(Image courtesy of justcoolnweirdstuff.wordpress.com)
When I saw this piece of statement art, I immediately envisioned God asking this question. It sounds very much like something written in the Book of Jeremiah:
“The LORD said to me: Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Although they fast, I do not hear their cry, and although they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I do not accept them; but by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence I consume them” (14:11-12 NRS).
God spoke these words through the prophet, Jeremiah, because the people had strayed from God in order to worship, to “speak,” to other gods. Only when they were in the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent deportation of its rich and powerful did they turn to God for help. God is emphatic that it will not be without punishment for their sins; the people will suffer for their lack of allegiance, their adulterous relationships with foreign gods. Are we much different?
Centuries upon centuries separate us from the actions of the people in Jeremiah, but how often do we neglect our relationship with God only to quickly turn and call God’s name when trouble arises? Are we like those in scripture who only want the good from God, and not God himself? I fear that we make this egregious error in spiritual judgment time and time again. I hear people complain that they called God, but God did not answer. I suspect that God did indeed answer, but that they have lost the ear for hearing God, the eye for seeing God’s hand at work, and the sensation of feeling God in their midst. When we neglect our relationship with God, our senses dull and our spirituality becomes stale. Yet we want to be able to ask for help when we feel the need and expect that God should set aside our infidelity. That’s exactly what it is: infidelity. We are supposed to be people of God, loyal, and full of faithfulness. Yet how often does something else take primary place in our lives? What did you last place before God and worship on a Sunday morning? I see it all the time. Sports, extracurricular activities, social engagements, exhaustion, you name it; they have all been excuses proffered to me. It’s not me or any other pastor that is neglected when you choose not to set aside sacred time to worship and commune with God; it’s God.
How blessed are we that God is willing to forgive! But even in Jeremiah the people had to confront their sin and ask for forgiveness:
“We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD, the iniquity of our ancestors, for we have sinned against you. Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, O LORD our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this” (Jeremiah 14:20-22 NRS).
We abuse the Grace of God and God’s willingness to forgive us when we do not acknowledge our sins and our trespasses against the one who has never trespassed against us. We treat God as a means to our ends, rather than giving honor and glory to the one who ensures that we can have life at all. The answer to the question posed is “no,” God should not listen, but the truth is that God does. Despite our constant and unfailing sinfulness, our disloyalty, and disobedience, God does listen to us and, more than that, God acts on our behalf. God is greater than we are, and it’s time we started acting like we know that.
You would be right in distancing yourself from us;
From turning a deaf ear to our cries when we have neglected you.
We seem to always choose everything else over you,
But you chose us when you died upon the cross.
Then you gave us even more by rising from the dead,
Ensuring that we too shall conquer death.
We are unworthy and inconsiderate,
Yet you love and bless us.
Help us to be more faithful,
Show us how to turn away from worldly things,
And turn back to you.
Your Grace is our greatest treasure.
May we live like we know this to be true.