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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Disobedience: A Sure Way to Suffer

On October 31st, 2015, a Russian plane (Flight 9268) crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killing all 224 people aboard. In this case, the tragic consequences were not of their own doing. But, this current news item reminded me of a time when the people of Judah chose consequences rather than repenting of their sin. The people’s continual disobedience led to the destruction of Jerusalem and their eventual exile into Egypt where God punished them with war, hunger, and disease. By not listening to God, only a very few survivors came back to live in Judah. (Jeremiah 44:11-14). But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start.

Khufu Pyramid, Egypt
Public Domain: Library of Congress

God is fair. He loves everyone and does not want any harm or affliction to come upon them (2 Peter 3:9). However, God wants his creation to love him in return (1 John 5:3). Many nations have disregarded God’s love and His desire to bless them. And when nations or people reject the Lord and His commandments, suffering comes upon them (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Before Jeremiah, the Northern Kingdom which consisted of 10 tribes was destroyed by the Assyrians. Thus Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah which consisted of the two remaining tribes. Jeremiah was present when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 586 BC. Jeremiah states over and over again that without people repenting and turning to God, consequences will befall them.

During the time of Jeremiah’s unpopular message, the people and leaders were actively participating in many sinful behaviors such as idol worship, sacrificing their own children to the gods, stealing, adultery, and more. The people had two choices they could have pursued – To be obedient to God and receive his blessings or continue in their sin and await judgment. They were totally steeped in sin and they decided to remain in it. Jeremiah comes upon this scene, and for almost 50 years, he pursues his calling to warn the people that if they did not turn to God and worship Him that God would judge them. And, for all those years, he saw very limited, almost non-existent, change in their lives.

Jeremiah was treated horribly during his ministry.

The people did not listen to him. (Jeremiah 7:25)
They wanted to kill him. (Jeremiah 11:19, 21-23)
He was beaten. (Jeremiah 20:2)
He was put into the king’s prison. (Jeremiah 32:1-5)
He was put into a muddy cistern and left to starve to death. (Jeremiah 38:6-10)

However, being encouraged by the Lord throughout the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah continued his call to preach the message with sadness and tears; thus, his name “the weeping prophet.”

God had sent many prophets to the people of Judah calling for their repentance and he had given them grace over and over. But, God had finally had enough.

He even asks Jeremiah to stop praying for the people. When I first read this many years ago in the Bible, I was shocked to hear that God actually told someone to stop praying for people. But, it is in the Bible.

“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.” (Jeremiah 7:16)

“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.” (Jeremiah 11: 14)

“The LORD said to me: ‘Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.’” (Jeremiah 14:11-12)

Sounds like God had enough of their sinful behavior, doesn’t it? In this case, it seems that prayer was delaying the judgment and God was ready to act. It is interesting to note that God did not tell Jeremiah to stop preaching the message of repentance. God was ready to judge!

Darkness of Sin
Lion Sands Safari, South Africa

At this interval, God is ready to judge sin. This happens in our lives too. God gives us chance after chance to repent. But, at some point, he says, “Enough is enough.” And, that is a scary place to be.

God decided to use the Babylonians to punish their sin and assign consequences to their behavior. The Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple in 586 BC. At this point, the people of Judah, who are living in the midst of the destruction, ask Jeremiah to ask the Lord if they should leave and go to Egypt or stay in Jerusalem. The people promised they would obey God whether God says to go or stay. Jeremiah did not respond right away. He prayed for 10 days. Finally, he told the people what he heard from God.

“At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.”

And, after all this, it is amazing what the people said. The insolent men said to Jeremiah, ”You are telling a lie. The LORD our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there.’” (Jeremiah 43:2) This reminds me of the time my youngest son kept asking me if Santa Claus was real. I kept saying, "Do you really want to know." He said, "Yes!" This continual bantering went back and forth until I finally decided to tell him Santa Claus wasn't real. His immediate response was, "I don't believe you!" Sometimes people just believe what they want to believe and there is nothing you can do about it. The people of Judah chose not to obey the voice of God and they went to Egypt. Jeremiah was also forced to go to Egypt even though it was against God’s desire. The consequence for the people’s disobedience was again judgment from God as promised in the form of destruction of their homeland and their chosen exile to Egypt. But, let’s remember that God’s real desire for his people was to be obedient so he could shower them with blessings — not suffering and trials.

How is this story relevant for us today? This story talks about the nation of Judah. However, if we continue in our disobedience after many warnings and exhortations, we can end up in a very dangerous situation suffering the terrible consequences of sin. In the midst of sin, we are losing his blessings and our relationship with him. God may wait many years for our repentance while we live lives of deceit, immorality, drunkenness, corruption, dishonesty, and lies. Let’s not let that happen. Allow God to rule your life NOW. Return to the Lord today and/or accept His love and acceptance by confessing your sins, and asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior.

While the passengers on Flight 9268 were unaware of their ultimate and unfortunate demise, we are given the opportunity to change our lives and choose to live in God’s blessings. Let’s act today.

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

Patti Greene

Bible Verses:

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. The LORD will send you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. Deuteronomy 28:15-20

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16


Dear Heavenly Father, let me recognize the times you are drawing me back to you. Let me understand that you want my total obedience — not just my appearances in church or my good works. Let me hear deeper truths from you. Allow your presence to permeate my life. Lord, lead this nation to walk in your presence. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
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