= Disasters Wrought by God - Jeremiah 45
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Jeremiah 45 - Is God Uprooting Today ?

The following was written just before the people of Israel were taken off into exile:

"This is what [Yahweh] says,
'I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land.
Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.
For I will bring disaster on all people,' declares [Yahweh],
but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life."
Jeremiah 45. [Note 1]

It was a message for the prophet Jeremiah's scribe, Baruch, who was complaining that conditions were too tough for him. [Note 2]

This message to Baruch might also be a message to us. It refers to the Living God uprooting his own people and sending them off into exile. That he uprooted what he himself has planted sounds very serious. Is a similar thing happening today? Certainly, conditions seem to be getting tough, in both the rich North and the 'developing' South.

Contents:

1. God Uprooting What He Planted ?

In some earlier disasters wrought by God God overthrew what humanity had built up. In the Flood of Noah, God overthrew the evil and wickedness of humankind, in mixing up the languages at the Tower of Babel, God overthrew the proud independence and disobedience of technological humankind, and in the humiliation of Egypt, God overthrew a regime of cruelty, injustice and oppression [Note 3]. Now, in the exile of his own people, Israel, God is overthrowing what he himself has built up. Is that not serious?

Why should Yahweh uproot what he himself had planted - his own people and the temple they had built for him? In those times, each nation had its own deity, which was supposed to protect its people, so there was a risk that Yahweh would be held in contempt as an impotent deity by the surrounding peoples. So there had to be an extraordinarily good reason.

It was because those who were supposed to represent him had repeatedly reneged on doing so?

2. Reneging on Representing the Living God

From various passages in Scripture [Note 4], it is clear that God's people were supposed to represent him in the world, among the other peoples. As 'A New View' points out, representing God is a serious privilege and responsibility. It involves four things:

The people of Israel reneged on each one of these, especially the first, second and fourth. Instead of showing what the God is like (relational, frugal, fun, just, self-giving, faithful - like a good Father, as Jesus understood) they became hostile, wasteful, unjust, selfish and unfaithful. Instead of modelling how the God intended humanity to operate (with respect, economy, delight, justice, love and purity), they continuously turned towards the deities of the nations around to be governed by them, with injustice, self-seeking and impurity. Instead of working with the God to heal and bless the world, they pursued their own interests in the world, as dictated by how the world understood 'interests'.

We need to take a long-term view. Such reneging on their fourfold mandate was not sudden, but occurred gradually over centuries. A people's deepest beliefs, aspirations, attitudes and ways of living develop slowly and deeply, affecting all their lives. Yahweh God kept on blessing them, wooing them, teaching them, warning them, disciplining them, saving them, forgiving them, for hundreds of years, but in the end it was demonstrated publicly that even a special people could not (because they would not) fulfil his mandate in their own unregenerate state.

However, Yahweh was not just getting rid of his failed people; he had a longer-term plan, in which his people, humbled, would be part of a plan that He Himself would instigate four hundred years later: a mechanism to change the human heart in all peoples. This mechanism? He Himself entered his creation as a human being, Jesus the Messiah, died, rose again (defeating death), so that human beings could be Forgiven, cleansed inside and then his Holy Spirit would dwell inside us. Then all peoples had a chance to become His special people, and a way to fulfil Yahweh God's fourfold mandate in his world.

Today?

To see whether Yahweh God might today be overthrowing what He has "built up", we must look long-term [Note 5]. What has Yahweh God "built up" over the past four of five centuries today? 500 years ago, His Good News of salvation by faith in Christ's work became widespread in Europe, through Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and others, and many European countries prospered economically, in knowledge, philosophy and vision as a result. 250 years ago, the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield reached many downtrodden people with the Good News that they were individually important to the God, who had died for them and would save them and clean them up, and the United Kingdom flourished politically, technologically and economically as a result. 150 years ago, many in America turned to Christ in a similar way, setting the foundation for the USA to become the major nation in the late twentieth century. As we have seen, the Proverb is true: "It is righteousness [justice] that exalts a nation."

