Jeremiah’s eyes flowed with tears. As he stood amidst the ruins of what was once the splendor of Israel, he was overwhelmed with sorrow. The prophet could not contain himself as the Spirit of God upon him was overwrought as well with the aftermath of divine anger, fury, and fierce indignation. Not much about the book of Lamentations that will act as a “pick me up.” Beyond a verse or two, not a lot here that’s gonna make it on to a t-shirt or be inscribed on a wall hanging. It is a book of sorrow and mourning. And, it is a book of warning for those who have ears to hear.
The reasons Jerusalem lay in ruin were widespread. Hard-hearted, self-serving, idol-worshiping kings. A stiff-necked, law-rejecting, lets-be-like-the-nations-around-us people. Shepherds who were more interested in physically feeding themselves than they were in spiritually feeding their flock. Priests who were really about worshiping the priests. And prophets who made it up as they went in order to find favor among those looking for a good word. And it’s this last group that’s caught my attention because of something I read in Lamentations this morning. They had failed to expose to restore.
Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.
(Lamentations 2:14 ESV)
The prophet’s job was less about predicting the future as it was revealing the Father. Most of their prophecies weren’t facts to be charted but warnings to be heeded. In an increasingly dark world they were to be heaven’s light. Among a people who were going farther and farther astray they were to be the GPS that showed the way home. They were to declare God’s heart through God’s word. And among a nation that was caring less for the things of God, their message wasn’t going to be popular.
Unpopular because their job was to expose iniquity. They were to face the people of God with their transgression against God. They were to lay bare the people’s rebellion. They were to expose the lie of trying to cover all bases by bowing down to multiple deities. They were to make the connection between spiritual unfaithfulness and marital unfaithfulness and categorically declare them both wrong and offensive to God. They were to condemn living for the appetites of the flesh. Yes, they were to proclaim, it can be so wrong even if it feels right.
They were to uncover the people’s sin. Lay it bare. Reveal it for what it was. Their’s was to expose. Expose to restore.
For apart from revealing the truth of Israel’s iniquity there would be no compulsion to seek reconciliation. Without an appreciation of the problem, no reason to ask if there existed a solution. Without knowing they were lost, no sense of needing to be found. Without declaring bankruptcy no desire for solvency. Without a diagnosis there’d be no need for a cure.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Jesus
(Mark 2:17 ESV)
Sin was to be exposed so that sinners might know their need for restoration. The word of God was to reveal transgression against God so that a way back might known by the grace of God.
But because Israel’s prophets valued popularity over obedience, because they determined to tell the people what they wanted to hear, because their visions were deceptive and their oracles were misleading, Jerusalem lay in ruins rather than knowing divine restoration.
And I’m reminded that, while I’m no prophet, I have been entrusted with the word of God. While I may not have a voice among the nation, I rub shoulders with a small group around me. And where there is iniquity, I need to be willing to expose it for what it is–sin against a holy God. Not to condemn but, should God’s Spirit move, to restore. Not to seek anyone’s destruction, but, by God’s grace, to avoid it.
And the Lords servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
(2Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)
Expose to restore. Isn’t that part of what we’re called to do as God’s messengers? I’m thinkin’.
May not be popular with those around us, but, by God’s mighty working, some will thank us. And we’ll know we’ve been faithful to the Father who called us and the Son who sent us.
By His grace. For His glory.