Dear Friends and Family,
If you boarded the maiden voyage of in the Middle with Mystery – blog, last week, you will have discovered things such as; “Humbling Mumbling” & “About Rob” and to top that, what was written was in sanskrit or (as another friend said), “rigor mortis” language. I regret that upon boarding you were greeted by stiff and lifeless mysteries (of the wrong sort). They were merely an attempt at playful humor by myself and my technical / creative team. This site is just being birthed and is destined to change.
If you are curious though, wondering what exactly is in the Middle with Mystery (MwM), you may have to journey with us for a while to satisfy your curiosity. However, I will tell you up front, three things that are here in the MwM; you and I and God. Here, with our 2 or 3 who have gathered (where we have a quorum), Christ (in His Spirit) is in our midst. It is on that basis alone that we anticipate a safe journey regardless of the weather we shall face. Welcome.
As I read Lamentations I am impressed that in the OT God and man seem to be the only two variables in the equation. (not much about the devil) So, in that ancient context, when man finds his experience bitter and troubled it is likely the Holy and Just One created it, who is meeting out judgement of some customized nature as corrective discipline. The Old Testament (unlike the New) portrays the affairs of mankind unfolding without Satan factoring-in too much after the initial deception in the Garden. Jeremiah gives us his account…
He (God) has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship…..He has made my chain heavy…..He shuts out my prayer……He has made my paths crooked…..He has made me desolate…..He has filled me with bitterness….. He has made me drunk with wormwood.
What are we to do with life when it has gone south and become bitter? Do we respond like Jesus’ (OT influenced) disciples did when they saw the bitter experience of illness and deformity;
“Lord who has sinned; this man or His parents?”
In our passage, while Jeremiah has traced his wormwood to God , he also says..
The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
The New Testament is such a radical departure from the Old we can scarcely grasp at times that it is the same God who has inspired them both. It would be tempting to say that God changed between the testaments. But, it is essential to know that God cannot and will not change. He remains a holy and a just God.
Jeremiah and the other OT spokesmen for God longed to see the resolution to their dilemma. They desperately wanted to be free from the wormwood and gall but how would they find hope when their very natures regularly invited and begged for God’s discipline and wrath? In the OT, Jeremiah’s sin and that of his fellow Jews were dealt with through the Law and the sacrifices. The radical change from the Old to the New is accounted for by the fact that Christ Himself, as an unblemished lamb, has satisfied the demands of God’s justice by absorbing His wrath (that was due us) in His own being on the cross.
In the context of the OT and the Law, I assume that Jeremiah’s (pre-Christ) theology is correct. God may have painted a bullseye on his back and sunk arrows deep into his innermost being. But…. if any bulls-eyes have been painted on our backs today, it is so that God might strike us with the arrows of His Love and expose our innermost beings to His grace. Being the marksmen He is, insures that He will find His mark. Jeremiah knew that …
He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men.
We can speculate as to the causes of our trials but more often than not (if we buy in to it) this world’s wisdom and council will make victim-prisoners of us. Our flesh is predisposed to embrace the idea that our unhappiness is somebody else’s fault. Would you concur that (at some level) there is an appeal to that line of thinking?
Regardless of where they came from; where we live with God (in the Middle with Mystery), our circumstances (often miserable, undeserved and seemingly unjust ) are going to break us or shape us. We can waste inordinate amounts of time searching out the origin of our troubles and perceived shortcomings and explaining them to ourselves.
And pray to God to have mercy upon us / And pray that I may forget / These matters that with myself I too much discuss / too much explain from the Poem; Ash Wednesday by T.S. Elliott
The bottom line is that we live in a fallen environment where our sins and those of others touch our lives in ways that will range from mild irritation to intense pain. In the NT, Satan is introduced once again as a character in our story. Satan likely makes significant contributions to the misery of mankind. He certainly delights when he can imprison another soul in victimhood.
