Thursday, March 11, 2021

One True God

Week 10 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 10

Background

What is God’s Sovereignty? We struggle with the sovereignty of God. Having authority over all things goes against our personal desires to make our own decisions, yet we cannot just pretend that Divine Sovereignty does not exist. “The sovereignty of God is the fact that he is the Lord over creation; as sovereign, he exercises his rule. This rule is exercised through God’s authority as king, his control over all things, and his presence with his covenantal people and throughout his creation.”[1] Yahweh’s control comes full of love and compassion, complete with righteousness and divine decisions.

Ray Stedman writes, “Far beyond the greatness of men, a God of wisdom and knowledge and power is at work.” Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God remains unchanging, always faithful and true, full of mystery and majesty. His sovereignty and power span infinity. God’s promise of Perfect Love brings life, real life, right now!

No one likes to talk about God’s judgment preferring to focus only on God’s love and goodness, yet God cannot be compartmentalized into categories. Eugene Peterson writes, “But we have no choice: God is Sovereign. God rules. Not only in our personal affairs but in the cosmos. Not only in our times and places of worship but in office buildings, political affairs, factories, universities, hospitals—yes, even behind the scenes in saloons and rock concerts. It’s a wild and extravagant notion, to be sure. But nothing in our Scriptures is attested to more frequently or emphatically.” In our study of Jeremiah, Judah wrestles with these same issues regarding God’s sovereignty and the messages of judgement.

“Sovereignty, God’s sovereignty, is one of the most difficult things for people of faith to live out in everyday routines,” Peterson continues. The human mind cannot begin to measure the infinity of God. His Sovereignty exceeds time and space, without boundaries, without beginning, without ending. His power is greater than any power, above or below the heavens. The Holy Spirit brings us into God’s presence, anoints us with unspeakable holiness, embraces us with perfect love, covers us with unfailing mercies. 

In His Sovereignty, God reveals His everlasting promise, reveals the Truth, reveals the Messiah, reveals Jesus as The Way. The source of this promise comes from the LORD’s unfailing love, from His desire to unite our spirit with His Spirit. Even when disobedience interferes and distractions ignore the Spirit, God marks the path with mercy and truth. God’s most extravagant gift of love, His Son, brings new hope to old wounds, compassionate arms for old regrets, gentle smiles to the abused, tender hearts toward the outcasts, healing for the spiritually blind. God’s judgment reveals our true heart, our weakness, our shortsightedness, our stubbornness, our desire to walk on the edge. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more. (John 3:19) 

 

Study

We enter the text of Chapter 10, finding the last section of the Temple Sermon of Jeremiah. The Message opens the chapter this way, “Listen to the Message that GOD is sending your way, House of Israel. Listen most carefully.” Verse 2 references Old Testament Scripture in Leviticus and Deuteronomy reminding Judah to no be like other nations. This includes worship of the occult and “celestial bodies”. We then read about the customs of pagan nations that make idols, wooden and worthless, metal but meaningless, limited not lasting. Judah simply follows the cultures of surrounding nations as if to say, “everybody is doing it”. Crafted by artisans, some created of gold and silver, perhaps even decorative and pretty, these idols represent false-identities, false-values, false-security. Today, our idols are just as temporary and powerless and dead.

“There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.” (vs 6) Jeremiah confirms that God is greater than any idols. “The remedy for idolatry is for us to get caught up in the majesty and grandeur of God, the true God, the living God, the everlasting King.”[2] We see in verse 7 a reference to Psalm 22:28, “The kingdom is the LORD’S”. Then comes another section defining idols as “worthless” and man-made. “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.” This verse 10 and continuing through 13, the attributes of God as Creator and All-powerful, the Giver of wisdom. Again, the images of idols are described as empty and non-living, perishable. Jeremiah echoes the message that “you are what you worship”.

We again see the consistent message of divine judgement will be an invasion and captivity. God is distressed by their choices. These ‘shepherds’ (vs21) represent the political and spiritual leaders who are responsible for not leading and teaching God’s truths. “A great commotion out of the north” speaks of Babylon with the invasion resulting in desecration of Judah.

The conclusion of this sermon finds Jeremiah’s prayer to God. (vs23-25) Acknowledging Yahweh, there are references to Proverbs 16:1, “The plans of the heart belong to a person, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” Also, Proverbs 20:24 is reflected, “A man’s steps are ordained by the LORD.” Jeremiah says it this way, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” Jeremiah pleads for mercy. For his weakness, he asks for correction, for justice not anger. Knowing they deserve destruction, Jeremiah pleads with God for a lesser judgement, believing the Gentiles, the pagan nations, deserve punishment for their coming destruction of Judah. We, too, try to bargain with God, give Him our point of view, plead for the ending we think we want.

Reflection

TS Eliot writes, “Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”[3] This quote summarizes much of Judah’s culture centuries before, and we continue to ask these same questions. Searching more, I discover that this quote comes from the 1934 play by Eliot, “The Rock”. This play, written for Forty-five Churches Fund, becomes a fundraiser that will use the proceeds “to build forty-five churches in London’s suburbs.”[4] In the center of the play, a church is being built, within the contexts of “community and tradition” as key ideas. Eliot constructs the play to involve the audience at times, to give a feeling of liturgical ritual. Of course, all the folks have different opinions and ideas, some even believe the building of a church is more important than believing in God.

The world comes at us full force with numerous options for personal entertainment, strong rhetoric within political parties, countless organizations to benefit humanity. Many loud voices seek to motivate, include, and sway our thoughts and commitments. As Eliot asks, “Where is the Life we have lost in living?” While many of these opportunities can generate good, we must seek the paths of the LORD. Another Hebrew name for God, El Roithe God who sees me, reminds us that God literally sees each person. El Roi meets us at every crossroad pointing the way of mercy and truth.

We live in times that can be compared to Judah and to Eliot’s London, separated by thousands and hundreds of years, respectively. Still, we struggle with the same issues. Often, we practice rituals and traditions simply for the sake of keeping. Anything that takes God's place in our hearts is an idol. We comfort ourselves by saying that these "idols" are nothing like the golden calf of the Old Testament; we are not melting gold, molding a pagan god. ANYTHING that we allow to mean more to us than God is our idol. We surround ourselves with beautiful tokens of success, and we deny we feel empty. Lost in negative rhetoric and consumed by our personal opinions, we pretend to defend righteous living. We boast about the mission trips we take and the foreign children in faraway orphanages we sponsor, as if any part of missional living is our idea. God, forgive us; guard our hearts!

 
Application


- What idols do I worship?

- How do I plan to "guard" my heart from these idols?

- Am I willing to place Jesus Christ at the center of my life?

 Lord, I go along without thought to idols, thinking my gestures of love and service in Your name are enough. When I place time in the Living Word last in the day, when I place my desires ahead of another's needs, when I spend Your offering on tokens that will not bring me joy, when I take credit for the goodness and success that comes my way - I place my idols BEFORE You. Forgive my shallow, selfish ways. Guard my heart from the evil one. Guard me from myself. Amen. 

Donna Oswalt



[1] “The Sovereignty of God”, thegospelcoalition.org

[2] The Wiersbe Study Bible, Wiersbe, Warren, commentary Jeremiah 10

[3] “The Rock”, Eliot, TS, a play

[4] “Raising ‘The Rock’: The Importance of T.S. Eliot’s Pageant-Play”, Atkins, Hazel, Christianity and Literature, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Winter 20143), pp 261-282

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