Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Words of Encouragement

You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. – Jeremiah 12:2

Sacrifice of Praise. Praise is not lip service, but heart service. This 12th chapter of Jeremiah does not reference the word praise and it might seem like a strange place to go in reference to praise. This scripture (the entire book of Jeremiah) has meaning, especially to me. Jeremiah has a complaint he is giving to God in this chapter. Jeremiah is asking God a question about the wicked. He starts this chapter by saying that God is a righteous God, yet his question is about how God judges.

He asks God how do you allow the wicked to prosper and the faithless to live in ease? Here Jeremiah says in this verse that you have planted them, they have taken root and grow. Yet, even with all that the provisions you have given them, they are only giving you lip service. Oh you are on their lips, but you are not the motivating factor behind their actions, which come out of their hearts. He then says, but you know me. You have seen my heart and you know my motivations.

God’s answer, which is quite funny, comes shortly after Jeremiah’s question. It is funny because when I accepted my call to preach, this is the book God sent me to for eight months to speak to me about what he was requiring of me. I too like Jeremiah had a complaint about telling what he gave me to tell, when the wicked only seem to continue to prosper, while I had to deal with the fallout of being obedient. This is God’s answer (starting with verse 5). “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” It took me a moment before I began to laugh. What God’s answer to Jeremiah was, if you are being worn down by those I send you to on foot, what will you do when I send you to those on horses. Or made even simpler, if I send you to these (the people) and you are tired, what happens when I send you to those greater (kings and rulers), those more challenging, and those that will require you to run a stronger race?

What does this have to do with lip service and praise? God was telling Jeremiah this; I see those that give lip service to me. I know those that profess, but do not possess. You, though I am requiring to continue to run where I send you. I require you to do as I say even when your brothers and family may want to destroy you. You, I am requiring to make a sacrifice unto me of yourself, your praise, and your very life.

We today are required to do the same. It is not longer the lone prophet that is required to make the sacrifice for God. It is a requirement of all God’s children. Jesus gave us this ability through his sacrifice of blood and the gifting of the Holy Spirit. I pray for us as we draw closer to Resurrection Sunday, that we take a close look at ourselves. Are we where God has called us to be? Are we making the sacrifice, as he requires it? Let us make sure we are not as Jeremiah said regarding the people of his time, planted (having given ourselves to being God’s people) but only having God on our lips but not in our hearts. Let us be set a blaze for the Lord so that both our lips and our hearts are in union as we offer up praises unto God.