Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Eleventh Commandment--Jeremiah 2

You didn't know there was an 11th Commandment, did you?  It is rather simple: "Do not get caught."

But we are getting caught in America. 

Light is shining in, exposing those who seize and destroy women and children by trafficking them.  

Christian leaders whose behaviors speak of the idol of self and an utter disregard for Christ.

Sex addiction surveys that show how deep people have gone to fulfill their cravings, and how many of those sit in church and preach from the pulpit are caught in snare of porn. 

How nihilism (nothing matters) and moral relativity (my truth) have resulted in our cities burning, and how the real issue is not racism, but hatred:  hatred of America, the rule of law, and our ideals. We may have been imperfect in fulfilling our ideals, but they remain a goal to always strive for. But these ideals are now deemed worthless, kicked to the curb because of hypocrisy.    

Law and law enforcement are optional; those who seek to destroy are allowed to and those who question this are silenced.  There are differing standards and different groups are expected to adhere to them; this hypocrisy has led to a scofflaw attitude, even on the part of otherwise law-abiding citizens.  

The light that is exposing the darkness in America is there to bring out sin.  Sin, like a disease, must be exposed, diagnosed and then removed.  We love to quote John 3:16, but look at its larger context:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21)

Getting caught means full exposure to the light and to the Light:  Christ Himself.  The standard of what is dark and light, good and evil, is not each other, the past from the present, or between the races.  It is God Himself.  He is the standard, and all of us fall short.  

Paul hammers down on the same theme of the Light's purpose in Ephesians 5:1-7, and how we live in the light as Christ Himself did:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

Paul then goes on to why the Light is so essential and our response to it:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

So when His light comes in, and shows us who we really are, what do we do?  How do we react when we are exposed?  How did Judah react when God's light shone on them?

They were aggrieved, not because of their sin but because they got caught:

How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
    I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
    consider what you have done. (2:23)

The shameful evidence was all around Judah, and yet upon exposure, the nation reacted with utter denial.  She would not own her complicity in her sinful ways, but blamed God when things went badly:

As a thief is disgraced when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests and their prophets.
They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
    ‘Come and save us!’
Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns. 

Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all rebelled against me,
declares the Lord.
In vain I punished your people;
    they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
    like a ravenous lion. (2:26-30)

Instead of allowing exposure to turn to repentance, the people of Judah became defiant, denying God and then blaming God.  The correction God gave them, once His light exposed their deeds, was meant to restore the relationship between Him and His people.  

Earlier, Judah had said, 

 Long ago you broke off your yoke
    and tore off your bonds;
    you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
    and under every spreading tree
    you lay down as a prostitute. (2:20)

When did America throw off its "yoke"?  When did it became post-modern and post-Christian?  When  did it decide that the Bible was an antiquated document, filled with repugnant morality that limited free sexual expression and needed to be removed from public life?  

When did the church decide that music and a "Sunday Experience" was more important than having the Word front and center?  

The evidence is everywhere.  Our country is more steeped in sin, chaotic and in bondage than it was when I was growing up.  No, nothing was perfect then, but marriage was still an honored institution, and certain behaviors were wrong because God's Word was everywhere.  Even if the family Bible was never opened, it was considered an important element in the home, for its presence spoke to a transcendent set of values that culture couldn't change.

Now, His light is shining and exposing our sin.  

God called Judah to examine closely how God has provided for Judah and blessed this nation, even with its hypocrites, sinners and saints.  Judah's response?  They killed the messengers because the message was spot on:

In vain I punished your people;
they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
like a ravenous lion.
You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

Have I been a desert to Israel
or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
we will come to you no more’?
Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
days without number.
How skilled you are at pursuing love!
Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
On your clothes is found
the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
you say, ‘I am innocent;
he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’ (2:30-35)

Wow.  God's judgment comes only after exposing the sin and offering the remedy:  a return to Him and His values, His ways, His ordering of society.  

What is our response?

Let me conclude with this.  As I sit here in my office in a small town in Idaho near Boise, the sky is enveloped in a dirty gray.  If the wind blows in just the right direction, the smoke from all the western fires is pushed out of the Treasure Valley.  We have high mountains that surround us and they tend to hold in whatever comes into this valley.  

For a few days this past week, we have some lovely blue skies, mild temperatures (for summer in the high desert) and we could almost forget that the West is on fire to an unprecedented level.  But today?  No.  The wind has changed direction, and now all that smoke from Oregon, Washington and California, coupled with local fires, is rushing into Idaho.  

Our landscape is bleak.  I cannot see the distant mountains from my window, and the sun rises and sets a pinkish orange.  

The air quality is horrible.

The only hope in this rather disquieting time of the year is the possible arrival of some rain early this week.  

Even in this rather bleak landscape that is America right now, we still have hope.  Hope has a name: Jesus.  Sometimes we are able to forget how America is careening out of control with the blue skies of family, friends and sunny summer days.

But the sky is gray.  Are we willing to repent and call out to God for forgiveness?  

I pray so. 

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