Jeremiah 27:1–11, 16–22
Following God is not easy. This episode in the life of Jeremiah and Israel shows just that. Counterintuitively, the Lord tells Israel, by way of Jeremiah, to serve Babylon. When you read the word Babylon, think Egypt, think conquering super power, think pending doom and gloom. The Lord doesn’t say the expected, stand and fight or I will deliver you as I did when Egypt chased after you. No. The Lord says fold the hand you’re playing. Perhaps there is a lesson to learn in serving? Arrogance has brought Israel to the point of disaster. Pride goes before the fall, so fall they must and learn to walk again in humility before God.
To complicate matters, the priests and prophets, those charged with communicating to God’s people God’s message, are telling a different message. They speak the message, perhaps the hoped for message, of God’s deliverance. That they should fight, resist, and not serve Babylon. Who to listen to? The established priests and trusted prophets? OR the rogue prophet Jeremiah? When voices of influence conflict in matters of faith, the faithful are in trouble. Discerning God’s voice is not a matter of simply trusting your pastor or favorite Christian author, but of prayer, meditation upon God’s Word, hearing from a broad spectrum of voices e.g. the tradition of Christianity, and asking if it is wise e.g. does it make sense according to what is known about God. In short, discerning God’s voice requires scripture, experience, reason, and tradition. A church that blindly follows the established leaders, will willingly go against God.
This selection from Romans asks us two questions that matter for our daily life with God. One, how am I actively suppressing the truth? Two, in what ways am I using stuff to replace the worship of God? Those two questions are premised upon the indictments made by Paul against the Greeks. They knew the truth and suppressed it for wicked purposes. In their deception, they deceived themselves into worshiping something other than the God they knew to be true. In short Paul says, where you find a lie, you will find an idol.
In our fragility and in our sinfulness, we are easily deceived and self-deceived. Rather than face the God of truth, we create gods to sponsor our programs for happiness, security, and acceptance. Doing so, we create a world of comfortable and comforting lies. Paul will push the reader of Romans to see that true happiness, security, and acceptance is placed in the incarnate God, Jesus the Christ. Such trust opens up a world where the Spirit of God leads the faithful through a transformative journey. God’s beloved are no longer slaves to sin, but set free by love to love.