One of the more insidious lies from all of human history is the idea that, if God is with us, we get good things. The counter is that, if God is upset with someone, they always get bad things. The truth is, the favor or disfavor of the Lord is shown far more in eternity than in every day-to-day. King Ahab had a pretty nice kingdom. Job had it pretty rough. But which of them was faithful to the Lord?
As Jeremiah preached against the people of Judah, he had to speak against people who were smug. They assumed that they were fine, because they were experiencing prosperity. But look at how Jeremiah warns them.
12 “You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Every jar shall be filled with wine.” ’ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?’ 13 Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 14 And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.’ ”
The Lord is speaking through Jeremiah, and his warnings will catch the people by surprise. Jeremiah says that these people have lots of wine. They respond by saying they know that, and they assume that this means that they are powerful, strong, successful, perhaps even favored. But then the Lord tells them that the very wine they love, the very thing they think of as the sign of their success, that is going to be the tool that the Lord uses to bring about their destruction.
I wonder how much we have forgotten this lesson. The things that our society thinks are marks of our prosperity, marks of our strength, marks of our enlightenment, so many of those very things can be the instruments of our destruction. We revel in our freedom. We rejoice in our financial prosperity. But we forget the Lord. WE think we need no favor but our own strength. And we will, if we do not turn to the Lord, find that what we rely on will be the very thing that the Lord uses to show his judgment on us.
But even outside of national issues, this can be true in churches. When we think we are strong, when a church gets proud of a program, a building, or a certain number of people, we can find ourselves in trouble. The Lord builds his church. If we start chasing numbers and dollars and praise from the community, we will find that we are no longer seeking what really matters, the favor of the Lord. May we not let, even in the church, our prosperity be the tool that tears us down. May we love the Lord and love one another to his glory and our good.