Intimacy is enjoyed only when we surrender our self to the One loving us.
DAY ONE – Jeremiah 1-4
If intimacy suggests something very warm, close or personal, then Yahweh God’s expressions toward Israel and Judah are very intimate. The Lord’s yearning and desire for a close relationship with these people He chose, Abraham’s descendants, cannot be missed in the messages of the prophets. There is an underlying sadness in God’s voice, a clear disappointment in His tone, over the rejection He received from His own people. As I contemplated again yesterday’s reading in Joel, God kept saying to His people and the other nations, “Then you will know that I am Yahweh (the Lord).” How is it that we can know so little when our Lord has revealed so much? Why does He have to keep proving Himself over and over, when He is Creator of heaven and earth; when He has revealed Himself from heaven by loving and caring for His chosen ones; when He has destroyed the destroyer time and again? What is it in people that makes us want to search high and low for God–in life, in religion, in human experience, in relationships–when He has come near to us to embrace us with salvation and deliverance? Why do we accept lesser gods into our life who can’t do a single godlike thing? Can any object of our own creation ever save us, or help us, or respond to our cries in the night? Can the security we attempt to put around ourselves help us when everything goes south? Why then does our Father God have to continually call out for us to return to Him, to seek Him, to serve Him? If the voice of the prophet sounds stern and foreboding; if his words seem condemning and judgmental; if he appears to be pronouncing doom over the nation, why do we say, “I can’t serve a god like that?” The nations proved over and again that the gods they served were only the ones they themselves had made!
Intimacy has been lost to many, for we are too self-seeking to surrender our self to another in a complete giving of love and devotion. Yet that is exactly the KEY to intimacy–self-giving, self-disclosure, service, respect, admiration, love, and even duty. If our human relationships beg for that level of intimacy, especially in marriage, how much more does our relationship to God ask for as much, or even more? God wants to KNOW us, and BE KNOWN by us, in an intimate manner that is close, personal and warm. Does that describe your relationship with Him? If not, consecrate yourself to the sacred quest of getting to really know Him. Whatever is needed in your task, He will provide, as He did for Israel and Judah, back in the day.
DAY TWO – Jeremiah 5-8
Religion has been criticized for its rules. We mostly don’t care for rules but understand that some are necessary to preserve order, especially as when we drive in opposite directions in our streets and highways. When God gave Moses The Ten Commandments, they came out as rules. Actually, the entire Jewish religion given by Yahweh God at the time of Moses sounds like books full of rules to be kept, and so many of them! The only rule Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was to leave alone the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which was in the center of the garden. And they couldn’t do that! So we humans don’t do too well when it comes to rules. The Lord God knows that breaking the rules is destructive, and every one of us has this rule-breaking penchant. If you are God and you desire to save humankind from destruction of self and others, you give the kind of rules that will preserve and save life. God did that. But He didn’t stop there. He offered salvation, deliverance, healing, life and blessings in exchange for keeping the rules. Even that didn’t save us. We still break the rules. He appealed to our heart, our inner sense of what is right and just. That didn’t work either. He forgave our sins and gave us a religious imperative that would extend mercy and grace to us. He offered to be our God and make us His people. And right up through the days of the kings, priests and prophets, the Lord was still laboring over Israel and Judah to make them a nation which would display the glory of God’s truth and righteousness. But they couldn’t make the grade. When humankind demonstrates that they have eyes which don’t see, ears that don’t hear and hearts that can no longer be reached, what is left? Judgment… at least the promise of judgment. That is Jeremiah’s message. It sounds harsh, but it isn’t. It sounds condemning, but it is laced through and through with offers to relent if the people will only turn from their wickedness and idolatry. Though they have broken every rule over and over again, the Lord stands ready to forgive and turn aside judgment if they will love the Lord with their heart and soul. Breaking the rules is a kind of sin–transgression of the goodness and glory of God. It defames Him and destroys His creation. Yet our God has a plan to save the world, and He continues to offer everyone a way of salvation. Israel declined and lost out when the Assyrians removed them from their land. Judah is under threat but is not responding much better. Why can’t God simply do away with the rules of right and truth? Because they are the very protection we need to keep from destroying His creation. King David, a man after God’s own heart, discovered the right way. Though he committed an egregious and heinous sin, he humbled himself before the Lord and repented of his transgressions. He pled for mercy and was heard by the Lord, who forgave and saved him. The next time you are proceeding through a green light at an intersection, thank God that the people on your right and left are waiting at the red light! That little rule is saving your bacon!
DAY THREE – Jeremiah 9-12
Was Jeremiah weeping because the people were breaking all the rules? No, the prophet was a fountain of tears because God’s people had continually broken His covenant; because their hearts had deserted Yahweh God to do all the evil that was in their hearts. Covenant-breaking is much more serious than breaking a rule, for it violates the intentions of the Lord’s relationship with His people. What God intended included salvation, deliverance and blessing. What he asked was obedience and love as a response. When love is answered with wickedness and idolatry, the broken covenant is a cause for great weeping, for it means that the cause is lost unless there is a turning to the Lord with humility and repentance. We’ve heard the saying, “Don’t kill the messenger.” Well, the people actually did kill some of the Lord’s prophets, despising and rejecting others with persecution. Jeremiah cried; he wanted to get away from the terrible calamity he saw approaching like a juggernaut. But he was constrained by the call and love of God to remain on assignment, standing as if against an entire nation. So he persisted with his messages. And sometimes he turned aside to private conversations with his Lord. This is how we really get to KNOW God, by answering His call to do life together, then turning to Him again and again to make sense of the senseless violence and destruction against which we struggle every day. It seems to never end, yet we know it will. It seems we will be swallowed whole by the tide of culture in which we live, but with God’s help we persist from day to day. God even causes us to OVERCOME evil with the good we do.
