The Christian understanding of God is one of love, forgiveness, and grace. These are often the primary characteristics on which we focus. If we are honest, it’s because, with such a God, a lot of pressure is off of us. There are many, however, who claim these same three characteristics are God’s and yet talk only about God’s judgment, anger, and destruction. Today’s passages would seem to have that same division.
In today’s verses, the opening words to Jeremiah are brutal. “Don’t pray…or plead for them…” First, this tells us about Jeremiah. Jeremiah prayed. Jeremiah hurt for the people and the relationship with God that they had lost.
One could say that God’s words were unloving, except perhaps we have the wrong focus. What if God’s focus (in the opening verse, at least) wasn’t really the Israelites, but Jeremiah. Like a parent or grandparent long praying for the salvation of a child or grandchild, perhaps that was Jeremiah (God did tell him to not pray). Perhaps Jeremiah was deeply upset (he was often called the Weeping Prophet), and God wanted him to let go.
There is also the high possibility that God knew that the hearts of the Israelites would not be repentant before the time of reckoning. If this is indeed the case, the heart of “don’t pray” would have been, “release your burden, for it is not yours to bear.” That would be compassion in the face of holiness.
In some ways, Jeremiah is as Paul states, “The Lord gave us that authority to build you up and not to destroy you.” Jeremiah certainly didn’t want the power to destroy the Israelites. He wanted to build them up so that they returned to God.
This is where the hard reality of the Scriptures hits us, and we don’t like it…at all. We say that we don’t like this God of “meanness” and try to cover up what we think is “wrong” with language that God loves everyone.
We don’t like this point. We don’t like the thought of lost loved ones not knowing God at the end. GOOD! We’re not supposed to like it! Perhaps, just perhaps, that God is showing us that it is a serious matter (even deadly), and we ought to be serious about it, too.
- What were your initial thoughts about God when reading Jeremiah? How about Jeremiah? The Israelites?
- What lessons can you learn from God’s words and actions?
- What lessons did you learn from Jeremiah’s words and actions?
- What lessons did you learn from the Israelites?
Lord, loving you is often easy, but your love for us and our betterment is often beyond our understanding. Guide us in your ways. Amen.