Trip to Heaven

I remember a class period early in my first year of college. It changed my life.

It was a Bible School and I already knew the Bible pretty well. The subject of the class was Theology Proper, which is, the Study of GOD; His person, His attributes, His character. I actually thought the class would be dry, but upperclassman told me I was fortunate to have this teacher. Mostly he taught senior students.

So I turned up for the first class wondering what to expect.

Dr. Needham shuffled up to the podium (it was a large class with theater seating). He looked uncomfortable, and I wondered why. He hesitated, and started by confessing that he was nervous. I am really confused.

He said that he has taught this material before, but he is always fearful about it. My ears grew bigger to catch every word. I shewed away the question marks that were filling my head. And focused on what he would say next.

He said, “It is easy to talk about someone when they are not there with you. You might mistakenly give some false information or offer a few biased opinions, but they are not there to hear it. If later it comes back to you, you can always deny or make excuses for it.”

He continued, “The subject of this class is not an intellectual subject, it is a Living Person. More than that. This Living Person is not off somewhere else, He is right here in this room every minute of every class period. More than that, he observes every moment of work I put into preparing for this class. I cannot sneak anything past Him. And how can I be lazy or blasé before such a BEING?”

Dr. Needham must have given us some time to digest this, but then he led many of us on a trip we had never made before. He led us up, beyond the clouds, beyond earth’s atmosphere, beyond the known boundaries of our small galaxy and little universe, to a blindingly bright, holy Throne Room. Cherubim and seraphim and countless myriads of angelic beings surrounded the throne. The Indescribable Being on that Throne was too blindingly bright for a human to even dream of seeing. And Dr. Needham must have kept us there many minutes without us even thinking of time.

Somehow, Dr. Needham brought us back to earth. We found ourselves back in the classroom and sitting in our chairs. But some of us would never see life the same again.

N.B. Dr. Needham was not a rhetorician or a performer. And I have never attempted to do what he did that class period; leading others to the Throne Room. With him it was genuine. He knew God, not as a subject to teach. Not as a compilation of attributes to be labeled, described, and tested on. He knew God as The Divine Living Being, to be feared and worshipped and adored. May we do the same.

God is Letting us See

This galaxy – NGC 2336 – is around 100 million light years from earth.  It is also huge, like 200,000 light years across.

Let me see:

The speed of light is 186,000 miles a second.

There are around 31,360,000 seconds in a year.

So the distance we are talking about (in miles) is around 186,000 x 31,360,000 x 100,000,000! I’ve broken 15 calculators and three cylinders in my brain trying to figure this out!

And I have no idea how to write the answer if I ever did get it.

The most incredible BEING in the universe is letting us see more and more of His handiwork. Be Amazed!!!

Palpable Tension – Potential verses Actual Outcomes in Life

The book of Jeremiah says tons about the dynamic relationship between Past, Present, and Future. This an essential paradigm to observe and embrace.

1. The ebb and flow of life here on earth is not a matter of randomness and odds.

2. Events are connected. People are connected. And Creator God is actively involved in it all.[1]

The book of Jeremiah boldly displays an underlying tension between the good things that could happen and the bad things that do happen; especially regarding the state of the nation of Israel – past, present, and future. This tension is clear throughout the Bible, but Jeremiah presents it with insight into the causes of this disconnect. And these causes are very instructive.

The Great Beginning

Look at how the Lord describes the early days of the nation of Israel. They were doing well and the Lord had good plans for them:

“I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.  In those days Israel was holy to the LORD, the first of his children. All who harmed his people were declared guilty and disaster fell on them [those who sought to harm Israel]. I, the LORD, have spoken!” 2:2-3. (All references are from Jeremiah, unless stated otherwise).

“I said to your ancestors when I brought them out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt, ‘If you obey me and do whatever I command you, then you will be my people, and I will be your God.’ I said this so I could keep my promise to your ancestors to give you a land flowing with milk and honey – the land you live in today.” 11:4-5a.

Jeremiah interjects into the text his full support of God’s good plans.

“Then I replied, ‘Amen, LORD! May it be so.’”  11:5b.

