For the week of July 7, 2007 / 21 Tammuz 5767
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 25:10 - 30:1
Haftarah: Jeremiah 1:1 - 2:3


Life Isn't Just Fun and Games

"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:8)

Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet at a most difficult time in Jewish history. The northern kingdom of Israel had been overrun by the Assyrian empire many years prior and now the southern kingdom of Judah was in the hands of the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah would see the destruction of the temple and the vast majority of his people taken away into exile. God gave him the difficult job of telling the people that this was all due to God's judgment upon them and that they should submit to it. Even though the leadership of his day recognized God's call on his life, they regarded him as a traitor. Jeremiah took no delight in the message he was given to proclaim, but through it all he remained faithful to God and his word.

Jeremiah was at first intimidated by the task God gave him, due to his youth. But God told him not to be afraid, since God himself would be with him and would rescue him. To be honest, I wonder about these words. As the story of Jeremiah's life plays out, he had a pretty hard time of it. Besides having to live through the general hardships of his day, he had to endure the disregard for his message, personal criticism, imprisonment, and forced exile. How could these things happen, if God promised to take care of him? Did God not come through for Jeremiah?

In order to properly answer this question, we need to take a closer look at what God actually promised him and how it related to the difficulties he faced.

God didn't say that Jeremiah would not have a hard time. He said he would be with him and would rescue him. The fact is that even though Jeremiah had a hard life, he was able to remain true to his calling and survive through it all. We don't know the exact circumstance surrounding his death, but the list of kings provided at the beginning of his book makes it clear that he lived a long life.

My difficulty with understanding how God's promises are in keeping with Jeremiah's life has more to do with my personal distaste for hardship. When I read references in the Bible about God's commitment to be with his people forever, I tend to take that to mean that if God is real, and I have a right relationship with him, then my life is going to be comfortable.

I believe that one of the reasons why I think this way is due to some general misnomers I have about life. There's a part of me that believes that life is or should be about fun and games, so when I hear that the God of the Universe is with me, then I expect that things are going to work out the way that I want.

What has taken me many years to grasp is that life is actually a battle. Whatever our circumstances, we are all living in the midst of war - a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil. It was just more obvious in Jeremiah's case than it might be for most of us, but we all share his call to some extent - the call to stand against the forces of evil, whatever the cost.

Once we can accept that life is not about fun and games, then we can see how much God was with Jeremiah and that he really did rescue him time and time again. And as we are willing to stand in the midst of the battles we face, we too can experience what it means for God to be with us and to be rescued by him.

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