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Do You Really Want an Answer?

Click here to read Jeremiah 12 on BibleGateway.com

“You are always righteous, Lordwhen I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice. ” – Jeremiah 12:1

Once upon a time, there was a young chap in the tender dating years of middle school, who happened to notice a young lady in one of his classes.  Being the enterprising young man that he was, he proceeded to memorize her class schedule, in order to by coincidence wind up walking beside her in the hall.  After several days of chickening out at the last minute, 0ur fearless hero asked the young lady if she was dating anyone, and received the encouraging answer of “not right now.”  Emboldened, the amorous adventurer asked the poetic follow-up, “well, what about me?”

Quoth the lady: “I don’t think so. I’d rather go out with somebody good looking or fun.”

Thus the young man was left to scour the hallway floor for the remains of his shattered heart, plan for a future as a devotional author, and to ponder the desirability of actually receiving honest answers to questions.

WHY, OH LORD?

Often you’ll hear people complain that God doesn’t answer when they ask Him questions.  But have you ever considered if you actually want to hear the answer?  Do you really want to know why you aren’t being blessed in your business? Do you really want to know why you’re struggling in relationships?  Do you really want to know why life isn’t going great? Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Jeremiah had more reason than most of us to whine, and he brings one of his complaints to God in our chapter today.  In a fairly  common question, Jeremiah wants to know why it looks like the evil are doing so well, and the righteous are suffering. Specifically, he asks God why the enemies of Israel (he’s careful to specify how evil they are, just in case God missed it) seem to be prospering, at Israel’s expense no less.

And God answers: because Israel is evil.  Ouch.

Why isn’t God blessing Israel? Because he’s disciplining them for their unfaithfulness.  In short, they aren’t in line to be blessed, they are in line to go behind the woodshed.  They aren’t actually the righteous, after all.  They ARE the evil people being punished.  Pretty sure that’s not the message from God that Jeremiah wanted to hear.

KINDER, GENTLER SILENCE

Parents often tell their children “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Could it be that God follows the same idea? Maybe rather than crushing our spirits by giving us all the information, he tells us just enough to help us grow.  Consider for a moment, maybe the reason God isn’t answering you is because of his kindness.  Maybe knowing the reason and the answer to your prayer is not something you’d want to hear in the first place.  Do you trust Him enough to believe that his silence is better for you?   Do you trust that not answering might be exactly what you need to hear?

Of course, I also suspect that Jeremiah knew the answer before He even asked.  If we don’t tithe, do we really need God to tell us why our finances are in a shambles?  If we don’t spend time with our spouse, do we really need to ask God why our marriage is struggling?  Maybe we need to admit that the reason we’re asking God is because we don’t want to address the problems we already know?  Do we really want or need God to spell it out for us?  Perhaps He’s silent because the answer is right in front of us.

Maybe sometimes it’s better not to ask questions to which we already know the answer?

The Only

Click here to read 2 Chronicles 32 on BibleGateway.com

“They spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples” – 2 Chronicles 32:19

First off, little disclaimer for today:  this is more of a “what if” question than a hardline stance.  So, consider the idea like a burger from a new restaurant, and if you don’t like it, feel free to spit it out like a sandwich from Arby’s.  So off we go.

In 2 chronicles 32, the Assyrian army, presenting such fun activities as piling enemies heads outside city gates and dragging people around by fishooks in their mouths,  is on its way to Jerusalem.  Hezekiah, the king of Judah, is trying to rally his citizens in face of the well-known cruelty of the Assyrians, and he tells his people “do not be afraid…there is a greater power with us than with them.”

The Assyrians on the other hand, send PR announcements to the people, telling them to just give up and surrender, and to save themselves from the horror of a siege and the eventual sacking of the city.  Kind of like “if you just let us in, we promise to take it easy on you, but if you resist we’ll make you pay for wasting our time.”  After all, did any of the other cities Assyria attacked manage to do any better?

WHERE DO YOU BEGIN?

