November 24, 2008

Monday Morning Message - Needing Jeremiah

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." So goes one of the best known opening lines from any novel ever written. Dickens captured the spirit of the age in those now immortal words. Jeremiah would have nodded his head in knowing sympathy with such a sentiment. He was one who had known the best of times under the leadership of a young king named Josiah. He also understood the worst of times as he endured the undoing of his nation. His broken spirit is poured out in ink through the pages of Lamentations.

Jeremiah stood at the gate of the temple as people were coming and going to worship and declared a singularly disturbing word from God. Many passed by with disdain, others simply ignored, but surely some paused to hear what this man had to say. The words he spoke were not, and are not, easy to hear.

People were coming to worship but with wrong headed and wrong hearted intentions. Hear Jeremiah's words...

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God Israel: Amend your wyas and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.'"
(Jeremiah 7:3-4)
It seems that in generations past Jerusalem had been miraculously spared and the people began to believe it was because Jehovah dwelt in Jerusalem. The people got caught up in the trappings of worship and missed the whole point of worship. They lost sight of the fact that deliverance does not come through a place or a pattern of worship but through an individual's relationship with the LORD.

In addition to this mistaken notion the people were pairing unacceptable conduct with their religious experience. Hear again these woeful words from Jeremiah...

"Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swwear falsely, make offerings to Baal and go after other gods that you have not known and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!' only to go on doing all these abominations?...Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 7:8-11)
Sadly this is not a condition limited to Jeremiah's day. The church today is, without question, guilty of the same conduct. David Kinnaman, in his book UN-Christian, states, "among young outsiders, 84 percent say they personally know at least one committed Christian. Yet just 15 percent thought the lifestyles of those Christ followers wer significantly different from the norm." There are other, equally disturbing, statistics but suffice it to say that Jeremiah's words apply here and now. We are guilty of saying one thing and living another.

These misguided choices in worship have dire consequences. The lack of an inner moral qulaity flowing from a relationship the LORD destroyed the nation of Judah in Jeremiah's day and it threatens to destroy our nation today. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." God, through Jeremiah, declares the timeless truth, "Were they ashamed when they commited abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush." (Jeremiah 8:12) Blazon that across the news feeds of the day and see if it doesn't have the ring of truth about it.

In seeking to salve the many ailments of our nation we have a tendency to look to the human achievements of wisdom, might, and wealth for answers only to find that all of them, in and of themselves, are wholly inadequate to meet the need of the day. Only as these remarkable human potentialities are brought under the sovreign leadership of God can they be rightly applied to the needs of the day.

"Let not the wise man boast in his widsom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righeousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
The one, over-ridding, need of our lives is to know God.

You may be thinking, "I need someone to fix my financial woes." May I suggest that they are temporary in light of eternity? More than a financial fix, you and I need a correction of the heart.

You may groan due to a devestating physical ailment. Again, I would point you to the singular need of your life; to know God.

You may be struggling under a burden of guilt or grief and desperately need relief. The one thing you need is not an immediate lifting of the burden but the assurance that there is one who is with you in the midst of it.

I do not say these things to minimize or make light of the situation in which you find yourlself. I simply point out the painfully obvious fact that in most practical matters we have forsaken God for lesser things.

We need a renewal. Not one led by a dynamic celebrity like Josiah resulting is a showy but shallow turning. We need a renewal of the heart. We need Jeremiah.


sojourner said...

i'm reading this late (thurs) but it is a good message for this day - Jeremiah is one of my favorite books - i've read it many, many times and each time it speaks volumes - may you find hidden blessings this day and beyond!

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