Jeremiah 12.1-6 – Providence and obedience to God’s will.
Posted: 10 July 2012 in Jeremiah

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins. But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end. If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.

In the above passage, Jeremiah correctly discerns that the wicked, who will eventually be judged by God, were also created and planted by him, whilst having full knowledge of what would then ensue. But when he complains to God, and asks him what he thinks he is up to, he gets a very dusty answer. He is simply asked how, if he cannot cope with the circumstances in which he has currently been placed, how will he cope in more demanding circumstances. God is not going to justify himself to Jeremiah, nor, by extension, to any of his other creatures. The book of Job makes the same point at much greater length.

It is, of course never legitimate to question God’s providence. The universe was not created for our convenience, but for God’s good pleasure. A well known hymn contains the following lines:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Nowadays the hymn is unpopular, precisely because it contains those lines. It is not difficult to see the misgivings which might arise in people’s minds because of them. Too easily could they be taken as an excuse for not helping the poor – after all they have been given their station in life by God. That is an attitude which is definitely at variance with what the Bible has to say on the subject. Nevertheless, if all things are from God, it necessarily follows that relative wealth and poverty are also from God.

It is definitely legitimate for people to try and extricate themselves from whatever unfavourable circumstances they find themselves in. But if they find their attempts constantly being frustrated, they must, ultimately, submit themselves to the will of God, which is thereby being manifested to them. In Jeremiah’s case, obedience to God – who created him for the very purpose he must now fulfil – requires him to continue his ministry in circumstances where his life might be in danger. For most of us God’s demands won’t be that extreme, but we have no right to expect that they will necessarily leave us feeling comfortable.

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