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The message above has been God’s message to me for the last twenty years or so. It may have been longer than that, but perhaps I just wasn’t able to hear. I am too often a lazy, la-tee-dah Christian. Regardless, I will give thanks to the Lord for enabling me to hear, to search, to wake up to His words. Not that I have in any way got all of this Christian walk figured out. God is so full of wonder and lovely complexity, while I want to put Him in a nice, figure-out-able box.

For example, how many times have I read the Book of Revelation? Or Jeremiah? I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t been counting. Quite a few is the best I can do. So, a couple of mornings ago, I read this in Jeremiah:

Then the LORD said to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go! And when they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence, and those who are for the sword, to the sword; those who are for famine, to famine, and those who are for captivity, to captivity'” (Jeremiah 15:1–2). 1

God is an immensely challenging God. Jeremiah says that the Lord told me to send you, Judah, out of His sight. The people say, “Where?” The Lord says, (paraphrasing), “Oh, to Pestilence Town. Just down the road there.” And Swordville. “Turn right at the next road.” And to Captivity Heights. “Just up the hill.”

Oh my.

The Lord of all things had decided in His wisdom and justice and love that judgment was necessary for His people, Judah. The decision was final. If you’re destined to plague, then you will get sick and possibly die. If you’re destined for famine, you will go hungry and perhaps starve to death. If you are destined to be captured, an enemy will come and take you and your family from your home and your country to another place all together, where the language is not yours and the culture is radically different.

So, who cares? That was a long time ago. Judah worshiped idols and was even worse than the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Sure. They deserved it.

Well, read this about a time that is yet to come:

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Revelation 13:5–10).

These are not happy words for Christian believers. But the situation in Revelation is the reverse of that in Jeremiah. In Jeremiah, the cause of the attacks from God were sin and apostasy. In Revelation, the attacks will be for faithfulness.

Is this surprising? Well, it is to me. However, let’s think about this a bit deeper. Paul, in the beautiful outpouring of his heart concerning his desire to know Jesus, wrote, “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10–11).

Share in Jesus’ sufferings? Become like Him in His death?

My first response? Um, is there another way to become like Jesus, like attending church services, praying, and reading the Bible? My second response: Lord, help me. And help the saints. Will I be able to say, with the prophet,

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

I do not know. I do not know what I will do when what God allowed to happen to Habakkuk, a faithful man, may happen to me, a man who is likewise endeavoring, with other believers, to be faithful.

Your thoughts and Your ways, Lord, are higher than mine. Be merciful.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.