When we are most in the dark concerning God's dispensations, we must keep up right thoughts of God, believing that he never did the least wrong to any of his creatures. When we find it hard to understand any of his dealings with us, or others, we must look to general truths as our first principles, and abide by them: the Lord is righteous. Matthew Henry
Reading the Book of Jeremiah, encapsulated very well here in chapter 12, we get a reality check of the Christian life that is easily missed in the American church.
I was brought to conversion by a little yellow book called the '4 Spiritual Laws'- a brilliant tract written by Dr. Bill Bright in 1952. It has been reported that 2.5 billion of those little books were printed.
Law 1 is "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life" and uses John 3:16 and John 10:10 as Scripture proofs for that.
I am not debating the truth of the quote. But it must be understood in the context of eternity.
Jeremiah's earthly life does NOT reflect that reality. In some ways Law 1 for Jeremiah is "God loves you and offers a horrible plan for your life on earth". If we base the success of his ministry on earthly indicators, we might label him a failure.
We often refer to this major prophet as the 'weeping prophet'. He prophesies to Israel during a time of their slide into deeper idolatry and violation of the covenant promises. Jeremiah's story is often told as one who had an early life of bliss but had to deliver the harsh messages from God which resulted in vicious attacks, even from his own family.
Jeremiah experienced being beaten, threatened, put into stocks and deep wells, and accused at all times. He was told to not take a wife and avoiding social activities that seemed celebratory. He was told to do these strange activities which symbolized the nation's sins. The sins were taking a toll on God's people, including famine and the fear of invading foreigners.
But intertwined with all the darkness are wonderful words of hope. God will give a new administration of the Covenant of Grace which will be a new heart and new life.
So as we read this major prophet, we are often faced with uncomfortable questions and some of the same attacks that Jeremiah heard on a daily basis.
THE GOD WHO PUNISHES AND AVENGES:
The idea of the punitive God is frequently attacked. I am often thoughtful of Richard Dawkins' blistering description of God.
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
What do we do when we hear of this charge? I think there are a few important principles to keep in mind when facing this attack.
A God without justice, is not worthy of worship. This is a VERY crucial point. In Jeremiah 12, we are reminded what a hurtful world we live in. Human beings can be cruel. The history of man leaves a wake of brokenness and destruction. The reason we are repelled by the charges by Dawkins - because we see that evil on display by the acts of men.
I was helped greatly years ago by the argument made by Croatian Theologian Miroslav Volf (introduced by Tim Keller) who understands that only the certainty/hope of cosmic justice stops the cycle of violence created by human vigilantism and the blood lust of revenge.
My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance…My thesis will be unpopular with man in the West…But imagine speaking to people (as I have) whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…Your point to them–we should not retaliate? Why not? I say–the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from God…Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that God refuses to take the sword…It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land–soaked in the blood of the innocent, the idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind…if God were NOT angry at injustice and deception and did NOT make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship.As Christians, we believe there will be a throne of justice and a day of judgement where right will win and evil will be destroyed. This is a starting point of the gospel. An honest accounting of our lives helps us to understand that we too have participated in deeds of darkness and, without mercy, are in danger of the fires of Holy Fury at all the suffering and pain we have caused.
To criticize God at this point is to make a judgement that is TOO EARLY and a huge misunderstanding of HIS MERCY shown in HIS PATIENCE.
It is perfectly understandable for a man like Jeremiah to cry out to God as he has been injured by wicked men. And it is just as understandable for us to cry out for justice and mercy at the same time.
The cross of Christ is a picture of cruelty, love, justice, and mercy all mingled together in blood, sweat, and pain.
THE WHINEY LIFE:
This point is going to be easily misunderstood.
There is a sense in which God hears us, understands us, loves us.... but also chastises us for being a whiner.
This doesn't mean that life is not hard. Remember Ecclesiastes 12?
Remember also your Creator in vthe days of your youth, before wthe evil days come and the years draw near of which xyou will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
Life gets hard. I find myself lamenting more the world and my aging body. I find myself nostalgically longing for earlier days when my girls were young and more of my loved ones were still on the earth.
But it is a reality that doesn't deserve depression. I know this and God knows this.
Because a day without regret is coming. All of the tinge of longing- the small sadness that comes- on the 18th hole when you realize a special time is ending- when you have just made the last cast- coming home after a vacation- AND the big sadness- the loss of a friend on news of cancer- all will have AN END!
But a day has been promised when the joy will be perpetual.... a paradise without mosquitoes- youth and vitality that does not fade- discovery and creation that never backs up... do we really believe this?
If so- why long to look back- why not take the next step to that reality? Why not just enjoy all the good you can squeeze out TODAY?
But a bigger point is that ALL I COMPLAIN ABOUT TODAY is nothing. Is any day I have harder than what Jeremiah experienced daily?
I read about great men in the 19th century and realize they had no air conditioning. The death of children from fever and illness was quite common. I live in more luxury that the Kings of ages past.
I have linked a funny video that expounds on this idea that life is amazing and no one is happy:
LIFE IS AMAZING AND NO ONE IS HAPPY
So yes, God knows my hurts are real. My fears and doubts are dark. But His truth is there to keep me walking with Him on the journey.
Craig Morgan's song, This Ain't Nothn' is a better attitude to display: THIS AIN'T NOTHIN'
So to close:
- Begin everyday with a message to God- THANK-YOU for all I have. If salvation were the only gift you have given me, I'd still be able to praise You forever.
- Begin everyday with a prayer: I need You God, this world is too much for me. Only You can give me the right perspective to live today in peace and joy.
- Begin everyday with His WORD, throw in some music based on His truth.
- TRUST THAT HE IS GREAT AND HE IS GOOD
- BE PATIENT- HIS TIMING IS GOOD
- CLING TO THE CROSS WHEN THE STORMS BLOW
- LOVE OTHERS AND CRUCIFY SELF
- LONG NOT FOR THE PAST, BUT FOR HIS RETURN IN THE FUTURE
- LIVE UNTIL IT IS TIME TO GO HOME, NO MATTER WHAT
That is the medicine of Jeremiah 12.
14 Thus says the Lord concerning all jmy evil neighbors kwho touch the heritage that lI have given my people Israel to inherit: “Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. 15 And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, mand I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. 16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people,nto swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal,othen they shall be built up in the midst of my people. 17 pBut if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord.”Have you come to know God through the gospel?
Here is my version of Law 1:
The most amazing truth is this- The Creator has demonstrated love while we have shown hate. He offers us a way to be united with Him as adopted sons through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It is a gift we receive by submission and trust.
How can we turn that down?
How can we stay down if that is true?
Have a blessed day!