Sunday, July 13, 2008

What I Learned from Jeremiah

During my study of the Old Testament Prophets this summer, I have been intrigued by the testimony of Jeremiah. I could not even begin to encapsulate all of what I am learning in this brief entry; however, I would like to reflect on one of the truths that has impacted me recently.
As you know, Jeremiah is commonly known as the "weeping Prophet". Although it is a good memory tool, this description is not entirely accurate. In fact, this attribute of mourning and sensitivity toward an unrepentant people was something that God had to develop in Jeremiah's heart. As he began his ministry, it was not his first thought. When opposed by the people, he responds by saying:
"But you know, O Lord, all their plots to kill me. Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger." (Jeremiah 18:23, NIV)

Not exactly weeping for his enemies, right?! Yet, as his ministry progresses, God works in the heart of Jeremiah. He teaches him to persevere through difficult circumstances and to preach to a people who will not listen. Instead of a callous indifference, Jeremiah learns to look at people through the eyes of God. To the point that he weeps when he learns of their impending judgment.
"Therefore I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the men of Kir Hareseth. I weep for you, as Jazer weeps, O vines of Sibmah. Your branches spread as far as the sea; they reached as far as the sea of Jazer. The destroyer has fallen on your ripened fruit and grapes." (Jeremiah 48:31-32, NIV)

Notice that these are not even the people of Israel. The Moabites are the enemies of Israel. And yet, Jeremiah still looks upon them with sadness when God declares their coming judgment. What an amazing transformation.
Here is the thought that struck me this week: In the life of Jeremiah, we find a balance that we should do well to notice. First, he does not avoid sharing truth, as difficult as the news may be. In other words, Jeremiah does not compromise his message.
So often, in a world that is unrepentant where truth is relative, we soften our message and call it grace. We don't speak truth into people's lives because we don't want to offend them or chase them away. All too often, we avoid the conviction of God's word because we don't know it our self.
Yet, Jeremiah teaches us that we are a people called to speak the uncompromising truth of God's word through our mouth and through our lives. At times, the message is difficult. People don't want to hear that God hates divorce or materialism is idolatry or apathy is the same as blasphemy. And yet the consequence of disobedience is far greater than any momentary discomfort we might have in sharing God's truth. Our God is holy. As His people, we are called to live holy lives. May we never shy away from this commitment or apologize for the devotion God requires of his people.
Yet, on the other hand, Jeremiah teaches us not to give up on people. Our tendency (my tendency) is to speak truth to people and if they don't respond to the message, I often give up on them. Their heart is too hard and it does me no good to continue counseling this person. They are not married, they continue to live in sin. Oh, they may show occasional signs of repentance but then they go right back to their old ways. They don't get it and I'm done.
Not Jeremiah! For a lifetime he preaches to a people that will not listen. In fact, God tells Jeremiah that the people will never receive his message - yet, he was to continue preaching. We too should not grow weary of doing good. The change in another person's heart never has been, nor will it ever be a result of our personal persuasion. We sow, we water, but only God can cause change and growth in another person's heart.
May we live the balance seen in the life of Jeremiah. Let us live a life that proclaims the uncompromising truth of God's word in a compromising and relativistic world. And may we do so with great perseverance and sensitive hearts never growing weary of doing good in the eyes of the Lord whom we serve.

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