The last few weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. I’ve blogged about Jeremiah before, it’s a fascinating look at an Old Testament prophet that failed.
People failed to listen to Jeremiah. But it’s not Jeremiah’s failure, in a way it’s God’s. It was God’s plan, it was God’s sermons, his resources brought to bear down upon a wicked people, pleading with them to repentance. And they never heeded the warning God brought to them, so God carried out what he said he was going to do.
This is a fascinating book for me. In the grand scheme of things, precious little I’ve set my mind towards doing has failed. Sure there’s that one time when I was 15 and I spent all my Christmas and birthday money on a guitar that I gave up on within about two weeks. But in the grand scheme of things, life has always been pretty good. Pretty easy.
I feel like I have spent most of my life trying to follow God as closely as possible, and while nothing has always been perfect (there have been a few really tough moments), on the whole, more good has happened then bad. That’s why I’m so interested in Jeremiah. He was extremely close to God, much closer than me, but he was by most other measures a total failure.
Jeremiah was doing everything right. Doing exactly what God told him. But it wasn’t working, and I think, like many of us would, he took ownership of it. His ranting and complaining is some of the best in the Bible. He felt the failure personally when it wasn’t his to feel.
But the other interesting part of Jeremiah is how much God loved his people and wanted to warn them that they were on the wrong path. Today I was in Jeremiah 18, where this verse popped up:
“So, say this to the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem: ‘This is what the Lord says: I am preparing disaster for you and making plans against you. So stop doing evil. Change your ways and do what is right.’ (Jeremiah 18:11 NCV)
Wow! How would you like to be on the receiving end of that dire warning? The Almighty God of the Universe has come to tell you that not only is he withholding his blessing from you, he is actively making plans against you. He is planning disaster for you.
I suppose this is where some would say something about the Old Testament God being vengeful in comparison to the merciful New Testament God. But look at the end of that passage. Change your ways and do what is right. As you read on the whole chapter, God actually says if they change their ways, he will change his mind and show them mercy and not vengeance. What an awesome promise of mercy.
So often I wonder how, when I’m caught in sin, God will come to me and tell me he is making plans against me. What a sobering conversation to be on the receiving end of.
But like a loving parent, the plans God makes against us are designed to be merciful. To rescue us from a path that will only lead to total calamity. The disaster God plans for us is out of his infinite love and mercy, to save us from our own hearts.
I hope I’m never on the receiving side of God telling me he’s about to bring calamity into my life as the result of my sin. And if I am, I pray I’m smart enough to cede to his mercy and change my life.