Essential Job

But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten.  But, O LORD of hosts, You Who test the righteous, and see the mind and heart, let me see Your vengeance on them; for I have pleaded my cause before You.  Sing to the LORD!  Praise the LORD!  For He has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of evildoers.     Jeremiah 20:11-13

I am going to take a few liberties with verses 7 through 10 of Jeremiah’s passage today, although I don’t think that I am wandering far from what he was saying:

I have become a laughingstock all the day; every one mocks me; the Word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long, for whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “injustice and tyranny!”  If I say, “I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His Name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.  I hear many rumoring and twittering; “resist!” is on every side!  “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my twitter “friends,” watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will say what is socially unacceptable, then we can overcome him, and take our resentment out on him.”

In these kinds of terms, Jeremiah actually isn’t far from the political and social climate of today!  There is a sense in which in today’s world so many are eager to pounce on anything which is an “offense,” whether intended that way, or an innocent poor choice of words, or as seen through an hyper-sensitive offendability.  There seems to be an eagerness to not react with disciplined dialogue, humility, tolerance, and forgiveness; instead there is hostility, outrage, depravity, and what-not else which gets pulled in..

The difficulty especially comes, when, like Jeremiah, we speak not our own words, but the Lord’s.  Like Jeremiah, we have the responsibility to speak against a world and an age which not only wants nothing to do with the Lord, where it seems that there is the desire to make a mockery of what He has done and what He wills.

For example, when in Genesis the Lord declares that He created mankind in His own Image, it is twice specifically declared, “male and female He created them.”  Yet our politically correct society asserts there must be, what, at least 30 or so different genders – is not an obviously different master is being served, despite how stylish and superior one appears to be?  How would we expect Jeremiah to react to such a thing?  How should we react?

And when a child not yet born, or now, even already born, can be sacrificed to the gods of convenience, indifference, and medical advancement, it is not merely Christian morals which are reviled but also the God Who is angered at this shedding of “innocent Blood” [Psalm 106:36].

St Paul identifies areas such as sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander – on account of these God’s wrath is coming [Colossians 3:5-6].  In growing frequency there is a thumbing the nose at God and what He had intended when He created humanity, as any and all restraints are arrogantly thrown off.

Jeremiah was at a crossroad in the life of the People of God.  It wasn’t merely his opinion – God Himself had warned that they were heading toward a terrible destruction.  It was something very real – because we also know it was just a matter of years before their accumulated rejection of God descended on the heads of these rebels.

They wouldn’t listen, they mock, they laugh, they plot my downfall, Jeremiah complains.  There was humiliation, contempt, persecution from a people who did not want to hear of their guilt and its deserved punishment.  As we look around our own world, God’s ways are more and more held in derision today.  Are we who have a significant relationship with our Creator, Savior and Lord not called upon to stand against Satan’s attempts to steamroll over what is Godly?

We are indeed living in what is being called the “post-Christian age.”  David Haberstock, in a recent Canadian Lutheran article [“The Times In Which We Live” 2020-01,-02], referred to a report from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada titled “Not Christian Anymore.”  It revealed that “half of Canadians are either agnostic, atheist, or unreligious.  And only a tenth attend religious services weekly.”  In all age groups, attendance is down significantly.  His comment was “These are the times in which we live” – not melodramatic assessment, but simple realism.

Over the years Christianity has seemingly tried to walk hand-in-hand with our culture, trying to be “nice,” and downplay any affronts to God’s will.  We have been reluctant to speak out against ungodly positions, attempting to be “fair”-minded, all the while Satan has made ever increasing footholds in the whole world’s way of life.  The international culture has become less and less a “safe” place for Christians – in fact, Christians are the largest persecuted group worldwide.  More and more we are being ridiculed and belittled, treated as feeble-minded, antiquated, and oblivious to reality.  Jesus soberly warned many times, that at the end of this age there will be extreme hatred against God’s People.  Like Jeremiah, how we too would just love to go crawl into a hole.

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Despite how we don’t like to face this, Jesus, Paul, and throughout the Bible warns that this is indeed the coming future before the Lord returns.  This is reality.  What then are we to do?  Haberstock defined the change of perspective required to handle what we are facing:

      St Paul wrote, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2)  Did you catch that?  While we must always preach the Word, and always be ready to preach, yet there may be “out of season” times when nothing grows….

I suggest that our present moment may be an “out of season” time.  We must still preach the Word.  We must be ready, … and the Gospel is the only power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:6). …

… Focusing on how the Holy Spirit, despite heavy pressure on us to fall away still calls, gathers, and enlightens the saints who are there with His gifts increases our joy.

For a person who faces a dangerous, but life-saving surgery, it will not do to merely ignore the problem, but in spite of the potential risk, will take whatever steps are required to confront the deadly situation.  So as Jeremiah had to, God’s present People are called to evaluate who and what we are, and to understand what is consequently required, as Peter writes:

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.             I Peter 4:1-2

How can one do this?  According to both Peter and Paul [Romans 12:2; Philippians 2:5], the battle to turn away from Satan, the world, and our humanness (our sinful flesh), and walk with the Lord begins in our minds.  The first level of conforming to God’s will starts with attitude.  What do we really believe concerning God?  Is He real?  Is He really all that interested in us?  Does He really mean what He says?

Fortunately, Jeremiah points us into the right direction.   God is not frail and weak in the face of the challenge by Satan, the world, and our natures.  His Word is true, its content is no illusion, and He is stronger than our humiliation.  Yet the surprise is that He has joined us in that humiliation: “looking to Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God” [Hebrews 12:2].

We too often overlook that our faith is founded on important historical reality – there was actually a birth in Bethlehem heralded by angels; a ministry which touched actual people and shared wonderful news of healing, forgiveness, and freedom; there was a hard wooden blood-stained Cross on a hill just outside Jerusalem; and an empty tomb with over 500 eyewitnesses who confirmed that Jesus is alive.

But even more powerfully so, all of this is surrounded by prophecies which have covered thousands of years.  The mockers we face have no answer to this significant fact which fills the Bible from end to end.  It is the comfort and strength of knowing for certain that when God promises something – when God promises His closeness and involvement, when God promises His power and control applied to our lives and our world, when God keeps moving ahead to complete His unstoppable salvation despite the refusal of the world around us to think He can do it – there is no question that He will triumph over the derisive laughter of those who have closed their minds to His absolute rule over sin, death, and the powers evil which have for so long subjugated our lives.

No matter what is thrown against us, there will always be One Who will stand with us, in us – and we in Him.  There is confidence in spite of what would make others fearful, as Jesus encourages us: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” [Luke 21:28].  To seal the contract of His promise, He here offers Himself in Bread and Wine – in His very own Body and Blood – so that we are powerfully assured that He is totally “all In” when it comes to His Word to us.

So come then, and lift up your heads, for your redemption, your life, your eternity, your power against the mockeries of the world is drawing nigh.  And then we go forth to proudly live Life with the Jesus Who has saved us!

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