Lent 2022 – Hard Grace

Listen here to Jeremiah 1-3

Jeremiah chapter 1 is a recounting of how God called Jeremiah to the work of prophesying over the people of Jerusalem. The book is a recounting of why the people went into exile. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I chose you before I formed you, in the womb, I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

The thing that I noticed the most, is the very next verse, how Jeremiah is very much not sure that he’s the right person for this job. He says, “oh no, Lord God, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” I personally see a very humble heart here. I see someone who doesn’t think that they are so great that God should be using them to speak to His people. I also think that when God calls this is often our response. We are not sure if we’re the right person. Ever been there?

The Lord said, “Do not say I am only a youth.” Basically, this amounts to saying don’t disqualify yourself based on your own understanding. Sometimes fear and insecurity stops us dead in our tracks even when the Lord, Himself, has said, “I have called you to this.” Then He says, “you will go to everyone I send you to and speak wherever I tell you. Do not be afraid. I will rescue you.” And He proceeds to tell him that He’s going to fill his mouth with His words and appoint him that day over nations and kingdoms, to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and to plant.

Here’s the thing about being the mouthpiece of the Lord you don’t have to do the work, you just have to say what He said. What He said! In verse 12, God Himself says, “I will watch over my word to accomplish it.” That is who our God is, the One who is fully able to accomplish what He said He would do.

Then the Lord begins to talk about what the people of Israel had become and it’s a sad state. First, He says in verse 16 that “they abandoned Me to burn incense to other gods and to worship the works of their own hands.” It kind of reads like a heart in pain as God begins to unpack in chapter 2 how He remembers when they were loyal to Him and how their love was like a bride. He says that “Israel was holy.” He talks about how they went so far from Him and followed worthless idols and then became worthless themselves. They forgot Him and even after He blessed them tremendously, giving them everything from fertile land with all of its fruit and bounty. He says that the “priests quit asking, “where the Lord is? The experts in the law no longer knew Him and the rulers rebelled against Him.” God says, “my people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols.” Can you hear His pain?

For my people have committed a double evil:

They have abandoned me,

the fountain of living water,

and dug cisterns for themselves—

cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jeremiah 2:13

The consequences for Israel were dire. They would be laid to waste and ruined. They brought it on themselves. They knew who the true God was and walked away from Him. God wanted them to recognize how evil and bitter it was for them to abandon the Lord God and have no fear of Him (2 verse 10b) The Lord says, “even if you wash with lye and use a great amount of bleach the stain of your iniquity will still be in front of Me.” Recently my son got a stomach bug and he threw up all over our carpet in the living room. It’s white and gray carpet. We had had taco pizza that day, so you can imagine the pinky red stain that was all over the floor. My husband and I had cleaned up as much as we could and sprinkled baking soda all over it, to dry it up. The next day, my son was determined to get that stain out. He had remembered that his sister had used Dawn dish soap on a spot on her carpet. He went to work at it scrubbing, and scrubbing, and scrubbing. He was determined to get that stain out, and he did! He got it out. I was really surprised. I was already preparing in my mind that we may need to go buy a new carpet. Something that is also there are streaks of white. The place where the soap literally bleached the carpet. The throw-up may not be there, and the stain may not be there, but the marks of it happening are still visible. This is what I think it means when God is saying “you can wash with lye and use great amounts of bleach but the stain of your iniquity is still in front of me.” He could still see it. God was calling Israel to acknowledge what they have done. They had even gone as far as to say to trees “you are my father” and to say to stones “you gave birth to me.” They had turned their backs to the Lord instead of turning their faces toward Him. Yet, when a disaster happened, when hard things happen, when life goes crazy, sideways, and no tree or stone can help you, they would turn and say, “rise up, and save us.” If we’re honest we would say that we do that too. When life is going well, we tend to forget God until life falls apart. In a hard way this too is grace.

The Lord goes on to say that they wouldn’t even “accept discipline.” They would say, “we will go where we want to, we will no longer come to You.” God’s people had forgotten Him. Sometimes we forget who we are dealing with. God is not just a God of Love. He is also Holy, Sovereign, and Creator. The Lord reserves the right to judge them and says He does so because they have said, “I have not sinned.” An obvious and flat-out lie. It caused them to be unstable and constantly changing in their ways. In chapter 3 God uses hard words like prostitution, wickedness, and refusing to be ashamed. This just reminds me of how easy it is for us as people today to turn our hearts away from God and choose other things. Things like entertainment, food, drugs, addictions, coffee, candy, relationships, happiness, success, money. That isn’t even an exhaustive list. Speaking of other things, I have been mulling over what it is that I am going to give up for Lent for a 40 day fast. If you remember we had asked the question, “what if we took a moment to think about what we think we can’t live without and give that up for lent?” These questions always scare me because God always answers. As I began to ask I got a very clear answer and it is not one that I want to give up but I will obey Him.

Lent is about looking at the way our heart has been far from Him. How have we been saying to Him, “I’m good! I don’t need You?” Sometimes we dont even know how to answer that question but if we ask it. He will answer! Often He does that in an as we obey in the faith walk kind of way. Seeing how far we are from God is humbling. It also has a way of causing us to see His greatness, kindness, and goodness that by the cross of Christ we return to our God.

Thanks for Listening,

Starla

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

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