Nothing gets in the way of a good story like the facts. Fishermen, as a rule, understand this maxim. With every retelling, the great catch grows larger, the fight more dramatic. Connoisseurs of fishing stories appreciate this dynamic and treat these tales as the figures of speech they are. Indeed, the context of a narrative is the key to separating fact from fiction – both of which most include. But those who fail to recognize context just ‘don’t get it.’ They are easily recognized. They don’t laugh when others do. Their brows are permanently furrowed, lips pursed and slightly askew.
Outsiders, of course, are excused. And often a self-appointed lore-master takes them aside to explain the ‘context’ more fully. Sometimes we try to clue them in with ‘air quotes.’ But for those who should ‘get it,’ but don’t, there is collective disdain — disdain that does not distinguish between challenged perception or personality. While some genuinely do not understand, others understand perfectly, but look contemptuously on such conversation. These are very different responses, though we rarely distinguish between them. And our use of language reflects this
Words like ‘ignorant’ or ‘dull’ are often applied indiscriminately to those who don’t get it. Even though the word ‘ignorant’ has more to do with an act of will rather than a lack of knowledge. Refusing to know something by ignoring it or refusing to act on what you know is true ignorance. This is quite different from a lack of knowledge.
The Wisdom Literature in the Bible (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) carefully distinguishes between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is what you know. Wisdom, however, is what you do with that you know. Not all who are knowledgeable are wise. The Proverbs describe three categories. The simple, the wise, and the fool.
The simple is without knowledge. The wise is the one who knows what is true and acts accordingly. While the fool is the one who knows what is true and rebels against it. The ancient word for fool is not synonymous with ‘simpleton,’ but rather ‘rebel.’ Foolishness is a matter of the will, not the mind. For this reason, the Proverbs counsel us to treat the fool with discipline, not instruction.
The remnant of Judah had plenty of knowledge regarding the veracity and ferocity of God’s judgement. Yet they refused to act wisely. Their hearts were hardened. Grief over God’s judgement, should have softened them. And, indeed, they appeared repentant when they came to Jeremiah with a pious request in Jeremiah 42.
… all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”Jeremiah 42:1-3
But their piety was only posturing. The wanted the Lord to bless their plan. When the Lord revealed a plan of his own, they rebelled. In their anger and arrogance, they accused Jeremiah of lying, Baruch of conspiracy, and God of impotence. They were rebellious fools, filled with knowledge of God’s works, but without wisdom or spiritual sensitivity to walk in them.
[They] answered Jeremiah: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”Jeremiah 44:16-18
Their dullness to God’s Word and Spirit is shocking. They profess an unqualified commitment to obey all the Lord requires. But refuse to follow through. The words of Isaiah a century before still rang true.
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.Isaiah 29:13
Despite their dramatic experience with God’s judgment, they persisted in unbelief. And while it is easy to judge them for their rebellious folly, how have we acted any differently? We have experienced God’s judgment and grace. But has it made us more spiritually sensitive? Have we learned to pray like the remnant, and mean it? Are we growing in sensitivity to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word? Or are we, like Jesus first disciples, “yet so dull?”
Join us as we examine Jeremiah 42-44 and the dangers of spiritual dullness. 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.