Not Like They Used To

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

“Whatever happened to fire and brimstone?” Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, asked me. “What did you need fire and brimstone for?” I asked him. He said that it was for his daughter’s pastor in Edmonton. It seems that the pastor there was too gentle and comforting for Ed. According to Ed, that preacher needed more thunder and Bible thumping. He spoke as if, Ed was an innocent victim caught in circumstances beyond his control. Ed complained that he would rather be called a sinner than a victim. Ed said, “I have spent the majority of my life enjoying my sinful actions with deliberate satisfaction. They ought to make preachers like they used to, for those guys, made you know you were a sinner, and shouldn’t be proud of it. They knew people like to sin, and cared enough about us to say, stop it.”

I tried to tell Ed that people take offense if you tell them to stop sinning. In the Old Testament, God sent prophets to his people so that they might mend their ways and deeds and obey the will of the Lord for them. When the prophets of the Old Testament spoke, often they were ignored and rejected. If the prophet got on peoples’ nerves, enough, he could receive threats, beatings, imprisonment, stoning, or death.

The prophet Jeremiah acted so that the folks in Jerusalem would not ignore him. He walked through the city stark naked, saying, “God will strip you of all clothing when you are in slavery to the Babylonians unless your ways change.” He also wore a yoke shouting, “You will have a yoke of slavery on your neck unless you repent and change.” Another time he took a large clay pot, lifted it up above his head and shattered it on the stones before him and said, “God will shatter your lives unless you repent and change your ways and walk with God.” What Jeremiah warned the people about came to pass. The nation of Babylonia destroyed the city of Jerusalem, their temple, and many of its inhabitants were taken to be slaves in Babylon.

Jesus knew he would die outside the walls of Jerusalem for he too had upset people enough that his enemies wanted him dead and gone. He sadly said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

God’s plan for us is gentle and kind, but we must be prepared to believe his way is the best way for us. Adam and Eve were not willing to trust God’s love and not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden of Eden. God gently and kindly warns us to trust his word and will for us, but we are not willing. We trust ourselves rather than God. We live as those who can ignore and reject God’s will for us, without consequences. The chick that will not be gathered under its mother’s wing cannot be protected when danger threatens. God wants to hug us safely to himself. Will you receive his hug? He hugs the willing.

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Raymond Maher
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