Jeremiah and the broken heart

I grew up with the phrase describing Jeremiah as “the weeping prophet.”

As I read through this powerful book once again, I find myself in a place of feeling that heart break.

“Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you
and tore away the chains of your slavery,
but still you said,
‘I will not serve you.’
On every hill and under every green tree,
you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols. (Jer. 2:20)

God did the very best for Israel and they continually sought other lovers. I pray for my own life, the church today, and how we have become so efficient in what we do, but are we drawing from the the living fountain God gives us, or are we using our own broken cisterns?

We need a fresh call in our spirits to return to the God of our first love.

Prophesying False Hope

Pick the hot social issue of the day. Pick the hot button issue of any type in our current time.

Think of the rhetoric you hear on blogs and other forms of media.

On any issue, no matter the “side,” more often than not you will hear opinion. Sometimes, as Christians, it may have some sense of “biblical” formation. Yet, more often than not, the opinions offered will be more along the lines of “I had this happen to me, or to someone close to me, so I am changing my view from ‘A’ to ‘B’.”

When it comes to Christians offering opinions and views, that is the case as well.

What rarely happens is someone saying anything about prayer and hearing the word of the Lord more clearly.

Too often we are prophesying false hope.

Too little of our opinion is coming out of prayer and hearing more clearly the word of God and too much is coming out of the other experiences we have around us. It doesn’t matter the “side.”

We are not people of prayer any more. We are people of opinions. And in the process we may be prophesying false hope.

18 But who has stood in the Lord’s council
to listen to God’s word?
Who has paid attention to his word and announced it? (Jer. 23:18, CEB)

I know this idea runs the risk of having someone get up and just saying, “Thus saith the Lord!”

But, as always, shouting “Thus saith the Lord!” doesn’t mean the Lord saith it.

We, as the people of God, need to be standing more in the Lord’s council, begging for HIS view. We need to spend more time with our ears open to HIS word, rather than the words of others we LIKE to hear…

And when we truly hear his word… announce it. Proclaim it. With boldness. Without fear.

But until we get back to standing in the council of the Lord, we may just be prophesying false hope.

The Lesson of the Underwear

These are days when I am fascinated by English translations and wish I knew Hebrew. (And I know at least TWO comments I will get on that statement alone.)

Jeremiah is part of our Lenten reading and the symbolic things Jeremiah had to do were… um… interesting.

This one from Jeremiah 13 is really interesting.

First, the “polite” version:

This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.” So I bought a belt, as the Lord directed, and put it around my waist. (Jer. 13:1-2, NIV)

Now, the “interesting” versions:

The Lord said to me, “Go and buy some linen shorts and put them on. Do not put them in water.” So I bought the shorts as the Lord had told me to do and put them on. (NET Bible)

The Lord proclaimed to me: Go and buy a linen undergarment. Wear it for a while without washing it. So I bought a linen undergarment, as the Lord told me, and I put it on. (CEB)

So… the big question here is obvious… but I’m not going to do it. I just can’t. I thought long and hard and I’m NOT going to ask THAT question… 😉

“Loincloth” seems to be a better way to put it (as does the ESV and NRSV). It was worn next to the body.

The instruction of Jeremiah was to put it under a rock. Don’t wash it. Bury it. Obviously, when the Lord tells him to go get it back, it’s ruined.

A garment that was meant to be worn close to the body was no longer useful. This is the lesson of the underwear. This was Israel. They had gone their own way, had not let themselves be washed by the presence of God, and had instead allowed themselves to be soiled and ruined by their own choices. They could no longer be kept close to God.

“They will become like this linen garment — good for nothing!” (Jer. 13:10b, CEB, emphasis added)

In this season, allow the Spirit to wash you. Don’t allow the junk of this life to so overwhelm you that you become useless to the King. The Kingdom is about obedience, not just mental acumen. Follow him. Cling to him. Literally.

When the Word of God is Offensive… We’re in Trouble

10 To whom can I speak and give warning?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed
so they cannot hear.
The word of the Lord is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it. (Jer. 5:10, NIV)

When we quit listening to the Word of God because we don’t find it “to our taste,” we’re in trouble. We’re looking for pleasure in the Word when we need to be looking for truth. We need to hunger for the truth of the Kingdom and obedience to the Living Word.

We may very well be in trouble.

 

The Warm Fuzzies and Fear

It’s probably best to avoid Jeremiah in your Lenten reading if you’re into the warm fuzzy God stuff. As a matter of fact, you will need to avoid the Romans 3 reading for today as well.

In fact, close your eyes, connect your middle finger with your thumb, and just start singing “Kumbaya.”

If your view of God is the warm fuzzies and how he just loves you just like you are and requires nothing of obedience, this stuff out of Jeremiah just won’t do.

22 Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
“Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say to themselves,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives autumn and spring rains in season,
who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’
25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away;
your sins have deprived you of good. (Jer. 5:22-25, NIV)

I love the Lord. He is incredible. Yet, he is powerful. I need to step back from time to time and realize he is the One who stops the oceans. Who am I in his presence?

He is KING. I need to understand his reign in my life, which, from time to time, will lead to a healthy dose of awe. It’s not my kingdom! It is HIS kingdom!

Let us fear God.

 

Broken Cisterns

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer. 2:13, NIV)

We exchange the glory of God for our own glory. We insert our own efforts and abilities in where the grace of God and the power of the Spirit should be in our lives.

We lack a dependence on the Spirit for power and sustenance. We have found our own way and have called it good.

What we don’t realize is that we have replaced the living water for stagnant water. We’re so used to it, we think it’s “fresh” water. (Kind of like “natural” flavoring in a food product.) We are perpetually walking around talking about the things of God using air quotes. (Things like, “move of God,” “true worship,” etc.) And we don’t even realize it. We think it’s real.

Yet, we’ve substituted the powerful presence of God for our artificial sweeteners and called it good.

At a time we need to be appalled at our apathy, we rejoice over fake experiences, thinking God is “blessing.”

We need fresh water again. Don’t be satisfied with anything less.

Advent — Righteousness and Justice

14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

(The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Je 33:14–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

The bringing of justice in the land. Our American understanding of justice isn’t quite the same as the Hebrew understanding of justice. We think of judges and juries. We may even think of Superman, Batman, and the “Justice League.” There is a sense of “crime and punishment.”

My study of the Old Testament over the years has led me to a fuller understanding of justice. It is the concept of bringing what is right to those who desperately need it. It is extending grace and mercy toward those who have no opportunity to work it out on their own. It is about bringing “Kingdom rightness” to the margins of our world.

This is what I see in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the coming of grace and mercy to the places in our world that society and religious leaders have ignored to that point.

Jesus has come to bring justice to the world. He has come to bring grace and mercy, extending it to those who didn’t have much of a chance before. He extends it to us. All of us.

Advent is here. Let it be a time again of the Body of Christ revealing Kingdom “rightness” into this world once again.

First Sunday of Advent