A Knowledge of the Truth.
“I know, GOD, that mere mortals can’t run their own lives, That men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life. So correct us, GOD, as you see best. Don’t lose your temper. That would be the end of us.” – Jeremiah 10:23-24 MSG
This prayer of Jeremiah sits right in the middle of two interesting sections of Scriptures. In one, Jeremiah compares the ubiquitous idols that had become so prevalent in Judah with the majesty of the one true God. He exposes the lunacy of worshiping something that you made with your own hands – a block of wood that can’t speak, walk, or keep itself from falling over. He expresses the power of God reflected in His creation of all things, from the earth itself to the wind, rain, thunder and lightning – and even Israel itself. God is no idol! He is all-powerful creator of the universe.
In second section, God reminds the people of Judah about the covenant He had made with them all the way back to Mount Sinai. This was a conditional covenant – an if-then agreement that came with conditions and consequences. If they obeyed the terms of the covenant, they would receive blessings from God. If they disobeyed, they would experience curses. God had told them, “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me” (Exodus 19:5 NLT). Their obedience to God’s Law is what truly set them apart as His people. They were to belong to Him. They were to live their lives according to His terms, not their own. This is what would set them apart and prove their position as His special treasure. But the people of God refused to obey God, and the proliferation of idols were proof. And it had been going on for generations. God said, “but your ancestors did not listen or even pay attention. Instead, they stubbornly followed their own evil desires. And because they refused to obey, I brought upon them all the curses described in this covenant” (Jeremiah 11:8 NLT). And God accused the current generation of Israelites of doing the same thing their ancestors had done. “There’s a conspiracy among the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. They’ve plotted to reenact the sins of their ancestors – the ones who disobeyed me and decided to go after other gods and worship them. Israel and Judah are in this together, mindlessly breaking the covenant I made with their ancestors” (Jeremiah 9-10 MSG). And according to the terms of the covenant, their disobedience warranted God’s punishment.
But right in the middle of these two passages, Jeremiah prayers a short, but powerful prayer. In it He expresses a clear understanding of who God is and the reality of man’s inability to control their own lives. He says, “I know, GOD, that mere mortals can’t run their own lives, That men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life. So correct us, GOD, as you see best. Don’t lose your temper. That would be the end of us” (Jeremiah 10:23-24 MSG). Jeremiah knew the undeniable truth that men and women were incapable of making wise decisions, keeping their commitments, or living in obedience to God’s Laws. They couldn’t help from creating idols and worshiping them, even as idiotic as it might seem to bow down to a block of wood you carved and carried around with your own hands. Jeremiah also knew that mankind deserved to be corrected. The Hebrew word he uses for “correction” is yacar and it means “to chasten, chastise, correct, instruct, punish, reform, reprove, instruct, or teach.” He confesses their inability to live the life God had called them to live and acknowledges that their actions warrant God’s correction. But he seemed to understand that even God’s punishment was constructive. He would not only reprove them, but reform them through His discipline. Jeremiah knew that God loved them in spite of their actions. So he calls on God to correct them, because he believed that God knew what was best for them. And if punishment from the hands of a loving God could turn their hearts back to Him, then so be it. But Jeremiah also asks that God not punish them in anger. He asks that God temper His rebuke with love. Because he knew that no man could stand against the unbridled wrath of an angry, righteous and holy God.
Jeremiah knew God. And he knew the truth about man. So he appealed to God for His mercy and grace. He trusted God to do the right thing. He knew that they were getting what they deserved, but he asked that God be gracious, loving and gentle with them. Because they were incapable of doing what was right. They needed God’s correction, but mixed with mercy, compassion, patience and love.
Father, Jeremiah’s prayer could be the prayer of every one of us today. We need to confess our inability to run our own lives. We can’t keep all the balls in the air. We can’t make it all work. We are incapable of living up to Your holy standards and so we fail You on a regular basis. But You love us and know our weaknesses. You stand ready to forgive us if we will just confess our sins to You. If we will admit our inability to live holy lives and come to You in weakness and dependence, You will give us what we need to live the lives You’ve called us to live. You are a great God. You are a loving and merciful God. You want to help us live lives that reflect our position as Your sons and daughters. We just have to admit that we can’t do it without You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men