[Parent in a Store:] “I’m counting to three!”
[Child:] (feigning deafness) …
[Parent:] Don’t let me get to three! (getting louder) I mean it.”
[Onlookers:] (thinking… “No You don’t”)
We have all played the part of the onlooker – or perhaps the parent or the child. We know how this plays out. The parent gives the impression of parenting without actually doing any parenting. And no one is fooled. Not the onlookers. And certainly, not the child. No one ever really gets to “three.” Cardinally, perhaps, but consequentially, never. The fact that a parent employs this tactic indicates that he or she is in no way prepared to be inconvenienced enough to offer a consequence.
Every child knows that “counting the three” is a disciplinary free pass. And every consistent parent knows that obedience never counts past “one.” The oft-repeated role-play above is just that – role-play. The unwillingness of the child to obey and the unwillingness of the parent to require obedience is paradigmatic. Parenting experts call this “threatening-repeating” parenting. Lots of sound and fury, but no follow-through. We have all seen it — the threatening-repeating parent, warning of a judgement that never comes.
But our heavenly Father paints a very different picture. He is a perfectly consistent parent — no shadow of turning, no promise broken, no threat unrealized. Whatever He promises, He does. For hundreds of years, God sent prophets to warn the children of Israel and Judah of judgement for their sin. Persistently, He called them to repent, but unlike the threatening-repeating parent, God always follows through. Beginning in Jeremiah 39 we see the terrible picture of God’s judgement, a picture that warns us not to presume upon God’s grace.
Peter warns us not to confuse God’s patience with overlooking our sin.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.2 Peter 3:8-10
God always follows through, both in mercy and in judgment. His threats are not idle threats. His call to repent is urgent. The author of Hebrews expresses this urgency.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.Hebrews 3:12-13
And Paul echoes this urgency.
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.2 Corinthians 6:2
God’s judgement against Judah in the days of Jeremiah and Zedekiah is a glimpse of the final judgement we will all face.
Jeremiah 39 stands as a warning against every naïve hope of escaping the judgment to come…. The saddest thing about the final chapter in [King] Zedekiah’s tragic story is that the king could have written a happy ending. Right up until the very end, God gave him every opportunity to repent for his sins. Jeremiah repeatedly went to Zedekiah and pleaded with him to turn to God in faith and repentance. But the king rejected every last entreaty.Phil Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations, From Sorrow to Hope.
Zedekiah, like Pilate, Judas, and the impenitent thief resisted call after call to turn back. Their stories could have been quite different. They did not believe that God would follow through. Like men today, they scoffed at divine justice and condemnation. But what about you? How urgently have you heeded God’s call to turn back to Him? Why are you waiting? Zedekiah was a waffler, always hesitating. Always on the verge of grace, but always procrastinating – turning away from turning to Christ. Until, finally, it was too late. What about you?
Join us as we examine Jeremiah 39-41 and consider the urgency of God’s call to turn back. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.