Thursday, December 6, 2012

Safe in Jerusalem--God's Judgment

Safe in Jerusalem--God's Judgment

Jeremiah 33:14-16



Jeremiah was a prophet (as opposed to a bullfrog). His prophecy…the problems God's people were encountering were the result of a problem of the heart that led to a false trust in institutions and worship of idols. They did not have hearts turned to doing what was right.


Today, in part 2, we explore, God's judgment that makes doing what is right possible.


Using Bernard Anderson's text on the Old Testament, we read that for Jeremiah, God's people have an incurable sickness for which there is no healing ointment—no balm in Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22). The people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. Symptoms of this heart disease include:


-They put their trust in institutions such as the Ark, rites such as circumcision, teaching such as the Torah, sacrifice, and the temple.


-The social fabric of the day was torn.


-No one could be trusted. Jeremiah portrays people in 5:8 as well-fed stallions neighing for neighbor's wives.


-There was no concern for the defenseless victims of society.


-Blind nationalism.


-And, the practice of idolatry, sacrificing to false gods and in some places even sacrificing their children.


These are all outward signs of the sickness of the heart, which in the days of antiquity, was the seat of human loyalty and devotion.


God is to judge the people for this sin. Judgment. Now here is where we, in our time of emotional community instead of spiritual community (see Bonheoffer in Life Together) have a problem. In the faith lives of the people of antiquity, there was room to believe in a God who judges.


To further grasp this concept of the judgment of God, we must understand that God is righteous, and that God will not go against the divine nature. God is always true to himself. In the divine nature, we have both justice--reward for what is right and punishment for what is wrong--and we have mercy. These two opposites come together in the nature of God. When the two come together, we can catch a glimpse of the judgment of God. God judges to set things right. Judgment is the action of God that gives people the opportunity to set things right--for God will not accept the world in any other way.


In judgment, a person is truthfully confronted with what he or she has done wrong and shown the outcome (what the person has caused to happen) and the consequences (what the societal group such as family, employer, county has imposed as a result of the decision). The hoped for result is repentance, a change of heart with the chance to make things right. The heart, changed like this, is called righteous, in that it leads a person to fulfill the obligations of his or her relationships.


For Trinity Church, this notion of judgment is at the heart of our Criminal Justice System Ministry. In criminal cases, we have a person who has made a decision that had led to certain outcomes. At times, such as in the case of murder, those decisions have tragic outcomes. The person is confronted with what he has done wrong, shown the outcome (death of another person for example) and the consequences (life in prison for example). This judgment puts into place the opportunity for the person to make things right. We are also challenged, as members of society, to see that those coming out of prison are given the opportunity to make things right with places to live, jobs, a spot in worship on Sunday morning.


This process of correcting the heart appears to be too good to be true. Perhaps it is, as Jeremiah will teach us. Tomorrow, we will look at the deceit of the heart.

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