If this is so, then the recent economic, political and knowledge prosperity of the North may be seen as a result of what Yahweh God "built up". It is a prosperity that is currently led by the USA, and is intended by Yahweh God to bless his world. The blessing includes things like bias to the poor, one day's rest per week for everyone, the basic equality of all people, universal education (John Knox), care of children, care of the sick and mentally ill, dignity for all, abolition of slavery, and so on - and even the much-despised so-called Protestant Work Ethic. God's people - those who have been saved by Christ and are purified and led by the Holy Spirit - are the foundation and centre of this, even though the rest of the world might not recognise it [Note 6]. God's people have a fourfold mandate in this world:

How are we getting on today with this? Especially, those called Christians in the USA, since they are the most recent of the three peoples who have been 'built up' by God.

Mandate How We Do From Bible Our judgement
To show what the One True God is like? There is a difference between what is spoken and what is shown.
  • Evangelical wing speaks "God saves by his grace" but shows: "God is a rule-imposer."
  • Charismatic wing speaks "God is love" but shows: "God is a self-centred worship-seeker."
  • Pentecostal wing speaks "God empowers and prospers" but shows: "God pampers his favourites."
  • Liberal wing speaks "God welcomes thinking" but shows: "God is meaningless, largely an extension of what Western liberal humanity happens to want at this time."

  • "It is by grace you are saved ... created in Christ Jesus for good works" [Eph 2:8-10] Note that 'good works' are exciting positive proactive creative things, not defined by rules.
  • "God so loved the world that he gave ..." [John 3:16] Notice 'world', not just 'you, me and other humans'.
  • "the Lord disciplines those he loves ... a harvest of righteousness and peace ... therefore, strengthen ..." [Heb 12:6-12] God's special people have special responsibility, power and joy.
  • God's ways are higher than our ways, and arrogant choice of way ends in death [Prov 14:12].
We have reneged on our responsibility to show what the True God is like.
To model how the God intended humanity to operate in the world? The model we give is:
  • Disdain the rest of Creation.
  • Make money the measure of all things; governments and other leaders in society give GDP-measured economics absolute priority.
  • Depend on military might, justified by fear rather than trust in the God.
  • Science / reason as the route to knowledge and truth.
  • Elevate the individual in economics and sexuality.
  • Ourselves and families first.
  • Separate spiritual from secular (see Sacred Secular Divide).
  • Justify these things in the way the Pharisees did: find individual verses in the Bible that seem to support or even 'require' this.

  • Shepherd the rest of Creation with love (Genesis 1:26-8; see A New View)
  • We cannot serve God and Mammon.
  • Fear not, the LORD will fight for you.
  • Wisdom (taking every aspect into account, respecting tacit and intuitive knowledge, with humility)
  • Individual and social in context of the God's law.
  • Seek not our own things, but the things of others
  • All things complete in Christ; the God despises religious ritual when there is no jusstice.
  • Consider the whole of Scripture, let it correct us.
We have reneged on modelling how to operate in God's world.
To invite and welcome people who wanted to join with the One True God? We put up barriers to those who would come, requiring them to first accept certain things we have deemed important in our interpretation of God's Word. All peoples will come to him [Psalms 96-98] We have reneged on our role of inviting and welcoming all.
To work with the God in his world for the healing and blessing of his world? We pursue our own interests, as defined for us by ungodly worldviews.
Some actively and aggressively resist and deny our responsibility for climate change.
We give our own convenience and comforts absolute priority over our responsibility to the rest of Creation ('the environment').
Many in USA even actively resist responsibility to the rest of creation.
"I do not do my own will, but the will of him who sent me"
"to destroy those who destroy the earth" [Rev 11:18]
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his rightness, and all these things shall be added to you" [Matt 6:33]
"Do not harden your hearts" [Heb 3:7-19]
We have reneged on our joyful role of working with God in and for his world.

In view of this, has not Western culture, especially USA culture, completely reneged on the responsibility that the Living God gave it the privilege to bear for a season? Would it be surprising if the God, who once before uprooted what he had earlier planted, uprooted what he has planted, namely Western (especially American) culture?

