I’m reading through the Blue Letter Bible study schedule on You Version. It’s a schedule that puts the Bible in chronological order, so that you read chapters and books in the order they happened. Overall, it’s been very interesting.
Today, I hit Jeremiah, and read the first few chapters. The message is pretty clear, God is frustrated with His people. You read through the book, and it is full of threats, angry words, and dreadful images. For a lot of people this is the image of God they have, an angry old king in a far off land railing on the people He created. For others, they will talk about how there is one side of God in the Old Testament (angry) and the other side of God in the New Testament (happy). Neither of these ideas fit at all with what the Bible teaches us about God.
So, what gives then, when we hit stuff like Jeremiah’s writing in the Bible? How do we make sense of it?
I definitely don’t grasp all of why God says what He does. I mean, after all, He’s God. I’m not. Not much more to it than that.
BUT, as I was reading today, I was asking God about this, and he reminded me of something that goes on in my own house. Sometimes, as we are dealing with our daughters, they simply won’t listen to what we are telling them. I know, I know, it’s a shock that our kids act like that. We constantly get “I can’t imagine your daughter being disrespectful. She’s so sweet!” Yes, they are. They are both wonderful girls. But, they do have a condition that makes them act disrespectful, disobedient, and difficult sometimes. I think the technical medical name for it is “human”. They are human, their parents are human, so stuff happens.
Anyway, I was thinking about this week, when I had been asking/requesting/telling/ordering one of the girls to do some jobs around the house that they were supposed to have done. I tried every tactic I knew to get her to take the responsibility on herself and do the job herself. Finally, after quite a while, I had to get stern with her, and do the “dad” thing with my voice and tone. I remember telling her that I had tried to avoid that tone for quite a while, but she wasn’t listening, and I had to resort to it. I mean, she had a role to play, she needed to do it for her own development and good, and I would have been irresponsible to let her get away with skipping out on it. So, I asked. I cajoled. I hinted. I spoke clearly. I spoke directly. Then I had to do the “dad” voice to motivate her. Not because I was hurt, angry, or threatened. She simply needed to get this job done, and wouldn’t listen otherwise.
I think in part that is what we see in Jeremiah and the other prophets in the Old Testament. God has tried to get His people to do what was best for them for hundreds of years. He has shown them miracles, He has blessed them, He has shown them mercy and love over and over. By the time we get to the prophets in the Old Testament, He has had to resort to using his “dad” voice to get their attention. It still doesn’t work, so He has to punish them. You can’t send the entire nation to their room, so He sends them to another country as slaves.
Often my daughters want to accuse me of not loving them when I act like this. The opposite is true. I train them, force them to learn self-discipline and self control, because I love them. That is the only reason I would go through so much hurt with them. It’s no different with God. I mean, think about it. He should have simply had another country wipe the nation of Israel out, and never let it return. Yet, it exists today, thousands of years later.
The God of the Old Testament is a God of love and truth. We just don’t like hearing his “dad voice”. Don’t avoid the message you find in the prophets. It’s a message that still applies to us, today.