When Things Get Real

January 23, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 7 Comments
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Jeremiah had placed himself in a collective position with the people: not just speaking on their behalf, but speaking as one of them. Perhaps we should pray this way when praying for our children and our spouses, when praying for our church, when praying for our nation.

The Lord answered Jeremiah in Chapter 15. We say that He always answers prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.

Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

Jeremiah 15:1

This was not an insult to Jeremiah. Actually, it was something of a compliment, but even the most influential of God’s servants and prayer intercessors would not be able to dissuade Him from what must be done. The Lord told him to “let them go,” as if He would allow them to choose their own form of judgment – although any of the four choices would be terrible: death by disease, death in battle, death by starvation, or humiliation and slavery.

And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.

Jeremiah 15:2

God made it clear to Jeremiah that He had no delight or joy in this. He does not rejoice in the death of the “wicked,” much less His own people.

For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?

Jeremiah 15:5

He recognized that, without Him, they would be utterly alone and defenseless in a hostile-to-God world.

Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.

Jeremiah 15:6

They had done this to themselves. They had “forced” God to do it. How heartbreaking that God’s right hand, which longs to stretch out in deliverance and comfort and protection and provision, would now be stretched out – heart-wrenchingly – in destruction. We see the use of anthropopathism and anthropomorphism in the description of God being weary. Time and again He had “repented” – reconsidered venting His wrath, and relented in mercy to allow more opportunity for the people’s repentance – and now He was sick of it. He had only been taken advantage of time and time again. Oh, never let us say that our God is some cruel impersonal force! Let us never say that He is not merciful and longsuffering, nor that He dispositionally “wants” anything for us other than the absolute best – which is repentance, faith, and obedience to Himself.

The Lord’s lamentation provoked Jeremiah’s lamentation, but it was a confused lamentation, because it was a real, human lamentation. As “great” as Jeremiah was, Jeremiah was a man. When his emotions took control – when they eclipsed his faithfully rational mind – He expressed bad theology, but at least He sought God while doing so, rather than trying to consult some worldly philosophy, false idol, or his own imagination.

Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.

Jeremiah 15:10

Jeremiah’s “woe is me” was a curse upon himself, as he was able to see himself only as cursed because He was hated like a bill collector, forgetting that, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

The Lord did not coddle Jeremiah in response. Instead, He let him know that, if he thought he had it tough now, he would soon have reason enough to reevaluate how tough it could really get.

Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders. And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.

Jeremiah 15:13-14

Jeremiah pleaded for God to help him, based on what he had done for God.

O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.

Jeremiah 15:15-17

But then he blamed God, and dared to question God’s method and honesty!

Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?

Jeremiah 15:18

God’s response to this was to give Jeremiah an opportunity that He would not give again to the nation as a whole who had squandered it: Repent.

Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.

Jeremiah 15:19-21

What do we stand to lose if we fail to follow God? Our freedom? Our health? Our prosperity? Our lives?! We can’t always control how God will treat our countrymen, or even our kinsmen, but we can make sure that we are surrendered to Him, that we are trusting Him, and that we consider it an honor, rather than a betrayal, to suffer for Him.

Heman and the Master of the Universe (Part Four)

March 10, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Posted in Heman and the Master of the Universe | 4 Comments
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Heman, the psalmist of Psalm 88, prayed:
1. Openly
2. Obstinately
3. Obnoxiously
He also prayed:
4. Obstetrically

“Obstetrician” is from the Latin term for a midwife, obstetrix, which has the same root from which we get words like “obstacle.” It has the literal sense of “standing in opposition to,” and you can picture a midwife’s position, “standing against” (literally, of course, not figuratively) a woman in the process of giving birth.

midwife

Heman was not afraid – as bizarre as this sounds, in a sense – to stand “in opposition to” God. However, as is the case with a midwife, he was not actually opposing God with his prayer. He was trying to “bring forth” – to bring forth from pain a “delivery/deliverance.”

Heman wrestled with God for healing, deliverance, or at least understanding.

Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise [and] praise thee? Selah.

Psalm 88:10

Heman rhetorically asked God, “How will I praise you if I die?”

Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? [or] thy faithfulness in destruction?

Psalm 88:11

This kind of praying sounds foreign to our ears, but it is not all that uncommon in the Bible, where the petitioner in extreme circumstances sounds as if he’s trying to bargain with God. Abraham did this for Lot as he tried to persuade God to spare Sodom. Moses did this for the people after their idolatry with the golden calf. Here Heman seeks to do it for himself, but he frames it as an opportunity for God to get glory.

Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

Psalm 88:12

Heman also prayed obstetrically not just in bargaining with God for his life, but in the sense of wrestling with God. This kind of praying does not displease God if we are sincere, and if our heart still retains a reverence for Him and a desire to truly know Him, to know His will, and to receive His blessing. Jacob did it. Job did it. Asaph did it in Psalm 73. Habakkuk did it.

Questioning God’s judgment, wisdom, knowledge, or faithfulness can be a dangerous thing, but He may allow it if, through it, we have a true desire to draw closer to Him.

I [am] afflicted and ready to die from [my] youth up: [while] I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, [and] mine acquaintance into darkness.

Psalm 88:15-18

In the darkness we are driven to root out the sins that may have caused our suffering, and this brings us to an intentional spending of time with Him in the awareness of His presence. Even if our suffering is not being caused by specific sins, the Lord’s painful, but gracious, isolation of us from the presence and succor of our friends and loved ones can force us (or free us) to seek Him as the only Light that can shine into, and light our way out of, the deepest midnight darkness of our circumstances or our souls.


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