While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.
The first thing God does when you begin to drift is to warn you what the consequences are going to be. He is faithful to tell you that if you sow to the flesh you will of the flesh reap corruption. There is no way to escape it. Even forgiveness for it does not remove that. If you sow to the flesh, you will of the flesh reap corruption. Sin will leave its scars even though the wound is healed. God warns that there is going to be hurt in your life, hurt in your heart, hurt for the loved ones around you. There is no way to escape it. But then he says, …I called you, but you did not answer. ((Jeremiah 7:13)b)
The call of God is a picture of love seeking a response, reminding you of who he is, and how much he loves you, trying in various ways to awaken a response of love and gratitude, to call you back. He is like the father in the story of the prodigal son, watching the horizon for that son to return, longing for him to come back. This is the picture of God, looking after men and women, boys and girls, being faithful to them, longing to have them back, calling them again and again. This is a picture of the patience of God. This may go on for years in the case of an individual. All this time he asks us to pray for those like this, to reach out to them by the power of prayer.
But when that does not work, he has one step left in the program: judgment. You see, judgment is not God’s way of saying, I’m through with you. It is not a mark of the abandonment of God; it is the last loving act of God to bring you back. It is the last resort of love. C. S. Lewis put it very beautifully when he said, God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Every one of us knows that there have been times when we would not listen to God, would not pay any attention to what his Word was saying until one day God put us flat on our backs or allowed us to be hurt badly. Then we began to listen. That is what Jeremiah had to learn. He needed to understand that this nation had reached the place where the only thing that would heal it, the only chance it had left, was the judgment of God — allowing the hurt and the pain of invasion, and the loss of its national place.
This is why, earlier in the chapter, he commanded that prayer for the people cease, but that preaching continue. Prayer delays judgment, but preaching hastens it. What this nation needed to restore it and heal it was judgment. So God said, Don’t delay it; don’t hold me back. This is what will do the work. Radical surgery is all that is left, so stop praying.
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Thank you, Father, for the way you have been faithful to bring consequences upon me when I resist you, so that I learn to walk in your ways.
How do we respond when we, among others, experience the consequences of our sinful choices? Are we learning to welcome them as from our Father’s loving heart and hand?