Monday, September 8, 2008

"It's My Way, or the Highway" - Part I

I'm again reading through one of my favorite books of the Old Testament: the Book of Jeremiah. I'm drawn to this book for various reasons. As a follower of Christ I am amazed, as well as encouraged, to read of how Jeremiah remained faithful to the Lord in the midst of hostile situations and a rebellious people. I also read Jeremiah because it helps me deal with sin in my life. Although God had delivered the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, led the nation faithfully through the wilderness, and provided for her well being, she still managed to forsake the Lord. This is why God asks, "Has a nation ever changed its gods. . .but my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols" (Jer 2:11, NIV). As I read through Jeremiah I am forced to look at my own life and ask the question: "Am I guilty of sin and rebellion against God?" "Am I living my life my way?"

Many times our sins invite suffering. When people ask why bad things happen to them, they rarely associate the suffering with the actions that produced it. Questions dealing with suffering have multiple layers to its response. But, if we are honest, many times, we are the recipients of our own poor choices. This is what God tells Judah, the southern tribe of Israel, when she is taken captive to Babylon (modern day Iraq). "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" (Jer 2:13). Many times our problems began long before with initial steps of rebellion and of actions we took that we knew were not pleasing to the Lord.

Jeremiah was trying to provoke a response from Judah about her suffering. Her suffering was not the result of a capricious God bent on dishing out pain. Jeremiah wanted to help Judah understand why she was taken captive to another nation. Her predicament had not come as a surprise. The tribes of the northern kingdom, Israel, had been taken captive to Assyria in 722 B.C. Many prophets preached to the southern tribes of Judah, calling her to repentance (=to turn away from sin and live differently according to the ways of God), but she refused to listen. This is why Jeremiah tells Judah, "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you" (Jer 2:19a). Did you catch what the prophet said? The captivity was the consequence of her rebellious lifestyle and unrepentant sinful choices. Sadly, the final invasion and captivity of Jerusalem took place in 586 B.C.

Jeremiah calls God's people to repentance. To turn from evil ways and live unto the Lord. Before its demise as an exiled community God called Judah to reflect on her condition and return to him. In addition, one of the things that the prophet did was to try to elicit a change of behavior from God's people as he recorded the emotions of a loving God and Father. Jeremiah wanted wayward Judah to turn from her evil ways and return to her God. (To be concluded tomorrow)
Por Su Gracia y Poder


Anonymous said...

Roger, thanks for your insightful posts.

With the hurricane-ravaged state of Cuba in mind, a lot of Christians are saying that God sends hurricanes toward Cuba out of "vengeance," due to the sins of its people; for turning away from God.

It seems to me we have to be extra careful when making these judgment calls, even if they may be true.

In light of your readings of Jeremiah, what do you think?

I pray for Cuba, and hope God shows mercy on its people.

Big Jose said...

"it seems to me we have to be extra careful when making these judgment calls, even if they may be true."

I have always wondered why people seem to struggle with the truth or falsehood of such a statement.
If it is true statement, then it is not a mere judgment but rather a statement of fact, i.e. truth. A judgment call is an opinionated thought and may not be true at all. It thus cannot be classified as a fact.

So either God sends hurricanes to Cuba because of the people's sin, or he does not. If it is true then there need not be any concern with it being a judgment call. If it is true, then why are we apologetic about it. I think that the concerns thoughtful Christians may have with making such a statement are born, not out of the truth of the comment, but rather with the obvious moral implications of such a thought.

First I don't think God "sends" hurricanes to Cuba or New Orleans to punish sinners, rather he "allows" these natural disasters to occur. There is a very important distinction between "sending" and "allowing". That very difference was a major point of Roger's analysis of Jeremiah. The danger in turning from God is not necessarily the "sending" of chaos but rather the "allowing" of it.

That being said there is an obvious problem with my argument. There are examples in the Bible of what seems to be God "sending" death and destruction towards a sinning people. The book of Exodus is a prime example. God "sent" the plagues to Egypt. I suppose these could be reconciled by pointing to the fact that this was a very special circumstance, an exception to the general rule that God does not take an active part in sending death to humans.

Roger P. Felipe said...

My blog on Monday, August 11, 2008
"If God is Sovereign, then Evil?" touches on this subject of God's sovereignty. I think it is helpful in answering, in part, the question of those who suffered in Cuba as a result of the hurricanes. A passage for your consideration is Luke 13. I wonder if God is trying to show his "vengeance" over the sins of the people in Galveston and Houston. Some in Cuba today believe that God is sending these storms for the explicit reason of leading the nation to repentance (I've received some emails this week). Others believe that God will use the storms to help them think of their need to him and of eternal matters. Now, can someone help us understand the purpose(s)for hurricanes? Doesn't it have to to with dispersing the heat concentrated and accumulating in one area, and pushinhg the heat upward from the tropics to the north pole? I believe the Bible does teach that at times God is intentional in sending things directly by his divine will. He is God, Sovereign, and will accomplish his purpose for us and the planet. When a hurricane, a tornado, and earthquake, or someting else is directly sent by God, or allowed by God, I can't tell you. That he is in control and has a purpose (which many times I can't understand or figure out)is something clear in Scripture.