Be-Har and Be-Hukkotai
For the week of May 8, 1999 / 22 Iyyar 5759
Torah: Leviticus 25:1-27:34
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, "Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good (Jeremiah 16:19).
Jeremiah lived during a terrible time in Israel's history. It was in his day that Jerusalem was taken over by the Babylonians. It was a time of great suffering. Yet in the midst of all this, he called God, "my refuge in time of distress." We usually think of a refuge as a place of safety from physical harm. But is that what Jeremiah was thinking?
The real battle going on in Jerusalem was really a battle of faith and truth. God's message through Jeremiah was that he was judging the people for their wicked ways. Not only that, God had given them over to their oppressors. They were not to resist, but to submit to the Babylonians. For many, Jeremiah's words smacked of treason, but it was God's message.
How hard it must have been for him to be a lone voice amidst enemy oppression on one hand and his own people's hopes of victory on the other. How was it that he held firm to his faith in God? And how is it that he also didn't grow bitter towards those around him.
God provided Jeremiah with the wherewithal to stand firm even though everything was crumbling around him. In circumstances like these, it is easy to give up - to give up on God, people, and life. But God preserved Jeremiah. God was his refuge.
Note how in the verse above he refers to the turning of the nations away from idols to the true God. Even though it seemed that an idolatrous nation was victorious, he knew that this situation was temporary. He knew God was in control. He knew why his people were suffering so, and he knew that God would restore them eventually.
To know God as our refuge is to be preserved from the corruption and evil around us. To be able to remain in the truth, while everyone around us is believing lies, is to be sane. To believe in God's goodness, when life seems to contradict that, is the road to peace. To know that God will accomplish his purposes, no matter what, is to be in the safest place of all.
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