The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
The context for this verse is the relative economic strength enjoyed by Judah, circa 586 B.C. Economically, things were going well. While the Assyrians were a menace, they were placated with taxes. Business wasn't great, but it was okay. Things in general seemed okay. Spiritually, Judah had found their way to what would today be called secularity. Yahweh was essentially forgotten as their God. When it came to integrity, i.e. truth telling, they had forgotten the meaning of the word. When it came to deceit, they were masters of that. Basically, Jeremiah seems to say,
"We've done everything we knew to do. We followed our best practices.
We cultivated the field, sowed the seed,
tended the field and carefully harvested the crop;
and, still, we are not saved."
We looked to the things we knew to do,
We looked to the things we thought we had power over,
the tools in our hands, the imagination of our minds,
the command of sowing and reaping,
We looked to the things we control
or think we control,
to produce what can only be received
from God as a gift ---Salvation.
We took full advantage of the prime time of the year
when opportunities for growth are enhanced,
when the sun is full and the days are long.
When the risk to our livestock is the least
and the opportunity for trade is the best,
when the time of gathering and storing are at their peek.
when the chill is neither in the air or in our bones, and still......we are not saved.
We looked to the works of our hands,
the decisions of our minds,
the strength of our will,
the efforts involved in the spending of our days,
the determination born of long struggles from the past,
assuming all the while that it would be well with our soul,
"And, we are unsaved."
We looked to ourselves and our efforts for both harvest and salvation. Not only salvation from Hell, but from the hell that has been made of God's gift --- His created world --- His sacred order.
An unsaved people, ignorant of the source of all of life, ignorant of the sacred gift of life, will desecrate the sacred, even and maybe especially in the face of their achievement. They will celebrate themselves, go their own way, follow their own deceitful ideas and congratulate themselves on a job well done. A bonus is handed out all around. But, the echo of the prophet Jeremiah chills our soul when he puts these words into the mouth of his achieving people,
".... the harvest has past, the summer has ended, and, we are not saved."
We looked to our various processes to save us. We looked to our systems, we looked to our technique. We looked to our best practices. At the end of the road, we found three things......the spoils of greed, an empty fatigue and the staggering truth that our achievements that excluded God, leave us in the vacuum of loneliness .......at risk, terribly exposed, vulnerable, and unsaved. An unsaved people, a people who willfully cut themselves off from their God are a terrified people.
The terror of being unsaved produces the recycling of past failed efforts, in hopes of generating the desired spirtual result. In other quarters, that is called insanity.
Spiritual insanity ends in captivity.
In our case, we:
1. Increase our belief in the past failed promises offered by the limits of technology. The distraction of starting my car with my cell phone temporarily masks the reality of my empty soul and my general fear of life. The technology that distracts me from the daily uncertainty that has become life lasts only until, as we say, "the new wears off." Then what? We realize again the button we pushed only lead us to a false sense of control. We are still unsaved.
In our case, we:
2. Find our way to more and larger malls, distribution centers and outlets. This creates a better opportunity for the work of our hands to become cash - that becomes debt - that becomes more stuff. And, still we are unsaved. But now, we are not only unsaved, we are also broke. Our burden of fear is increased.
The terror of being unsaved produces a redoubling of efforts in the same
sowing and reaping process, but we expect different results.
*** A bigger, fuller barn is expected to produce a satisfied soul. Wrong.
*** A larger, more productive harvest, sold at ever increasing prices, is expected to produce a secure soul. Wrong.
*** The terror of being unsaved produces an insanity that sends us from one exhausting effort to another. We redouble our investments and become even more exhausted.
………"And, still we are not saved."
For Jeremiah's people, the hope that filled barns and paid taxes would stave off the Assyrians, and later the Babylonians, proved wrong. Hope in their economic capacity and financial potential was an empty hope. Their world was literally destroyed. The hope that an alliance with Egypt would bolster the fighting ranks and provide force enough to intimidate away the onslaught of the Babylonians, proved wrong. Their world was literally destroyed.
The people were hauled away as captives.
Even as their Jerusalem-centered world collapsed, the hope was that Egypt, not God, would show up. They never consulted God on the subject. They were wrong.
Egypt never arrived.
The Judgment of God did....
Later, "By the rivers of Babylon.....", they would sit down and weep. It was too late when they remembered Zion, and the place that the worship of God once held in their lives. They traded the joy of the Lord for the tears of grief. They sowed their fields with their arrogance and reaped the harvest of loss.
Our reasoning, shorn of the presence of God, emptied of the worship of God, and driven by greed, fear, lies, and deceit, leaves us repeating the same mistakes again and again. Without the clarity that God brings, we will spin our last bad decision into the self-deceit of our next empty fantasy. If it didn't work before, we will re-imagine it, and produce another fail and wonder why.
