IS IT TIME FOR GREAT THINGS?

The prophet Jeremiah in the Bible is one worth knowing about, especially in this unprecedented pandemic and total lockdown days. 

Born into a family of priests from the town of Anathoth in Benjamin, Jeremiah was the last prophet before the Kingdom of Judah was carried away into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Jeremiah is rightly called the prophet of doom tasked as he was with the message of imminent judgement. He had the unenviable burden of warning Judah of the immediacy of God’s judgement as well as the misfortune to see it happen in reality and actuality. It was during his lifetime itself that Judah was captured, it’s capital city destroyed and it’s subjects interred in Babylon. He was truly the Prophet of end times for the nation and had to live till his last breath among rebellious people who persisted in their defiance of God and His laws. 

Jeremiah is also called the Weeping Prophet for he was totally heartbroken with the message he had to preach and he was a true nationalist at heart. He suffered greatly at the hands of his countrymen because he wouldn’t preach a message that was favourable or palatable to them. He was called by God to sound the alarm of God’s judgement and His rejection of them as His people. He was one who paid the price for calling people to repentance, the most unpopular of almost all prophets because he preached an unpopular message!

Jeremiah’s companion and secretary, probably in his later years, was Baruch, son of Neriah, a young apprentice. Baruch was tasked with writing down all the prophecies of Jeremiah at the behest of God (Jer 36:2). Being privy to God’s prophetic utterance and the authentic knowledge of His plans put pressure on Baruch.  His association with Jeremiah affected him terribly for the message to his mentor, which he had to transcribe, was one of constant gloom and unrelenting doom. No wonder then God had to single him out to speak a very short, special and personal message in chapter 45 of the book of Jeremiah. 

For a young man, the death knell to his future and his plans for it would obviously be upsetting and terrifying. To be told that his world was going to end because of God’s decree of punishment would have rocked Baruch’s world and his visions of a rosy future! It was now his time to live and enjoy life, but what to do when God Himself was dismantling his world! The name Baruch means ‘blessed’, but Baruch probably felt cursed for being born into those times (Jer 45:3)!

Without mincing words, God tells Baruch “You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ But the Lord has told me to say to you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’ ”Jer 45:2‭-‬5. 

The key note to Baruch was “Is it time to seek great things for yourself”! The Message version puts it well “…forget about making big plans for yourself”! God tells him, ” I am going to overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted throughout the earth and you are worried about yourself!” Baruch was worried about his own life and bitter that his plans cannot be accomplished at a time when the whole world was being judged!

How like so many of us who, in these days, are frustrated and in despair because our dreams and well-laid-out plans for our future are falling apart and collapsing like a house of cards due to COVID! We are belligerent because we feel robbed and cheated of our rightful future. We had such hopes, not just for us, but also for our children, and now all of that had been swept away with one stroke of a pandemic! Some of us were galloping merrily along life’s path, progressing well, having a good life and then suddenly all of it has ground to a halt by a stupid pandemic!

God’s answer to Baruch is the answer for us today: Is this the time for such thoughts of self! Is it time to rue the ruin of our calculations for a secure future! Is it time to curse our ‘fate’ for being born in this generation! Is it the time to view with a sense of loss your ‘ill-luck’ for being in this season! 

No, it is not the time or season for us to sit down with our heads in our hands and think of what we have forfeited. Rather, it is the time to sit down and take stock of our priorities, our focus and assess where we are going. It is time to realign our priorities and decide what we will be following and doing. It is time to become committed and build our relationship with God, seeking wholeheartedly to follow His precepts and to live by His standards. It’s time to seek to do His will and hanker after eternal goals rather than simply targeting temporal things. It is time to be serious!

We are in a period when tragedy has impacted the whole world, an unprecedented happening. COVID has become an uncontrollable and unimaginable event of epic proportions, rendering everything uncertain and vulnerable. The only stable and sustaining factor of life is God with His constancy. He is the only Rock on which we can stand amid the sinking sand. He is the sole guarantee of our future in the midst of the question of what might happen next in this world!

It is very comforting to note that along with the prediction about their captivity and their exile from the land, Jeremiah also prophesied about their return from exile and their settling back in it. He even gave a timeline (70 years) for their return and a reason for it (the land had to have all the sabbath years it had not been given) Jer chapter 25!

Even in the midst of His judgments, God’s compassion and mercy cover us with His promise of return and restoration. It is in the book of Jeremiah that we read the famous oft-quoted words: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jer 29:11 NIV! 

God is not out to destroy us or our future, but to preserve our lives in all that may happen, whatever may hit this world before His future arrives and plans for us come to pass. That was God’s promise to Baruch in that special message to him: ‘Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’ Jer 45:5 NIV. That was God’s Word to Baruch and it’s  His Word to us, a word of greatest comfort and anchor in troubled times!

May we use this time for a restoration of our love for God and a time of renewing our relationship with Him!

*Pics courtesy of unsplash.com and google images

E’EN THOUGH IT BE A CROSS!

NEARERMYGOD

Seated in a church, I watched as the earthly remains of my friend’s husband was brought in. I scanned her face, looking past her composed demeanor to her aching heart, sensing the vacuum left there by the loss of her companion of many years. I bowed my head in sorrow, as the Pastor prayed the opening prayer, crying out to the One who created her and joined them together to be one flesh.

The pastor announced the opening song number and we stood to sing that timeless hymn by Sarah F. Adams. As the organ led, the violin accompanied and we sang the song of comfort, the first few lines caught my attention:

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Refrain:
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

My heart, heavy with sympathy for my friend, thrummed and resonated with the line “E’en though it be a cross and woke to realization.

Yes, indeed, I thought to myself, its a CROSS that lifts me. Though it seems quite strange and paradoxical too, the crux of the Christian faith and life, is not a crown but a cross that raises!

The cross stands at the heart of the Christian belief, the epitome of its essence and the embodiment of its existence. The cross stands at the crossroads of time, dividing it into two eras – Before and After it. It rings the death knell of man’s efforts to reach God and the morning bells of God’s triumph in reaching out to him. It signals the culmination of mankind’s bondage to sin, sickness & satan and the dawn of liberation to new life, purpose and future for all human beings, eternally!

Its astonishing to note that the symbol of the worst ignominy in the then cultured Roman world of conquest has today become the insignia of the greatest victory on earth and in heaven. The cross it is that signifies the end of man’s alienation from God and the beginning of renewed relationship with Him as His beloved sons and daughters. Therefore, in the words of Apostle Paul, that in spite of the fact that the it is both a stumbling block to the religious and a wonder to the ingenuous, the cross is strength and salvation to all who are called by Him!

The cross is an incongruity, being both a defense and an offense – defense of mankind’s salvation and eternal life and offense again sin & worldliness. It is both the means of God’s grace and mode of God’s judgement – God’s judgement meant that Jesus had to be crucified and because Jesus paid the price of God’s judgement, those who believe in Him become the beneficiaries of God’s grace!

Pastor Timothy Keller, American theologian and apologist, recent tweet rightly points out, “Unless you point to the good news of God’s grace people will not be able to bear the bad news of God’s judgement”. The cross, associated as it is with pain, torture, judgement, punishment, death etc., is actually the means of gain, comfort, absolution, liberation and life to all those that follow the One Who died on it in weakness but rose again in victory and power!

This is then is the message of hope and succor for my friend: Even though she has the cross of loneliness and singleness to bear at this point in her life, yet it is that same cross that is providing and will provide her comfort and solace in that it has provided for and ensured abundant life her loved one. Indeed, this will be her source of strength, enabling her to live her life of triumphant assurance and joy!

© Sabina Tagore Immanuel