Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jeremiah 4-6: If only we would listen . . .

God calls Jeremiah to speak truth to the people, to urge them to repent, to warn them about the disaster that will overtake them if they do not repent. Jeremiah doesn't argue with God's punishment; he knows the people's rebellion has brought this punishment about, but he can barely stand to see what will happen. "Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain . . . How long must I see the battle . . ."

Jeremiah's love for the people, combined with his desire to follow God, compel him to speak, even when he knows they won't listen. His sorrow overwhelms him, he weeps, and he mourns.

His heart for the people reminds me of Jesus after Palm Sunday. Luke 19 describes Jesus riding into Jerusalem, and as he sees the city, he weeps over it. "Oh Jerusalem, if only you had known what would really bring peace, you would have accepted me, but you just don't see it!" He sees the destruction coming in AD 70, when the enemy will circle the city. Speaking to the city he loves, he says, "The days will come when your enemies will . . . encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

In AD 70, the Romans invade the city and even though General Titus orders that the temple be saved--he wants to dedicate the temple to the Emperor of Rome--his soldiers, frustrated by Jewish resistance, torch the temple and it is destroyed. The historian Josephus says that more than a million men, women, and children died in the battle, and more than one hundred thousand were taken into slavery. Titus reportedly refused a wreath of victory because he said there was no honor in "vanquishing people forsaken by their own God."

Just as the people ignored the warnings of prophets that came before, the people of God ignored the warnings of Jeremiah, and they ignored the warnings of Jesus.

And even though they don't don't listen, he loves them and offers them a way of escape.

Jeremiah prophesies, "The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely." (4:27) In chapter 6, Jeremiah prophesies, offering a chance for redemption. He says, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it . . . we will not listen.'" (6:16-17).

How often do we reject God's word, his instruction, his love? How often to we choose our plans over his?

God's mercy and his love for these people are completely without merit. They don't deserve either one. Neither do we.

And yet he loves us too and wants to offer us a way of escape.
Jeremiah can only weep and mourn the destruction of the people, but Jesus can do more. Romans 5:8 tells us, "God shows us love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

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