“When you tell these people all this and they ask you, ‘Why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?’ then say to them, ‘It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying me. So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’
“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.
“But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the Lord, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.”
Lord, my strength and my fortress,
my refuge in time of distress,
to you the nations will come
from the ends of the earth and say,
“Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods,
worthless idols that did them no good.
Do people make their own gods?
Yes, but they are not gods!”
“Therefore I will teach them—
this time I will teach them
my power and might.
Then they will know
that my name is the Lord.
I would like to turn back to the prophet Jeremiah as I did on March 1. Remember that the Judeans were conquered by the Babylonians in 586. Yahweh called Jeremiah to prophesy to them decades before the Babylonians conquered them, warning them to repent and end their idolatrous ways. They did not heed Jeremiah’s prophecies. Yahweh curses them and their ancestors; threatening to hurl them off cliffs, hunting them with nets and spears, his eyes trained on them like a hawk.
This is the smiting Yahweh and, well, I wish I could insert a colloquialism here to express God’s fury. But I cannot. You know what I mean though. Even worse, Yahweh is disappointed in his people once again. A disappointment that rends one’s heart almost to its breaking point. Imagine a pleading and desperate Why? Just why can’t they get their acts together?
While the Judeans misdeeds and wanton ways seem so off the rails, in God’s eyes they are not any worse than our own. Ask yourself what you did over the weekend that did not honor God. Friends, we have a few weeks left in this Lenten season to reconcile ourselves to what is true and good about ourselves in God’s eyes. I appreciate what Rumi wrote and I hope it is helpful for you: “The most powerful way to resist evil is to sit with good friends who have turned their faces to God.” Let us turn our faces toward God and know that this smiting “Old Testament” God is even more of a merciful and loving God, no matter how many times we break his heart.
Gracious God please know that we love you more than we can express with our inadequate prayers. For all the times we did not honor you and ourselves, we ask for your mercy and forgiveness, this day, tomorrow and always. Amen.