I wonder: This page was written before Donald Trump came on the scene; could his presidency be part of God's uprooting?

What is the Result?

Almost all that we enjoy in modern Western / Northern life can be traced to God's planting in Europe, UK and USA. Economic prosperity, technological prowess, scientific advance, good education, just government, military peace, and so on See Note 7]. Picture these as branches, leaves, blossoms, fruit that all stem from the root. Then when the root dies, these wither. The following table shows how each is enriched when God's people fulfil their fourfold mandate, and also what happens when they renege on it.

Sphere of society Rooted in God's way Distorted
Scientific advance We see the natural, mental, linguistic, social and other worlds as part of God's good creation means that we do not treat them as Divine nor as mundane, but as wonderful, and worth studying. We see science as a way to gain a knowledge-advantage over others.
Technological prowess Living God's way means we escape from self-centred vaunting and competition the stultifies and distorts technological progress, to take delight in the potential God has woven into his creation. Technological development is creative, challenging fun, but requires an appropriate attitude towards creational potential, seeing it neither as Divine nor as mundane, but as valuable because the God designed it. We see technology as a tool to compete over others, or as a mere generator of products to boost GDP.
Good education In Scotland at the Reformation, universal education was instituted for the specific reason that everyone is made in the image of God, and hence worth educating ("Where there is a church there should be a school"). As a result, Scottish education became world-famous for a long time. Education becomes merely a tool with which to train humans as tools of the firm or the state.
Economic prosperity Living God's way means not wasting things, respecting all, and empowering all kinds and conditions of people so they can contribute to God's mandate. We squander and destroy anything that we think we can afford, especially the natural world and planet. We reduce prosperity to money, which becomes fake. We rob others by casino devices.
Just government If we see ourselves as responsible to God, who is just, we organise government towards justice rather than for our own ends or glory. Government becomes self-centred empire-building.
Military peace If we take Christ's attitude we are always generous to others, preferring their needs over our own, so conflicts are continually defused. Conflicts are no longer defused, but built up with hubris, cowardice and refusal to forgive.

The sad thing is that those who bear the Name of Christ go along with this; indeed some are at the forefront of it. Just as Judah was worse than Sodom, so the USA is worse than godless nations - because of "affluence, arrogance and unconcern for the poor" [Ezekiel 16:49].

If you believe that God is ultimately in control, then look at what was hit in 9/11: the foremost symbol of world trade that destroys millions of lives, and the foremost symbol of arrogant, self-righteous military might. (The symbol of good government, the White House, was not hit, even though it was targetted.) See 'Trying to Gain God's Perspective on 9/11 (September 11th 2001) for more.

Billy Graham once said, "If God doesn't judge America, he'll have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah". Graham was perhaps a bit premature, seeing only sexual and hedonistic sin, but perhaps he was right in principle. Now there is much more sin. It is largely the USA that "destroys the earth" [Rev 11:18]. Maybe now the time has come when "the sin of the [USA< UK, Europe] has reached full measure" [Genesis 15:16].

If so, then we can expect God to uproot what he planted.

So What Should We Do?

If he does uproot what he has planted in Europe, UK and USA, all these blessings to the world will wither. Maybe not overnight, but gradually and certainly. Economy will collapse. Science will slow. Technological progress will become self-serving triviality. Education will become worthless. Government will become impotent. Peace will vanish. So how do we, who are God's people, live in view of this?

Jeremiah 45 gives a first answer to this, from which we might get two principles [Note 8]:

The Book of Revelation gives a picture of humankind fainting with fear, but urges God's people to hold their heads high. How these principles apply might differ between the rich North and the 'developing' South. Maybe it is time for three passages of Scripture to become true in a new say:

In the Rich North

It might seem that principle 1 is more important than principle 2 for the Rich North, but in fact both are important. What is written here is for those who believe themselves to be God's people.

Principle 1: We already possess "great things" - reputation, economic prosperity, material comfort, high employment rates, convenience, leisure time, stable government, and so on. But are we discontent with what we have, always wanting more? Does not Romans 1 point out, that if we don't "thank God", a slow slide of deterioration begins, and eventually God "gives us up"? So Christians have always tried to thank God ("Count your blessings ...") - but is this only when we think about doing so? Deeper than this, what attitude and aspirations do we have? Do we allows ourselves to always be wanting more? Are we still seeking "great things" for ourselves, on top of the many that we already enjoy?

