Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken.
Give glory to the LORD your God before He causes darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, And while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death and makes it dense darkness.
But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD's flock has been taken captive.
When I was a young man I subscribed to a prophecy newsletter. But it seemed the content of that letter was only sensational doom and gloom. With the added stress that college brings, it was really more than I could bear at the time. One day, after having read the letter, I began to weep for all the heartbreaking news I had just read. The Holy Spirit spoke comforting words to me and instructed me to cancel the newsletter. It wasn't time to carry that burden. I didn't have enough knowledge of the Bible to properly frame what I was reading.
Now, some twenty years later, I find myself literally surrounded by tragedy; unable to escape it. Family members are in dire straights. Friends, godly men, are fighting for their very lives; hanging on to threads of hope. Every day the headlines cry out the tragedy and sorrow of each moment, as it happens. Severe troubles and sorrow surround us continually in America. And while our suffering can't be compared to the suffering in third world countries, we are not immune to sorrows. My heart is heavy. My soul weeps in secret as I watch God's hand of protection leave his people. And while all this is going on, the leaders of the Church today can't stop talking about God's favor. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they insist God is pleased with us. Just send in your seed offering and you'll be greatly blessed! Just pray in faith and the destroyer will flee. But what if God is the one heaping disasters upon us? What if he is the one spending his arrows on us?(Deuteronomy 32:23)
Oh, but this is not the message the people want to hear. People don't want to hear that God is angry with his people. Tell us only about God's goodness and grace! Tell us about his unending mercy! Surely God would never remove his lovingkindness from us. We are a nation void of counsel, without understanding.(Deuteronomy 32:28)
"We couldn't have imagined such tragedy would come to us,"
No truer words could be spoken by God's people in America today. Until it happens to us, or a loved one, we simply can't imagine such sorrow and heartache. After all, what about all the sermons we've been hearing all our lives about God's grace? Where has his graciousness gone? When I was just a small child, I almost died. We were coming down an overpass during a blustery winter storm. Just as our van passed the guardrail a great wind lifted the van up on two wheels towards the edge of that steep hill. But suddenly, as my mother describes it, the van came to an abrupt stop as if a huge angel grabbed the back bumper. There was no skidding tires heard on the gravel edge of the highway. My family didn't plummet to our deaths that day. God had other plans.
Who's to say why God spares one and not the other? But when we study the scriptures one thing becomes clear. Over and over again we see in his Word that God's judgments come to his people, collectively, when we become polluted, collectively. There's a song being sang in our churches today: "I am the God that healeth thee. I am the Lord your healer." The song is based on God's promise in Exodus 15. But it's a conditional promise, as are many of his promises. Shouldn't we, then, start to question what's going on when our born-again loved ones are dying from all sorts of afflictions? God's promise to be our healer is based on his people keeping his commandments. Are we? Is God healing our land today? Maybe we're not keeping our end of the bargain. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says we have to turn from our wicked ways if we want God to heal our land.
Perhaps we're not as righteous as we think we are. "Oh, now you've done it! I've caught you in my trap. The blood of Jesus makes us righteous." Yes, of course it does...when we turn to him, repent and are saved. At that point we become a new creation in Christ. And God is pleased with us as long as we don't draw back.(Hebrews 10) But are you going to try to tell me that you are righteous as you continue to lust after the ritual harlots of our day, pornography? Are you going to try to convince me you're righteous when you're sleeping with your boyfriend? Or when you marry an unbeliever? Or when you go out and get drunk with your friends? Or when you neglect the poor and down-trodden? Or when you neglect God's Word for days, weeks, and even months on end? We spend more time washing our outward bodies than we spend washing our hearts with the cleansing water of the Word. Our minds are not transformed. Rather, our lives are polluted because our minds are polluted. All tables are full of vomit; no place is clean. (Isaiah 28)
This is what Jeremiah tried to tell God's people of his day, who were under his judgments as well. Guess what? He received the same reaction I've received. The people tried to shut him up.
Shall evil be repaid for good? For they have dug a pit for my life. Remember that I stood before You to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them. Jeremiah 18:20
Don't tell us about our sin and the consequences of living a polluted life! But look at how Jeremiah described what he was doing: "to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them." Jeremiah rightly understood that he was doing a good thing in the eyes of the Lord. So why did the people want to kill him? Because he wasn't telling the people about God's goodness and grace. Was God good and gracious back then? Of course he was. God does not change. So why wasn't he speaking of God's goodness? Why was Jeremiah's message that of sin and repentance and judgment? Because that's what God's people needed to hear. Just as we do today.
God is not gleefully spending his arrows on us. God does not willingly afflict us. (Lamentations 3:33) No, God's heart is broken to watch us suffer. He weeps bitterly for the affliction of his people. I can say it no more plainly than this: his Word is life by which we are to live. May we rend our hearts as we diligently seek God in his Word. May we abide in his Word and may his Word abide in us and may we be doers of his Word and not hearers only.