Probably someone else has already coined this, but today, while reading Jeremiah 21, I wrote down this statement, “God is not like us, but he does like us.”
Jeremiah 21 is probably a chapter, that if we are honest, we don’t like to read. At least, the principles that we see, are ones that I don’t want to adhere to.
I am more aware now, as a pilgrim who has been going through hard trials, heartache over losses, grief from suffering, of how self-centered I am. I hope, that through the trials and suffering that God is walking me through, that is changing. I realize though, more than ever, that this change of self (the daily surrendering to God and dying to self) is such a long journey that we pilgrims, when honest, fight tooth and nail.
Jeremiah 21 could be subtitled, “No Deliverance from Babylon.”
That is what the people wanted. That is what the people demanded. That is what the people expected, and we could even say assumed (we are his nation, of course he will deliver us, he better!). Expecting and assuming, a fine line between hope and demanding our own way.
So the lesson that I am learning, and now seeing so much more vividly in Scripture as I read through books like Jeremiah with fresh (weeping) eyes is that:
God is not human, so He does not make decisions like a human.
Instead, He sees all possible outcomes and knows the best route to him being glorified and worshipped by broken and weak hearts. I simply struggle to understand the wisdom of His decisions. “There must be a better way, a shortcut, something that does’t involve, ummm, pain.”
That is where Jeremiah 21 comes in. When King Zedekiah (the last king of Judah) asks Jeremiah to intercede with Yahweh on behalf of Jerusalem against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (and the destruction he brings), Jeremiah gives an unexpected reply: Yahweh has refused to do so. He will not intercede for His own people. Rather, He will make Nebuchadnezzar’s task easier (Jer 21:1–7).
God’s people are praying for deliverance and asking Jeremiah to take this plea to Yahweh himself. God answers with words that astonish his redeemed (then and now when we do not “get” the answers to our prayers)…
“I will make your weapons useless against the king of Babylon (who are outside the walls attacking you). In fact, I will bring your enemies right into the heart of this city.” (21:4)
Wait? You must have heard us wrong! We want you to save us, not make it easier for Babylon to overtake us!!
God doesn’t stop there. He has other plans (other than opening up the city so that Babylon marches right in and the weapons of his people are useless to stop them)…
“I myself will fight against you with a strong hand and a powerful arm…” (21:5)
“I will personally fight against the people in Jerusalem, that mighty fortress – the people who boast, “No one can touch us here. No one can break in here.” (21:13)
And they thought Babylon was scary. They took Yahweh for granted. They assumed that they knew how God should act, and his deliverance must line up accordingly.
God is not a charm that we wear around our necks. He is not our servant that jumps when we call him to action. He doesn’t work that way because he is God. Too often I reverse the roles. I want to call the shots. I want to prepare the battle plans. I want to delegate the action steps (to God). I want, let me say it straight, to be God. That is how self-centered I am.
So yes, this chapter helps me to see my sin for what it is, a seizing of power from an all-powerful God (that is what my self-reliance is, my self-centerdness reveals).
This chapter also helps me bridge some big picture truths about God in the midst of suffering. Like the Israelites who suffered in God’s judgments that fell on them, my suffering is always about getting something that I don’t really want in my life. Suffering really is the uninvited guest. So even though there is a different context to this chapter and my life, there are lessons here that speak volumes to me.
God is God alone, and how I approach him in prayer reveals whether I submit to him as Lord over my life.
God’s deliverance (the way he did it, the timing, etc.) in the past does not guarantee that he will do the same in the present.
God being God means that he can and will use radical means to show himself as sovereign rule in my life and worthy of worship.
Submitting to God’s perfect will in dark and trying times just may be the test of all tests (of my heart).
Accepting God and his actions (or lack of action) that seemingly are contrary to what is “best” is possibly one of the hardest on-going lessons pilgrims face in their walk towards eternity.
So like the title to this post, God is not like us, but he does like us. Understatement, he loves us with a merciful, unending, faithful, enduring, love. He loves us with a love that knows better, a love that is committed to his glory.
Lord, forgive me for my self-centered life. My heart that wants to rule over you, the one who alone rules the universe. I need you Spirit to continue to work daily in my heart, to bring me to a accurate understanding of you as God and God alone. Help me to be able to really say, “help me in my suffering in the way that you see best.” You know the end from the beginning, so correct my prayers, but more importantly, help my prayers to be fellowship with you, not demands for you to comply to!! Lord, you are always want to captivate my heart, captivate me with your word which shows me your perfect character and your radical love.