Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Blog for the Sabbath: Tender Mercies of Repentance

"It may not be the end of the world...but you can sure see it from here." The proximity to the end, the cessation of days, the termination of breath--we've seen the apocalypse played out in literature and cinema. How apropos this saying is when the armies of the Chaldean juggernaut bears down on Judah. Through an endless parade of prophets like Zephaniah, Nahum, Lehi, and Jeremiah, the kingdom Judah was warned to repent. Now, it is too late; the nation will not divert from their present course. The hammer has already fallen and in Jeremiah 21: 8-10 what bears down on them is clawing at their door:
8 And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you...the way of death.
9 He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence...
10 For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
Let us summarize: Jerusalem WILL be destroyed, wantonly, in extreme prejudice. In last week's Sabbath I wrote at moderate length on the degenerative state of both Judah in Israel and the Nephite-Lamanite contingent in the Americas and the threat of judgements to be poured out on them by the Lord. Nonetheless, allow to me to go the other direction with Jeremiah 21: 8-10 and illustrate the tender mercies of the Lord:
8 And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I set before you the way of life...
9 He that...goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.
10 For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
In the Lord's tender mercies, he understands better than we that amongst the wicked are those unrighteous who do not delight in the desecration of humanity, they who retain a glimmer of the Light of Christ, they who through the adverse conditions would humble themselves sufficiently to start anew. For these individuals the Lord's caveat allows them to live, to walk the earth, and who wouldn't want to stay alive, to avoid starvation, torture or execution? Not follow the commandments, perhaps, but continue breathing with the hope of a better tomorrow? Absolutely! Many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Judeans, took the Lord up on his offer, fled beyond the walls of Jerusalem and they surrendered, crying and wailing to the Chaldean armies for mercy. As the Lord promised, the invaders held back their blades from upon the supplicants but immediately carried them captive out of the promised land and back to Babylon.

Unfortunately as time settled, these ex-pats clung to the assumption that they had completed their allotted consignment, and had suffered sufficiently and therefore the Lord would work out their release. False prophets among them, like the cursed Shemaiah, heaped false hope upon them to get gain. To put the kibosh on this momentum of hopelessness, Jeremiah sent the Lord's word through courier, a message of reality: Brace yourselves for a long stay. In Jeremiah 29:
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
70 years?! If one were 10 years old at the time, they would reach the delicate age of 80 years before returning to Jerusalem. For anyone older, those chances of physically returning alive back to the promised land drop off rapidly. To soften this bit of sour news, the Lord gave this commandment:
5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
Peace? How is that possible so far from home in an alien land and culture...for seventy years? Why bother starting anew with the painstaking process of constructing a new city? Why press on with their lives, taking spouses, having children to raise up? By doing so, the Lord promised Judah they would have peace in their lives. How? The Lord's purpose placing them in such circumstances is to prepare them for a higher calling.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
If Judah desired to live, well then, their existence among the Babylonians in peace was a prerequisite. If they needed to have the creature comforts of life, to have the joys of human existence through familial relationships, their focus must be outward, forging a state of heart, mind and soul towards the Lord. By staking a life in a hostile environment, their natures would evolve as they worked side-by-side with their neighbors. Judah would seek the Lord and eventually find him, and when they came calling he would answer and lead them back.

Such is the process for all of us: flee the wicked state we are enveloped within, fall before our state of guilt, surrender to repentance and start anew.

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