Wednesday, August 4, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Joy to the World

Now that we are in the book of Jeremiah, every time I read his name, I start singing that oldie, "Joy to the world, all the boys and girls..." No, Jeremiah wasn't a bull frog, he was a prophet and from what I can tell, he wasn't spreading much joy to the Israelites. In fact, the more I am reading about the prophets of the Old Testament, rarely were they bringing good news to the people. It seems that most prophets were loners in life. God even told Jeremiah that from the beginning of his existence that he was set apart and appointed a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Not only is Jeremiah a loner, but he is known as the weeping prophet. Not a very joyful title either. Jeremiah's purpose was to warn the people that if they would not turn from their evil ways, they would be taken captive by the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It was under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar that Solomon's Temple was destroyed and the Holy articles of the Temple were taken to Babylon and defiled. I imagine Jeremiah being like Robert Redford in that movie from the early 70's "Jeremiah Johnson." I don't remember much of that movie except that Jeremiah was a scruffy man, living off the land and was faced with many challenges and had to endure them alone.

Often Jeremiah would stand at the city gates speaking the Word of the Lord. Jeremiah 7:1-11 says that the Lord told him to proclaim some, not-so-good news to the people. It says this, "The L
ord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go to the entrance of the Lord’s Temple, and give this message to the people: ‘O Judah, listen to this message from the Lord! Listen to it, all of you who worship here! 3 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “‘Even now, if you quit your evil ways, I will let you stay in your own land. 4 But don’t be fooled by those who promise you safety simply because the Lord’s Temple is here. They chant, “The Lord’s Temple is here! The Lord’s Temple is here!” 5 But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; 6 only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. 7 Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever. 8 “‘Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It’s a lie! 9 Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, 10 and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, “We are safe!”—only to go right back to all those evils again? 11 Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord , have spoken! " (New Living Translation)

Just the other day, while I was out I passed by a building that had been a church for many years. At times there were two churches meeting in that location. On this day, as I passed by, no church was to be found. Instead a false religion that worships other gods and burns incense to them. I was suddenly reminded of this passage in Jeremiah. No longer is that building a place of worship to the Living God. Little by little the foreign gods are beginning to over take our land like what happened when Babylon took over Jerusalem. I believe Jeremiah's words spoken then are relevant for today. It would seem that today we Christians are in the same place God's people were then. Subtly we are conforming to the ways of this land. We are like "a frog in boiling water." We don't even recognize our little compromises and disobedience.

No longer do we live under the Old Testament covenant. Jesus brought the good news that he came that we might have life and have it to the fullest. (John 10:10) Jesus came to bring the good news that if we know the truth then the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) That if the Son, sets us free, we are free in deed. (John 8:36) No longer are we destined to be captive to the things of this world. Why is it then we live like captives? I know I do at times. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the One who sets us free so we can be the Church, full of grace and truth with love. We need to keep each other encouraged because we are the Church. No longer does the Lord's Spirit dwell in a building, but in people who are followers of Jesus. Ephesians 2:22 says that we are being built together to become a dwelling place for God's Spirit. I realized that the difference between the prophets and apostles was that the apostles had Good News to share. Our purpose as followers of Jesus (in contrast to Jeremiah assignment), is to spread the Good News that Jesus came to bring joy to the world.