Jeremiah the prophet preached a message of repentance for 40 years without seeing any real change. He predicted that Judah would be punished because of its sin and disobedience. Finally, in 586 B.C., Jerusalem was destroyed and its leading citizens were deported to Babylon. Their exile would last for 70 years.
He accused the people of being “stiff-necked.” God told them, “From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers” (Jer. 7:25-26). Later Jeremiah stood in the temple, declaring, “Listen! I am going to bring on this city and the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words” (Jer. 19:15)
The phrase “stiff-necked” may well apply to not only our culture’s response to the gospel, but also to many in the Church today. When I think of stiff-necked, I can still picture myself resisting the discipline of my mother, who would often accuse me of being stiff-necked. Is it possible that some of us may also be considered stiff-necked by the Lord? Hebrews 12:10 reminds us, “Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever.” We need to beware of resisting God’s discipline by being stiff-necked.
In Jeremiah 14:7-9, the people plead for God’s help during a drought. “Although our sins testify against us, do something, Lord, for the sake of your name. For we have often rebelled; we have sinned against you” (Jer. 14:7). God is addressed directly and asked to act for the sake of his own reputation. There is a presumption that God would show favor. It seems they were almost demanding that God act. The Message says, “…But do something, God. Do it for your sake.” Beware of becoming too familiar (or cozy) with the Lord.
The Israelites were aware of their wayward spiritual condition, confessing, “For our backsliding is great” (v. 7). To backslide is “to revert to sin or wrongdoing; to lapse morally or in the practice of religion. It refers to the lapse of …Israel into paganism and idolatry” (Nelson Bible Dictionary). Evidently the people expected God to show them favor even though they continually rebelled against him. Beware of excusing your sinfulness.
In the next verses the people accuse God of being like a tourist not available to help, or like a helpless warrior who is unable to intervene. “O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night? Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save?” (14:8-9). Beware of making presumptions about how God expresses his will.
The people end up declaring to God, “You are among us, Lord, and we bear you name; do not forsake us!” (14:9). This is presumption, pure and simple. They are trying to manipulate God, expecting his favor even while they continue to backslide. They had not payed heed to God’s warnings. Now they expect God’s favor because they were his people. Beware of subtle attempts to manipulate God.
God waits until 15:6 to respond to their insult. “‘You have rejected me’, declares the Lord. You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion.” Could this be happening again today?
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. Psalm 89:15-16 NIV
This blog is written by my bride, Judy. She is the finest Christian I know and walks closely with the Lord. I call her spirituality a “stream of consciousness” spirituality. She is aware of God’s presence in all of life, much like the psalmist describes above. And she writes about it on her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org. Judy’s blogs are practical, full of everyday experiences, and they have encouraged and inspired many people. We often hear reports of how her words were just what someone needed for that day.
It is amazing to me how the Lord gives Judy something to write each morning. I listen daily as she shares what she has received from the Lord. It is simply a “God thing.” I hope all the men and fathers who read this enjoy what my bride had to say for Father’s Day:
Soon Father’s Day will be upon us, and the stores will be full of shoppers trying to find just the right gift for dad – or at least something he doesn’t already have. We all had a father, and our hearts remember him on this special day, even if he may no longer be with us. Today, however, there is a crisis of fatherhood in America as many fathers have opted out of their role and have not been there for their children. It could have been through divorce, or business pursuits, or occupational challenges, or irresponsibility, etc.
One of our friends has a 20-year-old son who he has not seen since he was 2, as his ex-wife made sure he can’t locate his son. Sadly, that son needs to know he has a dad who cares. We all need the assurance that our dad loves us – and it is especially important in middle school when bullying takes place and we are trying to find out how we fit in. But it matters at any age that our dad is proud of us, and for so many this is lacking. That doesn’t mean that dad’s shouldn’t discipline us, for it is also important that dads also set boundaries and have consequences if we go beyond them; it is a way of loving and protecting.
One man sadly told Al that he remembers the very day his dad gave up on him and no longer disciplined him; he felt lost and that his dad didn’t care. I was blessed to have a loving father. I never doubted his love for me; his arms were always open wide to hugs and love. Al’s dad was absent emotionally and spiritually, although he provided for the physical needs of the family.
None of us got to choose our dads. But if you are a dad reading this, you can choose what kind of dad you want your children to remember. In Eph. 6:4 (ESV), we read, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” More than ever today we need fathers who train their children according to God’s ways. But even when we had (or have) an absent father, we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally, disciplines us when needed, and believes in us.
Challenge for today: Thank your loving Heavenly Father that He is always present, and provides all that you need, even if it was lacking in your earthly father.