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Sin and Punishment February 25, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 8:4-9:26.

Summary: This passage consists of a dialogue between the following groups:

  • the people of Judah – who are fearful of the advancing Babylonian troops; although they call on God for deliverance, they slowly realize that the hour of their punishment is at hand
  • Jeremiah – who expresses his anguish at God’s impending punishment of His people; he is acutely aware of their sinfulness, yet he wrestles with the scope of His divine retribution
  • God – who asserts that His people have committed numerous sins, including idolatry, deception and greed; thus, He will smite them and their land.

Thoughts: Here, we see a painful interaction between God, His people, and His instrument – Jeremiah – as the Babylonian army prepares to attack Judah. Did God explicitly direct Jeremiah to employ dramatic elements in this passage – or did Jeremiah determine that it was the best way to convey the tension of this situation? In any event, this is a valuable reminder that the events of this passage constituted a “drama in real life,” and the actors could not remain silent as they pondered its awful conclusion. Also, modern-day believers can identify with Jeremiah and the people of Judah in that we often struggle to comprehend the scope of God’s holiness – including His punishment of sin. As we are finite, unholy creatures, we struggle when we are confronted by our infinite, holy Creator.

In verse 22 of chapter 8, we see that Jeremiah makes a reference to “balm in Gilead.” That phrase reminds me of a book that presented the fall from grace – and subsequent rehabilitation – of a pastor in North Carolina named Gordon Weekley; I should note that I encountered an excerpt of that book in an old issue of Reader’s Digest. Pastor Weekley had a busy schedule as a rising young pastor; to cope with the demands on his time, he utilized a combination of drugs. He began to fumble his way through sermons, including a memorable incident involving John 14:2. His addiction became so severe that his wife eventually left him and filed for divorce. Eventually, he realized that he needed professional help; God then enabled him to overcome his addiction. Now I am curious as to how he spent the last years of his life; if any readers have some knowledge along those lines, feel free to leave a comment.

In verses 23 and 24 of chapter 9, we see what God desires from those who would boast about anything. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

Jeremiah forbids anyone to glory except in God alone. All are greatly deceived who think themselves blessed when they are alienated from God.

I find these verses to be challenging, as I readily – either outwardly or inwardly – boast about my external advantages, including my:

  • educational background
  • intellectual abilities
  • ethnicity.

These external advantages are concrete facts that I often indulge. Yet God calls us to only boast about our relationship with Him. That is difficult, as one cannot judge the value of that relationship with worldly metrics. Nonbelievers may scorn us for assigning worth to a relationship that is unseen – and, to them, a delusion. How can we live in a way that demonstrates the primacy of our relationship with God? One thought is that God does not call us to reject our external advantages; instead, He wants us to leverage them to effectively exercise “kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.”

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