The Folly of Becoming a Court Jester (Jeremiah 5:20–31)

“Declare this in the house of Jacob;
proclaim it in Judah:

‘Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes, but see not,
who have ears, but hear not.
Do you not fear me? declares the LORD.
Do you not tremble before me?’ ” (Jeremiah 5:20–22a)

Psalm 111:10 tells us “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” If the fear of Yahweh is the starting line, I’m afraid the evangelical church has a handicap that is as deep as the race is long. Her handicap goes further back from the starting line than the race goes forward. She’s deeper in the pit of folly than the mountain of wisdom is tall which she pretends to climb.

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We laugh at the ridiculous studies funded by government elites and mock the idiotic courses often offered at institutions of higher learning, but this is like the court jester laughing at the street clown. Proximity to the truth is no guarantee of intelligence. Having a Bible in hand is not the same as having it in your head and heart.

Once ministers of the gospel were regarded to be among the most learned of society. Though now we are often laughed at, and should expect nothing less from the world, have we ever considered that we too are a joke? Folly abounds both inside and outside the church, unfortunately, we only want to hear the joke about the other guy’s stupidity. Here, God exposes the folly of His people, Judah, but He isn’t laughing, for their folly is no laughing matter. 

It is striking how wise folly can look. One thing the evangelical church has grown “wise” in is in making stupid look smart and making senselessness look like success. She is attracting unbelievers unaware of how unattractive she is becoming to her Husband. She is fat and slick, but there is a famine of the Word. Her vast numbers often testify not for her, but against her. The preachers speak falsely, the pastors rule at their own direction, and the people love to have it so (v. 31). We hide the vacuum of fear with an air of celebration. David Wells soberingly captured the temperature of the American church.

“The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace too ordinary, his judgment too benign, his gospel too easy, and his Christ is too common.”

Saints, do not be desensitized by such senselessness. Do not be fooled by such folly. Fear Yahweh and tremble before Him.

Matthew 10:24-33 & Fight Fear with Fear

Hundreds of miles wide in its swath of destruction you have no hopes of outrunning or outmaneuvering it. It’s as though Jupiter’s red spot were condensed, concentrated, amplified and transported to earth. The rain falls fat and thick; so thick the atmosphere seems an ocean. Breathing is imagined to be an impossible labor in the midst of this storm. That’s assuming you would even be allowed time enough to take a breath. Hail stones the size of boulders fall with such force they are splintering redwoods. Deep purple and wickedly splintering lightning bolts strike repeatedly within mere feet of one another. Families of F5 tornadoes populate the storm liberally, like hordes of Okies fleeing in the midst of the Dust Bowl.

Yet in your blind terror you find an enchanted cave, or rather it is almost as if it found you. There is as it were an invisible barrier that the storm cannot pass. This does not cause you to belittle or mock the storm. You still fear it. It is your dread. But now your fear is mixed with delight. The cave both allows you to reverence the storm more, for now you more fully can observe its glory, and to delight in it more for you can observe all of this in complete safety. Fear has not been eradicated but transformed into that holy love called reverence. One deep mark of this reverence is a rejoicing and delighting in the cave.

This cleft is Christ, and the storm is the glory of God’s holiness. But Jesus has promised that as we identify with Him we will be persecuted. In this cave there is a serpent. He is a wounded serpent. He is a dying serpent. But He is a dangerous serpent, and he has minions. The whole world is under his sway. But you dare not flee the snake to take your chances with the storm, for you know this; the snake could never defeat the the storm, but the storm has already mostly done in the snake, and is sure to finish the job.

If you love the cleft of Jesus, and reverence the storm of God’s holiness you will not be afraid of the serpent’s threats.

[Adapted from an illustration in The Pleasures of God by John Piper]