A Tearful Message
When the Word came to the priest it wasn’t
a pleasant one, certainly not from his perspective. Raised one of
those special individuals that the people of Israel desperately
needed in their worship of the Almighty One, he was being reassigned
to a new calling by that same Almighty One. Being moved from the
priesthood, with its honored position in worship, to a prophet.
On top of that, a prophet with an undesirable task; and an extremely
unpopular message that would be ever so easily rejected.
It seems everyone likes the singer, the musician
and the worship leader. There is little personal danger to being
the director of the children’s ministry. Who is going to attack
those who hand out food to the starving? But to do and to preach
what he had been commanded, why this would cost him dearly. There
would be no trumpeters heralding his arrival. There would be not
perks or platitudes for him to enjoy. There would be no starry eyed
youngsters’ hero worshiping, and dreaming of being like him
when they grew up. The road before him would be lonely, fraught
with danger and filled with sorrow.
When the only One who has the right to decide
who goes where and who does what, invaded his well structured life,
and redirected it into the path of greatest resistance, naturally
the priest recoiled. He protested of being too young and debated
his inability to know what to say. But, those pitiful excuses would
not stand before the One who is Sovereign. After eliminating the
excuses, the Lord touched this man and gave him his commission.
It was not pleasant. It was not soothing rhetoric. It certainly
was not politically correct. Although he was a patriot, he would
be considered a traitor before his work was done. He would be misunderstood,
ridiculed, rejected and tortured, all because he was to deliver
a message that was so sobering that he could only weep while sharing
The message involved plucking up and breaking
down. It was about destruction, famine, defeat and the end of normalcy
among his people. It was so negative, so sobering and seemingly
so hopeless. No preacher in his right mind, no prophet however courageous
and strong, and no patriarch regardless how revered and obeyed,
would have ever desired such a path in life. To be the one who for
over 40 years would pronounce judgment upon his nation and calamity
upon his own kin. But that was the lot of Jeremiah.
It is in the record of Jeremiah, the most melancholy
and grief stricken prophet of the Old Testament, that we observe
a great truth fleshed out. Jeremiah was given the task of forcefully
and passionately confronting the wayfaring nation of Israel with
their sin of spiritual harlotry; regardless of personal discomfort.
Idolatry had been so ingrained in their national life for such a
long time that it would take a lengthy dose of chastisement, delivered
by captivity, to root it out. God had warned His people in Deuteronomy
28 that if they ever turned from Him in that Promised Land that
He was giving them, that He would turn from them. He spelled out
in graphic terms and arresting word pictures the calamities and
horrors He would allow to be brought upon His people, if they went
after other gods. The Lord God gave a chilling prophecy of the consequences
of their sin, without relishing the experience. It would break the
people’s stubborn will, but it would also break His loving
heart. Yet, God honors His word over His own name and His own family.
He never violates His precepts and His Word will not return void.
So, centuries removed from the curses promised in Deuteronomy, God
moved upon a prophet to deliver the reason why the people were going
to suffer great indignity. The prophet endured harsh personal injustice
as they recoiled in disgust from his faithful proclamation of the
truth, and he also felt their pain as they recoiled from the suffering
that they would endure.
Jeremiah was called by God to preach against
the sins of his nation and to agree with his Lord’s righteous
treatment of His own people, those who were the “apple of
His eye.” He urged his people to give in to the enemy and
minimize losses, for resistance was a hopeless endeavor. The message
was not popular; in fact, it was considered down right unpatriotic
and not sympathetic to the cause of Israel. But it was the truth.
We Americans did a good deal of weeping on and
following 9/11. Yet, in this day of great anxiety over the evil
terrorists that seek to destroy our nation, there is a wonderful
resurgence of patriotism. We see the flags displayed from cars to
businesses, from homes to freeway billboards. We feel swelling within
us a spirit of camaraderie and love for homeland whenever we hear
our National Anthem played. We are ready to lock and load, to take
out the bad guys wherever they exist, and to staunchly defend our
continent. That is well and good, but, while we are swimming in
“love of country,” let’s not forget a few facts.
To denounce certain practices will not make us popular. The airing
of these issues may cost us to be misunderstood and even hated.
We might, although deeply committed to our Constitution and freedom,
be wrongly labeled as “traitors” or “un-American.”
We could even face some type of persecution. But we must speak the
Word of the Lord.
And that Word revealed in Psalm 9:17 basically
is this, “The nation that forgets God will be turned into
hell.” You say, we have not forgotten God, look at all the
signs invoking His blessing. Really, God bless the U.S.A., in what?
Bless us in our aborting over a million babies a year? Bless us
in our manufacturing of enough hard core pornography to become the
porn capital of the World? Bless us in our greed and materialism
that helped create a climate for debacles such as Enron? Bless us
in our drug and alcohol addiction? Alcohol addiction so pronounced
that a recent national study states that one third of all high school
students in America binge drink (drink themselves senseless) at
least once a month. Bless us in our turning from the One true God,
the God who never changes, to embracing a god as shapeless and moldable
as Play-Doh, becoming whatever anyone wants at any time? Bless our
rejection of the Bible as the Word of God and bless our attempts
at pluralism at any cost? Bless our endless promotion of wickedness
through Hollywood and the media and grace our same sex unions with
greater acceptability? I haven’t even begun to scratch the
surface of the sins of America. Need I continue?
Our signs should say things like, “God
forgive America,” or “God have pity on America.”
Our desire to have God “bless” America reveals the hidden
wickedness of our heart. We should be in contrition, invoking God
to spare America, but we are so selfish we only want to be blessed.
So did the nation of Israel when Jeremiah came on the scene. But
God blesses those who have hearts after Him, and He had to bring
Israel to that place once again. The trauma of invasion and the
horrors of war, the shame of defeat and occupation coupled with
the sorrow of displacement. Add to this the loneliness and homesickness
of living in a foreign country, the loss of freedom and national
identity and the degradation of slavery; united together would bring
the nation to a place of humility and repentance. Jeremiah watched
it happen. Jeremiah felt it happen. Jeremiah languished in sorrow
for his people.
But Jeremiah never candy coated or held back
the Word, anymore than he held back the tears.
The truth is that we love our country, and believe
it to be still the greatest nation in the world, and of course we
should be defending its shores, and good values. Yet, we must warn
our people that a day of reckoning is coming for any nation that
began with such rich Judeo/Christian values, and has lost its mooring
and is adrift upon the sea of relativism. America, for the most
part, has forgotten its heritage. We have forgotten the One true
God, and have also forgotten that God is not to be toyed with. Are
we in the plucking up and breaking down, or the beginning of calamities?
I certainly do not know, but unless we repent nationally, there
may be many more days of weeping ahead of us.