Jeremiah probably wasn’t considered the most “popular” of people in his day. He lived during the time just prior to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. His calling in life was to warn the nation of the coming judgment and to encourage them to change their ways. The problem is, if your “message” isn’t always “nice” and “positive”, some people will get offended. “But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die!” (Jeremiah 26:8)
There are going to be times in life where we are going to be faced with the same kind of choice that Jeremiah faced. Are we going to keep our mouths shut and not rock the boat, or are we going to speak up and tell the truth. I have to admit that often I’m more than reluctant to be a boat rocker. Yet, sometimes the truth is a bit more important than whether or not people like us. If your child wants to play basketball on the 57 freeway, are you going to keep silent just so they will still “like” you? I’m not saying we need to be negative all the time. Some people seem to think they’re called to be critics, and that’s not always helpful either.
Some of us are the recipients of “difficult truth”. Someone has said something that has hurt our feelings. We get upset and want to lash out, or run away and hide. Be careful my friend. If this “difficult” thing is true, it’s something you want to pay attention to. The people of Jerusalem blew Jeremiah off when they should have listened.
Our Jesus is certainly the most interesting person there ever was. Sometimes we like to focus on the fact that He is indeed God. He is truly, fully God. Yet, He is also human. He isn’t just partly human, He is fully human. The writer to the Hebrews records, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Why is this a big deal? Some of us from time to time fall into the trap of thinking that no one understands us. And there indeed may be times when those in our immediate company do not get the difficulty we’re in, or the struggle we’re facing. We start singing that old spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”, and we sing it over and over and over. Our funk grows larger, and the pit we’re in seems to get deeper.
But the honest truth, friend, is that somebody DOES know the trouble you’ve seen. Not only does Jesus know about you because He is God and sees and knows everything, but Jesus also “gets it”. Two thousand years ago He took on human flesh and was faced with the same troubles and temptations that we face. He “gets it”. He “gets” you. He has compassion. He understands.
You are not alone dear friend. Even though some of us may let you down from time to time, Jesus will not let you down. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
There will be a day when the entire world will turn against God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel. There will be no friends and no allies to rely upon. It will be a time when the antichrist will pour out his forces to destroy the people of Israel (Rev. 12:15-16). In that day, God has something to say. Isaiah recorded it. “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me” (Isaiah 63:5).
No one will stand for Israel. No one will defend God’s people. But they will not be abandoned. God will step in and save them. This is when Jesus returns and defeats the armies of the antichrist. Isaiah recorded that He will come with “fury”. Like someone who messes with a mother bear’s cubs, you don’t want to be messing with God’s people.
There is a great lesson here for us as well, beloved. There are going to be times when it seems as if no one will help us. It will seem as if even our friends have turned their backs on us. David wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).
When it seems there is no help available, there is a place to turn. When God is for you, who can be against you? There is no one else who loves you like God. No one else.
We have these little formulas concocted in our heads that go something like this, “If you love me then you will…” We apply these formulas to our relationships and think that if the other person truly loves us, then they will act or behave a certain way. Some of those ideas are correct, but some of them are quite flawed. Too often our “love formulas” are simply selfish, based on what I’m going to get out of the deal. A guy pushes his girlfriend to go farther than she wants. A gal pushes her sweetheart into buying too many expensive gifts.
When it comes to God, sometimes the little formula in our head goes something like this: “If You love me, then You will make my life easy.” We might not say those exact words to God, but when circumstances get difficult, we begin to wonder if God loves us or maybe has forgotten us.
God spoke through Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. (Isaiah 49:15–16)
You may think that because of some recent experience in your life that God has forgotten about you, but you would be wrong. You might think that because something has turned painful in your life that God no longer loves you, but you would be wrong.
You may not understand why things happen like they do, but He has not forgotten you. Your name is inscribed on His hands.
Here in Southern California we are going through the worst drought in recent history. You see once green lawns starting to turn brown. Flowers are withered. When I’m out on my morning walk and I see clouds up in the sky, I think, “Is today the day?”
God’s people are promised a day when there will be rivers flowing in the desert. We are promised a day when dry ground bubbles up like a spring. And yet to be honest, sometimes that’s not the way things are now. What do we do when we are living in a drought?
Isaiah wrote of a day when Jesus would return, a day when drought is turned into showers of blessing. Isaiah wrote of what to do until that day comes. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. (Isaiah 35:3). Weak hands are those that tend to let go of what they are to be doing. If you are tempted to let go of things, work at strengthening your grip. Feeble knees want to make you stop walking. If you are tempted to just stop moving altogether, start getting your knees back in shape so you can walk again.
Isaiah goes on to record, Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
My friend, we don’t need to be afraid because the rain is coming. Even better, the King is coming. Don’t let go. Keep moving forward.
The Boy Scout motto is simple, “Be Prepared”. That’s a great lesson to learn in life. When you know that something is coming around the corner, you will do much better if you are “prepared” for it. When you’re at the end of the semester and your final is two weeks away, it’s a good thing to study and “be prepared”. Before you get married, premarital counseling is a great way to “be prepared”. In the reality of an uncertain economy, having some money put away in the bank for that rainy day is a good thing because it’s good to “be prepared”.