So…what (if anything) does Jeremiah, an afflicted and lamenting ancient prophet have to say to us? I think a great deal. Jeremiah and His fellow prophets knew something was up. They had tasted of the Lord and they knew that..
The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him, inquire of and for Him. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord…
Those who learn to abide in Christ, learn (over time) that they can weather bitter and trying circumstances with the Lord as their Father-Shepherd. In the midst of life they have inquired of the Lord and over time learned that…..
…because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness they are not consumed, because His tender compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is His stability and faithfulness.
The abiding-saint emerges from (or in) the trying circumstances with a heart that has been strangely impacted. While it cannot forget the episode (It may even be ongoing) and would never elect to rehearse it, it would (at the same time), not trade it for silver or gold. This is because the heart has tasted of the Kingdom’s love, joy and the peace of the Holy Spirit that travel independent of outward circumstance. That place of trial became a trysting place where the lovingkindness of the Father is experientially tasted and proven.
Note: A Tryst is a prearranged place where vows and confidences are exchanged establishing a new and more intimate relationship
O Lord, remember [earnestly] my affliction and my misery….My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me. But this I recall and therefore I have hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His tender compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.
There is even more that goes on in the abiding heart that perseveres in faith. Something new and alive is birthed. When it is expressed, it says….
“The Lord is my portion or share.”
A heart that has proven God’s faithfulness over time discovers that Christ has become their inheritance. He has become their nourishment; their sufficiency; their ambition; their hunger; their “all in all”, the one essential thing to their being. They….
require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word].
Jeremiah in his OT construct sees God as the smiter and the causer of grief to a people with unredeemed hearts who require stiff and regular discipline to get their attention and effect change. I see life under the New Covenant with the Lord (who remains holy and just) as radically different. I see trials coming to NT saints as well as OT ones. (It does not appear we have been exempted.), but I do not see God as the custom-crafter of all our bitter circumstances.
As sons and friends of God and citizens of His kingdom, we have new hearts that are occupied and entwined with the Holy Spirit which do not need to be whipped into place by harsh divine disciplinary dealings in the same way the OT unredeemed heart did. Therefore, the trials and would-be wormwood is framed differently in the memory of the saint. It is not so important as to the origins of the circumstances that may have threatened (or even robbed for the moment) our joy and peace. The important thing is that we continually entrust them to Him as that thing He will certainly redeem.
Even while living as saved persons within a covenant of grace, I can testify that we may become entangled with religion as slaves whose only option is obedience. Note: This person (with a religious-slave mentality) may struggle mightily to understand and come to terms with the providence of God without bitterness. It is my belief that because of God’s passion for family (which includes sons and friends), He is not above using life’s tough circumstances to drive us to our knees, where our ears are perhaps closer to His heart and we can hear Him singing over us in the midst of our sin and failure and confusion and pain.
This is the essence of having a relationship with Christ – living with Him day in and day out. Note; It is Him with whom we have to do (not the devil or our circumstances). Eventually, slaves can be converted to sons who hear God’s commands with their new hearts. To the son and friend, they are no longer onerous or burdensome as they were to the unredeemed or the religious heart. Instead, they have become invitations to the banquet-feast. The redeemed heart that learns to truly walk in the Spirit of grace (which is infinitely more than just being saved) discovers the newness of life that is the energy and life flow of Christ’s ever expanding kingdom. Therefore….
………let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.. for
……..the Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him. For the Lord will not cast off forever! He will be moved to compassion according to the multitude of His loving-kindness and tender mercy. He does not willingly and from His heart afflict or grieve the children of men. Therefore I will hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.
Father, give us eyes to see Your goodness and glory that is embedded and even disguised in our circumstances. May our hearts have the courage and faith to lean our weary hearts upon Your breast even as we are tempted to flee in pain. Whether they be mild or intense, may we learn to entrust our affairs (both joyous and painful) into Your hands as our faithful Creator, Shepherd King. You are so good to us. Amen.
Has Christ become yours yet, by right of necessity?