Dust 7: Retribution...

Look for someone who acts justly. Look for someone who seeks truth. What do you find? 

JEREMIAH 5:1-9

1   Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look around and take note! Search its squares and see if you can find one person who acts justly and seeks truth — so that I may pardon Jerusalem. 2   Although they say, “As the LORD lives,” yet they swear falsely. 3   O LORD, do your eyes not look for truth? You have struck them, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to turn back.

4   Then I said, “These are only the poor, they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the law of their God. 5   Let me go to the rich and speak to them; surely they know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.” But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.

6   Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them, a wolf from the desert shall destroy them. A leopard is watching against their cities; everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces — because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great.

7   How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of prostitutes. 8   They were well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor’s wife. 9   Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD; and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this?

Truth be told, I don't spend a lot of time reading the Old Testament prophets. I often prefer to stick with the Psalms that bring comfort with flowing prose, the Proverbs that invoke deep thought with terse statements, the Gospel parables that offer a different perspective. But the prophets, now there's some heavy stuff. It's often in books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations that groups like Westboro Baptist Church find evidence for God's "wrath" upon our modern world. And I don't like to give myself chances to hear their claims and ideas as even remotely credible...

Shall I not punish them...

Shall I not bring retribution...

How can I pardon you...

If I'm really honest, when I read a passage like today's, I'm not worried about God's wrath being poured out on nations. I'm worried about it being poured out on me. It makes me think about the ways I've stayed silent in the face of injustice. It wakes me up to my own habits of racism and misogyny. It holds me accountable to the times I walk past a homeless person asking for change without even looking her in the eye. It beckons me to think about capital punishment as humans dying instead of as a philosophical subject to be studied.

I don't like to think about the "angry God of the Old Testament." But I have to. If I am to call myself a follower of Jesus, then I have to accept the parts of Scripture where God gets pissed off and fed up with us, her children. We can only say we don't know any better if we've never been told what better is. But we have been told, and we know: Love God, love neighbor. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

I'm fighting the urge to wrap this up in a nice, neat little bow. It doesn't need to be. Lent isn't about making ourselves comfortable. It's about wrestling with the tough questions: how can I pardon you...

**If you want to follow along with the devotional lectionary I’ll be using for this series, you can find it here via Pittsburgh Theological Seminary**

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photo credit: Theen Moy (via Flickr)