Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 11-14
Today’s Reflection: Jeremiah 14:11-12
11) The LORD said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12) Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”
Prayer is essential and central to the Christian experience. We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and even to pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-28), but Jeremiah 14:11-12 is a rare instance: God telling us NOT to pray for someone. This doesn’t sound like the God of mercy, the God of forgiveness, the God of love, does it?
We don’t like to think of God as vengeful. We don’t like to think about God as judgmental. We definitely don’t want to dwell on God’s punishment. But we have to remember God made us free to choose. Free to choose good or evil, right or wrong, virtue or vice. And those who chose evil, wrong and vice, repeatedly, over and over, despite warnings, despite knowing better, well, they can choose themselves out of God’s will for them, they can put themselves out of the reach of God’s provision and protection.They can make prayers to God on their behalf irrelevant and ineffective.
To paraphrase Pastor Rob Bell from his book “Love Wins”, they can have as much hell as they want.
And what can a loving God, who’s bringing heaven to earth, do with people bent on turning earth into hell? They give God no other recourse but vengeance, judgment and punishment. It’s hard to see this as mercy, but those who seek out hell are going to hate eternity in the kingdom of heaven. So for those who choose hell—in all of its forms—this is the end. An end even prayer cannot deliver them from.