Jeremiah Devotion

I recently wrote this devotion for our church’s newsletter:

“Am I a God nearby, says the Lord, and not a God far off?”

-Jeremiah 23:23

In this verse for August, we see God asserting something a bit unusual. Rather than telling his people that he is near to them, God is insisting on his distance from them. In light of the life of Jesus, “God-with-us,” this seems understandably strange to us. How can God be far from us? In the very next verse God seems to contradict himself by saying that he is filling both heaven and earth. So he must be nearer than we can ever imagine. What is going on here?

We must remember that Jeremiah is speaking prophetically. That is to say that Jeremiah is stating a paradox here and it is one that only God can solve. The following verses in this passage go on to talk about false prophets and their false prophecies. These prophets were going around saying things that did not come from God, but from their own desires and pride. It is this that God is distancing himself from.

By distancing himself from the lies of the false prophets God is showing how completely OTHER he is from our human understanding. The false prophets were speaking only out of their limited understanding, and especially out of their own feelings and desires. But God is not placed in a box by our understanding nor by our feelings. This passage calls us to look skeptically at our own feelings and ideas of what God may be doing.

It can be very easy to say, “Oh yes, God is definitely working there” when you have warm feelings about it. The false prophets undoubtedly felt very strongly that God was doing exactly what they said he was. Jeremiah first points out that it does not matter what the false prophets may be feeling. God is far away from their warm feelings. But then, in verse twenty-four, Jeremiah says that God is filling both heaven and earth. So God is near as well, just not in the way that the false prophets think he is.

In Jeremiah’s case, God was nearby but he was calling his people to repent. Not to feel safe just because they had the correct form of worship, or worshiped God in the correct building. But the false prophets did not feel like repenting. They felt like celebrating. Rather than examine their own lives and their assumptions, they insisted that whatever they were saying was what God was saying. I think this calls us to deeply examine our assumptions about where and how we may think God is working. Perhaps where we think God is working is merely the result of our own feelings. Likewise, even if we don’t feel like doing something, perhaps that is exactly what God is calling us to do.

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~ by crossingthebosporus on July 13, 2012.

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