Sunday, August 28, 2011

Told Ya

Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. He didn't want to do what God called him to do, and I don't blame him. He was to rail against his nation their longtime infidelity, God's righteous anger, and His pending judgment.  Judah would laugh at him, imprison him, and then deem him a traitor and seek to kill him, although Jeremiah didn't know it at the time. But God asked Jeremiah to do his bidding, then warned him that he would be a miserable failure, so Jeremiah was reluctant. His original plan of marrying the girl of his dreams and settling down among the ordinary Israelite masses sounded like a better option. Who could blame him? But God wanted him, and I can't, for the life of me, imagine what God would want with an ordinary, selfish, uninspiring guy like that.

So God had to convince him with some romantic notion about calling him before knitting him into his mother's womb. And let's face it, who's going to win an argument with God anyway? So Jeremiah ended up watching his countrymen dismiss his warnings for decades and saw every horrific thing God said would come to pass come to pass. He stood helplessly by when Assyria systematically overtook his country, in one wave after another, after another, until it was decimated.  He watched his friends and countrymen be marched out of Jerusalem into pagan lands, until he was one of the last left in a ruined city.

This is the point in the story when grudging, selfish Jeremiah should have felt vindicated because time proved his unpopular prophecies to be true after all. It is entirely reasonable to think Jeremiah might say, "I told ya so!" with great satisfaction.

But he didn't.

Instead, Jeremiah lamented. He didn't get mad. He didn't get even. He got sad. The reluctant prophet wept for love of God's people, because what happens when you listen intently to the voice of God is you begin to love what He loves. So the reluctant prophet became known as the weeping prophet, and instead of  saying "I told you so," Jeremiah spoke of hope, even though it was seventy long years away. He advised the captives in how to not only endure their captivity, but to thrive in seeming defeat.

Just as his cries of pending doom had seemed ludicrous at the time, so must have seemed his new claims. He talked about God's compassion being new every morning, about loving kindness that never ceases, and about embracing discipline because it will produce hope, all while iron chains scraping a gravel road toward captivity jingled in the background.

God chose selfish Jeremiah who wanted to be ordinary and turned him into a national hero with the heart of God. He heralded even more crazy stuff -- whole-heartedly this time. Stuff about covenant-keeping and God remembering promises. And this time a few must have finally heeded him because there was a remnant few that lasted those seventy years and returned to prove him right yet again.

None of this should be a surprise; God likes to redeem. Maybe He did it for Israel. Maybe it was for Jeremiah. Maybe, just maybe, it was for me, or even Himself. But after thirteen weeks of studying Jeremiah in Sunday School and finishing this morning with a peak at his lamentations, I now like to think it just might have been so God could pull me up onto his lap, cup my face in his nail-pierced palms, and say with a satisfying grin, "I told ya!"

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity...." ~Jeremiah

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