Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mourning a Love Lost

The word of the Lᴏʀᴅ came to me, saying,
“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ,
    I remember the devotion of your youth,
        your love as a bride,
    how you followed me in the wilderness,
        in a land not sown.
    Israel was holy to the Lᴏʀᴅ,
        the firstfruits of his harvest.
    All who ate of it incurred guilt;
        disaster came upon them,
               declares the Lᴏʀᴅ.”  (Jer 2:1-3)

The Holy One of Israel takes the relationship between himself and his people seriously.  In the above, YHWH is looking back to an early time in Israel’s history when the people were redeemed and delivered from bondage (De 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18).  He describes that time as full of love and devotion as a bride for her husband in the way they followed the Lord.*  He opposed whomever attempted to use or turn the people for his own desires.  At this time, however, the nation had turned its back on God, so that he asks, “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?” (Jer 2:5)  He then goes on to identify symptoms showing their forgetfulness and neglect.

God’s deeds and word
They did not say, “Where is the Lᴏʀᴅ
    who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
    in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
        in a land that none passes through,
        where no man dwells?”  (Jer 2:6)

The priests did not say, “Where is the Lᴏʀᴅ?”
    Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds transgressed against me;
    the prophets prophesied by Baal
    and went after things that do not profit.  (Jer 2:8)
The people had forgotten the place from which they had been redeemed, the plagues that gained them release, and the steadfast love of the Lord as he watch over and cared for them through the 40 years of wandering.  Somewhere along the way, the mighty deeds became passé.   Not content to dwell on the goodness of God and his continuing, bounteous care for them, the people chased after what the surrounding nations were offering.  As a result, they defiled what God had freely supplied and became an abomination through their pursuits.

One might think that though the general populace might lose sight of their Lord, those who care for the holy teachings of God would surely pay close attention, but this was not the case.  Priests disdained the holy things.  Proclaimers of the Law spoke with the authority of false gods, not the only true God.  Service for the Lord was replaced with service for self.

In effect the nation had thrown off their God for another.  What had been their glory was retained in name only but trampled underfoot as worthless.  Instead of continuing to be refreshed at the fount of blessing, the people went after the new and different to satisfy a longing only able to be satiated by faith in their God and Savior.

Their rightful position
Is Israel a slave?  Is he a homeborn servant?
    Why then has he become a prey?  (Jer 2:14)
Israel was an elect nation with an exalted position.  They had received the Law, the promises, the blessings in order to be a light to the nations as they reflected the glory of God; yet now the nation was a shadow of its former self as they have been ravaged.  The people had brought this condition upon themselves as they sought earthly solutions for a spiritual problem.  They forsook the Lord and no longer feared him as they once had, even pretending to not have gone after false gods when the evidence was all around.  They lusted for new gods and now wanted to wriggle free being discovered in their idolatry.

God’s discipline
Why do you contend with me?
    You have all transgressed against me, declares the Lᴏʀᴅ.
In vain have I struck your children;
    they took no correction;
your own sword devoured your prophets
    like a ravening lion.  (Jer 2:29-30)
The Lord attempted to correct his children.  He loved them and did not want to see their ruin.  Instead of seeing the paths of uprightness as the ways of life, they are viewed as shackles from which to gain release.  The robe of righteousness is exchanged for a harlot’s garment to chase lustily after the things of the world and then claim innocence of any wrongdoing.

Their indifference
If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him
    and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her?
Would not that land be greatly polluted?
You have played the whore with many lovers;
    and would you return to me? declares the Lᴏʀᴅ.  (Jer 3:1)
Israel had played the harlot and been discovered.  Now they were expecting the Lord to just accept them back, shrugging off severity of their sins and damage done.  The Northern Kingdom, Israel, had performed idolatrous acts before the Lord and were carried off for their iniquities.  Judah had seen this and in their indifference had done the same, knowing the consequences, making their acts of rebellion more repugnant than their conquered brethren.

God still cares about these things
While reading this passage, I was thinking on the state of God’s people, the American church, today.  The similarities are striking: little or no remembrance of the wondrous deeds of our Lord, the disregard for faithful teaching of Scripture, a burning desire to apply the world’s methods in Christian worship, and flippantly thinking that our corruptions do not matter so much.  Much incorrect and invalid teaching is found in pulpits today.  Worship practices border on or overstep the line into the grotesque and barbaric.  There are several websites that can point you to specific examples.

Parachurch ministries are equally guilty.  TBN has a network full of bad teachers.  Beth Moore has been around awhile and still mishandles the Bible.  A newer questionable women’s ministry has arisen—IF:Gathering, whose next annual videocast is being actively promoted through evangelical churches.  Their stated purpose is
We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.
This sounds all well and good, but at least two ladies involved with the ministry—Ann Voskamp and Christine Cain—are known false teachers.  Where is the discernment?

Are all American churches corrupt?  No, but one wonders how small the remnant of the faithful might be.  In my county of 215,000 residents, I continually see churches attempt to mimic popular, trending tactics promoted elsewhere in the country.  The faithful churches go largely unnoticed, but they can succumb to deception by actively or passively endorsing ministries like those I note above, which eventually undermine and erode sound doctrine.

God’s continual call to fealty
In Jeremiah 3:12 and following, God has the prophet proclaim a call to return.  He desires for his chosen people to repent of their sins and be restored to their rightful place as sons that he might be a faithful shepherd to them.  The New Testament church has received the same call.  In Revelation 2-3, John is told to write messages to churches in various states of decay.  Something is amiss in most of them: Smyrna and Philadelphia do not receive a corrective.  The church in America (and Western Civilization?) is in a similar place: we have left our first love; we allow aberrant teaching; we have tolerated the woman Jezebel; we are apathetic.  Jesus still calls for his people to repent—empowered by God to do the first works; to hold fast; to put away false teaching and complacency.  He remains faithful to receive us.

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