Items posted on 1 February 2012
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Jeremiah 14.7-14 – “Easy Believe-ism.”
Posted: 1 February 2012 in Jeremiah

O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not. Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

Many years ago there was a programme on British television, which involved the comedian Dave Allen in a series of sketches. One of his sketches regularly involved a Catholic priest in the Confessional, and somebody asking him the price of a sin. He would say something like Hail Mary’s, or whatever, and there would be the sound of a cash register ringing up.

It is easy to lampoon the practice of the Catholic Church in that respect, but probably all of us have unconsciously, and at some time, come to think that sin comes cheap at the price. After all, God is a forgiving God, and we only have to repent in order to receive forgiveness. Well, the above passage is a salutary reminder that forgiveness is not always so easily to be obtained, and in doing so it reintroduces a note of seriousness which is not always present in “Easy Believeism.” Furthermore, although the New Testament primarily speaks about the mercy of God in salvation, that shouldn’t mislead us into believing that the God of the New Testament is somehow fundamentally different from the God revealed in the Old Testament. Even in the Old Testament God is known to be a merciful God, but it was part of Jeremiah’s vocation to remond his contemporaries that his mercy does not mean that God can be messed around with.

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