You’re a member of the modern-day church. What do you think of Old Testament Israel? During the days of Jeremiah, they were a wicked, disloyal, sinning, false-worshiping bunch of people. What did God accuse them of? Not helping the needy. Not listening to His Word. Turning to things other than Him for fulfillment and adoration.
Yet they had confidence. They said, “We are delivered!” We are saved! We are God’s people! We’ve got nothing to worry about! Of course, we sin, but it’s all taken care of. That’s part of being Israel, the chosen of God.”
I have an interesting story. A friend of ours is involved in a neat, community group that is very ecumenical. It has Muslims, gays, atheists, Protestants, Catholics, Jews – all different types. They gather and informally discuss topics of interest. At one meeting, the discussion was about hell. And my friend noticed that all the Jews were sitting apart, not engaging in the talk. They were asked why they didn’t get involved in a discussion about hell. And they said, because it didn’t pertain to them – they were God’s chosen people, and weren’t going to hell. They were all going to heaven, so this discussion didn’t matter to them.
That’s confidence, my friends, but it’s a false confidence. It’s the same confidence Israel, Judah & Jerusalem had back in Jeremiah’s day. And – it’s the same false confidence the church has today. God’s complaints against Israel are also leveled against us:
Does today’s church meet the needs of the poor, the fatherless, the homeless? Or do we turn our backs on them and wish they’d go away?
Do we listen to God’s Word and long to be convicted by it? Or do we prefer instead to hear lovely platitudes, soothing words that say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace? Do we assume we have peace with God, when we don’t read His Word, study His Word, demand that it be preached from our pulpits rather than contemporary self-help concepts? What are you studying in Sunday school, if you’re going -- God’s Word, or something else? In your devotions, if you have them? Does your pastor simply read a passage from the Bible, giving it lip-service, but hardly returning to it to dig out the real food there for you? Is he giving you his own ideas, or God’s Word?
“But,” you say, “We don’t worship false gods.” What do you love, adore, long for, and think of? What do you fear and respect? What do you see as powerful? If you adore your work or your children more than God, if you fear death or terrorism more than God, if you think the government is more powerful than God, then you have false gods in your life. Fix it.
“But,” you say, “We’re God’s new people! We have hearts of flesh rather than stone! We’re saved by Jesus’s blood and we know GRACE—we’re nothing like Israel.”
Were they saved any differently in the Old Testament? No. They looked forward to a saving Messiah, as we look back to Him. We should have no false confidence there. We should stop telling ourselves, “We are delivered,” when we are neglecting God’s Word, neglecting the needy, and turning to other loves. Today’s church is in a state of unfaithfulness as evil as in Jeremiah’s day.
God told them what to do: Repent. Turn. Cleanse yourselves. Dedicate yourselves to My Word and OBEY ME. Love me, and live as if you do!
(Oh, we don’t like that “obey” word! It smacks of legalism! We don’t have to obey anymore, do we? We have grace instead, right? But what is obedience, but embracing God’s model for living life? How can you claim to be His child if you reject His model for living?)
God longs for us to long for Him. He wants no rigid, grudging obedience. He wants us to run to Him – the Word made into flesh in Jesus – and say, “You’re right, Lord! You’ve been right all along!”
Look in the mirror. Be sure that you don’t see Israel there.