I’m continuing to read through the book of Jeremiah, reading chapters 14-17 today.
I admit it. I’m already tired of Jeremiah. The constant warning to the people to repent, the repetitive threats of what will happen to them, the constant beat down of how sinful they are and how the nation is going to fall, it’s all wearing on me. I confess it, and put it out in the open. I am tired of reading this book.
Which, of course, makes me wonder, why am I so tired of this book? Shouldn’t I feel compassion for the people who about the be destroyed? Shouldn’t I feel awe for God’s power and mercy? Shouldn’t I run to hide in God’s holiness as I realize how serious He is about obedience?
But instead, I feel beat up and weary of the message.
I think part of it is conviction, because I know I am guilty of what the Israelites were guilty of. They worshiped fake gods instead of worshiping and serving the True God. I do that all the time, whenever I turn to anything for comfort that isn’t Jesus. It’s idolatry, and I am guilty. So, as I read this, I know this is how God should treat me. It scares me, and brings my guilt to the surface. I don’t like the daily reminder, and I want to move on to the more “loving” passages where I feel better. But, these passages in Jeremiah are about love.
Second, I don’t like this side of God. The vengeful, judging, angry side of God. It makes Him seem like a big whiny baby. “I’m gonna get you!” is all He seems to say. I don’t like hearing God say that. I like the loving God of other parts of the Bible. As I ask God about all of this, I begin to realize something that may just be my own issues, I’m not sure if any of you ever have these feelings or not. But, here is what I am understanding a little more.
If we back up from the Jeremiah story, God loves the whole world. Every person made is loved by Him. He speaks to them, calls them, and wants them to trust Him. His story with Israel wasn’t the ONLY story of Him loving people. It is the main story, but not the only story. God equally loves every person from Adam on down through the lines. He does NOT love Israel MORE than other people. Sometimes, reading the Old Testament, I begin to quietly believe He was only working with the Jews. But He wasn’t. Their story was special, not because God loved them more, but because He gave them more opportunity to serve Him. Because He has incredible grace and mercy, He picked them to receive extra gifts. He put His temple with them, He blessed their kings, He gave them the Scriptures. They didn’t deserve it all. He just did it. His plan was for them to take these special gifts, and as they used them to obey Him, other nations would see it, and then those nations would understand the truth, and be drawn closer to Him as well. It’s actually a plan filled with kindness. He knew people needed a visual to understand things, so He gave them the nation of Israel as that visual. The Jews just happened to benefit from the deal, because God chose them. He could have chosen anyone, but He chose them.
So, as the Jews were obeying God, the other nations would be blessed as they saw what obeying God looked like, and followed suit. The problem was, the Jews thought they were special, that God owed them, and that all of this blessing was for them to spend on themselves. They were selfish with it, and never really shared it. Because they held it to themselves, in time they lost their love for God as well, and THEY copied the OTHER nations, completely reversing what God had set up.
By the time we get to Jeremiah, the Jews have stubbornly, selfishly, and immaturely so screwed the whole thing up, it was irreparable. God had no choice but to do away with the nation of Israel, and start over. That is where the prophets come in. God is trying to warn the few remaining people who might still love Him to get ready. Most of the people were not going to listen, no matter what. The prophets are the last little voice telling anyone who still loved God to prepare themselves for what is coming.
So, when we read the ominous and dark words in Jeremiah, they aren’t the words of a pouty God throwing a fit. They are the last verses of a love song God is trying to sing to the few remaining people who know and love Him. When we understand this, it all makes a lot more sense, and it doesn’t feel so dreadful.
But the question still remains, what do we do with it? Are we spending God’s blessing in our lives on ourselves, instead of spreading it out around the world? Where are you and I personally guilty of the sins of the Israelites? The call to repent and fix it is still the same, and it’s not too late. What will you do differently today?