I’m reading the book of Jeremiah at the moment. Oh boy, what a lot to take in. A short synopsis: Israel has turned away from God and he sends the Assyrians to invade and destroy the land and take the people away as slaves. It has the potential to be a very depressing read – war, death, suffering, wailing, crying, idolatry… And this young guy, Jeremiah, is stuck right in the middle, the messenger to a crowd, hell-bent on doing everything but what God wants for them.
When I started with chapter 1 I asked God, “How can I see your love in this book? What can I possibly learn about you that will bring me closer to you? What can I learn for my life?” Good questions, I think.
I can definitely recommend using a study bible when reading the prophets. There’s so much cultural context and other stuff, that some explanations are helpful. The images God uses to speak to people become so rich and deep, you really start seeing past the “Oh no, how can a loving God punish people like that?”. You start to see his compassion. It pains him to see his people like that, so far away from him, that drastic measures are needed and those pain him too.
One thing I see again and again and that is a major theme in Jeremiah is that very often, when God wants to build something, he starts by tearing something down first. I guess this is where our doubts often flare up, “God why? Why me? Why now? Do you love me/us?” It seems that every time we’re confronted with change that invades our comfort bubble, we stand up and question the reasons. You see it everywhere, inside and outside the church, although reactions differ. I think the area in my life where I’ve seen this the most, is simply in the way I view God. I guess you can call it my theology. Sometimes God tears down the image I have of him. At that moment I feel so far from Him, I sometimes wonder if my faith had just been a myth. I question, I complain, I wonder… Sometimes I think to myself, “Is this going to be the thing that kills my faith for good?” But every time, EVERY time, God takes the shards and creates something new, something better, and I start seeing him in a whole new light. I don’t know how else to explain it. All I can say is it’s amazing. Nothing compares to God doing what he does best and it surprises me every time. First I feel like an idiot for doubting Him – again – and then I just enjoy his company and whatever that brings with it.
I know it’s a lot harder when you’re faced with disease, death and broken lives. I think asking questions is good and God doesn’t have anything against it (Job, Abraham, Moses are good references). He wants us to search for Him. He understands our pain and fears. At the same time he has something in store for us that will blow our minds. No one can say how that will play out. Some people die and we still ask God what the point was and why they couldn’t experience relief. It’s telling though, that a book, with so much death and strife, like Jeremiah, also has one of the best-known, most hope-giving verses:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11
God bless you.