God's people should recognise that all these "good things of life" to which we have become used, though intended by God, are not a right but a gift.

No longer:

expect your delectable food, seek your titillating entertainment, gather to yourself an aesthetic lifestyle, grab the latest, most stylish technology, think you have a right to convenience and comfort, plan for your exciting or relaxing holidays, think you have a right to the best cars or computers, put yourself or your career or family before others.
It is because of our seeking these "great things" (as the world counts them great, aspirational) that the world, which the God loves (Rev 11:18; John 3:16) is destroyed.

Instead:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" [Matthew 6:33], and "Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream" [Amos 5:24], "Be content with such things as you have" [], "What does [Yahweh] require of you, but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." [Micah 6:8]

James understood this when he wrote his tirade against the rich in James 5:1-6. If God can uproot what he has planted, he can remove these "great things" from us - those things that are made possible because of the goodness of his creation and the introduction of his gospel - and "give it to another more worthy".

Should not those who are God's people take the lead in repentance and self-giving? Should we not rejoice in the uprooting of the diseased root, because uprooting brings us all to our senses in God's world?

This is where Principle 2 comes in. Do we fear to repent and give up seeking "great things" for ourselves? Do we fear that if we don't surround ourselves with protection they appear to offer, then we will be destroyed (mentally, physically, socially, politically)? Be comforted, because if we are God's people, he assures us that we will at least "escape with our lives" wherever we go. Principle 2 gives us courage and comfort to repent of seeking "great things" for ourselves. [See Note 9.]

The 'Developing' South

The humble are exalted. The hungry filled with good things. Let it happen! Amen! It might seem that principle 2 is more important than principle 1, but in fact both are important.

Principle 2: Where the gospel of Christ has touched people in 'developing' South, the gospel of prosperity has swept though on its tail. Sometimes this is well-founded, in the promises of the Living God to his people. At the very least God has shown his faithfulness to his people in the 'developing' South. Has he, or has he not, kept those who have trusted him? Has he not at least let them "escape with their lives"? [Note 10] God is faithful to his people, and loves all people, though he might not give us all we might wish for.

Principle 1: But here is the rub. When we are poor, we look to our Father to provide for us, and are thankful when he does. We are glad of even the smallest things. But when we become slightly more 'comfortable' in regard to our resources, do our hearts drift away from our Father in Heaven? Do we thank him slightly less often - even though more resources urge us to thank him more? Do we begin to apply our mental effort and attention to securing these resources, and then to increasing them?

We know that "the cares and pleasures of this life" choke the growth of the seed of God's Word, so it no longer bears much fruit. Yet we don't realise how far we have drifted, because we continue to compare ourselves with those richer (better-resourced) than we are. We become more and more aware of what we think we lack, rather than what we have. Of course, we do it for our families, quoting I Tim. 5:8 to ourselves! But how are we in God's eyes?

Jeremiah 45 warns us not to seek "great things" for ourselves, especially in eras when he is uprooting what he has planted.

The problem is that what we deem to be "great", i.e. aspirational, is what the Rich North has told us is "great". It is not what Yahweh God holds to be truly great.

In this, we are locking ourselves into the system that Yahweh God is uprooting. Do we want to be locked into this destruction?

It may be that American preachers point to the glorious past of their versions of Christianity and promise God's blessing on those who follow them. But is Yahweh God uprooting them? All we hope for will collapse, and we will miss the blessing that is in line for us.

