Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Now that's depressing. But there is a happy ending. Sorta.

I was telling the lovely Carol about yesterday's entry, and afterwards I should tell you that my 2-step plan really needs a step 3: "Repeat as necessary for 20 years or so." That's when I'll be able to tell you for real how well it worked.

OK, so today's reading includes this depressing passage from a depressing chapter of a depressing book:
Then the Lord said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague."
Jeremiah 14.11-12
Jeremiah points out that there are lots of prophets who predict good things for Judah and Jerusalem, but they're just making stuff up.

When I read about those prophets -- and if I recall correctly they do that throughout the book -- I wonder how it was that these guys felt confident saying "The Lord says" or whatever, and then spout off a bunch of stuff they just made up. I also wonder how the hearers decided that some "prophets" were credible and others were not.

I wonder if they were so much different from us today, looking at the New York Times vs the Washington Times, Fox News vs Air America? Today's mainstream press has a lot less of "the Lord says," but they claim to give us The Truth.

How do we know what to believe? Two things stand out to me from this chapter. First, the truth is not always pleasant. From our earlier reading in Kings and Chronicles, we know that Jeremiah was right and the lying prophets were... well, they were lying, giving the king and others what they wanted to hear.

The second thing is, as written elsewhere, to examine the evidence. "Give careful thought to your ways" (Haggai 1.5). If I want to know what the Lord is likely to do, then like the psalmist I want to be able to say "I considered my ways, and turned my feet to thy testimonies." I need to look at my life and see how well I've been obeying what I know of God's will. That plus the Scriptures will give me some important information that can help me judge whether a self-proclaimed prophet is giving me God's words or just making stuff up.

Later on in today's reading, we see Jeremiah going through what must have been the inspiration for today's cynical observation that "no good deed goes unpunished."
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty. I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?
Jeremiah 15.16-18
He speaks the truth but what he gets for it is persecution.

God tells him, "I will make you a wall to this people...; they will... not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you." (Jeremiah 15.20) But Jeremiah's life isn't a happy one.

What I take from this is that following the Lord doesn't always lead to "the good life" here on earth. But is it worthwhile?

Jeremiah may have had his doubts at times -- like you and I do -- but at the end I'm sure I know what he thought.

No comments: