It is so endearing at times to see little children in a big supermarket or shopping mall. They come in crying with mom or dad, but as soon as they see something interesting—toys, candies, pets, or anything else that moves—their moods are in change mode, they go their own way and forget everything else around them.
And then at some point, suddenly, they look up and look around and realize that their mom or dad are not there anymore. They look mystified, turn around, first carefully walking, then running and checking out places. and then when they cannot find their parents, they start shouting, crying, “Mommy!!! Daddy!!!”
And when even that doesn’t help, you see their faces change from hope to fear and then to a sense of rejection. They think that they will never see mommy or daddy again. The result is a heart-rending crying that won’t stop until their parents have found them, or someone from the store comes to comfort them.
Eventually, there will be a message over the store’s call system asking the mom and dad to return to the customer service area – “that someone very special is waiting for them there.”
Mom and Dad are also likewise in a high state of fear because they cannot find their child. Of course, we know they would not ever reject their child just like that – the child not rejecting mom and dad, “wanders off” after some candy!
Eventually, Mom and Dad and Child are re-united, and everything is all “hugs and kisses, smiles and “don’t worry (_____), Mommy and Daddy love You!”
All is as it should be! The store is happy! Family is back together again!
And life in the “big city” “small town” neighborhood can go on as before.
All is bliss and blessed ……
The Good News is Mommy and Daddy did not reject their child after all.
Perhaps the Better News is their child did not reject their Mommy and Daddy when they were reunited.
Parents will give the best years of their lives to their children.
They give whatever they can, sacrifice their time, their strength, their resources—everything—in order to give all of their children all the best possible in life.
But then, when they in turn start being in need of their children, they may just find a stunning lack of gratitude, a stunning lack of a “return” commitment.
They are just expected to understand that the children have a life of their own.
They need their privacy. They need time and energy to develop their careers. They now have children of their own that take up so many of their resources.
And the parents try to understand, I am sure.
They explain to others with an air of pride how their kids are so busy, because they have such a responsible job and are taking so good care of their own kids.
But deep down inside, there may just be the maturing, searing pain of rejection, too great and too deep to describe, too shameful to freely share with any others.
It is certainly not true in all families –
But it is true is many families and too often goes un-noticed – except by God.
but here also lies an injustice – the rejection of our God, who is our Father!
We can call ourselves Christians, go to church, give our tithes, etc. and yet have rejected God effectively.
The picture God’s Prophet Jeremiah gives of life in Judah comes close to our life in the Christian West, with several gods competing for our loyalty.
Jeremiah 7:16-26Amplified Bible
16 “Therefore, do not pray for this people [of Judah] or lift up a cry or entreaty for them or make intercession to Me, for I do not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough to make cakes for the [a]queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods that they may offend and provoke Me to anger. 19 Do they offend and provoke Me to anger?” says the Lord. “Is it not themselves [they offend], to their own shame?” 20 Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and [the fire will] not be quenched.”
21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat the meat. 22 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this thing I did command them: ‘Listen to and obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, so that it may be well with you.’ 24 But they did not obey Me or bend their ear [to hear Me], but followed the counsels and the stubbornness of their [own] evil heart (mind), and [they turned and] went backward instead of forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have [persistently] sent you all My servants the prophets, sending them daily, early [and late]. 26 Yet they did not listen to Me and obey Me or bend their ear [to hear Me] but stiffened their neck; they did more evil and behaved worse than their fathers.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
God is like a rejected parent.
Jeremiah 7 reveals to our souls the “anger” which “burns inside” a God who has been repeatedly rejected by his people—their Father in heaven whose children have repeatedly let him down, repeatedly turned their backs on him.
There are some seriously dramatic words in Jeremiah 7—even shocking—when God speaks to Jeremiah:
“Don’t pray for this people! Don’t offer any plea or petition for them! Don’t plead with me, for I will not listen!”
Wow! That’s tough language, isn’t it? Jeremiah is told that he is no longer allowed to pray for the people of God. And if he does, God will simply put his fingers in his ears, so to say, and make sure he does not hear a single word.
Have you ever seen parents doing that to their children? I have.
My father did that to me several times – he just turned off his hearing aids. If I tried to carry on our conversation or our arguments – he reached up to his ears and he simply, one by one, removed both of his hearing aids from his ears.
Again, we need not go further than the supermarket to see it happening all the time. Kids find their way to the candy department and start begging for candies.
Mom and dad will answer with a firm “no”.
“Today is not candy day. Some other time.”
But kids are not good at taking “no” for an answer.
So, they keep on asking, they insist, they become stubborn and impossible to handle. Everyone is now at a place where they all need to have “their space!”
And that is where many parents lose their patience.
It doesn’t mean that they stop loving their kids.
It doesn’t mean that they stop caring for them.
It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to give their very best to their children.
It only means at that point they come to the conclusion that their kids now need a firm foundational teaching on the need to hear, listen, respect their parents.
They need to understand that sometimes “no” really, truly, fully means “no”. They need to “straighten up,” obey their parents and accept their authority.
Jeremiah lived in a time when the people of Israel had turned away from God.
They did not think of him any longer as “the” God of Israel. At best, he was “a” god—one among a lot of colleagues and competitors.
For Israel, God’s law and parental authority had become “highly negotiable.”
People felt they were no longer dependent on him.
After all, they could always turn to other gods who were more amendable, more apt to condescend, to compromise, simply adjust to their needs and demands.
Look, for example, at how Jeremiah 7 describes life in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem:
(Verse 18) “The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger.”
What we see here is this: The people of Judah had broken faith with God.
They had committed spiritual adultery with other gods, which they had adopted from the cultures around them.
They still went to the temple to bring petty sacrifices.
They had a little time set apart for God. But it was not quality time. Their offerings did not come from the heart. They were just a routine ritual.
They thought by going through the motions of ritual, they could make God happy; They could make God believe they still loved and respected him.
But when the duties in the temple were done with, the families gathered together for quality time—a sort of barbeque party, you could say.
The kids went to pick twigs and branches for the fire. Dad lit the fire—after all, that was the man’s job. And mom was in the kitchen baking delicacies.
The cakes she made had the form of a woman.
It was the goddess Asherah, the “Queen of Heaven”.
You may have read that after the reign of king Solomon, the Jewish nation had been divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah.
By the time that God called Jeremiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had already ceased to exist.
Almost a century earlier, the Assyrian army had come and conquered the nation.
Many of the people had been killed or taken into exile, and groups of Assyrians came and settled in Samaria.
That should have been a clear warning sign for Judah in the south.
But everything shows that Judah had not learned its lesson. How come?
Why was it so hard for the Jews to stay faithful to the God who—as they firmly believed—had led them out of slavery in Egypt, given them the Promised Land?
Why did they ever so eagerly embrace other gods—the Queen of Heaven, the Assyrian goddess of the family; or Mammon, the Aramaic god of wealth and trade; or Baal, the Canaanite god of agriculture?
Why did they reject their own God Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth?
When I look at the life of Israel, from the moment they left Egypt to the time of Jeremiah and even beyond, I can come up with two answers.
First, their God was “too limited.”
And second, he was “too demanding.”
Let me try to spell that out for you.
Throughout the history of Israel, God appears as a very patriarchal God.
He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not the God of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel. He was the God of Moses and Aaron, not the God of Miriam.
The creation story depicts God as inherently both male and female.
But in the history and tradition of his people, he seemed to communicate primarily from man to man, and take sides with the men.
He assigned all worship duties to male Levites and priests.
God seemed to endorse a strongly patriarchal society, where women were owned by their father or husband.
In the law he gave to Moses, women were given lesser rights than the men, even though, we must admit, in Israel women were treated with far, far more respect and equality than anywhere else in the Middle East.
But of course, they did not know, nor would they ever come to acknowledge it.
At times, God threatened to abandon his people in the desert.
At other times he threatened to wipe them from the face of the earth altogether.
He was distant.
They couldn’t see him; He would not allow to have pictures or statues made of him.
They couldn’t hear him, because he would only “speak through his prophets.”
To make things worse, he put a lot of demands on the people.
I don’t mean the ritual worship and sacrifices.
I mean the demands for moral integrity, for love and respect for one another and even for the foreigners living among them or traveling through their land.
God demanded that they take care of the needy, especially the widows and orphans, since there were no institutional social services.
God demanded at regular intervals debts were cancelled and slaves set free.
