Friday, July 12, 2013

Jeremiah 7: Relationship Requires Alignment

Jer 7:2-20 "Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe" — safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord. Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim.' So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame? Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground, and it will burn and not be quenched."

Israel was a religious people. Even while they were committing gross violations of God's moral stipulations--stealing, killing, sleeping around, lying, worshiping  idols--they were still burning offerings to the Lord in the temple. In fact, they felt that going to the temple would bring special blessings, so that it became almost a mantra they repeated under their breath for blessings: "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord". Relationship with God has become a religion of God. Relationship with God has been reduced to neat little formulas that they could repeat to secure divine protection and blessing: "Do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!' If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever" (7:4-7). 

To live in the holy land is to live in the presence of the Lord: "Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim" (Jer 7:14-15). To be expelled from the holy land is to be expelled from God's presence and from a special place of communion with Him. A relationship between persons is based on alignment of vision and values. When Israel was corrupting themselves through their evil and immoral conduct, they put themselves out of alignment with the divine vision and values. The prophet Amos asks this poignant question: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3, NKJV). Unless the people align their vision and values with God's, they cannot be in fellowship with Him. And since the Holy Land is synonymous with God's presence, Israel could no longer live in that land.

The same idea is carried forward to the New Testament when Jesus says: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" (John 15:4-8). We can substitute the word "abide" with "align": so, Jesus is saying that if we align ourselves with His vision and values as defined in "my words" then we remain joined (in fellowship) to the Vine. 

Israel was out of alignment with her God because they longer shared His vision and values. The consequence of that mis-alignment is expulsion from the land of the forefathers which God gave to them as a land of promise that His vision and values would reign supreme. Unfortunately, Israel has dumped God's vision and trampled on God's values. Israel is like a son who is destroying the house that his Father has designed for him. If the Father is to keep his house intact for others who want to live by His vision and values, He has no choice but to expel that wayward son from His house of promise.

Jesus calls us to alignment with His vision and values so that we can bear "much fruit". But it's hard to do so unless His words are deeply engraved upon our hearts. When we are aligned to His vision and values through His word, we can "ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." What a gracious God! What an astounding promise. But it is conditional on alignment with Jesus' vision and values. 

Father, You have called us into a relationship with You--a relationship based on alignment with Your vision and values. May Your Holy Spirit continue to lead us so that we may walk by Your Spirit and therefore align ourselves with Your will on earth. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.