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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

God's Viewpoint

The Old Testament provides wonderful, comprehensive views of God's character and nature. For those of us who wonder what God is really like, I don't think there's any better window to look through than that found in the Old Testament.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus now stands between us and God, acting to intercede with God on our behalf. I wonder how many people actually grasp the enormity of that role that Jesus plays.

Jeremiah 8 is an example of what I'm talking about. Here God speaks to Jeremiah about his chosen people, who were then called the Jews, Jerusalem, Israel, etc. Today they are called Christians. At any rate, let's look at what God says to Jeremiah about these people whom He loved and called to be His own.

“Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness … Each pursues his own course … my people do not know the requirements of the LORD. …

God is looking at a group of sinful people. They are undoubtedly His people. But they are living deceived lives as God's people. He watches them. He listens to them. But God does not like or approve of what He sees and hears of them. He believes that they are trying to live life on their own terms --- instead of on His terms. And He concludes that they are ignorant people.

The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? … From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.

God predicts the outcome here. He says the people will suffer. They will be humiliated. It is their own fault. They seem to embrace their ignorance - perhaps out of pride. They are greedy. And the spiritual, religious leaders are no better in God's view. They seem to be living deceived lives as well. They believe lies and they don't believe (Biblical) truths. It is how religious people get to the point where they "practice deceit." Mind you, God isn't saying that these are sinister people, trying to spin lies. They are living the lies.

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.

God is taking aim at the pastors, the priests and the church leaders. He says they are treating the condition of the people too mildly. They don't seem to realize what kind of spiritual crisis the church is in. Are they in denial? It would seem so! And are they (the church and its leaders) ashamed of their fallen spiritual state? No. God sees no remorse, no shame and no contrition in any of them. He is ashamed of them. But again, these are an ignorant people.

So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished,” says the LORD. “I will take away their harvest,” declares the LORD. … “What I have given them will be taken from them.” - Jeremiah 8:5-13

So God concludes His little talk with Jeremiah by again predicting that this spiritual brokenness being unaddressed in the church will end in calamity. In fact, God says He must punish the people for their unconfessed sins. Mind you, they are His people. He called them. He chose them to be His own. But they are proud and ignorant. They are unrepentant. And God is not pleased. He must strike them with loss to get their attention. And God is indeed sad about that. It's as if, as a parent, He is saying, "This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you."

So here is the thing. We today serve the same God. We are His people, called and chosen to be His own. And yet we exhibit the exact same behaviors. We are in precisely the same condition as what God observed with Jeremiah in the Jews back then. And we know that God doesn't change. So it isn't much of a stretch to see how God feels about this.

If there is any good news about this situation it is found in Jesus Christ, who intercedes with God on our behalf. We are also a forgiven people. But I find it sobering to see that without Jesus, it would be just us and God. We in our sin, and He in his anger. It is indeed a sobering proposition. And I wonder if perhaps we are not putting too much on Jesus Christ. Shall we go on sinning, not repenting --- and expecting Jesus to make it all right with God?

I don't think today's Christians would ever entertain such a preposterous notion. Who in their right mind, for example, would ever dare to test God? Yet that is precisely what we do when we continue to live in our pride and ignorance.

It is time for Christ-followers to grow up and act like godly people. It is time that we acted like God's chosen people. Let us strive for that and see what God has to say when He observes an obedient people, led by obedient pastors and priests!

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