Why have you forsaken me?


Why have you forsaken me?

Jeremiah 16:10–21 (NRSV)

And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, “Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?” then you shall say to them: It is because your ancestors have forsaken me, says the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law; and because you have behaved worse than your ancestors, for here you are, every one of you, following your stubborn evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.

Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, “As the LORD lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” but “As the LORD lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their ancestors.

I am now sending for many fishermen, says the LORD, and they shall catch them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my presence, nor is their iniquity concealed from my sight. And I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.

O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, 
my refuge in the day of trouble, 
to you shall the nations come 
from the ends of the earth and say: 
Our ancestors have inherited nothing but lies, 
worthless things in which there is no profit. 
Can mortals make for themselves gods? 
Such are no gods! 

“Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.”

Would you have believed 20 years ago that one of, if not the biggest political issue facing our nation today in 2017 would be insurance? I don’t think I would have. Between shootings, bombings, human trafficking, abortion, education, and a host of other issues out there, I would not have imagined that insurance would be foremost on the minds of our leaders. To be fair, it is not just any insurance, it is health insurance – which does hit home for many of us. We are a mess though, and it looks like we will be for awhile longer.

We struggle, as did Israel before us, with placing our faith first and foremost in God. It seems more sensible to get insurance, take vitamins, eat healthy, exercise regularly, visit the doctor, get a second opinion, and then, if that fails, take up yoga and meditation to promote healing in our bodies. It is only when every other resource is exhausted that we turn to God and ask for help. That is completely backwards and is really downright sinful when it comes to our relationship with God.

I’m not opposed to any of the above methods of finding healing. What is wrong is when we do not go to God first. He may lead us to skip some or all of those methods. He may want to walk us through all of them and more.

Israel did not deal with health insurance thankfully, but they had a lot of struggles with foreign relations and their own economy. They felt they would make better friends and have better trade, if they welcomed other spiritual practices into their camps. God expressly forbade this and the little indiscretions sowed the seeds for greater catastrophe later on in the life of that nation. Finally, during the time of Jeremiah, God decided to judge Judah (Southern Israel) according to the same measure that He judged the other nations around them, and lo and behold, Judah, was no better than any of their neighbors. If anything, they were worse because they, unlike Babylon and Assyria, had the Law of Moses and knew better. They were supposed to be the leader, influencing others for good and not the follower, doing worse things to impress their friends.

So here God promises not only to forsake them and leave them to their own ends… He promises to come and punish them himself. He will remove them from their Promised Land, starting with their hunters and fishermen, the source of food and wealth for many of these communities.

There are times in life where we feel abandoned by God. Sometimes we blame Him. Other times we may feel like we are being justly punished for our own wrongdoing. Whatever our situation, Jeremiah reminds us that those things we are tempted to trust are not gods. They cannot save us. But God can and will if we make Him our strength and stronghold, our refuge in time of trouble. We cannot rely on our ancestors to have faith for us, we have to claim it and live it for ourselves. To that end, it does not matter what our nation or our world chooses to do, so much as it matters what you and I choose to do today.

Remember that the story did not end with the deportation of the Jews and the fall of Jerusalem. Several centuries later, even after it was rebuilt, albeit not the most faithfully, God came seeking fishermen again. This time, is was not to send them away in punishment, but rather to send them away in mission. Their faithfulness, in spite of the persecution they faced, changed the world, and helped shape who we are today.

Where do you feel abandoned by God?

Where have you trusted in others before seeking God?

Can you see ways that God is working even in the midst of your suffering?

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