A Different Kind of Marathon

“We have sinned against the Lord.  We waited for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror!”

As I read them today, these verses from Jeremiah 8:14-15 jumped out at me.  In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, I found myself contemplating parallels between Israel at the end of the 6th century B.C. and America at the start of the 21st century A.D.

While it is sometimes dangerous to draw straight-line relationships between situations we encounter in the Bible and those we face in contemporary life, some parallels appear to be more direct than others.

In Jeremiah, context tells us that Israel was being judged by God because they had forsaken a clearly covenantal relationship between them and God.  America has no clearly similar divine calling and relationship, but the moral atrocities described in Israel are strikingly parallel to those of modern America.  Listen, for example, to Jeremiah 5:27-29: “They have become great and rich.  They are fat, they are sleek, they also excel in deeds of wickedness; they do not plead the cause of the fatherless, that they may prosper; and they do not defend the rights of the poor.  ‘Shall I not punish these people?’ declares the Lord, ‘On a nation such as this shall I not avenge Myself?’”

We cannot say with any confidence that the bombings in Boston are from the hand of a holy God as a direct result of national sin.  But what we can observe is that when divine judgment came upon the Israelites, their downfall was not ultimately a result of the conquest of an enemy from without.  That conquest was, much like completion of a marathon, the culmination of many decisions, big and small, made long before.

Thus, Israel had already become her own worst enemy from within.  As Jeremiah 8:15 suggests, Israel longed for peace and healing but persisted in forsaking and ignoring God, the only source of both.

In our own time, do we not also long for anything less than true peace and deep healing?  But apart from sincere repentance and reconciliation with the God of peace and ultimate Healer we, too, have become our own worst enemies. 

It is for this reason we Christians are called to run a different kind of marathon; a race of eternal importance.  We must “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and . . . run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” that we might please Him, follow Him, and make His name glorious.  For He—and He alone—is the light of the world and hope of nations.

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3 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Marathon

  1. Tim

    What about the Texas town that blew up yesterday? Do you suppose those people were worse sinners than others?
    If the Boston Marathon bombs were a judgement in any sense, it seems God’s aim is lousy.

    Reply
  2. lewinkler

    I believe you’ve missed some of the point I was trying to make, but as I look back over this post, I suppose it was not carefully worded enough and written and published too hastily. Perhaps I will take it down for it’s lack of clarity, but before I do, let me attempt to respond briefly to your astute observation.

    First, I specifically did NOT say that the bombings were a judgment on America in general or those who were injured and killed in particular. I was merely pointing out why Old Testament Israel was judged for their unfaithfulness to God, given the covenantal structure of the relationship they had with God, something, as I noted, America does not have. As such, and I quote, “We cannot say with any confidence that the bombings in Boston are from the hand of a holy God as a direct result of national sin.” Perhaps I did not state this definitively enough. I was trying to speak kindly against those who assume that it somehow is or was. And as I continued in the post, Israel was judged by conquest only after a long period of forsaking God. But even in the midst of their unfaithfulness, God was called them back to repentance and holiness, to be restored to a right relationship with Him. I see now that did not say that clearly or overtly enough.

    Similarly, Jesus’ point in Luke 13 (the passage where you seemed to have assumed a sort of direct-line relationship between these two events and the two described there) is that repentance–a turning from evil–is what matters, NOT a clear discernment of the exact reasons WHY some people died and others did not. What I was trying to suggest (apparently unsuccessfully) is that while everyone wants peace and healing, if we continue to reject, by our actions and attitudes, God, who is the only true and lasting source of both, we will never come to truly experience them, but instead experience divine judgment. Without that turning to Him, we are all doomed to suffer divine judgment in one way or another, whether sooner or later. But this latter sentence was merely implied and not stated, thus I think there was some confusion and disagreement with what I appeared to be saying on the part of several readers. In short, you were not alone in your critique of my poorly worded reflections here. There were others who saw the same flaws that you saw.

    I ended with an encouragement to believers to keep running the race God has called them to run and to stay connected to the only source of peace and healing so that we might offer that peace and healing to others through our Lord Jesus Christ. That encouragement remains no matter what happens in the US or anywhere else around the world, and no matter how poorly written my post might have been.

    You are a blessing, Tim. Thanks for the helpful challenge!

    Reply
  3. Tim

    That is a good clarification. I guess it is impossible to say that God isn’t judging any victim of disaster or hatred, but I think we should assume He isn’t unless there is a prophetic word that specifies that He indeed is in a particular case. It is more often the case that the wicked prosper and have trouble- free lives – which is an observation and complaint of the psalmist (ps. 73). You had left me wondering where you actually stood on the issue. The words “parallel” and “punishment” and “divine judgement” hit a sensitive spot for me.

    Since this is your blog and you must speak gently against certain ideas that your friends might hold, I understand your reluctance to draw a line here. However, since I cannot estrange your audience with my personal folly, I can speak somewhat more frankly about the issue. I will play the part of the devil’s lawyer. The reason I brought up the Texas thing was that I remembered my niece, who should have known better, saying that she thought the hurricane that hit New York was a judgement of God on their wicked lifestyle and voting record. On the other hand, presumably, a conservative town in the Bible belt of Texas that is hit by disaster would receive only sympathy and not suspicion that they may have had it coming. It also reminded me of John Piper’s comments after a tornado in Minneapolis hit a Lutheran church (ELCA), no coincidence there. Since for him there is no such thing as coincidence, it must have meant something. When Jesus was asked about the tower that fell on the people indicated their level of sinfulness, his answer was an unequivocal NO. Some people read equivocation into his answer because he then says, “But unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” This is not nuance or backpedaling on what he just said. There are two possible interpretations: 1) Everyone who doesn’t repent will be destroyed in the final judgement, or 2) Jerusalem and the nation specifically will be destroyed in a very similar way unless they receive their messiah.

    Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s coming destruction. I can only see the Father doing the same thing over Boston, West, TX, New York, Baghdad, North Korea, or Anytown, USA. These are not divine judgements, they are only reminders of our mortality. Unless we repent, we will eventually perish. But God is patient with us not wanting anyone to perish.

    Reply

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