But . . . things fell apart

It turns out, though, that things quickly went sour.

“And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the possession I had promised you.” 2:7.

“But I was the one who planted you, choosing a vine of the purest stock– the very best. How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?  No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!” 2:21-22.

This is super tragic. The land “flowing with milk and honey” is immediately defiled, corrupted, and ruined. Listen to these questions as the LORD interrogates his people:

“The LORD says: ‘What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves’”. 2:5.

“’Why do you accuse me of doing wrong? You are the ones who have rebelled,’ says the LORD.” 2:29.

“O my people, listen to the words of the LORD! Have I been like a desert to Israel?  Have I been to them a land of darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘At last we are free from God! We don’t need him anymore!’  Does a young woman forget her jewelry? Does a bride hide her wedding dress? Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me.”  2:31-32.

“Why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?  Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back? They cling tightly to their lies and will not turn around.  I listen to their conversations and don’t hear a word of truth. Is anyone sorry for doing wrong?  Does anyone say, ‘What a terrible thing I have done’? No! All are running down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse galloping into battle!” 8:5-6.

And . . . there is heartache expressed in many of the LORD’s words.

The Lord’s good plans are constantly frustrated.

“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land – the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me. But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel!” 3:19-20a.

“Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things.” 5:25.

“Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, ‘Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.’ But you would not listen to me or obey me.” 35:15 (This is an oft-repeated theme, see also 25:4-6, 26:5, 29:19).

And … the LORD is angry, no, furious!

A majority of the text of Jeremiah is painted in the red of anger. It is not fluffy, uplifting, “heavenly” language. It is severe. It is cutting. It is confrontational. It is this type of language and subject matter that perhaps keeps people away from studying this grand book. Here is a sample:

“I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness. The towns lay in ruins, crushed by the LORD’s fierce anger.” 4:26.

“Pack your bags and prepare to leave; the siege is about to begin. For this is what the LORD says: ‘Suddenly, I will fling out all you who live in this land. I will pour great troubles upon you, and at last you will feel my anger.’” 10:17-18.

“I myself will fight against you with a strong hand and a powerful arm, for I am very angry. You have made me furious!” 21:5.

“Look! The LORD’s anger bursts out like a storm, a driving wind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this.” 30:23-24.

“You expect to fight the Babylonians, but the men of this city are already as good as dead, for I have determined to destroy them in my terrible anger. I have abandoned them because of all their wickedness.” 33:5.

“These things happened because of the LORD’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile”. 52:3.

These hardships and disasters were not the LORD’s choice. They resulted from the peoples’ choices. Tension remains over what could have been, what was supposed to have been. But rather than thriving, the people experienced defeat and disaster. The good things God planned did not transpire.

This raises a lot of questions. A close reading and careful evaluation of the text of Jeremiah will lead one to believe the future is contingent;[2] it is conditional, based on people’s behavior and choices. It is not totally predetermined and confined by the creator. Please continue reading.

Summary for now

The book of Jeremiah speaks volumes about the relationship[3] between the Lord and his people. It began well, with the people excited by their privilege and welcoming their closeness to the LORD. But quickly,  distance grew as the people wandered away from their Savior and Provider. This both grieved and angered the LORD and brought grave consequences to their life and welfare. The LORD is deeply invested in his people’s wellbeing. The entire world would be a different place if the utopian relationship could have continued. The LORD called Abram and promised him great things (more than just the wonderful land). The plan was to use Abraham’s descendants to spread the knowledge of God and thereby extend this utopian relationship by fulfilling the promise, “I will bless those who bless you and … All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen. 12:3.


[1] To say that God is “involved” (as used here) does not necessarily state that he “controls” or “dictates” or even “planned” everything in exact detail.

[2] A key word in Jeremiah is the little word “if”. More will be said about this in the pages to come.

[3] Another key term, and a concept that is crucial to understanding the nature of God and his actions in dealing with people. God is above all else a relational being.

Mobbed was Jeremiah, After Co-worker Murdered

Temple Mob Pacified

This story took place a couple years after king Josiah died. Judah was subservient to a foreign power[1], paying heavy taxes to insure their “independence.” The 100% true and accurate account of this incident is found in Jeremiah 26. An elaborated version is offered below in the form of an ancient newspaper article. It had to be, of course, an underground newspaper because of the volatile monarch on the throne.

