As you read scripture, I hope that various scenes spring to life for you. For me, one of these is Jeremiah’s description of the religious world in which he was engulfed.
It is sobering to fathom the dynamic in which Jeremiah lived. Politically, nationalism was on the rise since a weakened Assyria had provided Judah with the window of opportunity to assert her independence. Keeping step with this nationalistic optimism, the religious authorities had added to the momentum by their consensus that all was well. Jeremiah 23:16,17 Theirs was a positive and reaffirming message to the people, even though the hearts of the people were calloused in following their own ways. Jeremiah 23:17 It was as though the religious leaders were reading each other’s books! Jeremiah 23:30 And from this inbreeding of ideas they were growing more confident each day that the vision they portrayed as coming from God was in fact to be expected from God. Jeremiah 23:26-27, 31-32
Into this wonderfully upbeat celebration marched Jeremiah wearing the proverbial placard of doom, “repent, the end is coming.” His message was that of a lone wolf and a social outcast. It was the kind of message which people today often sneer at.
While each of us wants to believe that we would be different from all those sheep who blindly followed the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day, would we be willing to let go of such a positive outlook, to consider the possibility that the herd might be wrong, and to honestly examine scripture? Knowing that the power of group dynamics is so strong and our desire to empower the status quo can be so enticing should compell us to carefully examine even what others might assume to be true.
It would be wonderful if someone were fortunate enough to be living at a time when the religious herd was headed down the right path. But what if it is not? What if the predominant religious ideas are what Jesus called, “the wide path that leads to destruction”? Matthew 7:13 It can be hard to walk down a narrow way especially if this means you will be traveling mostly alone down a path that goes against the torrent of books and attractive ideas which “everybody” assumes to be true.
What is the message of this article? “Examine everything carefully; hang onto what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 The thoughtful spirit of inquiry characteristic of the Bereans needs to be a part of each one of our lives. Acts 17:11 The goal is neither to be out of step with those around us nor to march in unison with them, but rather above all else to seek the approval of the Lord by loving what is true. Failure to order our values in the proper priority is a recipe for disaster. John 12:42-43; 2 Thessalonians 2:10
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