OT: Jeremiah 19:1-21:14
Today, I had two thoughts on the nature of being a prophet:
1) Prophets had to talk a lot and say the same things over and over. I've been thinking that Jeremiah, like Isaiah, is a little repetitive, and yet, if it is a record of what Jeremiah preached to the people, then it would be repetitive, wouldn't it? His job was to proclaim one message to the people, over and over. I'm sure he talked to different groups, which would account for some of the repetition, but he also tried to warn people multiple times. After all, his was a desperate, deadly serious message. He would undoubtedly want to give people every chance to hear it and respond to it.
2) Being a true prophet had to be a pretty horrible job. It would be one thing if you could say whatever you thought people would want to hear, like if you could say, "Peace, peace," even when there was no peace. But Jeremiah had a horrible message. No one would want to hear what he had to say. And to have to be so unpopular for so long would be hard for a person, I'm sure. Today, he even gets beaten and put in the stocks due to the unpopularity of his message (20:1-2). Truly, I can see absolutely no motivation for this lifestyle unless one was totally convinced that he was the voice of God.
To add to his unpopularity today, Jeremiah's message was expanded by God to include an urging that the Israelites voluntarily surrender to the Babylonians (21:8-10). Yes, I'm sure that went over really well. Very patriotic-sounding: "you are going to lose no matter what you do, so you should just go out and surrender". Of course, to continue the theme of my exhaustion-driven ramblings from yesterday, such a move would be a total surrender of personal control, not to the Babylonians, but ultimately to God. It would mean believing Jeremiah's story about your sinfulness and humbly submitting yourself to God's punishment. Ironically, by totally surrendering to God's discipline--via the Babylonians--you would find life. Taking matters into your own hands--via self-defense--would only mean death. That's kind of ironic, and it kind of highlights a central paradox of Judaism/Christianity. In dying to ourselves, we find true life. On the contrary, when we cling to life, we find death.
NT: 1 Thessalonians 5:4-28
In my ongoing quest to live every moment for God, I was encouraged and inspired by verses 5-8:
"You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet."
I don't get drunk, and but I find the sleep reference fascinating. Obviously, sleeping at night is not wrong; it is a very necessary part of being human, like eating or breathing. In the context of what Paul is saying, though, I think a modern rendering of this idea is of "sleep-walking" through our life. I am growing to truly loathe the times that I waste, the times that I sleep-walk through my days. I'm not saying that I never relax; on the contrary, I believe that relaxation is wonderful. But I guess it can be like alcohol, or fat. A little bit is good for you, but it is almost too easy to be a drunkard or a glutton. Same with rest and relaxation. It's something that we need, but it's easy to be a sluggard, especially for short periods of time throughout the day. Rather than succumb to that wastefulness, I want to always be self-controlled and alert.
In other news, 1 Thessalonians wraps up today, and I always love his final greetings. They are so succinct, so quotable. Toady he gives us these wonderful pieces of advice:
Live in peace with each other.
Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Be joyful always.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
Do not put out the Spirit's fire.
Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
Hold on to the good.
Avoid every kind of evil (13-22, give or take a few lines).
That's all great advice, and I could ramble on indefinitely about each of those instructions. I'll just say that I loved the vibe I got in verses 12-15. It was all about how the body of Christ should respect and love each other, how they should be kind and patient with each other...and with everyone else!
Today, I had a set-the-Bible-down moment. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes as I'm reading Scripture, I just have to set the Bible down and respond immediately. Today, it happened regarding verses 3-4:
"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
I have read these sentiments so much in Isaiah and Jeremiah, and I know James 1:27, so I know enough to understand that this is not a recommendation. And after hearing it for the 27,000th time, I thought, "I can't take it anymore!" And I printed and filled out a volunteer guardian ad litem form. I'm going to mail it tomorrow and call them b/c the next training session starts on the 18th, and I don't want to miss it. I tell you that 1) as a testimony to the power of Scripture, and 2) for those who know me to hold me accountable to that commitment. It is something that I've thought about for awhile, and I now have some more time, since my kids are older. I'm not saying that being a guardian ad litem totally fulfills my responsibility to the poor, but I do think it is a step in the right direction.
All about exercising caution and discretion during litigation.