Thursday, October 07, 2010
A burning fire in the bones
To what extent do you want to talk to others about your faith? How often do you and I pray for opportunities to share God's love with others? If you were to measure your desire by the size of a flame, would you fall closer to a birthday candle, or a camp fire? Do you know anyone who has a forest fire of desire to share with others about Jesus? I do. I'm not one of them, but I can say my flame is being fanned.
I've been reading through the book of Jeremiah. Just for some background, he actually authored the book of Jeremiah, which is considered one of the major prophet books of the Bible. At a critical time in Israel's history, Jeremiah was God's prophet, or mouthpiece, bringing God's messages to His people. The people did not want to hear, however, because a lot of it was really bad news. God was about to allow foreign nations to bring His people into captivity as a consequence for straying so far from His ways for so long.
I'm about 20 chapters into it. So far, Jeremiah has been faithful to bring this bad news to God's people, and the people are basically pressing their hands to their ears. He is hated by everyone, and much of the text records his intense grief over the continual rejection.
Today, I read of a message he faithfully delivered in the court of the Temple, right in the middle of God's house. It was more bad news. The priest, named Pashur, was enraged, as he had been falsely prophesying to the people along a more pleasant tack. He had Jeremiah beaten, and then thrown in the stocks at the entrance to the temple. Verses 7-18 of chapter 20 record another lament, poignantly detailing the emotions of Jeremiah's soul at this point. (Even though he was God's chosen servant, he was also human, let's not forget.)
I'm paraphrasing, but he actually says that the man who delivered him at birth should be cursed for not killing him as an infant. He continues, "Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?" (v.18) His discouragement runs so deep that he even entertains resigning as prophet. But listen to what he says:
"I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." (Jer. 20:7-9)
His words sting a little, for me. I kind of want him to give up; I want that to make sense because then I'm let off a related hook. In the New Testament, Jesus calls us to bring a message to His people as well, but it is instead really good news. He knew that His children were captives already, of sin and brokenness. His followers were given the message of restoration and hope to deliver. In fact, the word "gospel" means good news, and we are commanded to bring this message of love and rescue to the world.
I have to let Jeremiah's words get personal for me. I have the best message in history to deliver, and yet do I feel driven to bring it to the forefront of my relationships by a burning in my heart that I literally cannot contain? I wish it were more so. I want that burning fire in my bones, in my core. I want to feel weary when I hold it in, and neglect to give space to the power of the gospel.
Jeremiah's level of persecution is reality for many followers of Christ in other countries. For me, it is so easy, socially and politically speaking, to discuss spiritual matters. Am I capitalizing on that fact? Am I making the most of my days bringing a message of freedom to those in captivity? When the desire isn't there, we need to pray that God would bring it. Let's pray for an uncontainable, burning fire in our bones to share the message entrusted to us: the good news of a great, great love.
Labels: working out my faith