The Weeping Prophets
I saw a little blip of news about a Church leader yesterday. It said that they were calling for a solemn assembly to call for God to judge America. Is this what God is asking us to do?
Weeping for Israel
I am always sobered when reading through Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel. These old prophets who were given the grievous assignment of warning their fellow citizens of Israel that they had finally crossed the line in the attitudes of their hearts and of their forsaking of their God—the LORD, YHVH, Who had loved them and cradled them to His heart, who had “engraved them on the palms of His hands.” Jeremiah is assigned the task of warning the King and the religious leaders that God had appointed judgment on the Land after years of warnings and pleading for them to return to their LORD. He was to warn them to flee the land of Israel, where the Temple of the LORD had stood, and to go willingly into captivity to Babylon (current day Iraq).
I imagine a prophet coming to us in the body of Christ—we who are the temple—and telling us that we must leave our homes, our Churches, our families and our country, and go willingly into a foreign land—a land filled with the worst kind of idolatry. Think of God telling us that we must leave everything behind and flee to Iran or India where we will be captives, where we do not know the language, or the customs of the land; a land where our faith is not accepted, and where there are no churches for us to attend and gather together. I imagine us packing what few belongings we can gather together and setting out, going willingly into captivity. It is difficult to imagine, as it must have been for them.
Weeping for the Temple
When Jeremiah goes to the leaders to share the “burden of the Lord” concerning these things, they cry out “But the temple is here, the temple is here!” (Jeremiah 7:4). After all, this was Israel, the Promised Land. God Himself had given them this Land and he had made a covenant with them concerning His Land. He had actually put His name upon the city of Jerusalem, where the temple stood—you can see that Name from above—the Hebrew letter “Shin” carved into the valleys around Jerusalem. The Shin means “El Shaddai.” His Name is there. Who could ever imagine that He would ask them to leave, that He would allow His temple to be destroyed and His people scattered? What a sad and impossible task for Jeremiah. He obeyed His God. His reward was cruel punishment from the leaders—mockings, beatings, imprisonment, being thrown down into a cistern filled with muddy water up to his waist.
But God’s covenant also included some conditions—they were not to worship other gods and idols. They were to allow the Land to have its Sabbath rest every seven years which they had neglected to do for seventy years. Not coincidentally, they were removed from the Land for seventy years of captivity; the Land had its Shabbat rest.
Weeping for America
Jeremiah is called the “weeping prophet.” I find myself weeping for our own land recently. Reading Jeremiah’s lamentations, my own heart weeps with his words: “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is none to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies” (Lam. 1:1,2). As he laments, he is lamenting in the first person, but also in the third person: He is Jeremiah lamenting for himself and his people and he is also Israel, lamenting for the sins that brought them to this place. But there is another Person lamenting in these passages: It is God Himself, weeping for His people. “Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed” (Lam. 3:48).
God is Weeping
Understand and hear this: God will do anything to keep from having to judge. It is His last resort. It breaks His heart and it should break ours. We are never asked to call for God’s judgment. The prophets, knowing that a judgment was impending, called for mercy. Even Ezekiel cries out “I fell facedown, crying out, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?” (Ezek. 9:8). Peter reminds us “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
(to be continued)