Friday, January 28, 2011

Hope & Ugly Truth

Today I journaled out of Jeremiah 27 & 28. The interaction begins with God filling Jeremiah in on His plans to set King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon over several other nations, including Judah. Other prophets had been telling the people that this situation would be short-lived, but Jeremiah knew the truth meant they faced captivity “until the day I [God] visit them.” There was no time-frame for freedom, but there was a promise of providence if they yielded.

“Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: Behold I will cast you from the face of the earth…”  -Jeremiah 28:15-16a

Hananiah couldn’t believe that God would plan captivity for His people. He couldn’t accept that blessing could be possible within the confines of those circumstances. The people had squandered their promise and God responded justly. Maybe Hananiah had good intentions. Maybe he didn’t want the people to lose heart. He didn’t want them to be consumed by the judgment of captivity. But in the end, Hananiah wasn’t doing himself or the people of Israel any favors. He imposed his standards of mercy and justice on God and prophesied a lie to the people. He offered them false hope that would paralyze them when judgment came. While Jeremiah’s message was much less pleasant, there was hope residing in the ugly truth: “Roll with God’s judgment and you’ll find mercy and blessing. Rebel and find wrath.”

This dynamic exists in different shapes and forms in faith today. Name it-Claim it. Prosperity. The message of grace erasing consequences. Problem-Solver Jesus… if we “get” Him like we “Get Jesse” then everything bad goes away. These messages cripple the people of God. When they inevitably face trials, hardships and suffering; when they collide with the brokenness of this world, they’re left floundering and shaken because their tidy solution never came around. The rainbows and butterflies never showed up! The truth is, God has given us grace and strength to face whatever foe or crisis comes our way. The blessing isn’t perfect circumstances or lack of consequences – it’s an all-sufficient Savior who offers forgiveness and promises never to leave nor forsake us. The blessing is in the character and contentment that come with trusting Him. God is always just, always strong, and always good – even when this world and life & death and suffering try to tell us otherwise. There is intrinsic hope in the ugly truth when we trust the Lord.

God takes this stuff seriously. Hananiah lost his life for causing the people to trust in a lie. As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility to be a voice of truth that speaks and imparts real hope to God’s people; a voice that equips others to stand and flourish, even in the captivity of their current circumstances. 

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