Things Never Change

30th November, 2009 - Posted by Claire Larsen - No Comments

Although the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the people of Judah between the years 609 BC and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, he could be speaking to the church in Harrisburg where I live or to any church throughout this country. Buried in the middle of the Old Testament (Jeremiah 5:30:31) is a warning that all of us should attend to seriously.

“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land” — That introduction should capture our attention. What is this terrible thing?

“… the prophets prophesy falsely” — The prophets that proclaimed God’s Word were not giving an accurate and true message to the people.

“… and the priests rule at their direction.” — The religious leaders who led people in worship and were the spiritual authority for God’s people listened to the false teaching of the prophets. They didn’t question the error of the prophets and refused to rule God’s people according to God’s law. They created their own standards and rules  and either rejected or ignored what God had commanded about worship and godly living.

“… my people love to have it so” – As if it wasn’t bad enough that the prophets and priests had forsaken God’s way, the people were glad about the disastrous situation.

When I read these verses, I said to myself, “What’s so different today?” Many pastors don’t want to  preach about sin from the pulpit, and church leaders don’t want to confront their members when they live in disobedience. Where is the call to recognize sin and repent?  When pastors speak a message of rebuke, is it a call to seek God’s grace and forgiveness or is it a message of religious legalism that emphasizes pietistic disciplines and outward actions?  We need to hear sermons that encourage repentance but lead us away from legalism and towards grace.

In Jeremiah’s day, the blame was not only upon the prophets and the priests. The ordinary person heard the prophets’ words and followed the religious practices encouraged by the priests and were very content. How many people today are content to go to church, hear that God loves them, and live a religious life centered on their own comfort and well-being?  Where is the self-examined heart, self-denial, and the hard, narrow road of obedience?  Where is the person who understands idolatry of the heart and strives by God’s grace to have an undivided heart of devotion to the Lord?

Reading these words have been a particular warning to me as well. Though I am not a prophet, I am a teacher and an author. Though I don’t write or speak in fear, I must take very seriously anything I say or write regarding Scripture. I want to communicate in the best way I can the message that God has for His children. It is an awesome responsibility.

“… but what will you do when the end comes?” — God’s question through the mouth of Jeremiah is a sobering one. For each of us the end will eventually come, either at Jesus’ return or our own death, and at that time we will be responsible before God for the truth that we have chosen to accept or reject.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke often about God’s everlasting covenant love. Yet this Prophet of Tears who was not popular in his day has a message that is not always popular today. Those who are prudent will hear Jeremiah’s plea to repent and his comfort of a pardoning God. I want to keep this balance in my life — not to forget God’s grace and become overwhelmed by my sin or to ignore God’s holiness and live a sloppy, unexamined life, taking God’s grace for granted.

I am reading Jeremiah in my devotional time, and as I have discovered in the past, so I’m rediscovering now, the beauty, wisdom, warning, and hope that can be found in Jeremiah’s words. You may hear more of my thoughts on what I’m learning from the book of Jeremiah as the weeks go by. If you have thoughts, I would appreciate hearing how Jeremiah’s words have encouraged you as well.

Thank you, Jeremiah, for faithfully writing down these truths of God that keep us on track so many centuries since you penned the words.

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