Finding God in the Storm – Part 1
The time is 587 BC, and Jerusalem is beseiged. In a few months the nation will be no more, and Jeremiah’s 40 years of unheeded warnings will be vindicated. Not that this brings him any pleasure. He is currently in prison as a traitor, for telling the people that the Babylonians are instruments of God’s judgment, so they should surrender. He is lucky to be alive.
And in this dark place God sent him a very confusing message – he instructed Jeremiah to buy a piece of land already occupied by enemy soldiers! This bewildered the prophet, but not because he doubted God could secure the property for him. His problem was the reason for God’s instruction. The purchase was a sign to Judah that houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land. (Jer. 32:15). A symbol of future hope. Has God changed his mind about judging Israel? Does sin not matter any more? Was there any point to those fruitless decades of preaching and hostility? Has Jeremiah wasted his life?
And so Jeremiah prays. But what should he pray? He doesn t understand what’s happening and he doesn t know what to ask for. So he begins with what he knows, about himself (very briefly) and about his God.
Alas, Sovereign LORD! , he begins (Jer. 32:17a). In Hebrew this is an expression of perplexity, of incomprehension. Jeremiah models honesty before God; he is not afraid to say his confusion or his disappointment (see Jer. 15:18; 20:7). I m not happy about this, God. Why did you let this happen to me, Lord? God wants to hear us say how we feel. And then he wants us to look at him:
You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you! You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the parents sins into the laps of their children after them. Great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind; you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve. (Jer. 32:17b-19)
Jeremiah takes his time describing God’s character. He uses Scripture to help him, with allusions to Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy. And he puts things into his own words too. But why tell God what God already knows? Yes, this is an important reminder for Jeremiah. But more than that – it’s by telling another person what they are like that we praise them, and it is in the act of praising God that we give the highest expression to who we are, and fulfil the purpose of our existence. This is not about Jeremiah finding reassurance, it is Jeremiah reclaiming his life from the spectre of meaninglessness by being the person he was made to be – one who finds their being in God.
Has this been you? Everything has gone wrong. You can t see where God is in all this. So pray! Begin with some honesty, and go straight from there to the safe harbour of you heavenly Father. Remember what God is like, Father, Son and Spirit. Say it out loud. By this act of praise you will be dropping anchor in the city of the God who helps as morning dawns (Ps. 46:5).
To be continued…
Andrew Shead is Head of Moore College’s Department of Old Testament and Hebrew and lectures in Hebrew and Old Testament.
To celebrate the upcoming Moore College Sunday on August 3rd we are sharing some resources on prayer to be a helpful ministry resource for you in your spiritual life. How can Moore be praying for you? Let us know at: http://mcs.moore.edu.au.