I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, sort of, trying to, the last month or so. I’m only on chapter 8 now, so it’s been slow going. I haven’t been terribly consistent or disciplined with my quiet time.
Anyways, I was reading chapter 7 today and was struck by all the violence that God declares on the Israelite people. I have a journaling Bible, which is a really cool Bible that has big lined margins on the side where you can take notes or record thoughts. Jeremiah 7 is a particularly condemning chapter. Verses 16-20 read thus:
“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? declares the LORD. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”
Don’t know how you, the reader, feels about this passage, but I struggle with it. In the margins by a different verse, I wrote, “Sometimes I wonder why God was so harsh, so rash. Why was He so unforgiving then but is forgiving now?”
I feel like sometimes in the church culture, we have to have an explanation for everything, otherwise people will question God. Otherwise people will not believe in God. God’s wrath is one of those things that often gets people. How can a loving God do this?
To be honest with you, I don’t know if I have an answer for that that I am totally behind. I know God is judge as well as lover, and that He executes perfect justice on the earth. But why did He wait until later to show grace, particularly to me? I am just as equally a sinner as these people were, yet because I was born after Jesus, I have the opportunity to experience the goodness of the grace of God.
Not that the people God speaks of in Jeremiah didn’t have an opportunity to believe in Him. They had plenty of opportunities. Jeremiah 7:25 speaks of God’s “servants the prophets” who were sent to speak to the people.
But don’t you ever feel like God maybe was a little too harsh on the people of Israel?
Now, some people might hear me ask that question and think I’m not a believer, think I don’t think God is good, think I doubt that God is who He says He is, think I don’t believe the Bible is perfect, or whatever. But I’m tired of just going along with what everybody says just because everybody says it. So often in the Christian culture we just hear what a pastor we like or our favorite author says and then we go along with it because they said it.
Is our faith ever really our own?
Maybe I’m wrong for questioning this. I don’t know. But I can’t help but wonder if we might be strengthened and encouraged as a body of Christ if we’re more honest about the real questions we have about what we believe, what the Bible says, how we’re supposed to live our lives.
So if you have questions, ask them. Don’t just believe something because somebody said it. Don’t believe me just because I’m saying what I’m saying right now. Question me! I think Christians are scared of asking questions because we’re “supposed” to have all the answers. Only non-Christians question God, right? We’re supposed to know everything, right?
No. I don’t think so. And we Christians get scared when people find out we don’t know everything. “They won’t believe in Jesus if we don’t give them all the answers!” It’s not up to us. It’s up to God who believes. God draws them, saves them, not us.
It’s too bad, because our God knows all the answers. We may never get all of them this side of heaven, but He’s given us His Son as an answer or part of the answer to a great many of them. Namely the important ones: How do I find purpose? How do I deal with all the crap I’ve done wrong? What happens when you die? How do we know God?
Feel free to comment, share this with your friends, talk about this. I’d love for this to be a place of dialogue where the 10 people (maybe) that read this talk about things that matter, such as the questions that Christians have about God and the Bible. We may not know the answers, but dialogue can be an incredibly helpful thing.