A few days ago I received a copy of Derek Kidner’s commentary on Jeremiah in “The Bible Speaks Today” series. This is a short 176-page book that really skims Jeremiah, but Kidner, being an amazing scholar, brings out the best of Jeremiah on every page. But, what I found of most interest is a short Appendix (A) in the back of the book that talks about sin.
He reveals some aspects of sin that I think you will find very interesting and hopefully helpful in your walk with God. “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, if you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, thin I will pardon her.” Jeremiah 5:1
Sin in our culture is often related or defined by deeds. We think in terms of doing wrong and call that sin. And though doing wrong is sin, that is not the basic concept of how sin is defined in Scripture. N.T. Wright is correct when he states, “In western culture it has come to be associated, rightly or wrongly, with a killjoy, finger-wagging, holier-than-thou moralism, with a fussy, nit-picking concentration on small personal misdemeanors that ignore major injustice and oppression.” The Day the Revolution Began, p. 98
Come on, who doesn’t enjoy that description? Unfortunately, for the proclamation of the Gospel it is all too true. When I was in Seminary it was called majoring in minors and nothing seems to have changed in all these years.
But sin is much more than actions. It springs from the heart that has replaced God with a world of idols. Real sin is worshipping the created instead of the creator and as a result allowing our lives to become subject to the powers and principalities that control this World.
Here in Chapter 5 is a picture of Jeremiah walking the streets of Jerusalem searching for a man who longs to do justice and seeks truth. We don’t want to be too harsh on Sodom as there seemed to be hope to find at least a few righteous people but here God will spare the city for ONE.
Israel was chosen for a purpose and the purpose wasn’t just to keep rules and then go to Heaven. Wright points out the real reason humans were created was in order, “to be image bearers to reflect the praises of creation back to the Creator and to reflect the Creator’s wise and loving stewardship into the world. Israel was called to be the royal priesthood, to worship God, and reflect His rescuing wisdom into the world.” Wright p. 99
Instead of worshipping and reflecting that glory of God to the nations Israel became overcome with temptation to the nations idols and became enslaved to them. The Exodus for Israel found them back in slavery, but this time instead of being enslaved to a nation they were enslaved to the demonic powers of this earth that separated them from the Creator God.
Now, getting back to Kidner’s book, he outlines a list of sins that is not a list like we think about when we think about sin. It is more about attitude and conditions of the heart (state of mind) that reflect a great deal about how people still think in our own culture.
“For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding.” (Jeremiah 4:22) Kidner points out, “More exactly they refuse the evidence of their eyes and ears (5:21). Even at the lowest level of religious thought they neither stand in awe of Gods Power, ‘Do you not fear me? Says the Lord; Do you not tremble before Me? (5:22) Nor appreciate His gifts (5:24-25).” p. 164
I think these few passages in Jeremiah point out the greatest folly in our modern society and that is a refusal to think. Even when bad choices jump up and hit them between the eyes they still don’t seem to have any “understanding.” Our society sees the evidence of DNA, RNA, the Goldilocks Zone, and the magic of the “eye” and they still turn their backs on God.
That last sentence is so true – the reason is that there is no fear (awe) of God. He is laughed at, made jokes about, belittled, and mocked within our culture. We are the most politically correct society ever and would never even dream (rightly) to belittle anyone because of colour, ethnicity, disability, or language. Yet, the God of the Universe who breathed the world into existence is fair game for comedians, politicians, and a host of special interest groups. No wonder God says, “my people are foolish.” Did you catch that, He is not speaking now of society but of “His people.”
To refuse to see God, to understand Him, and ignore His wishes is to follow idols and that is the charge against Israel and our own culture and upon us.
Israel not only refused to think but they refused to listen. In Jeremiah 6:10 we read, “Behold their ears are uncircumcised, so they cannot listen.” God goes on, “This is a nation that did not listen to the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.” (7:28) Kidner notes, “For to be untaught by God is not to remain neutral, poised between truth and error, between good and evil, but to be steeped in man’s alternative ethos, well versed in what is wrong. ‘They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not.’ ” (4:22)
To listen to God is the greatest gift we have been given and to be Christian and refuse to listen has to be for a reason. That reason is that we don’t want to hear what God has to say to us. I can speak from experience on this as we probably all can. It is not easy to hear God when we are determined to do our own thing. Once again we turn our back on God because we have idols that get in the way. We are very good at pushing God’s desires for us to the back of our brain and allowing the world around us dictate our response to Him.
I just noticed this post is getting longer than I expected and I still have more points to talk about so we will pick this up in the next post.