So, God's Word perhaps needs to be planted afresh in the 'developing' South. Maybe people in the 'developing' South need to find their own way in God, without aspiring to the things of the Rich North. The Living God is the one who "owns the cattle on a thousand hills" - and in many parts of Africa, cattle are wealth. So we need to look to Him and not the Rich North to tell us what is 'great' and what to seek. It is exactly the same as the message to the Rich North:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" [Matthew 6:33], and "Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream" [Amos 5:24], "Be content with such things as you have" [], "What does [Yahweh] require of you, but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." [Micah 6:8]

Let each people work out for itself how the way of Christ is to be manifested. Those who are God's people should work out humbly and yet with courage the way of God for their society, and not aspire to what God is currently uprooting in the rich North of USA, UK and Europe. Do not rely on Northern resources nor economic theories to accomplish God's plan. Those will only hinder you. Do not see as 'development' what the rich North has told you is 'development' for the last fifty years; much of it is false. (That is why I place 'developing' in quotes.)

Nigeria, for example, should not trust its oil, but its faith. But it should purify its faith. Its faith is in danger of becoming like the North's: an elevation of the 'sacred' over the 'secular'. Instead, all aspects of life should be brought out into the open and let the light of Christ shine on all. Let those in the rich south of Nigeria not be arrogant nor try to grab for themselves what the USA, UK and Europe says are riches. Instead, the rich south of Nigeria should give and give to the poorer north of Nigeria in generosity and love and justice. Those in Nigeria who are truly God's people should take on themselves the attitude of Christ, who did not grab but let himself become a servant for all.

That's all. God's way is wisdom, and it is "first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow peace raise a harvest of righteousness." [James 3:17-18]. Remember, "It is righteousness that exalts a nation." Amen!


Notes

Note 1. NIV version. I have replaced the NIV's use of 'the LORD' by the personal Name of the One true God, Yahweh, because that is what the Hebrew language has, and I believe the personal Name of the One God is important.

Note 2. What was Baruch complaining about? "Woe to me! {Yahweh} has added sorrow to my pain, I am worn out with groaning and find no rest." Stephen McGibbon drew my attention to what a Targum says and to Gill's comment on that in his Exposition of the Entire Bible.

Stephen reports that a Targum suggests this might be "and I found not prophecy", and the Jewish commentators, as Jarchi, Kimchi, Abarbinel, and Abendana, from the ancient Midrashes, interpret this grief of Baruch to be on account of his not having the gift of prophecy bestowed on him, which he expected by being a servant of the prophet {o}; and represent him as saying, Joshua ministered to Moses, and the Holy Spirit dwelled upon him; Elisha ministered to Elijah, and the Holy Spirit rested upon him; how different am I from all the disciples of the prophets! "woe is me now!" &c.

Gill, in enlarging on how Baruch might have felt, shows that Baruch had enough sorrow even without thwarted personal ambition: "the trouble of his office, as secretary to the prophet; the reproach east upon him by the people for it; the grievous things contained in the prophecies he transcribed, concerning the ruin of his people and nation; the king's displeasure at the roll, and his burning it; to which was added the danger he was exposed unto for writing it; and especially, as he might apprehend, for writing it over again, after it was burnt; to which were annexed new threatenings, and such as personally concerned the king; ... he sighed and groaned at what he saw coming upon his country, and particularly upon himself; ... amidst his sighs and groans, he prayed to the Lord, and laboured in prayer, that he might be delivered from the evils he feared were coming upon him ... no cessation of that; no serenity and composure of mind; no answer of prayer from God."

Stephen, concludes that "Baruch is lamenting his lack of ability to help and to change things (in this case the gift of prophecy). In this light the chapter brings great consolation - things are according to God's plan, and he [Gill] gently rebukes Targum for lamenting that he isn't, as he sees it, a bigger or more important cog. Nevertheless, he is a cog in God's plan which is Glorious. I think the rebuke is as much for not understanding the Glory of his natural place [in God's Plan] as it is for being motivated by personal ambition."

I think these are useful insights to help us understand the situation and 'get into the shoes of' Baruch. However, the main point of this webpage is not this, but that God has a Plan which, as Stephen adroitly points out, is "Glorious" even if seemingly painful on a macro scale. This webpage is about suggesting that perhaps something similar is occurring today with the downfall of the West and especially the United States of America.

