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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 18, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 4:11–12, 22–28

At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse—a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back. (NRSV)

Desolation. Foolishness and evil. Anger and mourning. These are strong words filled with consequence. When we get to Bible verses like these we might have an urge to look away. They have sometimes been used to paint a picture of God as unreasonably angry and filled with wrath.

But if we look deeply into these texts we can find that human actions have a very great impact on the health and well-being of the world. The prophets regularly teach the importance of knowing God and following God’s ways—and God’s ways are the ways of justice. When humans fail to do what is right and good, consequences are sometimes dire.

We can’t fix what we don’t see as broken, and this passage calls us to see the broken places in our world. This is not so we get lost in the brokenness or overwhelmed by it. Rather it’s a wake-up call to deal with what is truly happening. To acknowledge brokenness is not the end of the story; it’s a pivot point—it’s the beginning of a possibility to adjust our actions and turn back toward God.

We have to read far ahead in Jeremiah to the seventh chapter to get to a spirit of hope: “For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:5–7).

God of grace, help us all. And especially help me to do what is right in any given moment. Forgive me and guide me when I fall short. Help me to be an influence on others to do good also. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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