During one of the darker times in Judah’s history, the growing empire of Assyria was swallowing up cities and nations left and right. They had already taken away Judah’s neighbors to the north, Israel and Syria. The little nation of Judah was the next target for the Assyrians, and so the nation did what was responsible, they got prepared. They built up their nation’s military strength. They fortified the walls of Jerusalem, even tearing down some of the houses in order to use the stones to strengthen the walls. Isaiah writes, “You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (Isaiah 22:11).
As you are learning to do the responsible things of life, don’t forget God’s word to Judah. Make sure that God is a part of your preparation. Include Him in your plans. Asking for His help is the first step to “be prepared”.
…and find out what pleases the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)
We certainly live in a dark world. Society all around us seems bent on stirring up all the wrong kinds of passions in people. TV, movies, and the internet are just some of the many ways that filth is pumped into our already corrupt culture. It’s almost like there’s one of those giant mudslides filling the street outside your house, sweeping away everything in its path. Anyone who dares step their foot into that flow runs the risk of getting caught up and swept away.
It’s into this dark world that God shined a light, the light of God’s grace. When we opened our heart to God and cried out to Him for help, He rescued us from that mudslide. We are learning that we also need to keep clean on a daily basis, because even the best of us still get dirty. We’re learning that the best kinds of cleansing showers come with prayer, meditating on God’s Word, and hanging out with other believers.
Yet that mudflow continues to move right outside your front door.
My friends, be careful of getting too enamored with mud. Don’t try looking for the “health benefits” of mud. It might look a little harmless at first, and then you get caught again in that relentless flow that drags people into hell. We have plenty of things to get involved with that don’t involve that mudflow. Learn how to discover the things that “please” the Lord. It’s really not that hard. Be a light in this dark world. And don’t forget to rinse off from time to time.
The Song of Solomon is an amazing piece of Hebrew love poetry. It deals with love on so many levels – romance, friendship, sex, and perhaps even paints a picture of God’s relationship with His people. It is filled with metaphors that would make some blush, as well as practical tips to keep love alive and flourishing. One such tip is a warning: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NIV).
Ancient Greeks called foxes “bushy tailed vermin that plunder the vines”. Yet, Solomon’s warning isn’t for just any fox, it’s the “little” foxes we ought to be concerned about.
In the context of a love poem, the vineyard might be a picture of the relationship between the lovers. There are times in any relationship when we wrestle with “big” issues. We might look at the little foxes and think they are nothing more than a cute little nuisance, at least compared with the big problems we might face. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the big problems. Yet, perhaps just catching and removing a few of the smaller issues could change the whole atmosphere of a relationship, one from striving against each other to working together.
That little fox might be a little bit of bitterness. It could be letting your mind wander just a little too much in unhealthy places. It could be refusing to accept a small flaw in your partner. It could be a little bit of jealousy. Catch that little fox and toss it over the fence.
Part of what makes Job a messy book comes in trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong in the book. Job’s friends said a lot of “right” things, but they were things that didn’t apply to Job, and so in the end they were “wrong”. Even though God calls Job a man who has spoken what is “right” about God (Job 42:7), Job doesn’t quite handle himself correctly through the entire ordeal. Job has charged God being “out to get him” (Job 6:4) and being “unfair” (Job 27:2).
Now I don’t think God’s “self-image” is shattered by a little grumbling on our part. But there’s a bigger issue when it comes to our complaining, and it’s that we flat out don’t know what we’re talking about. We think that what we see with our eyes and experience with our senses is the complete picture of what God is doing, when it’s not.
When God shows up in the book of Job, He starts with questioning the extent of Job’s knowledge. God talks about just a few of the amazing things of His own creation. Job begins to realize just how little he really understands about life. Job says, “You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me”. (Job 42:3)
Friends, when you’re tempted to complain about your troubles, it’s not a bad thing to realize that you might not see the bigger picture. There is only One who knows the bigger picture and He is both wise, good, and loving. You really can trust Him.
One thing for sure about life is that it is not “neat and clean”. There are times in life that are nothing but messy and difficult. It’s when life is so difficult and confusing that people start asking questions. They wonder why things are happening. Or they can wonder what they did wrong that resulted in the pain they’re in.
Sometimes during these times of trouble, people will turn to religion. Religion seems to be a place with answers. Different religions will give a set of answers to the problem that is described to them. Some of us study long and hard to memorize the prescribed set of answers to every given situation.
The problem comes when we think we have the answers to a specific situation, only to find that the answers don’t really apply to that situation. That’s the problem that Job’s friends had. They saw everything as black and white. They were convinced that trouble only comes because somebody has done something bad to deserve it. And they were completely wrong. They had lots of “knowledge”, but no “wisdom”.
Job had to listen to his “friends” condemn him over non-existent transgressions. At one point, Job says, “But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?” (Job 28:12 NIV)
The life of Job is a difficult one. It’s extremely messy. For much of the book there are no real answers to his pain. Be careful of sharing your “answers” when what you need is to learn wisdom (see Job 28:28).