While I haven't mentioned it in a bit, I'm still working my way through Jeremiah. I realized this morning I'm almost one third the way through the book. I wonder if the warnings are going to get more dire? I think this is one of those moments where I tend to think, "why finish?" After all, I know Israel went into Exile, and I know Jeremiah dies. But I also know there are quite a few more chapters in his story so I want to learn from them. Do you ever get to the point where you think, "why bother?" no? Maybe it's just me.
In Chapter 7 God tells Jeremiah to not intercede for the people of Israel for they chose their path with their behavior, BUT He also calls the people to come back again.
In Chapter 8 Jeremiah grieves for his people knowing what they are going to face, but the people refuse to return to God still.
In Chapter 9 Jeremiah is both heartbroken and exhausted by the people. God mourns for the land and the people and calls them back again, and reminds them of what they did wrong.
At this point they find the Book of Law and Josiah calls for a time of reform and revival.
Chapter 10 nothing seemingly changes. God is still calling for the heart of the people. The reforms and revival did not truly penetrate the people. They are still worshiping other idols and participating in customs of the neighboring countries.
Josiah dies in a battle he should not have been in. Jeremiah mourns his friend, and the people return to their old ways.
Chapter 11 God warns them to stay true to the covenant, but they don't and blame Jeremiah for the hard times they are having.
Jehoiakim is now on the throne and he is a corrupt king.
Chapter 12 the Israelites are told they will be removed from their land and placed in foreign countries but if they return to God not only will they save themselves, but the people around them will be affected and those countries may be saved if they too follow God.
Chapter 13 God shows and tells Jeremiah that the Israelites' service and the people would be ruined because of what they chose to do, and they would be filled with the wrath of God.
Chapter 14 has other prophets, not sent by God, telling the people what they want to hear, "peace will return." But that was not Jeremiah's message. Jeremiah still cried out to God for the people, and God still mourned the people's decisions.
Chapter 15 God tells Jeremiah (1) the people are receiving the consequences of the actions of Manassah (due to all he did after his father) and (2) calls Jeremiah to return. Matthew Henry's Commentary helped me understand the call to Jeremiah: "Jeremiah needed to return to God in the sense that he needed to accept what God asked Him to do without complaint. Do his duty with the right heart towards God. God wouldn't make the people like him (J) more but God would be his protector and deliverer."
Chapter 16 God tells the people their fathers forsook God by serving and worshiping other gods and not keeping His law, but that they have done worse because they follow their own stubborn evil will and refuse to listen to God.
Chapter 17 God reminds them they taught their children to worship other gods and therefor they will lose their heritage. Yet again God tells them if they will simply honor the Sabbath Jerusalem would be redeemed.
There is no denying God continued to call Israel back to them. But still they would be sent into exile because they never returned to God with their hearts. Instead they taught their children to do what their father's had taught them to do, even more so.
In Chapter 17 God tells Jeremiah the heart is deceitful but God knows the heart of all. It makes me wonder if the people had fooled themselves into believing they were following God even though they weren't doing as He told them, and it makes me question my own heart. I trust God but how often do I step away from what He calls me to do? How often do I fool myself? How often do I wear the name of "christian" but not give my heart truly to God?
When Jeremiah is told to return to God because of his complaining spirit it struck me hard. That is something I have been working on, though I fail. Even if I do what God asks me, if I do it with the wrong heart I am not doing it for God. It's just what the Israelites were guilty of, acting things out but not giving God their heart.
My take-aways were quite a few from these chapters, but then I'm including a lot of chapters in this review. Firstly, and to me obviously, to continue working on not complaining. Whatever it is God has set in front of me to do must be done to the best of my ability AND with the right heart. Secondly, I was struck by how many times God continued to call them back to Him. AND that in their consequences, being sent into other countries, if they returned to Him they would save themselves and those countries they were in. We can be an influence on those around us, but it has to be a true heart return. And lastly, I choose who I listen to (God or false prophets) and I choose what I do (regardless of what those around me do) and I will receive the consequences of my own actions.
What's most important is not where we live, or what we do, but our relationship with God. Nehemiah was an example of this. He worked as the King's cupbearer but he served God with his life. He lived in an outside country, but his heart was for Jerusalem. God sent the Israelites into foreign countries to be in servitude to those peoples because of the Israelites own actions but He never stopped calling them back to Him.
So, back to my question at the beginning of this post, "why bother?" I think the answer, simply put, is to be in relationship with God. If I just read through this, take notes, and be done with it it's all an act and not my heart. If I can learn from it and grow closer to God, then a change may be made where I return to God myself. And I can't think of a better reason to continue.