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A Heart for God

This week, we dig into the book of Jeremiah. Often referred to as "the weeping prophet," Jeremiah deeply cared for God's people, yet he was given the tough assignment of relaying some pretty harsh words to the people of Judah.

Even after King Josiah's work to destroy idol worship, God's people had once again fallen into deep sin. God was furious and ready to cast judgement, and it was Jeremiah's job to share the bad news. Needless to say, this did not make Jeremiah life's easy, nor did it make the people of Judah very happy. It is also makes some of this week's readings a little hard to digest. Our God is a loving, merciful God, but He is also righteous and just. God's chosen people had turned their back on Him again, and it was time to pay the price:

"Therefore, I will teach them-
this time I will teach them
my power and might
Then they will know
that my name is the Lord."
Jeremiah 16:21

Verse after verse, we read about God's wrath, righteous anger, and subsequent punishment. While God's words and actions can be hard to read, we have to remember they are completely warranted. The people of Judah had the Law, the words and warnings of prophets, and countless miracles, but they still chose to worship idols and discard the one true God -- over and over and over again. Their resulting condemnation is a sobering reminder that while God is the Lamb -- willing to die and take on our sin -- He is also the Lion.

There is no question that the book of Jeremiah is about judgement and justice. However, I believe it is also about the heart -- our hearts as people of God and the heart of a devoted prophet.

In Chapter 17, we read that God's judgement is not simply about whether or not we can follow a list of rules; it goes far deeper than that:
"I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind
to reward a man according to his conduct
according to what his deeds deserve."
Jeremiah 17:10

We, like the people of Judah, have a choice: we can choose to turn our hearts toward God, or we can choose to turn our hearts away from Him. As Jeremiah clearly states, our choice will produce two very different results:

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord."
Jeremiah 17:5

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in him."
Jeremiah 17:7

That lesson seems simple enough; however, here's the hard part: turning our hearts toward God doesn't always save our hearts from hurt -- a truth Jeremiah understood all too well. Several times throughout this week's readings, we get glimpses of Jeremiah's hurting heart as he carried out his calling -- his disappointment and sorrow over the people's sin (Jer. 8:21, 13:17, 23:9), his frustration over their constant rejection of God and his warnings (Jer. 12:1-6), and even the isolation and loneliness he felt as God's messenger (Jer. 20:7-9). Yes, Jeremiah chose God and chose to accept his assignment, but the reality is that it came at a price.

While this may not give us the "warm fuzzies," the book of Jeremiah can still provide some powerful and even encouraging reminders. First, it reminds us that choosing God and His ways is always the best decision, no matter what the situation. Yes, when accept Jesus as our savior, we have forgiveness and grace to cover our sins, but that doesn't mean we get to do whatever we want. There are still consequences when we turn our hearts away from God, most of which will likely bring destruction and/or despair.

Second, we see that the highest callings can be hard on the heart, but they also come with eternal rewards. As Jeremiah's ministry shows us, an utter trust and confidence in God's plan can give us the strength and perseverance to do His work, and more importantly, allow us to be a part of God's greater story of restoration and redemption of His kingdom here on Earth.

~ Lisa Bonnema

August 5th Readings
JEREMIAH 25:15-38
JEREMIAH 36:1-32
JEREMIAH 45:1-46:28

August 6th Readings
JEREMIAH 19:1-20:18
DANIEL 1:1-21

August 7th Readings
DANIEL 2:1-3:30
JEREMIAH 7:1-8:3

August 8th Readings
JEREMIAH 8:4-11:23

August 9th Readings
JEREMIAH 12:1-15:21

August 10th Readings
JEREMIAH 16:1-18:23
JEREMIAH 35:1-19

August 11th Readings
JEREMIAH 49:1-33
2 KINGS 24:5-7
2 CHRONICLES 36:6-8
2 KINGS 24:8-9
2 CHRONICLES 36:9
JEREMIAH 22:24-23:32