Thursday, February 2, 2012

I can't believe what I just read in Jeremiah!

My reading plan
I don’t know how many of you know this, and I hesitate to share this with you for fear of being misunderstood, but I am reading through the bible in 90 days. That’s right. I am on a reading plan that is fast and furious. I started December 5 and will finish the entire bible March 5.

 I would not recommend this for everyone. If you have never read through Scripture, or you read the bible in a devotional fashion, this is not a smart thing to do. Why am I sharing this with you?

One of the advantages of reading Scripture so quickly is that I am picking up themes and perspectives that I somehow miss when I read through the bible over one to two years.

One of the stories that stopped me in my tracks a few days ago comes near the end of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah factoids
Jeremiah is undoubtedly one of the more unsuccessful prophets in the Old Testament. Unsuccessful, because he prophesied and pleaded with Judah for about 40 years. His ministry spanned five kings, and the very thing he tried to avoid, and preached against happened—the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 587 BC.

Jeremiah is believed to have written, with the help of his assistant, Baruch, Jeremiah, I and 2 Kings, and Lamentations. So this man was a significant prophet and by worldly standards his ministry was forty years of futility.

From heaven’s perspective though, he was a success. Despite beatings, starvation, imprisonment, character assassination, and people mocking his preaching, this man kept getting up off the ground, he kept going back into the eye of the storm, and like a broken record, he repeated those same words, “Thus says the Lord.”

The incident
Read Jeremiah 42: 1-22 and tell me if you can find a parallel in all the sixty-six books of the bible? When was the last time you read a story where a group of a people came to their spiritual leader and asked the leader to go before God on their behalf to help them discern God’s will for their lives? They had a major decision to make but needed clarity.

They even said, “We want to know what the Lord wants us to do and where the Lord wants us to go.”

 As a pastor, my heart would explode with joy if members of my congregation told me such words.

This is what they finally told Jeremiah: “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” Jeremiah 42:5-6

Not just what happened; but why?
Well, I think you know what happened. Ten days later the prophet comes back with God’s instructions, and the people did not like what they heard. They called Jeremiah a liar. He was misinterpreting God and giving a false message. They did the exact opposite of what they said they would do. It’s one thing to understand what they did. A bigger question is why? In answering the why of their actions I had to admit this is a common phenomenon in my life and in the lives of others. More on this another time.

Reader: Give this your best shot: why do you think we do this? We want help, but when help is given we reject it?