Jeremiah 3: 6-18
Romans 1: (26-27) 28-2:11
John 5: 1-18
Examining the Heart of the Matter
Is God mad at us? God is angry at our sin, not us. He is angry at what we do, not who we are. God is not happy with the Israelites in the first few chapters of Jeremiah. Why? Because they aren’t listening to him and they have turned to other useless, dead gods for help and comfort instead.
Yes, God is mad at us too. Why? Because we as a nation aren’t listening to him any more than the Israelites were thousands of years ago. God is mad at us in the same way that I as a parent am upset if I tell my toddler to stay away from a hot stove while I am making his dinner – giving him multiple toys in the other room to play with – and instead he chooses to touch the stove anyway. Is the anger temporary? Of course. I am upset at the choice my toddler made. It is because I love him dearly that I am trying to protect him from harm. God is the same way with us grownups, yet God is so much more merciful than me.
How would you feel if you were waiting to shower blessings on your creation, and with the gift of free will you gave them, they chose to ignore you and do precisely the opposite of what you asked – unappreciative of what you had given them? Heartbroken? Angry? Would you pick someone who is listening to you to send a warning message to help the folks who aren’t tuning in?
That’s exactly what God does through Jeremiah. During the reign of King Josiah (between 627 and 621 B.C.), the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to Assyria and its people had been taken into captivity at this time. The Israelites were suffering under a pagan king. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, should have taken notice of this, but did not learn from Israel’s mistake. God gives Jeremiah this message: “Return, faithless Israel, and I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful. I will not be angry forever. Just acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree and have not obeyed me.” (Jeremiah 3: 12-13). Unfortunately, the people still fail to repent, so God, like any good parent who follows through on warnings of punishment and judges them.
And I ask myself, why did the Israelites refuse to acknowledge their sin and change their ways? It baffled me until I read Romans 1:32. “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them.” It was just as hard for the Israelites to admit their wrongdoing as it is for us to do so today. Human nature just doesn’t change from one century to the next.
Why is God so angry at sinful people? Because they have replaced the truth about him with a fantasy of their own imagination. They have stifled the truth God naturally reveals to all people in order to believe anything that supports their own self-centered life-styles. God cannot tolerate sin because his nature is morally perfect. He cannot ignore or condone such willful rebellion.
God wants to remove the sin and restore the sinner – and he is able to, as long as the sinner does not stubbornly distort or reject the truth. But his anger erupts against those who persist in sinning.
Romans chapter one resonates in my mind right now with the current presidential administration. Our national media focuses on the negative activity. Then late night talk shows pour in the mockery and criticism. While I am thankful we have freedom of the press to serve as our “watchdog,” they also have their own agenda, and we Christians need to be mindful of how much influence the media has over our perception of right and wrong. Neither the media nor the government dictate our moral values. God’s Word, studied, taught, and practiced in the home, is the standard by which we form our values. Rather than blame our government for being “morally corrupt,” or agree with the media, why don’t we look inside our own hearts for a greater insight on who needs to consider repentance?
It is impossible to study God’s Word without learning about who he is, and it’s a wonderful revelation The greater understanding we have of God and who we are as sinners, the more easily and sincerely repentance comes. God has clearly explained to us in the Bible who he is, what he has done, what his plans are and what he expects from us. Political activism is important and we should not turn a blind eye to of the craziness from some of our elected officials, but if we could make it a priority to understand even a fraction of God’s perspective, our perspective will change, and we might not be so easily caught up in fear, hatred and contempt of our local and national government. We might gain a deeper understanding of who the real enemy is. We might feel more compelled to pray for those with whom we disagree. How about less time judging others over their religious or political beliefs and more time teaching our children what moral behavior we expect in our own homes? How about less time on social media blasting others or trumpeting our self-righteous beliefs and more time soaking in the balm of God’s Word? Repentance and changed behavior begins with changed hearts, and that begins in the home.
Perhaps the scene in John 5: 1-18 is an allegory for what happens between the government and us. Maybe the lame man, who has been laying around for 38 years trying to get into the pool for healing, represents America. Jesus asks him a crucial question. “Do you want to get well?” Do we as a nation actually want to repent and obey God’s laws, or just continue with the same excuses because it’s just easier? Jesus tells him to get up, pick up his mat and walk! But instead of celebrating this as another example of God’s endless mercy and kindness, the Pharisees, who were the law-keepers of the day, scowl because from their perspective, Jesus “broke the Sabbath.” A man who hadn’t walked in 38 years has been healed, but the Pharisees were more concerned about their petty rules than the life and health of a human being. It is easy to get so caught up in our man-made structures and rules that we forget the people involved. Are your guidelines for living God-made or man-made? Are they helping people, or have they become needless and stumbling blocks?
Dear Heavenly Father: I pray for this nation and our leaders. Grant us a humble attitude of respect since you have ultimately placed them in these positions, even if we don’t understand or agree. Help us focus less on social and national media and more on you and the peace you offer. Forgive our rebellious ways and help us to come together as a nation and acknowledge you as the sovereign one in control of everything. Help us to be consumed not with fear and hate but with love and compassion. Thank you for in the incredible freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Amen.