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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Flashing red lights and clanging bells

A warning is designed to give us caution - we are to proceed very slowly, if at all.  When we come across the flashing railroad lights, does the conductor of the train expect to see us stop, or barrel on through?  He expects us the heed the warning lights, slow our car, and await the trains passing.  When do those lights begin to flash?  Is it right when the train is about to cross our path?  Nope, they flash early enough for us to avoid the train's impact!  Warnings help us avoid impact with things which have the capacity of doing irreparable harm in our lives.  The Book of Jeremiah is filled with all kinds of warnings.  Warnings to not pursue “satisfaction” for the sake of satisfaction because it really doesn’t lead to the outcomes we desired.  Warnings about rejecting God for anything else because whenever we give anything (or anyone else) the place in our lives he deserves, we end up serving that thing (or person).  Warnings of sin's effect such as being deprived of the blessings we have in life.  Whenever we see a warning in scripture, it is put there on purpose.  It is designed to "stop" us before we move into a place of irreparable harm in our lives.

“Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. Then take it.  Discover the right route for your souls."  (Jeremiah 6:16 MSG)

Some of the warnings in scripture are really in the form of instruction - to do something specific because our previous actions have placed us in a position of being in a "head-on collision" with the things which will do harm in our lives.  In this sixth chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet is in conversation with God.  As the chapter unfolds, we find God warning the people of Judah to run for their lives - terror is upon them from the forces of the North.  They are about to be taken into captivity by the Babylonian forces.  Here's why God is so concerned:  "My people are broken—shattered!—and they put on Band-Aids, Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’  But things are not ‘just fine’!"  There has been a superficial treatment of sin in their lives - Band-aids of sorts.  This is a warning to take sin seriously - to not cover over it with anything which will hide its seriousness!

When my kids were younger, my son was playing with an sharp box-cutter while I was at work.  He cut his hand quite deeply.  My first clue to the injury was a blood trail into the house as I came home that afternoon.  No children in sight, but blood on the bathroom counter (although they attempted to wipe it up), blood on the carport floor, and a plethora of empty Band-aid wrappers in the trash!  When I finally found them at the neighbor's, not one word was spoken about the injury!  In fact, he did a clever job of hiding it for about another hour.  Hands were in pockets, covered with books and schoolwork, and the occasional one behind the back.  I allowed the charade to continue because they were both still breathing!  When I finally encountered my son about his seeming "lack of use" of his hand, he copped to the plea!  He had been using the knife I had warned him to avoid, cutting himself deeply between two fingers in the fleshy part of his hand.  It was deep!  It needed closure, because the fissure would not heal unless it was brought back together.  Sin is kind of like that cut in my son's hand - it is a fissure of sorts, not able to heal until there is openness about the wound, tender care to avoid its infecting power, and the application of the ointment of the Word to speed its healing.  The plea of God - stop dealing with sin as though it were a superficial thing!  It goes deeper than you might first realize and it needs special care - not just a Band-aid!

God then tells Judah to "look for the old ways".  Why?  They had left the path and he wanted them to know the pathway they needed to return to was never that far out of sight!  We probably only need a little direction to get us back on track!  This is the good news - the bad news is when we don't heed the warnings we are off the path in the first place!  The longer we stay on the wrong path, the farther we will get from recognizing the old path any longer!  The cry of God's heart is for us to recognize when we are going adrift.  Why do we heed the flashing red lights?  Isn't it because we see them?  Blind people don't drive cars - sighted people do!  But just in case you don't see them very well, there are clanging bells, as well.  Even the blind can hear the bells!  So, warnings are really multi-faceted.  They carry a component of seeing and hearing. 

Eyes to see, ears to hear - sound familiar?  Eyes to see the path we have left.  Ears to hear the call of God's voice beckoning us back onto course.  The warnings of God are a call - call's need to be heeded or they are nothing more than noise on the wind.  There is a call to meet with him (returning brings us face to face again).  There is a call to move with him (being on the right path puts us in the flow of what  he is doing).  There is also the call to do warfare with him (because staying the course means we will encounter some forces we might not want to deal with).  As we consider the warnings God gives in our lives, the main thing is to "pay attention" - for no warning is ever intended to be ignored!  It is there for our safety.  Just sayin!