And now here’s the key:  Hezekiah reminds the people of Jerusalem that God is there as well – a power greater than anything any army anywhere can muster.  The Assyrians group Yahweh in with all the other gods they have faced; he’s nothing compared to their military might.  In other words, “they spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples.”  Obviously in the case of Hezekiah, God did a miracle and the Israelites were supernaturally saved.

But (and this is the part to mull over today) do we do the same thing today?  Do we treat God the same as “the other gods”?  When we share about God’s love, do we speak of the same love in the way as other religions?  Do we start to compare “our” god’s attributes with theirs?  Do we want to evaluate their sacred texts and the Bible?

CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED

I wonder today if this is maybe a mistake.  The Assyrians came in, and compared their gods and the gods of their other enemies with the one True God.  Maybe this is a conversation the people of Israel shouldn’t be having.  Maybe they shouldn’t even consider the option of other gods, because there is no other option.  Only one God exists.  Only one God is the source of all existence.  Why meet someone on “equal” terms? Do we consider all options when someone says 2+2=5?

For us, maybe our apologetics are focused too much on defending God, and not enough on trusting God and His power and His truth.  Maybe we’re allowing ourselves to treat God like we would any other god. Maybe we’re getting too distracted by trying to be fair or show how balanced we are.

Remember this, my friends.  Our interpretation of God is not simply “our way” of getting to know the divine.  It is not our cultural way of viewing God.  It is not our unique path to God among many other paths.  God is not merely another god among many.  He’s not even the best God among many.  He is the Only.  He is the Beginning and the End.  There is no rival, there is no comparison, there is no debate, there is no decision, there is no evaluating.  It is not a matter of if God is more powerful than other gods or more righteous or more loving or more just.

He Is God.

And there is no other.

Can we build it? Yes we can. But Why?

Click here to read I Kings 6 on BibleGateway.com

I’ll be the first to admit that construction in any form is not my forte.  Most of my projects end up looking they were completed by a blind gibbon who used his favorite pages from four different sets of instructions rather than rely on the “suggested” directions of any one project.

So it probably comes as no surprise that sometimes when the Bible starts to talk about the specifics of constructing the tabernacle, or temple, or the exact dimensions of the gates of Jerusalem, my mind tends to wander a little.  However, if you are like me and prefer all your construction to be of the lego variety, all hope is not lost.  These chapters actually have some interesting points to make; we just have to look at them little harder.

SHHH…

So, in I Kings 6, we get some of the details of the construction of Solomon’s temple.  Notice first of all that it says in verse 7 that none of the shaping of stone was done at the building site itself.  All the stones were cut and dressed at the quarry, so that when they were actually brought to the building site, there was no sound of chipping the stone, or any of the mess.  There are obviously a lot of different proposed reasons for that, but it’s possible that this was done so that there was nothing to distract people from the worship of God.

Also, if you read the dimensions of the rooms in verse 6, you will notice that each floor is slightly larger than the one below it.  Again, there are some various guesses as to why, but most scholars believe this is so that the beams for each floor would not have to be cut into the wall.  They just rested on the ceiling of the floor below them, so there would again not be any noise of drilling, or damage done to the temple wall.

If we look at these two sections (and others) we can see that there was a sense of making the temple special not only in its use, but also its construction.  From Day One, people wanted to ensure that the worship of God was separate from every day living.  Special care was taken in every aspect of worship, so that they would never take it for granted. This is the same argument for the construction of beautiful cathedrals in the Middle Ages, or for caring for churches today.

NOT ONE STONE

Of course, being people that we are, we get things turned around.  The Israelites began to care more about the Temple itself than the God it was built for; they made elaborate rituals and rules that God never intended, and they began to trust that the Temple itself protected them.  It took the destruction of that Temple (multiple times) to remind them that it is God who is the focus, not the building.

Today, we sometimes forget that church buildings are simply the mechanism to worship God, not worship itself.  Or that our preferred style of music is essential to worship.  Or that a well-manicured lawn or matching carpet is necessary to enter into God’s presence.  These things are all fine if they are done to glorify God, but not if they are done to satisfy our sense of fashion or to impress others. We need to be careful that we don’t forget God and his people are the real focus, not building and protecting the tools we use to accomplish that mission.

If not one stone was left of your church building, would it impact your worship?