Underground Newspaper: Clandestine Communiqués, Jerusalem[2]

Article Title: Turmoil outside the Temple

King Jehoiakim is quickly establishing himself as an enemy of Israel’s God![3] Details have come to light which solve the mystery of that dead body reported recently; the one that was dragged out of the palace, taken out of the city, and buried in the middle of nowhere. Our king is guilty of murder! And not just murder of anyone, murder of an anointed prophet of God! Here are the details.

Prophet Uriah,[4] son of Shemaiah of Kiriath-jearim, was performing his duties as a prophet of the LORD. He denounced the wickedness of the people and announced that God planned to punish the whole nation of Judah, and even destroy the Hoy City. When the king learned of this “slander” and “treason” he sent some unnamed thug to kill him. Uriah was forewarned and escaped to Egypt. This upset the king even more, so he sent the trusted son of Acbor, Elnathan by name, with a posse that hunted him down. They tied him up and dragged the poor man before the king. Without further ado our king took a sword and shot it through (literally) the “rebellious” prophet.

Horrible as this was, it spurred a different, most remarkable event that took place yesterday. Here are the details.

Prophet Jeremiah, bold and unflinching, went to the temple steps yesterday and drew a large crowd. Hundreds of people listened to him as he bravely spoke these words:

This is what the LORD says: If you will not listen to me and obey my word I have given you, and if you will not listen to my servants, the prophets – for I sent them again and again to warn you, but you would not listen to them – then I will destroy this Temple as I destroyed Shiloh,[5] the place where the Tabernacle was located. And I will make Jerusalem an object of cursing in every nation on earth. 26:4-6.

These accusations and threats were even more barbed and inflammatory than what spurred Uriah’s murder. He was stating that “Jerusalem will be so badly decimated it will become a swear word for all other nations!”

There were rabble-rousers in the crowed, emboldened by the king’s obvious stance against such public pronouncements, and they worked at stirring up the crowd. They started shouting “traitor”, “infidel”, and “blasphemer.” And the whole crowd joined the hostility.

The priests and prophets and all the people at the Temple mobbed him. “Kill him!” they shouted. 26:8.

This ruckus was loud enough to reach ears in the palace. Officials rushed over before things escalated beyond repair. They quickly set up a formal court hearing right there at New Gate, hoping to keep control.

The priests and prophets looked confident and excited as they presented their accusations against the solitary prophet. They were seeking nothing less than a death sentence.

“This man should die!” they said. “You have heard with your own ears what a traitor he is, for he has prophesied against this city.” 26:11.

The crowds gave their boisterous support.

This could easily have been the end of the prophet. Certainly the king won’t interfere with a second kill. Might as well exterminate all the troublemakers.

One thing saved Jeremiah; the Hebrew law that guarantees the accused an opportunity to defend himself. [6]

Jeremiah didn’t back down one inch. No placating, no apologies, and no humming and hawing. He made direct eye contact with each accuser and everyone in the crowd. This is what he said:

“The LORD sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The LORD gave me every word that I have spoken. But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the LORD your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. As for me, I am in your hands – do with me as you think best. But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the LORD sent me to speak every word you have heard.” 26:12-15.

Transformation in the crowd was remarkable. One eye witness expressed it well:

Was it his stance? His willingness to look everyone in the eye, unashamed and unafraid? Was it the fearless authority and surety of his voice? Or was it the words themselves, that he was indeed ready to die but the guilt of innocent blood would remain on all of us?

I cannot figure it out. I cannot forget the scene.

His last sentence was, “For it is absolutely true the LORD sent me to speak every word you have heard.” Never in my life have I seen such magnetism, maybe even hypnotism. The crowds and officials were mesmerized. The animosity they started with went full-swing to support and loyalty. The royal court seemed bewitched into forgetting even to consider the wishes of our king!