In short: God demanded the highest form of personal integrity and social justice.
But for those in power—the kings and tribal chiefs, the landowners and those who had made a fortune in trade—these demands were appalling.
The idea one day out of seven they were not allowed to do business or make their slaves and hired hands work on the land felt like a terrible waste of time and resources.
No wonder, then, that the people grew tired of God.
No wonder, then, that they looked for alternatives.
There was an obvious demand for a woman god—a goddess—who was more empathetic, easier to approach, and closer to the life of the family—a goddess with whom particularly the women could identify.
There was an obvious demand for a god who blessed business and trade and allowed a great measure of moral freedom, as long as you made money.
I believe in that respect our time is not so different from the time of Jeremiah.
Our Christian Church is not so far removed from the Jewish nation in Jeremiah’s time.
In the west, New Age spirituality has mixed with the faith of many Christians.
People go shopping, as it were, to fill their religious shopping cart with a nice religious mix that they feel good about.
These are the obvious forms of idolatry—the obvious ways in which God is being rejected as the one and only true God.
But there are also less obvious parallels between Jeremiah’s time and ours.
Every Christian knows the Great Commandment:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
But how many of us are really serious about this?
Oh, I know, it is easy to come to worship on Sunday and sing or pray: “Oh, Lord God! How Great thou Art! How I love you! Oh Lord Jesus! or How I adore you!”
But when it comes down to all the choices and decisions we make Monday through Saturday, to the way we deal with our family and friends,
with the people at school or at work, in the bus or the metro; with the beggars in the streets or the customers on the phone
… can everybody see that our lives are maybe not so much actually, genuinely driven by steadfast, immovable commitments to the Great Commandment?
Look at the way you spend your time and your money.
Look at the friends you choose and the friendships you neglect.
Look at your priorities. Listen to your words when you are angry or excited.
What do these tell you, others about your love for God and for your neighbor and for yourself? That is a question we should all ask ourselves—every day!
I see yet another parallel in the way we respect or disrespect the authority of God in our lives.
The simple truth is that God’s won’t necessarily always coincide with ours.
More often than not there seems to be a conflict of interests between God and us.
Just like the little kid in the supermarket, who is determined that she must have an ice cream right now.
To her great disappointment, she may find that her parents have a very different, and most disagreeable view on the matter.
God speaks with authority through the Bible, which we often call the Word of God. Luther called the Bible the supreme authority in matters of faith and living. That does not mean that everything we read in the Bible is normative.
Not everything that is normative is unambiguous and self-explanatory.
Not everything that is unambiguous and self-explanatory is independent of time, place or culture.
But it doesn’t really matter.
Isaiah 6:8-12Amplified Bible
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
“Make the heart of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,
“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
And houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,
The Lord has removed [His] people far away,
And there are many deserted places in the midst of the land.
The question is: when we recognize God speaking to us through the Bible, do we try to “genuinely” hear Him, “actually” listen to Him, to respect his authority?
Is it our heart’s desire and our will’s determination to seek to obey him?
Or are we selective in applying only what we are comfortable with and what we feel good about?
Think of the events in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.
Adam and Eve heard God loud and clear: “Don’t eat from that tree.”
But they chose to ignore him and disobey what they knew was God’s command.
First, there was doubt creeping in: “Did God really say that?”
Then, there was distortion of God’s command: “He said we cannot touch the tree.”
It all stems from a hugely distorted image of God as a stern and bossy and unreasonable God who wants to make our lives miserable by denying us the good side of life, and who demands the impossible from us day and night.
As individual believers, and as the Body of Christ—the Church in God’s own neighborhood, and, if possible, as a society built upon the foundation of the Christian faith and tradition—we should take God’s authority seriously.
We should pay heed to his voice crying out in a broken world against social injustice, various forms of abuse and exploitation, discrimination and racism.
And it is not enough that we just refrain from going along with them.
As Christians, we should echo that voice and obey it.
We should encourage one another to live our lives the way God meant our lives to be (Philippians 2:1-4).
And perhaps, the best way to do so is to be imitators of Christ: to love like he loved, to care like he cared, to heal like he healed, and to sacrifice ourselves for others the way he sacrificed his life for us. (Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 John 4:7-21)
We can call ourselves Christians, go to church, give our tithes, etc. and yet have rejected God effectively. The picture Jeremiah gives of life in Judah comes close to life in the Christian West, with several “gods” competing for our loyalty.