“In the beginning, God…” When this all started, the Creator God looked over His handiwork and pronounced it all good. So it will be in the end. In the end, God… our Lord will make the FINAL MOVE; He will defend His own honor and covenant; and He will bring a complete and final restoration and recreation! For He sees what we cannot; He moves with purpose and direction; and He declares what is yet to come. We are safe INSIDE His love, His covenant. Keeping His rules with our heart is no problem at all, for His Only Son, the Great Rules-keeper, ended one of His messages with this invitation: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
DAY FOUR – Jeremiah 13-16
The meteorologist, otherwise known as a ‘weatherman,’ is a storm tracker. We pay attention to him on a rather regular basis, for it is he who is charting and predicting the extreme conditions that could have a negative effect on us. We all seem to want to know what the weather will be, although we cannot do anything about it! In a sense, Jeremiah was Judah’s ‘weatherman,’ receiving from the Lord what could and should be expected in coming days. The prophet was tracking a terrible storm, having visions of extreme conditions which would destroy Judah and change their future in an unforgettable way. This great storm had mingled within it death, the sword, famine and captivity. It was so fierce that Jeremiah wept whenever he thought about it. He kept coming back to Yahweh and questioning Him about it. He brought those same messages to the people and wondered that they made no preparations for this coming storm, this ‘great day of the Lord.’ Why wouldn’t they listen? Why wouldn’t they prepare for this storm soon to hit the land? God said the storm was because of the terrible leadership Manasseh had given the people, during which time they totally forsook Him. Had they become so unresponsive to the Lord they could no longer respond? Were they believing their false prophets who were telling them the storm wouldn’t make landfall but would blow out to sea and move on? Did they think the ‘weatherman,’ the prophet, had totally blown the prediction, that they needn’t be concerned about it? Whatever the reason, they refused to alter their course or change their ways. Even when their food and water gave out; even when the donkeys and deer sniffed the air for a hint of moisture, then birthed their young and walked away without caring for their offspring, the hard-heartedness of Judah failed to crack. Imagine the storm is so close that the prophet says, in effect, “Cancel your wedding; forget marriage; don’t have children. Why bring little ones into this terrible, ravaging storm?” So Jeremiah continued to preach, and he continued to cry.
It would take decades to ‘clean up’ after Yahweh’s storm of judgment. Yet there was mercy and there was grace in God’s heart. His Word would continue to go forth. His prophets would emerge with deep intercession and understanding to help the people who were seeking their God. And the Lord Himself would continue to ply the nations with His sovereign plans to yet save the world from destruction. And future blessings would extend to all the nations that would house the remnants of God’s people scattered in every direction of the compass. God is the God of the storm. May we prepare for the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’ with repentance and blessing.
DAY FIVE – Jeremiah 17-20
I’ve known a few people in my day who seemed to want to be a prophet; but their chief characteristic, it seemed to me, was their anger toward others. Their ‘prophecy’ was to denounce, to condemn and to express the Lord’s displeasure–if indeed it was God’s displeasure rather than their own. Jeremiah, on the other hand, did not really want to be a prophet. God CALLED him to his service and had to continually reassure him that he was where he belonged. The visions and messages the Lord gave him for the king, priests and people were so distasteful and terrifying that the prophet cried a lot. He would dissolve into tears of sadness and yes, even fear, when he realized the proportions of the destruction that was coming. A preacher once said it in this manner: “If you are going to preach to me about hell, at least have the decency to weep while you do so.” Nobody wants to hear messages of doom and destruction; messages of rebuke and condemnation; or messages that tell you everything is wrong. People want encouragement, uplift and a reason to live. They want hope. But what if hope is cancelled? What if our way of life is so destructive to ours and others’ future, that God is resorting to extreme measures to call us back? And what if He is doing everything He knows to recapture our attention and our worship? Is that what brings Him pleasure? No, His pleasure is in our salvation and future hope. So God sent Jeremiah and others to turn a nation back to their created purpose, so that He could bless them again!
Jeremiah despaired of life and cursed the day he was born–reminiscent of Job, whose suffering appalled even his friends. The prophet cried to God to save him, to turn his enemies back, to frustrate their schemes to destroy him. At one point he even decided not to prophesy anymore. But the Lord’s words became like fire in his bones which could not be contained! He had to speak out, to fulfill the assignment given him by Yahweh God. Dear friends, the Lord’s work is going to get done; His plans are going to succeed; the world is going to be saved and returned to its Eden-like state. God will have a ginormous family of trusted friends and worshippers. They will live in an eternity of blessing and creativity. But right now hell yawns with hunger to receive any and all who resent or reject God’s Lordship over us. A tremendous cosmic battle is raging, and we are at the center. Will the Lord’s word prevail within us, or will OUR will to be autonomous prevail? Shall Yahweh God be Lord, as He is; or shall I have my own way and choose my own destiny? Study history; the right answer is in plain view.