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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Shepherd's Heart: A Fire in Your Bones

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In all my studies of scripture, I think I've come to the conclusion, at least for now, that the prophet Jeremiah was probably the most human of the prophets. How did I come to such a conclusion? Because he was willing to admit that he didn't like following God.

In one Biblical account, the prophet tries to get away with cursing God. I'm sure we've all been tempted to do just that from time to time. At the very least, we've questioned the Creator.

Why did you make disease? Why does my loved one have this or that disease? Why does it seem that evil prospers and good gets punished? Why can't I find the right job? Why can't the people I love return that love? Why can't life be easier? Why is living out my faith such hard work? How can we have faith when people of faith do things that are down right evil?

Sometimes, these questions lead us into the temptation to turn from God and His people and to stay home and read the Sunday paper over brunch instead of going to church. Or we're tempted to read any old novel or book rather than read the Bible.

Jeremiah openly questioned God. But he couldn't get past something that was pulling him back to telling the truth. He called it a fire in his bones and said that he was weary from holding it in.

That fire is called the Spirit of the living God.

Jeremiah lived in the years prior to and after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Jeremiah prophesied, like others before him, that Judah was on a collision course. He said that if they did not repent of their ways -- primarily idolatry and injustice -- they would see the destruction of the Temple and the loss of the Holy Land.

But they had grown very proud of themselves and of the strict religion that had taken over their country. They got lazy and self-righteous. They swaggered and said that no one had righteousness like Judah. They didn't want to hear a country bumpkin like Jeremiah say that the reforms set into motion by King Josiah had not gone far enough.

But that's just what Jeremiah said. He knew the difference between people who said all the right words and people who actually lived God's plan. As is the case today, he knew that it was not enough to talk the talk. You have to walk the walk, too.

There was idolatry in the land and the weightier aspects of the law were being ignored.

Let's face it -- many people don't like to hear the truth. We thrive on self-deception.

The people didn't like Jeremiah. They laughed at him. They spat at him. They locked him up. And he hated it. And he hated God for his circumstances. Like many today, he was tempted to just give in and give up.

But there was this fire in his bones and he was desperate to get it out.

Every once in a while a prophet stands in the temple, like Jeremiah, and says that our ways are not God's ways -- that they are all about us and that they are blasphemous. Men like Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonheoffer and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Organized religion, in the name of God, tries to silence that prophet. Many times we realize, too late, that the prophet was right.

How about you? Do you have a fire in your bones? Be warned, that fire will not remain there. It demands to come out somehow. When it does, sometimes it sends people into exile.

And sometimes it sets people free.

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BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart