A Drink from Brooks: The Strength of Withering

sunflowers-1367700-1599x1070.jpg

“David was like a withered flower that had lost all its sap, life, and vigour, when God had wrapped up himself in a cloud. The life of some creatures lieth in the light and warmth of the sun, and so doth the life of the saints lie in the fight and warmth of God’s countenance. And as in an eclipse of the sun there is a drooping in the whole frame of nature, so when God hides his face, gracious souls cannot but droop and languish, and bow down themselves before him. Many insensible creatures, some by opening and shutting, as marigolds and tulips, others by bowing and inclining the head, as the solsequy [sunflower] and mallow-flowers are so sensible of the presence and absence of the sun, that there seems to be such a sympathy between the sun and them that if the sun be gone or clouded, they wrap up themselves, or hang down their heads, as being unwilling to be seen by any eye but his that fills them; and just thus it was with David when God had his his face in a cloud.” —Thomas Brooks, An Ark for all God’s Noahs

Does He Hear? (Jeremiah 10:17–25)

ear-1419024-1599x1066.jpg

I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
Correct me, O LORD, but in justice;
not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not,
and on the peoples that call not on your name,
for they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him and consumed him,
and have laid waste his habitation.
—Jeremiah 10:23–25

The section of Jeremiah running from 8:4–10:25 concludes with a humble petition from Jeremiah wherein he pleads that the Lord have mercy in judgment by judgement. He doesn’t plead to be exempt from correction, but that the correction be according to covenant justice, and not in His anger. He asks that God’s wrath not be aimed at Israel, but at the nations who do not know God.

So it is that this section ends with questions but no answers. Does Yahweh hear this cry? The answer to each petition is found to be emphasized by two following sections in Jeremiah.

Concerning Jeremiah’s plea for correction, unmixed with anger, we go to the section running from chapters 30–33 known as “The Book of Consolation.” Of course, we could look at those famous passages therein concerning the new covenant as the answer to Jeremiah’s petitions, and they are, but there is an earlier portion of the Book of Consolation that is especially pertinent.

“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant. Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you. Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall be plundered, and all who prey on you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’ ” (Jeremiah 30:10–17, emphasis mine).

Jeremiah’s petition is born out of his lament that his wound is grievous (10:19). When Jeremiah laments there, he is speaking as and for the people. In chapter 30 God promises that this wound will be healed and that He will not make and end of them but of the nations.

This passage alone is sufficient to answer both of Jeremiah’s petitions, but there is a whole section that speaks to the second petition just as there is a whole section that speaks to the first. Beginning in chapter 46 and running to the end is a section known as the “Oracle Against the Nations.” In Jeremiah 51:5 we’re given a reason for the destruction of Babylon: “For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.” Israel is not forsaken. Babylon will be judged.

But how can these things be? Jeremiah 30:10–17 was prefaced in this way:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.”

The answer will be made clear in the King God raises up whom they will serve. How can Judah be healed from so grievous a wound? The answer is that their King will be wounded for her.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4–6).

Jeremiah cried out “For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded” (Jeremiah 8:21). Our Lord cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jeremiah suffered with his people; Christ suffered for his people. Know that He too prays for His people, pleading all that He is, and be certain that His prayers are heard.

A Drink from Brooks: Altogether Beautiful

 

ring-1425671.jpg“If God be truly precious to thee, then all of God is precious thee; his name is precious to thee, his honour is precious to thee, his ordinances are precious to thee, his Sabbaths are precious to thee, his promises are precious to thee, his precepts are precious to thee, his threatenings are precious to thee, his rebukes are precious to thee, his people are precious to thee, and all his concernments are precious to thee. Look, as every sparkling stone that is set round about a rich diamond is precious in the eyes of the jeweller, so is every sparkling excellency in God precious in his eyes that sets an high value upon God.” —Thomas Brooks, An Ark for All God’s Noahs

A Drop of Special Grace is Greater than an Ocean of Common Grace

drop-on-leaf-1499344.jpg

“Again, That little that a saint hath, he hath it from the special love and favour of God; he hath it from a reconciled God, Prov. 15:17. Now, a little from special love is better than a great deal from a general providence. A penny from a reconciled God is better than a pound from a bountiful God; a shilling from God as a father is a better estate than an hundred from God as a creator. The kiss that a king gave to one in the story, was a greater gift than the golden cup that he gave to another; a little, with the kisses of God’s mouth, is better than all the gold of Ophir, Cant. 1:2. A drop of mercy from special love is better than a sea of mercy from common bounty. Look, as one draught of clear, sweet spring water is more pleasing, satisfying, and delightful to the palate than a sea of brackish salt water, so one draught out of the fountain of special grace is more pleasing, satisfying, and delightful to a gracious soul than a, whole sea of mercy from spring of common grace: and therefore do not wonder when you see a Christian sit down contented with a little.” —Thomas Brooks, An Ark for All God’s Noah’s

Reading the News in Wonka’s Factory (Jeremiah 10:1–16)

news-1314709-1598x323.jpg

“Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD:

‘Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good’ ” (Jeremiah 10:1–5).

The Babylon Bee has recently demonstrated the inability of many to read satire. Reality is often so ridiculous that satire is assumed to be fact. Because many don’t see what’s wrong with the king having no pants on, they’re left scratching their noggin as to what the story is about. When you’ve lived in Wonka’s factory all your life, satire is easily mistaken for news.

While some cannot read satire, others question whether we should write it. Satire is thought to be a dirty bomb, off limits to those seeking to wage a just war. Don’t drop any s-bombs; they’re not polite. Evidently such super saints fail to remember Elijah and the showdown with the prophets of Baal when he mocked “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). Douglas Wilsons’ insight is penetrating.

“When Jesus looked on the rich, young ruler and loved him, it is very easy for us to say that we should be loving as He was. When preachers make such applications, no one thinks anything of it. But when Jesus looked on the rich, old rulers and insulted them, why do we tend to assume that this is never, ever to be imitated? It is conceivable that such a division is defensible, but why does it never have to be defended? Some might say (and do say) that we are not Jesus, and so we do not have the wisdom to insult properly. Fine. So why then do we have the wisdom to love properly? Can’t we screw that up too?”

Perhaps the reason we cannot read and do not like satire is often the same. Frequently, the real issue isn’t that we’re loving, save that we too love the idols and we cannot bear to see them shamed.

Can you laugh? Not the whimsical laugh of fools. Can you laugh at the idols as YHWH does at the nations who rebel against Him? Concerning those kings and rulers who seek to break free from the rule of YHWH and His King we are told, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). Can you laugh at the idols of this world and hold them in derision? You may laugh at the idols of others, but can you laugh at the idols you’ve bowed before? It’s easy to laugh at Buddha or Allah, but can you guffaw over the ridiculousness of the idols of sex, politics, leisure, sports, luxury, travel, family, entertainment, success, intellect, nature, fashion, health, diet, exercise and self-righteousness? Read that list again. Real slow. Pause. Contemplate.

If you want to identify your idol, what is that thing, that created thing, that if it were cut off, if it were pushed down before YHWH and put in its place, if it were tossed into the dumpster and lit up, would cause you grief? If you have now swallowed your laugh, then will you pull some nails and push the idol down before the Lord so that you may laugh at its decapitated head (cf 1 Samuel 5:1–4)? 

Many idols are good things that we have made god things. A felled tree makes a horrible idol, but it is great for fire. Can you offer that idol up as a sacrifice unto YHWH? What is your Isaac? If God were to ask you to take it up Mount Carmel and plunge a knife into it and set it aflame unto Him, could you do it? What is that thing you cannot imagine living without? If you can live without your arm, you may keep it, but if you insist you must have it, amputate it, for it is better to have no arm unto Christ than to have two and be plunged into hell forever. Laugh at the things of creation as gods and you may enjoy them seriously as gifts.

A Drink from Brooks: Everywhere Present, Nowhere Contained

“God is the original cause of all greatness. All that greatness that is in any created beings, whether they are angels or men, is from God ; all their greatness is but a beam of his sun, a drop out of his sea, a mite out of his treasury. God is a God of that infinite greatness, that he fills heaven and earth with his presence ; he is everywhere, and yet circumscribed to no place ; he is in all things, and without all things, and above all things, and this speaks out his immensity.” —Thomas Brooks, An Ark for All God’s Noahs

Riddle Me This (Jeremiah 9:12–26)

“Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the LORD spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through?” (Jeremiah 9:12)

object-with-path-1552086-1279x1203.jpgJeremiah propounds two questions as to who could possibly answer a third question. First, who is so wise that he can understand this? Second, to whom has Yahweh spoken that he might reveal it? So what is this? What is it?

Before unveiling the enigma, consider that a short bit after Jeremiah we come to the prophet Daniel, who, because of his Lord, could explain mysteries no other could. When Belshazzar saw the writing on the wall and none of his wise men could interpret it, the king was alarmed, but then the queen explained:

“There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation” (Daniel 5:11–12).

Now, to resume our present mystery. What puzzle is Jeremiah going to set before us?

“Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness so that no one passes through?”

This is not a difficult question. It is an indictment of Judah. These questions are no insult to her intelligence, but her pride. Her inability to answer stems from no deficiency in intellect, but in humility. If you flunk this test, Ephesians 4:18–19 explains why.

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

“The blindness of humanity is so great that people are actually proud of their blindness,” wrote Augustine. Look around at humanity and you will see blindness touted as sight, darkness paraded around as though it were light. It is because of the lies that Judah holds onto in pride that she cannot grasp the truth, for truth can only be held with the hands of humility. The false prophets have told Judah “He will do nothing, no disaster will come upon us” (5:12). They say “Peace, Peace!” when there is no peace (6:14). Judah doesn’t want to let go of these lies because that would mean she would have to turn from her idols. 

The reason she cannot answer this question is because she loves darkness. Judah has fallen for the wrong boy and she can’t admit the relationship is toxic. In Jeremiah 5:31 we are told not only that the prophets prophecy falsely but that the people love to have it so. They love lies because they love darkness. Jesus said, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:19–20).

Their pride is perplexed by God’s humbling them. Their sin is shocked by God’s righteous judgment. Their love of darkness is angry at God’s light. This is why they cannot answer so obvious a question. This is why the world still cannot see the curse all around us? This is why she cries “Why?” in the face of suffering. We act dumfounded because the apple is still in our hands and we want to eat it deceiving ourselves that despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, we will indeed be like God if we just eat a bit more. The love our of idols is proud because the idol we love most is self.

God told Jeremiah that the people would ask this question. “And when your people say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours’ ” (Jeremiah 5:19). The punishment rhymes with the sin, but their sin-muffled ears can’t hear the poetry.

Such is the wisdom of man. It can tell you how pain works, but it is blind to why a thing such as pain is.