That’s not fair.
I can’t even blame him. In 20:7, he charges God with having overpowered him. A bit later (20:9), he clarifies that God has placed His word so deep within him that it burns like a fire if it’s not spoken: “I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
I liked blaming Jeremiah. It’s an easier option than where I’m going next.
It’s not like blaming God is something new; as old as Adam actually. Still, it’s not ground I love to travel, even if it is well-travelled.
My friend Dave had a troubled but honest post on his blog a while back. No, Dave, I didn’t forget the email you sent me either! I’d link to his blog entry, but it seems to have been deleted (it wasn’t that troubled). What it said was this…
This might be a totally uncalled for post. In fact, I’d rather some people not read it, even though I’d like to hear from some…. heh… I guess you don’t have that luxury online.
I just finished sending off an email to my friendly neighbourhood innocent unsuspecting minister who is thousands of miles away from me, letting him know that its his job to fix the way I think of the Bible.
…and a thought came to mind. A horrible, ugly, little thought.
You see, as I travel around with the choir, these children who’ve come from such desperate circumstances, a lot of people say the same thing… that seeing these children in person has made the statistics they read a lot more personal… it has given it a face, and they say that the statistics mean a lot more now, and look a lot different.
I wonder, then… how our perspectives would change… how the statistics would seem to us… if we could ever see the face of just one of the thousands of innocent children slaughtered by the Israelites in the Old Testament. If we not only read of their death, but we saw the actual act. Picture it for a minute. A grown man… a soldier… trained and ordained… swinging his sword into a little baby. I shudder as I write this.
Joshua and Jesus, I’m told, actually have the same name. Right now I’m having a hard time believing they had the same God…
Dave’s point along with a million other people’s… what do we do with a God who called for His people to strike down entire cities as they took the Promised Land? It’s not like those people asked to be God’s enemies, right? Where do we stick that on a framework that recognizes God as being good, loving, and merciful? That’s a question that’s downright unnerving. It can feel like a breaking point in our minds.
Want the kicker?
Jeremiah pushed me farther last week.
I was reading chapters 19-22. The king of God’s people approaches the prophet, and God replies with this in chapter 20:
1-2 God’s Message to Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent Pashur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to him with this request: “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has waged war against us. Pray to God for us. Ask him for help. Maybe God will intervene with one of his famous miracles and make him leave.”
3-7 But Jeremiah said, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘This is the God of Israel’s Message to you: You can say good-bye to your army, watch morale and weapons flushed down the drain. I’m going to personally lead the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, against whom you’re fighting so hard, right into the city itself. I’m joining their side and fighting against you, fighting all-out, holding nothing back. And in fierce anger. I’m prepared to wipe out the population of this city, people and animals alike, in a raging epidemic. And then I will personally deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his princes, and any survivors left in the city who haven’t died from disease, been killed, or starved. I’ll deliver them to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—yes, hand them over to their enemies, who have come to kill them. He’ll kill them ruthlessly, showing no mercy.’
As I read those words and more like them, I wondered.
Yeah, I wondered, “Why?” Of course. But that’s the easy wondering.
Mine wouldn’t stop that day. Here’s where I ended up.
If I think my senses are stunned by the unthinkable thought that God would command His people to fight others with such ferocity, then I’ve seen nothing yet. Look upon a God who goes beyond that; look at Him who would fight His own people with an equal ferocity.
I was a touch surprised not to feel disgust or fear as I considered such a God as this. Rather, my dominant feeling was a humility before and an awe of a God who possesses a holiness that has seldom been understood even by those claiming to follow Him. This is a God whose desire for righteousness burns hotter than any passion of men. This God over all… His very nature is a love of a type that is so far beyond human affection, emotion, or feeling that it could appear as insanity in our small eyes.
Now that doesn’t answer the question. I know.
But it leads me to one that needs even higher priority on my list.
What am I to do with that kind of a God?
Sigh and submit. That’s all I’ve got. And for now, I’m all right with that.
And thanks to Jeremiah, that’s where I arrived on ‘just another Tuesday’.