March 29, 2015

A Glimpse From The Bottom, Part I: Making Things Happen

I have to be honest. Lately life has taken turns I never foresaw and has gone many odd places I would not have gone by choice. To not see it all as abject failure I have chosen to see many of the events as the unfolding plans of a sovereign God. I also must admit that I don't like 99% of the plans that have currently unfolded. To  at least try to momentarily understand what is actually going on in this life I have needed to examine the stories of Christ, Job and Jeremiah. This series of posts is a series on the study I did on Jeremiah 38.

Making Things Happen

In the next few posts I will be presenting what I believe to be an eye-opening look at the narrative of Jeremiah the prophet being lowered into a cistern. It is what we would understand today as a hand-dug well. As I studied it the Holy Spirit revealed things in it I had never seen before. Some of it astounded me in its depth and paradoxical nature. What is said about Jeremiah, king Zedekiah and the people of says about us today also. There are many parallels that can be drawn due to our sinful natures and the immutability of God. I had to leave out some of my findings to maintain the continuity of the article. 

Here is my study.

Jeremiah 38:1-3 ~ Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3 And this is what the LORD says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’” 

It is clear Jeremiah was not preaching a Gospel of prosperity and primrose paths to the people of Judah. It is the same message he has been preaching all along. Obey and live, disobey and die. The end is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can escape with your life but you must surrender. The underlying message is clear. Better to surrender to a bad situation and live another day than to resist and die outright.

Jeremiah 38:4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”

The officials in Judah believed Jeremiah was being traitorous and undermining military and civil morale. The accusations by the officials were probably true. In any other given situation someone within your own ranks telling you to surrender would've and should've been viewed as traitorous and killed as verse 4 says...but this was different. The problem was that Jeremiah had been told by God that this aggressor had been specifically sent against Judah because of its disobedience and if Judah had become obedient they would’ve been spared the Babylonian onslaught. The king knew Jeremiah was a true prophet of God. We know this based on the position given him in the Zedekiah's courtyard. Therefore he should've listened to Jeremiah instead of the poor advice of the other officials.

Zedekiah had to have known that God was specifically sending Babylonians against His own people specifically because they were not listening to Him and obeying Him. The only reprieve would be if the king and nation reversed that trend of disobedience…which of course they didn’t. The Babylonian siege mounds outside Jerusalem represented the judgment of God. By resisting the council of Jeremiah instead of listening to him...the king and Judah were pitting their machines of war against God's divine wrath in a no-win situation. They wanted only a God of mercy and not a God of justice. They wanted a loving God that would overlook all their past sins and disobedience without repenting of those past sins. The Bible of course is clear, we cannot just have a God of love without a God of wrath. A failure to repent solicits wrath.

Jeremiah being influenced by the Spirit of God was mindful and concerned for the things of God. He saw that God had chosen Babylon in order to chastise or if necessary, destroy Judah. The prophet was in reality not a traitor at all but rather he was acting out of a higher form of patriotism than the officials mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 38. Jeremiah had gotten to the true spiritual intent of the Babylonian siege while the officials were spiritually blind. All that would save them was repentance and righteousness, not their own military devices. There is a world of people to this day who refuse to accept the concept of the wrath of God and want only a loving God. They are mindful only of the things of the world. They make decisions only on the basis of present circumstances and never on the basis of moral absolute and an eternal view.

We see this a lot today when you have a person(s) in a church that speak truth and that truth is in direct opposition or rubs up against the grain of the direction of that church. It often comes out in evangelical churches as, “You are not teaching or preaching in love. You are being too harsh and unloving. You need to soften your message.” The unfortunate thing is that by softening the message which is the honest and brutal truth of the Gospel (and what it says about our sin), the intent of Jesus’ message is lost and the truth doesn’t end up getting across. Therefore people stay lost and are not saved. That is why Jesus was known to have said, “You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…” 

Furthermore, Jesus told us that he did not come to make us feel good about ourselves and have warm fuzzy feelings but that his coming would cause division right within our own families and the Church. Why? Because not all of the Church is the Church. So not all of the “Church” will be unified in the Spirit because some of the “Church” will not be in the true Spirit of Christ. Wolves among the sheep.

So in theory, if a man that brings the brutal truth of the Gospel to a church causing division, it means you have wolves among the sheep. Some of them will not even realize they are wolves. Many will be passive agents of the Devil due to their biblical/theological ignorance. Jeremiah was not a man who was too harsh and unloving but rather this was a man guilty only of loving his people too much. He loved them so much because God loved them.. Jeremiah told them the hard truth. They just didn't have the mind, heart or the ears to hear the truth because they had turned their backs on God.

What the passage says about today's churches and their leaders is is the same thing it said about the king and the people of Judah. Zedekiah’s weak response was a sad commentary: “Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you” (v. 5). What a tragic thing to see a leader capitulate to cowardice by giving in to herd mentality and push aside the real truth in favor of myths. They gave in to teaching that tickled their ears. Again, this is also a sad indictment of many of our modern evangelical churches. In a Pontius Pilate type manner, Zedekiah spinelessly washes his hands of the issue and passes the fate of Jeremiah off to others. So too churches today abandon conviction to stand for the truth of Scripture in favor of cultural acceptance and not "rocking the boat" within their local congregations.

Here is the bottom-line. In tough situations there are only three types of people. Those who make things happen, those who let things happen, and those who say: ‘What happened?’  Jeremiah, all truth-tellers and Gospel preachers are the first type of person. Everyone else resides in one of the other two categories. 

An additional side note about Jeremiah is that we see a treatment of God's prophet that will typify the treatment of Jesus Christ Himself. He will be accused of political treachery. He will be abandoned by his peers. He will physically and mentally suffer for the well-being of others that are blind to why he is suffering for them. He will be rejected and maltreated by His own people. Although he is rejected by his own people, it will be a gentile that accepts him and first recognizes his innocence. In Jeremiah's rising from the cistern we see life being drawn from a dead dry hole in the earth (grave) and in so doing, it brings glory to God.

[Continued In Part II]

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