlements or un-walled villages that would also be swept away by Babylon. In future, no people would every resettle those places.
In chapter 50, we have the start of a very full prophecy against Babylon itself; it is the longest message by Jeremiah against any of the surrounding nations and looks further ahead in time to when – at the end of the seventy years of Judah’s exile – Babylon is itself punished for its sins and its crimes against humanity. “Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror”. These are the god-idols of Babylon against whom the Lord personifies his ‘holy war’. The nations themselves are only pawns on the great chessboard of the Rulers and Authorities in the heavenly places, and, of course, of the Lord himself. What is happening in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Paris, Rome, New York, and London today is simply the human outworking of a heavenly battle (as we see explained in more detail in the Book of Daniel later on).
“A nation from the north will attack her and lay waste her land…” (50:3). This probably refers to the Persian empire that invaded Babylon in 539 BC, during Daniel’s lifetime, and toppled the Babylonians to become the preeminent power of the day. Babylon, which had deposed Assyria and Egypt, was now itself removed from power. Later on, the Greeks would depose Persia and then the Romans remove the Greeks. Any permanency is found only in the Lord himself!
“In those days, the people of Israel and the people of Judah will go in tears to seek the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten” (50:5). This change of empires is also the opportunity for God’s people to be revived and restored. We ourselves today need to look for opportunity for expansion of Christ’s Kingdom in our land, when economic, political, and social changes converge in the nation, opening doors that have been closed for hundreds of years.
“Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians…” (50:8). Time has moved on and God’s orders have changed; now is the time not to move to Babylon and to seek its peace and prosperity, but to leave and to build up the nation of Judah and Israel again. When God’s orders change, we must change quickly too or get left behind in futility. Change is here to stay!
“I set a trap for you Babylon, and you were caught before you knew it; you were found and captured because you opposed the Lord” (50:24). The Persian attack in 539 BC caught Babylon by complete surprise – as the Book of Daniel again describes. “Repay her for her deeds; do to her as she has done. For she has defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel”. Once a nation chooses to defy God, it is on ‘thin ice’ indeed.
“The people of Israel are oppressed… their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause…” (50:33-34). This has echoes of Israel in Egypt, doesn’t it!