October 24 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!” ~Jeremiah 13:10

OLD TESTAMENT

God conceives a pretty spectacular object lesson for one of Jeremiah’s sermon. He sends the prophet to a nearby wadi (a desert stream) to bury his linen belt. Linen sashes were an Israelite clothing accent that also served a practical purpose—the sash held a loose outer garment close to the body. Rain and silt would ruin the belt in a few weeks time, whereupon Jeremiah could dig it up and wear it to his next sermon (or, possibly, go without a belt while holding the tattered one for all to see). Jeremiah’s message is simple: You once wrapped yourself around your God, and it was a beautiful thing for everyone to see. Now, you are longer bound to your God, and you are ruined, your beauty gone. He has no choice but to throw you out (Jer. 13:1-11)!

Jeremiah’s vivid preaching angers the people, and so they conspire to have him killed. A group of people meet in secret to plot ways to get rid of the annoying messenger of the Lord, but God delivers Jeremiah (although he doesn’t explain how). The prophet’s enemies are undeterred. God warns him that his recent close call is nothing compared to what is to come. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” More plots will follow organized by men with even greater determination. Even Jeremiah’s own family will try to silence him. “Your brothers, your own family—even they have betrayed you; they have raised a loud cry against you; Do not trust them, though they speak well of you [in your hearing]” (Jer. 12:6).

Jeremiah’s experience is a lesson for all who dare to do what is right in a world where everyone is doing their own thing. He faced difficulties and we will too. The prophet’s reaction is also a lesson to us. He continued to do what God called him to do. “To you (God) I have committed my cause,” he said (Jer. 11:20). He had to trust God while doing the right thing, even if that meant that part of God’s plan was for him to die. I’m sure it was difficult. There were times he was discouraged and frightened. He kept on anyway.

John Wayne is quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” I want to be like Jeremiah and John Wayne. I want to wisely and courageously face difficulty, knowing that there is danger, and carry on because my cause is committed to God.

NEW TESTAMENT

Timothy has all kinds of challenges on his hands, including a group of legalists pushing bad theology. They tell people that true spirituality is a matter of avoiding physical things like food and drink and sex. There are a number of reasons why this theology undermines the gospel. Not only does it deny the goodness of a creation made by a good God, it also confuses people by ‘creating’ an alternate definition of spirituality. Abstinence entices people who really do want to be more spiritual, but it attempts to meet their need by giving them a surface-level appearance of spiritual maturity. (Look at all the things I don’t do.) Real growth and change don’t happen.

As a counterpoint to these false teachers, Timothy is to teach the Word and model authentic spirituality, a “job” that Paul has been prepping him to do for a long time. Even though he his young and going up against formidable foes, he is not to let this intimidate him. He is to pursue real godliness in his life, which will take some work. Spiritual growth is not as easy as refusing to eat meat or drink wine or have sex. Think of it more like going to the gym. Timothy has to train himself to be godly, and the results of that training are both long-term (think eternal) and immediate (1 Tim. 4:7). He’ll need to do some spiritual sweating—putting off old ways of thinking and living and replacing them with new ones. It’s a good thing he’s got some great trainers: the guidance of God’s word, the strength of God’s spirit, and the help of God’s community.

Even the pastor has to pursue spiritual growth passionately so that he is a worthy example to the people. Paul is adamant that Timothy be diligent in working out his faith so that God is reflected in the way he talks and the way he lives. He must grow so that others will see his progress. If he does, he will save himself, as well as his flock, from destruction.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.