The officials gave their verdict by saying to the priests and prophets for everyone to hear:

This man does not deserve the death sentence, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. 26:16.[7]

Some elders stepped up to support the judges and related an incident of 100 years ago. Prophet Micah spoke much the same words as Jeremiah. The elders gave this advice:

But did King Hezekiah and the people kill him for saying this? No, they turned from their sins and worshiped the LORD. They begged him for mercy. Then the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had pronounced against them. So we are about to do ourselves great harm. 26:19.

If any doubt remained, it was silenced when the most honorable Ahikam, son of the late King Josiah’s close friend, Shaphan,[8] took matters into his own hands. He personally guaranteed refuge for the battered prophet of the LORD.

The mob was pacified. The prophet escaped certain death. The priests were stung by this public defeat; a lost opportunity to eliminate their arch enemy. Inflamed. Not willing to forget the defamatory words uttered against them.

 One priest we interviewed had this to say:

Horrible! How long will this disbarred priest, this insufferable windbag, be allowed to rant and rave and, above all things, abuse us priests of the Most High God? He accuses us of greed,[9] pretense,[10] superficiality,[11] bullying the people,[12] and even used the word “wicked” of us, and accuses us of committing “despicable acts right in the temple.”[13] Our only road to sanity is to find another way to snuff him.

So, what a remarkable day in the heart of the city: A near death experience. Narrow escape by a speech of conviction. Fickle mob doing a 180-degree turnaround. Government officials contradicting a murderous precedent set by the king. And the priests and prophets having a proverbial “pie” thrown in their face.

Things to Note:

1. The prologue[14] in this story is very significant. The time is mentioned, “early in the reign of Jehoiakim.”[15] The Lord tells Jeremiah exactly where to stand, “in the courtyard in front of the Temple of the Lord.” And pedantically tells him exactly what to say, “Give them my entire message; include every word.”

2. The Lord tells Jeremiah His precise motive in giving this assignment: “Perhaps they will listen and turn from their evil ways. Then I will change my mind about the disaster I am ready to pour out on them because of their sins.”[16]

3. These detailed instructions, along with God’s stated motive, must have boosted the prophet’s confidence as he addressed the nobles in the outdoor courtroom by the gate of the Temple. Note his final line, “It is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard.”

4. Jeremiah’s rebuttal was so powerful that it persuaded the nobles and the crowd.

5. The whole story is superbly written and stands as a unified whole.

Prologue 1-3

Content of the message, 4-6

Riotous response to the message, 7-9

Court in session, accusations, 10-11

The accused rebuts, 12-15

Pinnacle verse, 16

A case study presented, 17-19

Relevant back-story provided, 20-23

Final resolution, 24.

Jeremiah may not have experienced physical harm, but the acute intensity of the incident had to leave emotional scars. The mob wanted him dead! (Much like a later mob wanted an even greater prophet crucified). It may have been soon after this “angry mob” event when Jeremiah did suffer severe physical harm and public humiliation. See the next incident.


[1] The incident is dated as taking place “early in the reign of Jehoiakim” and either Egypt or Babylon held domination over them.

[2] We are extremely fortunate to have obtained a copy of this article since only 3 copies were ever made (they had to be copied by hand and were dangerous if ever discovered by the authorities).

[3] These events took place “early” in his reign, Jer. 26:1.

[4] There is nothing fictitious about this character, mentioned only one place in scripture, Jer. 26:20-23.

[5] Shiloh was only 20 miles north of Jerusalem. From the time of Joshua to the time a Solomon, Shiloh was the religious center of the nation, and the people gathered there three times a year for the major feasts. But now it was obviously in a state of ruins.

[6] Hebrew law led the way in judicial fairness around the globe, Due. 19:16-19.

[7] Truly amazing.

[8] 2 Chr. 34:8, 16-18; Jer. 26:24.

[9] Jer. 6:13; 8:10.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jer. 6:14; 8:11.

[12] Jer. 5:31.

[13] Jer. 23:11.

[14] Jer. 26:1-3.

[15] The severity of response against Jeremiah in this incident shows how quickly the spiritual condition of the nation changed after the passing of Josiah. This was probably within the four years of the good king’s death.

[16] Sounds like the outcome is unknown, and the Lord Himself will react to the people’s choices.