Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Hostility and Fury: Week One_C, The Call of Jeremiah

One of the things I find amazing about Jeremiah’s connection with Judah, the level of emotion that he committed to his own people, was how bad they actually were. Remember, this was a time where the word “civilized” actualy meant you only had concubines that you knew, that you only raped your own servants, and that the idea of sacrifice wasn’t just a metaphor.

In fact, the gods that Judah was ‘flirting’ with were gods who demanded sacrifices of temple prostitution and child sacrifice. Molech, for example, the god of the Moabites whom the people of Judah were particularly attracted to, required the people to bang drums while the children were sacrificed in order to drown out their screams. The place where they were killed was called Tophet, which means “many drums”, and is in the valley of Hinnon on the south side of Jerusalem.

It was the town dump – they burned children, like they burned their garbage, alive in the town dump.

In Jesus’ time this place would come to be known as Gehenna, and it serves as the biblical model of hell.

And it was because of this that God decided they needed to be punished.

Jeremiah 2:7-11 (The Message)
7"I brought you to a garden land
where you could eat lush fruit.
But you barged in and polluted my land,
trashed and defiled my dear land.
8The priests never thought to ask, "Where's GOD?'
The religion experts knew nothing of me.
The rulers defied me.
The prophets preached god Baal
And chased empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.

9"Because of all this, I'm bringing charges against you" --GOD's Decree--
"charging you and your children and your grandchildren.
10Look around. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?
Sail to the western islands and look.
Travel to the Kedar wilderness and look.
Look closely. Has this ever happened before,
11That a nation has traded in its gods
for gods that aren't even close to gods?
But my people have traded my Glory
for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.

This is why we’ve chosen the mathematical symbols for “therefore” and “because” as our third symbol. God’s says “because you have done these evil things…therefore I will bring judgement.” These are symbols of causality, and they are symbols that can be expressed in concrete-sequential terms as well as emotional-relational anecdotes; and, one thing we might begin to notice in the text, is the way that God’s language shifts throughout Jeremiah from a language of relationship to a language of causality.

A language of relationship, imagery of Judah as God’s bride or firstborn son, expresses God’s desire to be close to His people and have fellowship with them. The language of causality, on the other hand, makes it seem like God has resigned the people to an equation and no longer looks to them for reciprocal love and communion. These two languages appear to flip-flop throughout the book, showing that God never fully gives over to causality and the separation from relationship with His people.

And, true to His character, God never acts arbitrarily nor withour warning. He sends Jeremiah to the people, over and over and over, to give them signs of the coming judgement. Jeremiah uses images and words, poems and objects lessons to try and connect the consequences of apostasy with the heart of the people – but they never get it.

They never read the signs.

Do you?

Do I?

Do we look at the world around us and recognize that God is speaking to us using signs and symbols all of the time, trying to remind us that He loves us and is desperate to be together with us as bride and groom?

At some point, maybe even today, God is going to use an object or a conversation or a piece of media as a sign to you. He is going to show you – somehow – that He cares about you specifically, particularly, and wants you back.

Will you pay attention to that sign?

Will you take it seriously?

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