Sunday, April 26, 2009

NOBODY likes bad news, even in tough times

A Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah, in the Sixth century B.C.E., prophesied an unavoidable disaster coming upon Jerusalem and what was left of the divided kingdom of Israel. He began his campaign to wake up the people in his home village, which immediately rejected him. He complained to God of this treatment, saying, I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

Little wonder Jeremiah is called "the weeping prophet." No one would give him the time of day. They saw him as a fool when he told his own people what a mess they were in. Jeremiah remembered that two hundred years earlier, the Assyrians wiped out Israel's northern kingdom. Now he is saying the same fate was coming to Jerusalem and the southern kingdom.

No one likes bad news. It is discouraging to think you are barefoot on a slippery slope. It is disappointing to realize your city walls are no longer strong enough. It is frightening to think that the Babylonian armies were out there in the dark somewhere.

Jerusalem, an ancient city even then, could not accept a prophet who talked of their sin and faithlessness. This is the great City of David. Hard times are coming Jeremiah kept saying. They knew they were the chosen of God, and things would be better if Jeremiah would leave town. This Jeremiah must be a false prophet, otherwise he would not "run us down" before the world.

Because of their pride and arrogance, the people of Jerusalem could not accept the truth. To them, Jeremiah was the problem. He had put a shadow over the land. So they kept a few idols around and didn't go to the temple much. He shouldn't run down our country. If they were not throwing rocks at him, they were laughing at who they considered the village idiot.

This resulted in the people getting their way in the coming destruction. Jeremiah was so outspoken about the doom that was coming, King Zedekiah saw Jeremiah as an outlaw. This traitor should be dealt with. They wanted to live in a land without a discouraging word. Jeremiah was locked up in the King's dungeon. (Somewhat the way President Woodrow Wilson's party treated a rival candidate once.)

Eventually his prison time saved his life. The enemy came and destroyed the city and temple. After his release, he tried to ease the overwhelming pain of those not carried away captive. God still cared for them in their suffering. Not heeding the truth had turned the people into homeless refugees. The people, sitting in their rags in crumbling hovels were not impressed with that word either.

Some finally realized their problem was turning truth into a lie and refusing to take the long hard road to recovery. Without knowing it at the time, they were the last of the once rich Kingdom of Israel. It was annihilated. (An aside: The 1948 re-establishment of Israel, through the U.N., has no connection with the Israel of the Bible.)

There are modern-day prophets insisting America is failing and needs to return to God. Save America from itself. Where were these people when credit card companies re-invented usury? Where were these people when Iraq was invaded on false pretexts? Where were these people when our highest officials turned to torture? Where were these people when suspected terrorists were shipped off to countries for torture? Where were we when people could be arrested and never tried? Where were we amid the outrages of the last decade?

The protests of today's bad government is a bit late and off target. These are difficult times. We don't need to be reminded, but consider how long this fall has been coming. Consider that there has been little oversight by anyone on anything. Making mistakes and misjudgments without learning anything from them. Blaming the present government only covers the real problems. Protest is good when the facts are used. Playing the blame game solved nothing in old Jerusalem and will solve nothing in today's government.

Craig Ferguson on the CBS Late Late Show had a solution: "President Obama is doing too much or he is not doing enough, or he is doing it wrong. It is the new president's time before the firing squad. I think everybody should just calm down. Give Obama four years. See what he can do. Then if he’s a miserable failure, we’ll do what we did with George W. Bush and elect him to a second term."

No comments: