TODAY’S READING: Jeremiah 38–40; Psalms 74, 79
Sometimes surrender is the brave thing to do. Jeremiah told Zedekiah and Judah to give up, to yield to the Chaldeans, and for his pains was thrown in the pit. Sinking down into the miry clay, Jeremiah was rescued by Ebed-Melech, a Sudanese whose name means “Slave of the King.” The Bible always has international scope in its riveting suspense. Zedekiah approached Jeremiah privately and Jeremiah told him: If you surrender to the king of Babylon, you will live, so please, obey me and it will go well with you; but if you refuse to surrender, this is the word the Lord has shown me (38:17, 20–21). It was as unthinkable then as it is now that God’s will for us could be to give up and give in to an ungodly enemy of another culture, race, and polity. But what if the only hope for one last great awakening in America is if we yield to God’s purposes for this nation, though He use another national power to humble us? Can what seems treasonous be our only hope? Soberly, this is what happened to both Israel and Judah 2,600 years ago. Practically, if we are going to escape the last resort of exile, we must make some minimal surrenders:
We must surrender our nationalism. Jeremiah had to come to terms with the evilness of his nation and the necessity of judgment if anything good from the land was to survive. It’s not an easy understanding for those of us who love our nation to reach. The flag we publicly display symbolizes a nation that by law has authorized abortion and homosexual marriage. Perhaps a first step to revival in America sadly includes removing the American flag from our churches as we weep in anguish, confessing the brutal reality of a flag that now represents wicked alongside good. Perhaps we should fly it in places that represent the people, but not in places that represent God. If these lines anger you, that emotion ironically proves that nationalism trumps holiness. Perhaps revival will tarry until we broadly confess we are not a pure nation and not morally better than other nations.
We must surrender our ethnocentrism. Just as an African (Ebed-Melech) rescued a Semite (Jeremiah), we must surrender the right for our own kind to lead us spiritually. We must surrender the idea that we can be revived by God before we are reconciled across the races. There will be no revival in America until our blackness, whiteness, Latino-ness, and all racial whatever-ness are crucified.
We must surrender our familism. Perhaps the most cherished and insidious idol we cling to is family. The family as God ordained it is holy, but the family as an excuse not to go into missions, not to proclaim the gospel to the unreached, that use of family is evil. Perhaps awakening in America and beyond will tarry until we willingly surrender our idea of family to the Father. He sent His only Son to die. Perhaps until we willingly send our sons and daughters to die for the salvation of unreached peoples, God will not send again His Son to revive us.