I was reading Jeremiah 24 this morning and noticed what might seem unusual. Put yourself in Jeremiah’s beard for a minute and imagine how strange this message must have seemed. He has been warning of the calamity that is going to come upon the people.
“If we don’t repent, our nation will be destroyed by God.” This is the basic gist of his message to his countrymen – a message they mostly ignore. And then it begins. For years he has been warning God’s chosen people and now they’re reaping the consequences of refusing to heed his warnings. Babylon has dragged off many of the people into slavery.
Now, if I’m living in a conquered nation, some of my countrymen are taken prisoner, but I’m left at home – I’m thinking about how fortunate I am to have been spared. Many in Judah were probably in that same state of mind. “Nebuchadnezzar has spared us! He’s left us alone… or maybe he’s not strong enough to take us all… We’re survivors!”
But God had a little different viewpoint of these “survivors”. “Like the rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs – that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt.” God was going to let them rot and die – cleansing the land of all of them!
The exiles, however, “are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment. I’ll keep my eye on them so that their lives are good , and I’ll bring them back to this land. I’ll build them up, not tear them down; I’ll plant them, not uproot them. And I’ll give them a heart to know me, God. They’ll be my people and I’ll be their God, for they’ll have returned to me with all their hearts.“
The people who seemed to be in pretty crappy conditions (slavery isn’t that pleasant, I’m sure you’d agree) would be the ones coming out on the other side. The ones who seemed to have no hope for tomorrow would be the ones with a future with God because He used the circumstances to raise their desire to know Him.
I wonder if that’s going on today? I wonder if the church has drifted from the heart of God. Have we allowed buildings and budgets and crowds and programs to become idols that have twisted our hearts away from God’s loving hands? What would an “exile” of God’s people look like today? What will it take to be given “a heart to know God” – to be His people?
It will take us realizing that He is the only One.
All of what we think we need is nothing.
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it…”
See you at the crossroads.