Psalm 2:1-3Amplified Bible
The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed.
2 Why are the [a]nations in an [b]uproar [in turmoil against God],
And why do the people devise a vain and hopeless plot?
The kings of the earth take their stand;
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and His Anointed (the Davidic King, the Messiah, the Christ), saying,
“Let us break apart their [divine] bands [of restraint]
And cast away their cords [of control] from us.”
Three Consequences of Rejecting God’s Authority
If you’ve ever been on a road trip with a toddler, you’ve probably experienced the struggle of trying to keep them buckled in their car seat for hours on end.
They don’t have the necessary maturity to understand that the restraints are keeping them safe, and that ultimately, you love them and know what is best.
So it is with mankind and their Maker.
From the beginning of creation until now, people have tried to cast off every restraint placed on them by the loving hand of God.
Not willing to yield to the perfect will of the Father, nations have rejected God’s authority again and again.
Though the Lord remains faithful, He also maintains justice, and there are consequences to rejecting His authority. Here are 3 of them listed in the Bible:
1. They get what they ask for.
They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul. Psalm 106:13-15 NKJV
Nations that disregard God’s counsel in favor of their own lusts eventually get what they ask for. Sadly, though their flesh is satisfied, their soul is parched like a dry and thirsty land with no water.
Let us come to the Fountain of Living Water—to the well that never runs dry—and drink to the full of God’s goodness and mercy! (John 4:10)
2. They suffer unnecessarily.
Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 5:24
The horrendous aftermath of a wildfire may be an accurate word picture of the consequences that a nation without God will suffer. Consumed by their own falsehoods, those who reject the Word of the Lord will suffer unnecessarily.
However! The Lord is faithful and just to forgive. (1 John 1:9)
He longs for us to return to Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
He longs to cover us with His mighty hand and be our Protector.
Let us repent and humble our hearts before Him that He might come and heal our land! (2 Chronicles 7:14)
3. They are left to their own devices.
Of the Rock of Ages who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you. (Psalm 139:13-18, 23 and 24)
And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them, because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.
And He said:
‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith. Deuteronomy 32:18-20 NKJV
Rejection of the Lord’s sovereignty and provision only leads to a desolate ending.
Without faith in the One who made us, we are empty, lacking, and ultimately left to our own devices.
Let us turn back to our Rock and remember our Maker.
Just like the father, who was waiting at the window for the return of his prodigal son, so the Lord is waiting for us to return to Him!
“In an acceptable time, I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV
Psalm 34:8-11Amplified Bible
O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good;
How blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who takes refuge in Him.
O [reverently] fear the Lord, you His saints (believers, holy ones);
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
The young lions lack [food] and grow hungry,
But they who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you to fear the Lord [with awe-inspired reverence and worship Him with obedience].
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
The Hebrew word for “fear” in this expression refers to a loving reverence and awe of God, coupled with our own actual and genuine willingness to obey him, knowing that he always wants what is best for us.
Our relationship with the Lord is built not on terror but on appropriate respect and awe for our Father.
A healthy respect and understanding of God as loving Creator, faithful Lord, and righteous Judge is the foundation of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7.)
People who lack reverence for God are like children who do not honor their parents.
They throw a tantrum to try to manipulate God into giving them what they want.
When that fails, they storm off defiantly to do their own thing, ignoring the wisdom and authority of their Father God.
Of course, we are all inclined toward such childish rebellion.
On the cross Jesus paid for our sin of dishonoring God.
And when we accept the gift of his death for our sin, we enter into a new and intimate relationship with ABBA, the Father.
But God is not our pal. He cannot be outsmarted, used, or tricked.
God is the Creator of the universe, infinite, eternal, and all knowing.
The very essence of his being, though, is love (1 John 4:8).
Are you growing to know your loving Father?
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
ABBA, Father, teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your Holy Spirit lead me on level ground. I see your faithfulness and goodness in what you have done for me throughout my life. I think about these things, and I thirst for you. Let me hear of your unfailing love every morning, for I am learning how to listen, learning the blessings of trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Keep me on firm footing for the glory of your name. Amen.