Friday, September 2, 2011

When the House is on Fire is Not the Time to Be Silent.

This past Wednesday evening in our Bible study at church we discussed the book of Jeremiah. In this study we are trekking through the Bible one book at a time. This was a series that our former pastor began before he was called away to another church and I have picked up the teaching in his absence. The primary purpose behind the study was to see how Christ is made evident in every book of the Bible. Apart from that we also look at some background information on the book and draw out a few lessons. Unfortunately we cannot go in-depth each Wednesday evening because we only have one hour for Bible study. Some may argue that we should take as much time as necessary to cover each book completely and in a different format that would be extremely valuable and edifying. However, the overarching goal is see Christ throughout the Bible not study it exhaustively at this given time. Exhaustive study of the Bible, as I see it, is the responsibility of every believer as they trod the road of life.

At any rate, one of the things that we discussed about Jeremiah was the timing of his prophetic ministry. It came at a time immediately prior to the Babylonian captivity and as a result of that there is much condemnation of the sins of God's people along with some clear hope for the future. Perhaps the most troubling thing that I read in studying some introductory materiel on Jeremiah was the idea that at this time the Israelites were about to see the end of God's patience. The train of Israel's disobedience was charging down the hill to captivity wildly and out of control. God's judgment was on the way.

Understanding this brought fearful a fearful thought to my mind. What if we have pushed God to the limit of His patience in America? Now, let me say two things before we move on: First, I hope beyond hope that we have not. Second, I do not know that we have. I do not have inside information from the Lord that says we have tested His patience too much.

If we look at the history of Israel and consider all of the prophets that God sent there is no doubt that they had enough information and warning to make a decision to turn back to Him. Jeremiah may come near the beginning of the prophetic books in the Bible but he was, chronologically, near the end. In America we have been blessed with two, count 'em...two, Great Awakenings, countless smaller revivals and a plethora of anointed preachers in our 250 years of existence. Yet, as with Israel, we continue to try to press on with our own ideas and defiantly turn from God. When will God look upon us and "give us over" to our own devices and allow us to fall into some sort of captivity experience? I don't have an answer for that.

What I do know is a couple of important things.

1) Jeremiah never gave up on God's people. He never threw up his hands in disgust and defeat, knocked the dust off of his sandals and moved to Greece. We may look at him today and say, "Why not, Jeremiah? You were wasting your breath and people persecuted you endlessly." He didn't give up because God had given him a deep compassion for the people. Jeremiah is known as the "weeping prophet" and he wept because of Israel's sin, the impending captivity and their failure to turn back to God. This compassion that Jeremiah had was, as I said, given to him by God and it is also modeled for us by Christ. At seeing the people lost and astray Matthew 9:36 tells us;

He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

Secondly, Jeremiah never gave up, he never became silent, because he had a divine commission and a word from the Lord for the people. Ultimately, even God never gave up on His people. Jeremiah 3:12 says;

Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, "Return, faithless Israel," declares the Lord; "I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious," declares the Lord; "I will not be angry forever."

Despite the fact that He was going to allow the Babylonians to conquer them, God would still maintain His end of the covenant and would not totally abandon them. He would allow just enough suffering and captivity to serve the purpose of bringing them back to Himself, no more and no less. It is interesting to note that after this final captivity the Jews would never again fall prey to worshiping other gods besides Yaweh. 

2) If America has gone beyond God's patience with us we, as Christians, aren't done yet. If God's judgment comes we do not have the luxury of standing back and saying, "Well, we tried. Oh well." Even when the Israelites went into captivity in Babylon they were not without a prophet. Daniel is a perfect example of this. God continued to speak through His appointed messengers to give a message of repentance and hope to the people. Judgment came, abandonment did not. Therefore, even if we experience God's divine judgment we still have a mission to proclaim His message to the world. Revival and renewal are always on the table of options available to us from God. Look at what God tells us in Jeremiah 3:13, just one verse after what we just saw;

Only acknowledge you iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God and have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed my voice...

If we want His anger to turn from us and for His blessings to flow once more our humble repentance must precede it. 

The point that I would like to make clear is this. It is terrifying to think that we may have strayed from God so much that His judgment is unavoidable. However, even if we have passed the point of no return in that respect our message and mission changes not on iota. We are to continue praying for a move of God in our land. We are to continue to preach repentance, God's judgment and His gracious love and forgiveness. Whether we are on the cusp of the steep hill or find ourselves sailing headlong into judgment there should be an intense urgency in our proclamation of God's truth. If I were in a building that had caught fire I would not casually stroll up and down the hall and mention that someone, if they get a chance, may want to call the fire department. I would be screaming to let people know that they were in serious danger and we must put out the fire and get people there who can.

Friends, the sad truth is that we have started a fire in our own building and everyone is still sitting in their cubicles and drinking coffee in the break room. We, as Christians, need to be warning people and if the building burns down we need to boldly and unapologetically tell people the right way to build it back again. According the Jesus the only way to build that building properly is upon Him. 

Godspeed,

Christian

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