An Inconvenient Truth (thoughts on Jeremiah 38-39)

There was once a king whose nation was under siege for two years. The capital city in which he lived was experiencing severe famine as a result. The king was desperate and sent for a prophet known to tell true messages from God. The king asked the prophet to tell him the truth about what he should do. The prophet, who had been trying to convince the king for his entire reign to repent of his wrong-doing, told the king frankly, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.” In other words, “King, telling you the truth is going to accomplish absolutely no good and I’m going to lose my life for trying it.” This happened quite frequently in this particular nation’s history. The kings would lead the people in wickedness. God would send prophets to call them to repentance. But the people didn’t want to hear the truth. They wanted to do their own thing. So they would kill or punish the prophets and keep right on doing what they wanted to do.

How often are we guilty of the same attitude and actions? How often do we surround ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear and reject the messages that are in contrast to it? I’m afraid more often than we would like to admit. A nation doesn’t immediately find itself on a false path overnight. It is a gradual shifting. And the message the prophets share seem to require a sudden and significant change. For instance, in our own country, debt has gotten out of control, from an individual level all the way up to our government. Prophets have been telling us for years that we are headed down a dangerous path and we need to change our ways. But we didn’t want to hear that. We willingly listened to the messengers who encouraged us to buy everything we wanted and if we couldn’t afford it all at once, make smaller payments over time. We listened to advertisers tell us we NEEDED everything from a cruise to a cellphone to a credit card (“don’t leave home without it!”) Voices in opposition to our desire for more, more, more were small and silly and we weren’t really that far off course…. were we? Now our country, cities, and homes are being besieged. We are broke. Who do we listen to?

We are also overweight, most of us are now. Obesity is at an all time high. Some people have been telling us for years we need to eat less and move more. But the voices advertising every kind of delicacy imaginable, all in the most convenient forms, have been louder and more appealing to our appetites. And the advertisers also spend millions of dollars working to keep us sitting in front of their advertisements. Each television break is designed to keep you seated in front of the television through the advertisement. Advertisements themselves are entertaining so we will watch them. Oh, you didn’t see them on television? That’s ok. You can catch them on the internet on youtube. The more we sit, the less we want to move. Our health is declining. Who do we listen to?

There are many other examples in our lives. We tend to listen to the voice of popularity over the voice of Truth. The voice of popularity dictates what we wear, who we hang out with, our theology, our values, our activities… all things that would be better guided by the voice of Truth. The voice of Truth comes only from God. But hey, the voice of popularity tells us to question that. How do we know the Bible is God’s word anyway? Why is it so easy to question the voice of Truth, but we rarely question the voice of popularity?

The king in the earlier story vowed to save the prophet’s life (and he did), but he also ignored the prophet’s warning and message (as the prophet expected). He stubbornly refused to change his ways. It was just too hard to change. So, in the end he was captured, made to watch his sons be slaughtered, and then had his eyes gouged out and was bound in chains and led away. Heartbreaking! It didn’t have to be that way. It was the consequence of choosing to listen to the wrong voice.

Some things are true whether we want to believe them or not. Some things are false, no matter how convinced we are of their validity. Just because a message is popular, or everyone is doing it, or it’s how we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s right. God, help me to be willing to listen to the inconvenient truth and then act upon it.

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