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Jeremiah Was A Dragon Man: “Do I look pretty?” She asked the log.*

June 23, 2012 Leave a comment

One thing Jeremiah does consistently throughout his prophesying is explain in numerous ways the absurdity of following gods that are not gods. We’ve already heard Jeremiah say in chapter 2:
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods?
And
But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah.

We also saw in my last blog post how these gods, constructed with human hands, have no ability to sustain and enrich life.**

Now Jeremiah is revealing something else about the nature of these gods that are no gods:

And you, O desolate one,
What do you mean that you dress in scarlet,
that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you;
they seek your life(4.30).

These “lovers” are the false gods of Israel and Judah. Jeremiah (along with many other prophets) often uses terms like “lover” to describe the other gods of the Hebrews because he uses the marriage metaphor so often to describe YHWH’s relationship with Israel. So, this passage isn’t meant to describe merely a sexual relationship with the opposite sex; however, I suspect there are multifold implications present, as the worship of some of the gods included cult prostitution and with Babylon’s impending hostile takeover, intermarrying with those who sought other gods was an ever present danger. At any rate, what struck me about the nature of these other gods is what they require of their followers.

In the context of this prophecy, “every city takes to flight;… all the cities are forsaken, and no man dwells in them” (29), and Israel and Judah are still trying to bring pleasure to the very lovers that have brought them to this state. Even though these gods have been formed by human hands out of wood and stone and have no more power than a tree and a rock, people are still dressing up, hiding their imperfections, and trying to appear as beautiful as possible to be accepted by their lovers, hoping somehow these powerless things which care not for Judah will save Judah.

Their gods are not unlike our gods. We look to our gods to bring us salvation from what has broken us in our lives. We want them to provide for our sense of self-worth, for our contentment, for our happiness, for our wholeness, and heal us from brokenness. We make up these gods, they have no more power than a rock or tree to do what we want them too, but we still hope that if we can just be enough they will be for us what we need them to be. If we just wear the right clothing then maybe the opposite sex will notice us and we will feel desired. If we do well enough at our jobs others will appreciate us enough that we will feel worthwhile. If we hide this or that from others (and maybe ourselves), then we will feel good enough as a person. If we can seem more awesome, then that right person will come in and make us whole. If we drink enough, watch enough tv, have enough sex, play enough video games, then, maybe then we can be truly happy. It’s the same thing the Hebrews did – put up a façade in order to please gods who have neither the ability nor desire to help us, only the capacity to distract and destroy.

My God (and perhaps yours), is completely unlike this. The last thing YHWH wants is a façade. He doesn’t want us dressing up and pretending. He doesn’t want us to hide our sins, flaws, and imperfections. He is looking for an honest heart which acknowledges all of its evils and wrongdoings. YHWH is longing for you to be you, not for you to feel like you have to pretend to be someone else in order to receive the salvation, redemption, and restoration that you need. It is true that YHWH does want us to please Him, but He is not looking for us to please Him so He will accept us, take us back, and restore our lives. Our God wants us to please Him because we, in the middle of our sin, were taken back by him, healed, made whole, and accepted back into relationship with the perfect Father and Bridegroom who longs to be our constant source of life as it is meant to be.***

* The log did not respond.
** Broken Cisterns compared to the fountain of living water
*** See Jeremiah 3:11-4:4

The Power of Non-Participation

September 13, 2008 Leave a comment

Being a Christ follower has some significant effects on the way that we love.  We’re at an interesting point in generational thought shifts in the Christian culture of the U.S.  The powerful Christian generation before us has been full of fear, avoiding anything that is associated with the ways of this sinful world.  This older generation has done so to the extreme, making following Jesus about what Christians don’t do instead of what they do.  The generation did this so much that we now have colleges that will kick people out if they consume alcohol, while in the Scriptures we have a Jesus that gives wine to drunk people and church figureheads that tell church leaders to have some wine and stop drinking only water.

