Why are you acting like a tourist, taking in the sights, here today and gone tomorrow? Why do you just stand there and stare, like someone who doesn’t know what to do in a crisis? But God, you are, in fact, here, here with us! You know who we are—you named us! Don’t leave us in the lurch. Jeremiah 14:8-9
Good Monday Morning to this week 06 of 2019
A rather scary thought indeed! God visiting his own as a tourist. A tourist, someone visiting a place of interest for a short while to move on again.
It reminds of the quote and then 2005 documentary, God Sleeps in Rwanda, about five women affected by the Rwandan genocide, implying that he spends the day elsewhere but merely sleeps on his own land. But the proverb used to be applied in a different way, The Rwandans proudly used to say that their country was so beautiful that God spent the night there!
Before the genocide, Rwanda was widely considered to be one of the most successful examples of mission work. In 1991, about 90 percent of the population was Christian and a majority of 65 percent identified themselves as Roman Catholic. The country was widely considered to be an example of successful Christianization. But in the genocide, Christian values seemed to crumble rapidly in the face of ethnic hatred. In the face of genocide, the church was powerless.
In the book “The Churches and Ethnic Ideology”, there is a detailed study of two Presbyterian parishes in north-west Rwanda. In Kirinda both the leaders and the members of the Church were involved in the killings while in Biguhu they actively resisted the genocide. Longman comes to the conclusion that the major difference between the parishes was the way the leaders of the Church related to the population. In Kirinda, the clergy enforced the authoritarian structures while in Biguhu the leadership of the Church empowered the poor. Another interesting question raised was if the Catholic Church did repent for its role in the genocide. According to the authors, repentance was one of the pre-conditions in order for the Catholic Church to make a real contribution to the peace process.
Jeremiah takes us to a very similar and dark place, the verdict is unshakeable. The Lord does not accept them. The relationship is no longer expressed with possessive pronouns (my people/your God; our God/your people). “This” is a long way from “my” or “your” or “our.” The distance is striking as he speaks of “this people”. Does this imply the end of the covenant relationship?
In this prophetic exchange, the immediate future is set by God’s commitment to remembering their iniquity. To remember iniquity means punishment. The severance of the covenant relationship does not mean out of sight, out of mind. It is not a matter of divine indifference; rather, the mind of God is focused on “this people.” When covenantal blessing ceases, it is not a matter of a neutral absence of good. The cessation of covenantal blessing is the beginning of disaster, not merely the relenting of good.
In Rwanda very many crucial decisions were taking in the aftermath, one was that the restoration of justice was chosen in a different way, after many failed attempts in retributive justice, the restorative justice was applied.
Richard W. Nysse continues in his commentary that the false prophets had insisted that God would not reject. Instead, God, in their view, would only bless, even to the point of exempting them from the natural consequences of social injustice. They claimed that the community would not experience sword and famine. But the famine was already in place! Once God is active in punishment, the only way out, comes from God. That is what is being pleaded here, and the plea is rejected by God. God is, in this text, rejecting the intercession of the people, not because it is insincere, but because the time for pleas is over.
We desperately want to be spared the thought that God is active in the dark cloud, not just against the dark cloud!
Please, let’s just quickly move on to Jeremiah 31:34: “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” The move to forgiveness goes through the heart of God, and we know from the New Testament that it is not a facile move. It involves a huge price!
Yes, we know that this not be the last chapter in the story of the Lord’s people. The Lord will put these people through a fire, but it will be a refiner’s fire rather than a destroyer’s fire. Their redemption will be a long time coming, but it will come. The Lord is abandoning his people, but the abandonment will be temporary. It is the Lord’s way of acknowledging that cheap grace is no bargain, no solution. Cheap grace at this point would not help these people. It is time for Tough Love.
The answer is no, no, no, God was not a tourist on his own land. But yes He did choose to sleep or to abandon them temporarily. The people appeal to God not to break this long-standing covenant. This covenant does have two sides, it imposes responsibilities on both parties, it is the people rather than Yahweh who have broken the covenant. They have broken it over and over and over again, but now they ask the Lord not to break it. The Lord, however, is not breaking the covenant but is acknowledging its brokenness.
Many questions remain, many things unanswered as in Jeremiah 14 or in the Rwandan history, as well as maybe in the context of your life.
One of the deep findings of Jeremiah 14 is:
God is active in the dark cloud, not just against the dark cloud!
I wish you a very good week.
Quotes taken from various Bible Commentaries mentioned.
‘God spends the day elsewhere, but He sleeps in Rwanda’. About Catholicism, conflict and peace in Rwanda. Master Thesis 12/2011 by Henrieke Buit
History of International Relations Utrecht University