Thursday, December 3, 2015

Anguish at Godlessness



Jeremiah 4:19–5:31; Colossians 2:6–23; Proverbs 11:13–31

I cannot help reading today’s passages in the context of yesterday’s news. Bible scholars are not supposed to do that, yet Jeremiah' words in particular echo the feelings of my heart concerning the shooting spree in California and other news of violence and death.

“My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Crash follows hard on crash; the whole land is laid waste . . . .”

Jeremiah also cries God’s cry, “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.” (Jeremiah 4:19–22)

Again, this is out of context, but God’s people are either feeling the anguish that Jeremiah expresses, or those whom He has created are the target of His judgment. We live in a world of foolish people who seem wise in doing evil, a world where no matter what happens, those who reject God’s correction continue in their sinful ways.

Jeremiah says, “O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.” Yet he is hopeful. He continues, “These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the Lord, the justice of their God. I will go to the great and will speak to them, for they know the way of the Lord, the justice of their God.”

Some think that if these violent people were told how to behave, they would change. If they only knew the goodness of God, they would stop their evil actions. However, as Jeremiah concludes: “But they all alike had broken the yoke; they had burst the bonds.” (Jeremiah 5:3–5)

Sometimes God’s people do speak up. Jeremiah did and the Lord, the God of hosts said: “Because you have spoken this word, behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.” (Jeremiah 5:14)

Yet this didn’t change their ways, it only judged them. God says, “Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men . . . . An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jeremiah 5:25–26, 30–31)

History is not finished. The fate of the wicked is yet to come. Their lives could be described like a trip to the supermarket; they can fill their baskets with all that they desire, but eventually must go through the checkout.

Solomon said, “Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord, but those of blameless ways are his delight. Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered . . . . If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!” (Proverbs 11:19–21, 31)

In this recent shooting, as in almost all of them, the person with the gun winds up dead, going through that checkout without a change of heart or forgiveness. However, God takes care of His people. We go through the checkout too, but Christ has already paid our bill. There is no condemnation for those who trust in Him.

Colossians 2:6–7 tells us how to live: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

I received Christ by grace through faith, not by what I do or don’t do. He wants me to live by grace through faith, and when I that happens, He makes my life a delight to Him, a life filled with thanksgiving. Yet when evil people bring death and sorrow, I am also appalled and feel a great deal of anguish.

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