This is part 3 of a series of posts where we’re looking at how the attitudes of the people of ancient Judah prevented them from hearing God’s warnings that could have saved them, as recorded in the book of Jeremiah.
Judah’s downfall continues as the people refuse to respond to Jeremiah’s warning. As we saw in the previous post, Judah was in denial that trouble was coming their way, but eventually, reality became undeniable. Between 605-601 BC Babylon began enslaving citizens of Judah and deporting them to Babylon.
At this point, God gives Jeremiah a new message for the people. The message is that this ordeal will not be over quickly. Don’t bother trying to find a way out. Judah will have to endure the punishment that God is bringing through Babylon. God does promise that the people won’t be wiped out forever, but the bad news is that they’re going to be in exile for 70 years.
So, since the false prophets in Judah can’t deny that there’s a problem anymore, they do the next best thing. They start telling the people that there’s a shortcut around the consequences.
Specifically, there’s a guy named Hananiah who starts telling everyone that things will be back to normal in just a couple of years: “The prophet Hananiah… spoke to me in the Lord’s temple before the priests and all the people. He said: ‘…In two years I will restore to this place all of the temple equipment that Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar carted off to Babylon. I will also restore to this place Judah’s King… along with all the exiles from Judah who were deported to Babylon, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 28:1-4 CEB).
Of course, the promise of a shortcut was completely false. Two years came and went. Hananiah died. But something about the prospect of a shortcut is just irresistible, isn’t it?
Today there are multi-billion-dollar industries built on the promise of a shortcut. The fad diet that will get us out of having to exercise and eat responsibly. The get-rich-quick scheme that will solve all our financial problems.
We try to take shortcuts relationally. We think we can take one epic summer vacation that will make up for all the time we missed with our spouse or our kids the rest of the year.
We do it spiritually. Maybe you’ve been coming to church for a while hoping that if you could make God happy with you it might make some of your problems go away. But the things God wants to do in our lives don’t happen overnight.
God wants transform our lives so that we’re characterized by things like love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. Those things don’t happen because we pray a prayer and get on with life. They’re the result of a lifetime of denying the immediate things we want so that God can replace them with something better. Of asking again and again, “Jesus, how can be more like you? How can I love more like you? How can I sacrifice more so that others can come to know you?”
And there are no shortcuts there… unless you buy my book on spiritual shortcuts for only $9.99. =)
A shortcut promises a destination without a journey. But it seems that for the important things in life, the destination is meaningful because of the journey that led there.
So where are you trying to take shortcuts? Could it be that God wants to speak with you in the very journey you’re trying to bypass?