Friday, March 27, 2009

Is God Seeing Your Backside or Your Face?

Reading: Jeremiah 32   
In Jeremiah, when “The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah,” (32:2) Jeremiah prayed,
"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.” (32:17-19)
Jeremiah expressed His faith in God's almighty power. “Nothing is too hard for you.” In other words, the reason we are in this mess is not because God is unable to deliver us. And he goes on to express the truth that the reason they were in this mess is indeed because God does bring punishment for sin. If you go read the rest of that prayer in Jeremiah, you will find that Jeremiah continues to extol the power of God throughout that prayer, indeed how God's promises had been fulfilled, and that this very crisis was also the result of God's word being fulfilled. In verse 24 it reads, “What you said has happened, as you now see.”
Then the Lord responds to Jeremiah's prayer and confirms, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Therefore, this is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will capture it. The Babylonians who are attacking this city will come in and set it on fire; they will burn it down, along with the houses where the people provoked me to anger by burning incense on the roofs to Baal and by pouring out drink offerings to other gods. The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but provoke me with what their hands have made, declares the LORD.” (27-30)
Then there is this stunning statement:
They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. (Jeremiah 32:33)
Dare I say that at the center of their disobedience, at the root of all their rebellion was prayerlessness? They turned their backs to me and not their faces! Judah was sent into exile because they did not turn their faces toward God. When Solomon dedicated the temple He talked extensively about how, when the people of God fell in to sin, they should turn their faces toward this place (the temple, where God's presence was), and pray. And there God would grant them mercy. Why? Because at the temple was God's presence, and at the temple was a system of sacrifice whereby atonement for sin could be made. God is the one who would provide for their sin.
But Israel ceased turning their faces toward God in prayer. Rather they turned their backs toward God in rejection and rebellion. And therefore they would be swept into captivity.
When we get to the New Testament, the Gospels, we find that Christ comes to fulfill the promise of return from exile. He is returning the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He is bringing the sons and daughters from afar. And they will come in when the people turn to Him in prayer.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38)
May we, the church, not turn our backs toward God, but our faces. And may be turn our faces toward God in Christ—Christ, the atoning sacrifice for our sin. And when we call on Him in this way, He will hear our prayer. And when we do we can anticipate that God will bring “sons from afar and...daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:6)
Is God seeing your backside or your face?