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 it.
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.
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