Jeremiah 11:6-8 – And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them.  For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice.  Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”
“Why is God doing this to me?” “Why did God allow this to occur?” “Why has God forgotten me?” These are questions that have been asked from almost the very beginning. When horrible things happen we want to know why God allowed it, caused it, or did not make it stop.
Sometimes the horrifying things are because of faithfulness to Jesus. He promised that tribulation would come to the faithful because of their faithfulness. Sometimes the troubles come simply because life in a fallen world is very difficult. God has never promised that His children will be spared the normal hardships of living in a fallen world that is sorely in need of redemption. Sometimes the troubles come because God is treating us like sons and as a good Father, God will not allow us to ruin ourselves through the sins that would carry us off and cause us to forget Him. He knows what it takes to keep us close to Himself. And sometimes the trouble is because God simply sends judgement upon the world in various forms for the purposes that He does not always reveal to us.
In Jeremiah 11 the people of Israel and Judah are about to enter into the worst conglomeration of troubles that they have ever experienced. And they will not be able to ask “Why are these things happening to us?” God tells them before they occur. They are about to be punished for their rebellion, their idolatry, their forgetting of God. God tells Judah that there is no more time for them. The die is cast. The judgement is coming. And they have no one to blame but themselves. He reminds them of all the warnings that He has given them. It is a mind boggling thing that He tells them. Verse 7 says:
For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice.
From the Exodus out of Egypt until the time of Jeremiah God has been warning the people to turn from sin. That is a period of about 800 years. 800 years. Canada is 143 years old. 800 years ago everyone knew that if you sailed far enough you would go over the edge of the world and be lost forever. Galileo and Copernicus had not yet been born. North America was not yet discovered, atleast not by Europeans. The Reformation was not to come for 300 years. 800 years is very long time.
Over thirty generations of Israelites had heard the message of God to not get sucked into the idolatry around them. Some got the message. Most did not. God sent Judges, prophets and kings. Some of them turned out to be as bad as those they were sent to. God warned and warned and warned. He sent defeat in battle. He sent judgement on others. He even sent a captivity to the northern kingdom of Israel. But Judah will not believe that God will do it to them. Out of all that Judah has been through they know that God is not upset with them.
Amazing. How blind does sin make us? And how patient is God with people? The patience is stunning. Perhaps people have become so accustomed to the patience of God that they think patience is the default position. God simply will not punish. They treat him like they treat a mother who makes great threats that they know will never be carried out. But this time God has had it. And the judgement came. And it came hard.
North American colonization by Europeans began less than five hundred years ago. It has known a level of prosperity and peace on its shores unprecedented in the history of humanity. And we carry on like nothing will ever interfere with the culture and way of life that we have come to think of as normal.
The church in North America has benefited greatly from it. The church has been a large part of creating it. And the North American church seems to think that it will always have the luxury that it has come to regard as normal.
But we, like the Israelites of old, are barely indistinguishable from our unbelieving neighbours. The cardinal doctrines that have marked the church for millennia are being denied. Jesus as the only way, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is simply mocked – in the church. Social justice is seen as the Gospel. Money is seen as the measure of God’s approval. Church growth and large numbers prove to us that we are doing things right. Humility, gentleness, and kindness are notably absent among those shouting that they are Bible believers. The Scriptures warn and warn and warn. And we need to hear the warnings.
Of course I could be wrong. There are lots of things that point to the fact that God is doing a great deal through the church in North America. But a little self examination wouldn’t hurt at all. Just in case.
On the other hand, we’ve only been here for 500 years. There’s lots of time.