Without God, without the worship of God,
without the gratitude that the worship of God brings,
filled barns will leave us with the gnawing knowledge that
"still we are not saved."
We account for every hour of every day. But, we ceased taking into account, Yahweh. We totaled every bushel of corn, every cup of oil, every shekel and coin, but we ceased giving consideration to Yahweh. We were responsible with all things manageable and tangible, but we found ourselves irritated by the need to worship God......so we didn't.
A full barn and an empty soul leaves us living the words of Jeremiah,
"And, we are unsaved."
Copyright 2012, Curtis Beaird. All rights reserved.
My last article was entitled Sermon or Emotional Massage? A commenter by the name of Michael Hansen replied with commentary that I would like to respond to in this article.
First of all, let me say that we appreciate comments from everyone, whether in agreement or disagreement, positive or negative. So, thank you Michael for your commentary.
Comment by Michael:
Truly I believe that neither one is correct. That doesn't mean I have an answer, but I do know that Christ said "It is finished" To many times Grace eludes the aggressive types. In fact it is non-existent. So the message they put forth is full of anger, and condemnation. "There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" Very simple really. A condemning message is not of the Lord. Period. I tend to think that they are going to be surprised to find themselves among the goats. They beat people with words. and call it love. We are to believe that some formula and much grovelling and begging for forgiveness is the way to Christ. The truth is He weeps over that approach. Just what do you think Christ did on the Cross? Set the captives free. Who were the captives? People held in religious bondage to people who had no idea how the Father worked. Tied people up in law that they themselves could not keep. Christ fulfilled that law and satisfied the wrath of God to those who would believe. All the aggressive types want to do is be Gods hammer to the sheep. If I am forgiven, than I am forgiven, period. Jesus said that it was impossible for man to keep the law, hence the need for Him to do what He did. Why is it that most feel the need to point out the sins of others? and to do it with a 2 x 4 club. Why do you think Jesus pointed out all the sins that would keep one out of heaven? So we all could make another book of law that now includes all the ones we didn't realize were sins? NO NO NO do not be so stupid. To show us just how much in need we were of what it was He was going to accomplish. Which makes His sacrifice ever more rich for those who have the wisdom to see it. No mostly the aggressive ones are babes in the Lord if in the Lord at all. They are nothing more than a clanging symbol. I know this because I once was one. They are modern day Pharisees. The other type are modern day Saducees, and that is about as much time as Christ gave to Saducees too...
Here is my response:
While in Christ there is no condemnation, in life there are consequences. I may be wrong, but I think most of us live with the scars of past bad decisions. While thankfully, by the Grace of God, their debilitating power has been removed as far as the east is from the west, our memories serve us all too well. My question, why take on more pain and live with more scars?
To the man who would say, “I just can’t communicate with my wife." I think it is appropriate to ask, “Who are you communicating with?" As a minister, I have done just that. I had no intention of judging. That power is not mine. I am called to care. In some circumstances, that means raising the thorny question. The silence that followed the question was deafening.
Another friend having marital problems said to me in the checkout line at the grocery store, no less, that she wanted to come for counsel. I had known her since she was a kid. I grinned and asked, "Do you want counsel or permission?"
I see no reason to use the language of grace to avoid the issue. Universalism addresses the pain of guilt and our sense of failure too lightly. The warfare has ended. Salvation is accomplished. Start the party. Then, why am I so depressed and feel guilty all the time?
I see no reason to use the language of scripture to condemn anyone. Fundamentalism addresses the pain of guilt and failure through mental assent to verbal propositions. Get the right answer and you come up with a conditional pardon. Huh?
Neither of those approaches fit my job description. My calling is to face into the hurts of life where grace and the forgiveness of God can do the work of bringing hope and new life.
But, grace and God's forgiveness are most effective in the context of our acknowledged wounds, failures and sins. In the "olden days", as my kids would say, they called it confession. Without that acknowledgment, the conversation misses the possibility of healing and becomes little more than a religious discussion, or worse, a motivational speech. Instead of a moment of hope and change leading to new life in Christ, it becomes a time for intellectual discussion and debate. In other words, boring.
Effective ministry as I see it, grows out of the minister’s own need of grace, his experience with Christ, his engaging the Word, his appreciation for the Church as the Body of Christ, and never out of a sense of the power to judge. I've never seen a minister as a channel of judgment. As I said, that is not my job. But, raising the question, at the appropriate time and in a caring manner, that is the calling.
The model for this style of minister? Jesus Christ. In Mark's Gospel, Jesus asked something on the order of fifty questions. Clearly, they were not of the milk and cookies variety. In the face of a storm that He speaks into calmness, He asked his frightened and somewhat pouty disciples, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"
It's a calling.
Mark 4:40 - 41 (King James Version)
40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Copyright 2012, Curtis Beaird. All rights reserved.