Saturday, December 10, 2016

Easy Out

It’s hard. It’s gonna hurt. It will challenge you. It’s tough to swallow. Somewhat bearable. The pain will bring healing. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. You will wish you hadn’t. Getting started is the hard part. It’s going to take time.

Words we do not want to hear, right? Even more so today. We are presented with so many outs now that we seek to avoid pain and suffering and challenges with such magnitude that sometimes we are really just heaping on more pain and suffering for further down. Yet, we still choose avoid. We choose to run the other way. We rarely confront and fight and seek to endure.

In the book of Jeremiah (a man of supreme endurance), the Israelites were making choices that were of self and not of God. After an extensive period of time of waiting on the people to turn from their sin and return to Him, God allowed their sin to engulf them and their land was ravaged by the invading Babylonian Empire.

(Check your history texts. The account of this siege is written from the Babylonian perspective as well. History Teacher Nerd interjection)

Jeremiah was a prophet standing out in the crowd. He spoke God’s truth and was ignored, bullied, imprisoned, chastised, excluded, teased, tortured, yelled at, and discouraged by the people that God had placed him with to serve. Yet, when they wanted or needed something, they came back to him. We have all been this person to a friend or loved one. You know that feeling? They don’t want anything to do with you until they need something. Well Jeremiah felt like this EVERY DAY with EVERY PERSON he encountered. Talk about a battle with depression. Wowsers!

In chapter 42, a remnant of the people were spared from a slaying and had decided that they needed to run away. They had found the “out.” They had found the easier path. They had identified the way to avoid the pain and suffering. They had found the temporary relief.

Easy Out #1 - The easier path for them would be to go to Egypt and just blend in. They may not be in the upper class there, but they can find jobs and food and shelter. They can be a part of an already existing culture that has thriving economic activity. They can make some adjustments to their daily practice, but it will be so much easier than the alternative.

The alternative would be to stay. To stick it out. To endure the challenge. To experience the pain. To start the journey of restoration. To be patient with the time it will take. To fight.

The people of God had been spared from slaying because God had promised this land to them that they were being ran out of by the Babylonians. He wanted to show them that He was true to His word and this land is their land. Not the Babylonians. He wanted them to claim this gift and hold onto it no matter who tried to take it from their grasp. He wanted them to TRUST HIM.

Yet, here is what they said to Jeremiah.

“Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do…May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 42:2-3, 5-6

Sounds humble right? Let’s look a little more closely. In the beginning they are referring to God as Jeremiah’s god and asking Jeremiah to talk to the Creator of the Universe. They are not recognizing him as their own Creator. Which also demonstrates they are not in a personal relationship with him. Which also indicates they do not trust him. Things are hard.

Easy out #2 - Let’s ask God to fix it.

We do that too. And when He doesn’t fix it in our timing, we try to do it ourselves. Or if he doesn't fix it like we want him to, we seek other methods through the world. When we ask the Lord, we are to wait on the Lord and allow Him to reveal to us His master plan in His timing.

Look at how their language evolves through their petition. “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us.”

Translation - our current language - “I promise God, if you do this for me, give this to me, spare me from this, help me with this, I will never do that again. I promise I will do better with this practice. I promise this. I promise that.”

God doesn't need our empty promises. God doesn’t need us. He longs for us to be in such a loving relationship with Him that we make mistakes and apologize and he forgives us and we move on. We don’t have to make empty promises. In fact, he knows they are empty. Just be real with Him. Be the person with God that you want others to be with you. But BE WITH HIM. Talk with Him. Spend time with Him. That time you spend with Him will be the transformation within your soul that will get you to a place where you will no longer have to make false promises.

“…for we will obey the Lord our God.” He is Jeremiah’s God until the very last statement. Remember when you were a child and you would ask your mom and dad for something? You would end the plea with some sweet compliment or a promise or a cute smile. This last statement we find the Israelites acknowledging God as THEIR God and not just Jeremiah’s God. It wasn’t out of respect and adoration. It was out of desperation and one last compliment to sweeten the plea.

We find that God tells Jeremiah to inform the Israelites after 10 days of waiting to stay and He will bless them and they will thrive. Verse 9-18 is God’s explanation to the Israelites that He intends for them to have this land and to be built up and protected from the king of Babylon. He encourages them to not be afraid. He does not promise that the king will go away. He does not promise that it will be easy. He does not promise instantaneous blessings. He assures them that they needn’t fear because He is with them. God, knowing the heart of the people was craving the easy out, warns that easier will not be better. God clearly tells them that going to Egypt will lead to famine and plague. In other words, God is clearly stating “the grass is not greener on the other side.”

Kudos to them for waiting 10 days. We are guilty of not even waiting a few hours sometimes. However, they now have to make the decision. Do they trust God and play through the pain of rebuilding their kingdom? Do they trust God as they sow their crops and begin to establish an economy again? Do they trust God to even lie their heads down without fear of an invasion? Do they trust God and stay and experience the healing and compassion of the greatest capacity?

They said to the Lord, “ that it will go well with us…”, but I am not so sure that they were thinking this is what He would say.

“God, let this relationship work because he seems perfect for me.”
Is he perfect, or does life seem easier if you marry this guy with money?

“God, grant me this job so I can financially bless others.”
Do you really want to financially bless others or do you want to live a comfy life and asking for a job to use the money to bless others sounds better?

“God, heal my mom from this illness so I can tell others about your miraculous power.”
This prayer is not insincere, but be aware that God’s healing comes in many different forms and sometimes the endurance of the trial is what will give Him greater witness.

Life is hard. It isn’t hard because of God. Life is hard because too many people are choosing the easy way out. Because of their choices, our world is spiraling into a darker place. The grass is not greener. Easy still comes with a cost. What God wants for you is so much more rich and full and beautiful.

Are you willing to wait 10 days or more? Are you willing to deepen your relationship with Him so that you can pray with trust and faith? Are you willing to allow restoration to occur in your soul? Did you know that restoration in you will lead to restoration in others? Join me in rebuilding the kingdom. Can you imagine how beautiful it will be?