Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jeremiah's Turning #8: the Wound

Following the word “turn” (שוב) through Jeremiah’s prophecy.

“‘Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover, so you have dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,’ declares the LORD. A voice is heard on the bare heights, the weeping and the supplications of the sons of Israel; because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the LORD their God. ‘Return [שוב], O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.’ ‘Behold, we come to You; for You are the LORD our God’” (Jeremiah 3:20-22).

Jeremiah’s not the only prophet to describe the waywardness of the covenant people as their greatest disease, infirmity, or injury.

“Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him. Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” (Isaiah 1:4-6).

What do you think the greatest problem is in your life? How high on that list is the progress of your discipleship, your sanctification? I often compare our “prayer requests” with those described by Paul in his epistles. He top prayer request is for sanctification. He doesn’t use that word, but that’s the request. Growth in faith, an increase in love for one another, a deepening of the knowledge of God in Christ, a conquering grace in the proclamation of the Gospel to the unbelieving world...these are the apostle’s requests. Paul never lost sight of the fact that our greatest illness is the remaining sin in our lives that keeps us from growth together in the fullness of Christ. It’s greater than financial debt, physical complications, perceived persecutions, etc. Our sickness is defined – by Paul and the prophets – and whatever is between us and our God.

So Jeremiah speaks of God’s promise, upon repentance, to “heal your faithlessness.” This is our greatest need.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Hebrews 12:1-17). I love this whole section of text, and especially the use of “healed” here in verse 13. The worst thing that happens to us in this world is not physical infirmity, but any struggle with sin that causes us to walk away from the promises of God toward those who persevere (Revelation 21:7).

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