Have You Rebuked God Lately?

8 Aug

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah for the last three weeks, and I was struck by the passage in chapter 29 which discusses God’s condemning words to Shemaiah of Nehelam.  In that passage, we are made aware of letters Shemaiah had written to the people who remained in Jerusalem (many of the Jews had been taken into exile into Babylon).  In these letters, Shemaiah condemns Jeremiah’s prophesies, calling him a madman and deserving of punishment in the stocks.  Why?  Because Jeremiah had prophesied that the Jewish exile in Babylon would be long, and, therefore, that they should build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce (Jer. 29:28).

At a basic level, Shemaiah did not like the negative prophesies of Jeremiah and their implications for those in exile.  To Shemaiah, the prohesies of Jeremiah represented what could only be described as false teachings.  How could God allow for His people to be in exile for so long? And why would such a God, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:6-7) do such a thing to His people?  Surely Jeremiah is a false prophet.  And Shemaiah’s perspective is made clear in verse 27: “Why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you?”

Yet, God’s response to Shemaiah, through none other than Jeremiah (how ironic) is:

“Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not sent him, and has made you trust in a lie, therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants.  He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord. (Jer. 29:31-32)

Why such a response from God?  Why is He so harsh in dealing with Shemaiah?  I do not know the full answer.  Only God does.  However, I believe that it must surely be connected to Shemaiah’s rebuke of Jeremiah.  For, on a deeper level, this is much more than a rebuke of Jeremiah.  It is a rebuke of God.  It is a rebuke of God’s ways.  At its deepest level, Shemaiah’s disgust and anger towards Jeremiah is really a challenge to God’s righteousness and sovereignty over His people.

And to this challenge, God responds decisively: I am more than just the God of mercy, grace, patience, love and forgiveness.  I am the God of justice, righteousness and holiness.  It was Israel’s pursuit of false gods, idol worship and rejection of God’s calling to be holy, that led them to receive the discipline of God.  And part of that discipline was exile, and a long exile at that.

I think there are two things we can learn from this:

1. God’s justice, righteousness and holiness reveal His love, mercy, grace, patience, love and forgiveness more fully.
2. We should not rebuke the circumstances we find ourselves in or God’s Word because to do so is to rebuke God.

The Fullness of God’s Love

Israel’s exile was meant to bring them to repentance and a renewed faith in their God.  It was a time of purification and refining.  God was working out His plan to save a people for His glory through faith in His promise, and this served as one of the means of accomplishing this.  If we back up to verses 10 thru 14, we see the glorious promises God makes to His people in exile.  What a hope and motivation these promises would be to a people who have been taken from their land, seemingly rejected by their God and left to live in a heathen kingdom!

In the same way, God was working out His plan to save a people for His glory through faith in His promise when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life of obedience to the Law, die a horrible death on the cross in order to cover us with His righteousness and take away our sin (as well as reconcile us in our relationship with God), and apply such to us in His victorious resurrection.  In the same way as Israel, we are called to trust in this promise fulfilled through the Gospel.

In both circumstances, it is God’s justice against sin and rebellion that proves to be the grounds upon which love and the fullness of His grace are revealed and applied to His people.

Rebuking the Lord

So often I can relate to Shemaiah.  I complain about the circumstances in which I find myself.  I want for things to be different than they are.  I a way, I am saying, “If only I were God!”  And there have been times I have read God’s Word and been confronted with gruesome violence, seemingly excessive responses from God towards sin, and what seems to be silence towards injustice.  I think to myself, “Can this all be true?” , “Surely God would not do that.”, or “Where is the justice?!?!”  It is in these moments that I can either continue to study the Word, pray, discuss it with others and trust God and His revelation, His sovereignty and my circumstances, or I can rebuke God and try to ascend to the throne of God.  And so often I fall for the latter.

It is my prayer and desire that I can begin to see all things as a part of God’s plan and work in my life, both His justice and His love, His grace and His truth, His mercy and His wrath, His patience and His quick, decisive action.  It is my prayer that I would wrestle with His Word in Scripture and do so individually, as well as in community, but ultimately that I will trust it.  I do not want to be a man who tries to rebuke God, but rather a man who can, in the power of the Holy Spirit, walk in confident, obedient faith to that which God has called me in this life.

What about you?

 

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