Note 3. Scriptures. Genesis 6-9 for the flood, which wiped out all humankind and land animals. Genesis 11 for Tower of Babel, where a large section of humanity came together to make a name for itself by building a tower so that they would not be scattered over the earth, in direct disobedience to God's command to humanity to spread out over all the earth to bless it in his Name (Genesis 1:26-28). Exodus 7-12 for destruction of Egypt's economic and military prowess, which resounded down the following centuries. It may be instructive to see the similarities and differences between these events, by looking at which aspect of human and other life is being affected: In the Flood, the biotic aspect of life functions was targetted; in the Tower of Babel, the lingual aspect was targetted; in the Exodus from Egypt, the economic aspect was targetted.

Note 4. Scriptures that explain why Yahweh God sent his people into exile include:

Note 5. Danger in looking at today in a long-term context is that we elevate aspects of today's life that we see as important (such as technology or sexuality), and see history in terms of those aspects. We need to see it in God's terms. Reference to God's creational mandate to humanity in Genesis 1 and his fourfold mandate to his people helps us do this.

Note 6. Role of God's people. This does not mean that only God's people enact these things. Rather, God's people are like salt and light [Matthew 5], so that all people can enact these things. So the various aspects of prosperity are developed by all kinds of people, including some who are hostile to the One True God, yet what they do and achieve is because of Him. It is Yahweh God who has built this up, not humanity by itself. See A New View for a theological understanding of this.

Note 7. Etc. Think of other spheres of life and treat them in a similar way as I am treating them here and in the table that follows. You can easily see similar principles operating. The ones I have selected represent some of Dooyeweerd's law-spheres. Others like the biotic, sensory and faith spheres can be considered in the same way.

Note 8. Generalisation. These were spoken to one person, Baruch, in one situation, when he complained that things were hard, and God was uprooting what he had planted. Are we right to generalise them into principles that apply to us, and if so, under what conditions may we do this? You, the reader, must judge that in your own heart and mind. However, I offer the following thoughts.

Note 9. Draft: What about the unemployed in the Rich North? Increasing numbers of of my friends and colleagues cannot find work, and therefore income. I look like getting the sack soon due to cut-backs. Am I not being callous towards such people? Well, let us think what happened in the West over the past 50 years. North America, Britain and Europe have enjoyed growing GDP economies, which gave us the feeling that if we, as nations or as people, wanted something, we could obtain it - more convenience, jobs, pleasures, road use, public services, electric power, and so on - ignoring that others were paying for it. Debts gradually increased. We got to expect an ever increasing material standard of living. We got used to the idea that if we lost one job we could step into another fairly quickly. But it was unsustainable. What we call 'recession': is it not just a correction back towards sustainability? With fewer services and good being provided, there are fewer jobs available. So those who are unemployed might stay so longer. Maybe we are being shaken out by God. Those who are God's people might rely on Principle 2. Even though we don't have the kind of 'good' job we used to expect, at least we will escape with out lives. And our unemployment rate is miniscule compared with that in the poorer countries. That is why it is heinous that, on 6 May 2012, voters in Greece and France made a 'punishment vote' against those politicians who were trying to plan with responsibility, and voted in favour of irresponsible politicians who promised them to end 'austerity' and promote growth.

Note 10. God's keeping. In Nigeria, for example, many indigenous churches preach what rich Christians in the North disdain as a 'prosperity gospel' - that if we believe then God will give us prosperity. The proponents of this claim many successes, but are many left not just in poverty but in disappointed poverty? Obviously, each side can find individual examples to make their case, but as far as I know, no good statistics are available - which is what we need. (Come on, somebody, in the field of sociology: here is a good PhD for you!) Danny McKain was once critical of prosperity teaching in Nigeria, but he has come to understand it better. See his Lausanne article.


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About This Page

Offered to God as on-going work, this page is designed to stimulate discussion on various topics, as part of Andrew Basden's pages that open up various things from one of the Christian perspectives. Contact details.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all the dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 14 March 2012. Last updated: 20 March 2012. 7 May 2012 Some results of God's building in the West. 7 May 2012 new Note on unmeployment. 8 July 2015 new .end. 18 February 2017 on Baruch's sorrow, Note 2; Trump. 20 February 2017 request dashes