A LIFEBELT IN THE STORM

A LIFEBELT IN THE STORM

Opening Prayer

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, blessed Trinity; by your power may I live this day, faithful to you and to your Word.

Read JEREMIAH 4

“If you, Israel, will return,
    then return to me,”
declares the Lord.
“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
    and no longer go astray,
and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
    you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
then the nations will invoke blessings by him
    and in him they will boast.”

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:

“Break up your unplowed ground
    and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
    circumcise your hearts,
    you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done—
    burn with no one to quench it.

Disaster From the North

“Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:
    ‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’
Cry aloud and say:
    ‘Gather together!
    Let us flee to the fortified cities!’
Raise the signal to go to Zion!
    Flee for safety without delay!
For I am bringing disaster from the north,
    even terrible destruction.”

A lion has come out of his lair;
    a destroyer of nations has set out.
He has left his place
    to lay waste your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins
    without inhabitant.
So put on sackcloth,
    lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
    has not turned away from us.

“In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “the king and the officials will lose heart,
the priests will be horrified,
    and the prophets will be appalled.”

10 Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”

11 At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, “A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; 12 a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.”

13 Look! He advances like the clouds,
    his chariots come like a whirlwind,
his horses are swifter than eagles.
    Woe to us! We are ruined!
14 Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved.
    How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?
15 A voice is announcing from Dan,
    proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.
16 “Tell this to the nations,
    proclaim concerning Jerusalem:
‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land,
    raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.
17 They surround her like men guarding a field,
    because she has rebelled against me,’”
declares the Lord.
18 “Your own conduct and actions
    have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
    How bitter it is!
    How it pierces to the heart!”

19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
    I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds within me,
    I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
    I have heard the battle cry.
20 Disaster follows disaster;
    the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?

22 “My people are fools;
    they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
    they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
    they know not how to do good.”

23 I looked at the earth,
    and it was formless and empty;
and at the heavens,
    and their light was gone.
24 I looked at the mountains,
    and they were quaking;
    all the hills were swaying.
25 I looked, and there were no people;
    every bird in the sky had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;
    all its towns lay in ruins
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

27 This is what the Lord says:

“The whole land will be ruined,
    though I will not destroy it completely.
28 Therefore the earth will mourn
    and the heavens above grow dark,
because I have spoken and will not relent,
    I have decided and will not turn back.”

29 At the sound of horsemen and archers
    every town takes to flight.
Some go into the thickets;
    some climb up among the rocks.
All the towns are deserted;
    no one lives in them.

30 What are you doing, you devastated one?
    Why dress yourself in scarlet
    and put on jewels of gold?
Why highlight your eyes with makeup?
    You adorn yourself in vain.
Your lovers despise you;
    they want to kill you.

31 I hear a cry as of a woman in labor,
    a groan as of one bearing her first child—
the cry of Daughter Zion gasping for breath,
    stretching out her hands and saying,
“Alas! I am fainting;
    my life is given over to murderers.”

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Come into a time of confession, acknowledging before God your falling short of his righteous expectations of you.

Think Further

My mother has told me vivid stories of people’s reactions as they heard the wail of air-raid sirens echoing through the streets of World War II Liverpool. Men, women, and children dropped what they were doing and fled for the shelters. Only air-raid precaution and emergency services members stayed out. God tells Jeremiah to sound the alarm. Powerful images describe the imminent attackers: a lion, a scorching wind, chariots like a tornado and horses like eagles. There is overwhelming noise, earthquakes, the promise of catastrophic destruction. All leadership collapses in the face of such violent attack. The aftermath is pictured in further somber descriptions: the land a waste and void desert, depopulated, the cities desolated ruins. The light of the nations has been put out.

In these verses it’s often hard to distinguish between God’s voice and Jeremiah’s own confused and emotional reactions. He questions God’s apparently contradictory words to the nation (v 10), through the mouths of other prophets. He recoils from the anticipated horror, his heart races, he is torn apart with anguish (v 19). Our own hearts go out to Jeremiah and the agony of his task in sounding this warning to those among whom he lived.

I need something to clutch on to when faced with a passage like this, a lifebelt in a storm of impending judgment by a righteous God. Jesus’ disciples had just such an experience.1 Two features of this story give me reassurance. First, Jesus was in the boat, in the storm with them, as he is always with us. Second, his authority exceeds the strength of any storm and his loving sacrifice of himself covers our failings in the face of his Father’s righteousness. Our hearts have been washed from wickedness      (v 14).

Apply

Sit with hands open and receive the forgiveness of God into your own mixed-up life. Listen for the words he wants you to take into his mixed-up world.

Closing prayer

Lord, when I feel a sense of vulnerability and fear, give me a sense of assurance in your presence, and restore hope and joy to me.

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by kingstar

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