Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jeremiah 7-10: Why I avoid reading the prophecy books

At the risk of sounding unspiritual, I will admit that I like some books of the Bible better than others. I love the Gospels and am particularly partial to the book of John. These books let me see Jesus, who is the exact image of God. I see his love and his compassion, and he shows me how to follow him.

I also love the book of Psalms. The psalmists live conflicted lives. They struggle with God, understanding his justice, living in his truth, and at the same time they rejoice in his power and his majesty. The Psalms teach me how to pray.

The rest of the New Testament (except Revelation), especially the Pauline epistles, show me how to live, how to seek God as an individual, and how to seek God in community. They remind me who I am in Christ.

Okay, those are my favorites. I also like all those narrative texts in the first half of the Old Testament. Numbers and Leviticus get a little dry in places, but I can skim past all the genealogies and don't feel bad about that.

I avoid reading the prophets.
They're hard to understand.
They are written to a specific audience, now dead, and most of the things predicted have already happened. Cool. Still hard to understand.

Sometimes we take passages out of context and try to make them apply to us personally.

For example, Jeremiah 1:5-6 says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born i set you apart; I appointed you to as a prophet . . ." These words are written specifically to Jeremiah; they do not apply to me.

I know that all scripture is inspired by God, and all of it is valuable, but I tend to have a hard time seeing the value of books like Jeremiah.

A few years ago I started reading the prophets anyway. Mainly out of obedience. And I began to get little nuggets of truth.

In reading Jeremiah, I see God's love for his people.
I see his desire for communion with them.
I see his holiness.
I see him planning deliverance for the people even before their discipline.
I see his compassion.

I get to see God's character, and in conjunction with other passages from Scripture, I learn his heart not only for his people Israel, but also for his new bride, the Church of Jesus Christ.

I may not be called to be a prophet, but God knew me before I was born, and he had a plan for me. Psalm 139 says the same thing.

Jeremiah 29:11 says God's plans for his people are good, that ultimately his plan is not to harm, but to prosper. It follows that even if I struggle, suffer, experience defeat, or die, his ultimate plan is victory. Hebrews 11 reminds us that God has a really long view of life, not focused on me, but looking ahead to all people.

It would be better if I had a third example, but I can't think of one. It's late, and I'm tired.

I am learning to approach Jeremiah and other prophecy books with prayer, asking God to teach me, to show me who he is, to show me how to love him and follow him through His Word.


nancyburris1 said...

One thing I like in this particular text is Jeremiah 7:19. " 'Do they spite Me?' declares the Lord, 'Is it not themselves they spite, to their own shame.' " I try to remind myself of this verse when I am feeling defensive about my faith. When encountering individuals who feel it is their duty to disprove God and the Bible, I get irritated and have to remind myself that I have nothing to prove. God himself is proof enough and the words of man cannot change that. These people only put themselves to shame.

Erin Flew said...

Good verse. The other thing I try to remember is that when people engage me negatively about my faith, it's not personal. It's not about me at all. It's God they are rejecting.

Amanda Mineer - GCW said...

I love this secion in the Message, specifically this verse "Let your words change them. Don't change your words to suit them." I think that's Jeremiah 15:20 or 21. That hit me in such a beautiful way yesterday.

Erin Flew said...

Amanda, I love that Message version of the words. It really comes into play in this morning's reading.