Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jeremiah 1-3: The Bride

We saw it all through the book of Job, and we'll see it in Jeremiah too. God's ways are beyond our ways, his thoughts are beyond our thoughts. We will never fully understand him, and any claim that we do is foolishness on our part.

He does give us glimpses of his character through the Bible though, through prayers written by the psalmists and in the epistles, through narratives in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Acts, and through the use of metaphors.

God is the good shepherd.
He is our father.
He is the way, the truth, and the light.
He is a vine, and we are the branches.
He is our husband, and we are the bride.

That is one of my favorite metaphors, probably because I love being married. I love giving myself to Duane and find enormous freedom in our relationship. He loves me even when I am unlovable.

I have been known to be a little melancholy, and he lets me whine until I'm done. I have been known to arbitrary. (You can ask him about the argument on whether or not to use a sponge or a dishcloth to wash dishes.) I have been known to snap at him, and he forgives me.

Sometimes I am plagued with self-doubt, and he believes in me and encourages me to take risks.

He loves me and does things I could do on my own, but he just wants to serve me. He filled up my gas tank last Thursday before he left for San Jose. He lets me order pizza when I am tired. He makes coffee almost every morning.

I trust him, and I find enormous freedom in loving him.

This is the relationship God desired to have with his people, beginning with Abraham. He blessed them and prospered them, rescued them from slavery, brought them into the Promised Land, gave them success over their enemies. As long as they honored him, as long as they loved him with heart, soul, and mind, as long they obeyed him and worshiped only him, he protected them and cherished them. Even when they began to stray, he was merciful.

Until they broke all ties with him.
In Jeremiah, we read, "Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, 'I will not serve you!'"

They wholeheartedly pursued other gods and betrayed their commitment to the One True God. Metaphorically, they committed adultery of the worst kind.

I can't imagine doing that to Duane, betraying him by loving another man.
We protect our relationship by spending time together, by talking to each other, sending emails through the day, honoring each other through mutual acts of service. I don't want to flirt with other men or send them signals that I might be available.

I can't imagine doing that to God.
I want to protect that relationship by spending time with him, talking to him, worshiping him--regularly.

And yet, whenever I exclude him, whenever I put something or someone ahead of him, that is exactly what I am doing. Maybe I'm just flirting with ultimate betrayal, but this is a dangerous flirtation. I want to keep my eyes set on him alone.

God is merciful. When I am distracted, he calls my name. He loves me. He wants to keep me as his own.

God is merciful. Even when his people have turned their backs on him, even when they deny his guilt, he calls to them, "Return for I am merciful. Return for I am your husband. I chose you, and I love you. I want to bless you."

God allows Jeremiah a glimpse of the intense love he has for his people, and Jeremiah weeps because knows the people aren't ready to return just yet.

Do I mourn when I am unfaithful? When I have turned my back on God?
Do I embrace God's mercy and grace? Do I reflect those qualities as I minister to others?
Do I weep as Jeremiah does when I see people walk away from serving God?

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