Sunday, September 05, 2010

Bone Fire Blues- 1

I started reading through the book of Jeremiah again today. I figured I may as well post about it since this is a faith-blog. I'm not planning on it being nearly as organized or formal as any of the Bible studies/reflections that I've done before on this blog. Which reminds me, I still have a couple more to write on 1 John, 2 John, and Philippians, each.

Jeremiah appeals to me because he was trying to shake the people of Judah out of their spiritual complacency and challenge them to oppose social injustice. Jeremiah was written around 585 BC,  thirty years or so before Confucius was born in China and maybe twenty years before Aesop wrote his fables in Greece.

God calls Jeremiah in chapter 1. He objects that he's too young and doesn't know what to say. God assures him that He knew the prophet "before I formed you in the womb," and God assures him that He had set him apart for a purpose.

God directs Jeremiah to call the people of Judah on their idolatry, and assured the prophet that He's right behind him all the way.

How awesome that God knows what you're capable of because He knows you better than yourself? How awesome to know that God can use you and has plans for you and that He wants to use you to make a difference. What a comfort to know that no matter how outrageous anything He asks you to do might be, He's gonna have your back?

The people of Southern Israel (Judah) in Jeremiah's time not only were worshiping pagan idols, but much of that worship included ritual sex. In chapter 2, God compares His people to an unfaithful spouse, so you might say that they were both figuratively and literally acting like whores.

I think that one of the most wonderful metaphors in the Bible is in verse 13,

"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."

It reminds me of when Jesus tells us in John 7:38 that "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

I think that Jeremiah 2:13 is just so incredible. How often in our lives do we try  self-help, and self-improvement or think of ourselves as a self-made man and forfeit the ultimate source of faith, hope, love, confidence and grace? Why do we think we have to always be in control? What makes us think we're so great without God? Why wouldn't we want the best water? What would posses us to decline the amazing free blessings He offers? Trying to make ourselves god is the original sin, after all.

How easy it is to ignore God and take Him for granted when things are going great- and take credit for our successes ourselves. Ah, but as soon as there's any trouble, that's when we all of a sudden want His help. Just like in Jeremiah Chapter 2, verses 27 and 28.

There are two other valuable truths that struck me in chapter 2.

I think that verse 19 makes it clear that when we suffer it is not God's active will to punish us, but rather His permissive will, permitting us to face the natural consequences of our sin. How bitter it is to be separated from God, from His love and parenting protection.

"Your wickedness will punish you;
your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the LORD your God
and have no awe of me,"
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

Verse 20 reminds me of the Bob Dylan song, "Gotta Serve Somebody,"

"You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody"

In verse 20, God complains that His people broke away because they didn't want to serve Him, yet they "prostituted" themselves, letting themselves be used and enslaved by everyone but Him:

"Long ago you broke off your yoke
and tore off your bonds;
you said, 'I will not serve you!'
Indeed, on every high hill
and under every spreading tree
you lay down as a prostitute

What a wonderful image in verse 21 though, that He plants us and tends and cares for us like the choicest vines. "I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock." If only we would trust Him, imagine what masterful expertise as a gardener He would have.

John 15:1-8
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful.3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Watch for more musings on the book of Jeremiah in the coming months- probably shorter and more random, but always from the heart and from the fire locked up in my bones.

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