I’m from an overreacting generation to these extremist standards of living that aren’t better because they’re extreme for Christ, but worse because they look less like Jesus in forbidding what God has made holy.  However, in my generation that wants to be known for what we do and what we accept rather than for what we don’t do, there is a danger.  We are in danger of accepting too much.  We are in danger of living a life that looks just like the world around us, with a little bit of social activism thrown in.  In Scripture, we see that a lot of the power of the kingdom of God comes from what people reject and not just from what they accept and do.

As for myself, I’m a little scared of accepting people where they are at as their life takes them into hell.  I’m scared of loving people in a way that doesn’t actually contribute to their life changing.  I’m scared I’ll be one of many in our Christian culture that lives like the culture, accepting it as my own.  A story in Daniel  shows us both the difficulty and power of non-participation.

Shaddy (Shadrack), Meesha (Meshach), and Ben (Abednego) were exiles militarily forced to live in Babylon, aliens living in a foreign land.  While under this foreign king, they became officials in the kingdom.  During their time as officials, the king made a huge statue of himself and decreed that everyone in the land had to bow down before it and worship his image.  The whole of Babylon, men from every nation and tongue bowed down to the king’s image.  These men wouldn’t do it.  They  simply refused to do anything that put someone else or some other god above their YHWH, even when other Israelites bowed to the statue.  Shaddy, Meesha, and Ben had nothing to gain by their refusal and everything to lose.  Not only would they lose their powerful positions in a powerful kingdom, but they would lose their very lives.  They stood when everyone else bowed.  They were given a second chance knowing a fiery furnace awaited them if they did not kneel; they stood when everyone else bowed.

Will we do this?  Will I do this?  Or will I become a part of the culture around me, indistinguishable from the bowing masses?  It’s easy to do.  There are so many gods in our culture and so many towering idols.  The god of money.  The god of safety.  The god of fame.  The god of lust.  The god of politics.  The god of stuff.  The god of selfishness.  The god of impressing people.  The god of belonging.  These things are not as physically obvious as a ninety foot tall statue, but if one looks for them, they are overwhelming large idols that people bow down to.  Often  I want to bow down to them.  I won’t be killed for not doing so, but often when I take stands I face social persecution, ostracism, and aloneness.  And there’s this part of me that feels like I am missing out on what I am choosing not to take part in.  These men faced death and still refused to bow to the idols of their time.  When I, facing so much less than death, am faced with the great idols of my time, will I bow or will I stand?  Will you?

Obedience to God opens our lives to His power.  When we are recognized not only by what we do (our relationships with God and how we relate to people) but by what we don’t do, God moves.  We have to trust that obedience to God is the best thing for us, that what we are missing out on by giving deference to idols is much less than what we would be missing out on if we chose not to give deference to our Creator.  We have to trust that because God asked us to stand while the rest of the world bows, He and His power will stand with us.

When the three God-fearing Israelites stood alone in Babylon, God didn’t come down and keep them from being thrown into a blazing hot furnace.  The king asked the rhetorical question, its answer obvious, “what god will be able to rescue you from my hand.”  The men responded that their God could.  But God let them be thrown in.  The three men that stood went into the furnace and faced the inevitable melting of their flesh, bones, and organs.  It was so hot the soldiers that threw them in were killed.  But as the three were in the furnace a fourth man that looked like a son of God showed up inside, YHWH there to support them and keep them from harm.  Their hair was not even singed.  YHWH was with them, because they stood for Him.  The story of Shaddy, Meesha, and Ben ends with the king acknowledging YHWH as Lord and decreeing that anyone who said anything against this Great God was to be killed.  And the three Israelites got a promotion.

Who has the power today?  Is it the powerful rulers or the powerful masses?  Or is it God?  While presidents, dictators, kings, moviestars, media, and society all have power, they only have power because God on high has allowed them to have it.  It is God alone that we should bow to.  He is not only the most powerful, but the most rewarding.  Those that would hurt us in any manner don’t have power to unless God has first allowed them to have it.  Let us, then, rend our wills to God’s, set only on glorifying Him through what we do and what we are deliberate about choosing not to do.  There is power in non-participation – through God, the power to change the world’s most powerful nation.

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