Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Extract the Precious from the Worthless

I was reading in the book of Jeremiah this morning, and this passage seemed powerful, yet enigmatic.

You who know, O LORD, Remember me, take notice of me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away; Know that for Your sake I endure reproach. Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers, Nor did I exult. Because of Your hand upon me I sat alone, For You filled me with indignation. Why has my pain been perpetual And my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream With water that is unreliable?

Therefore, thus says the LORD, "If you return, then I will restore you-- Before Me you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them. Then I will make you to this people A fortified wall of bronze; And though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you; For I am with you to save you and deliver you," declares the LORD. "So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent." (Jeremiah 15:15-21)

For me, the phrase that stuck out was this, "If you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become my spokesman."

Is this a worthless group of people from which we are to extract a few precious ones? Are we to extract something precious from a worthless individual? A precious truth or lesson from a worthless situation? All of the above?

This phrase also caught my eye, "They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them." What is this "turn"? Is it loyalty? Reverence? Adherence to principle?

I have some ideas about what these things mean, but I thought I'd put this out in the blogosphere to see if anyone out there has any ideas.


Pam Halter said...

This is the first time in 12 days that I've been able to sit for any length of time at the computer because of a bad stomach virus. While lying in bed with nausea and stomach cramps, I wondered why God would allow this illness, especially when I have Christmas gifts to finish sewing along with church responsibilities and my mom in the hospital. It seemed worthless to me.

At some point, my foggy brain realized some of the pain in my stomach was actually hunger because I had gone a few days without eating. It was sharp and intense, reminding me of labor pains. The thought occured to me that starving to death is a most horrible way to die. I began to pray for hungry children.

Now that I'm up and about, I plan to make up a grocery box for our next-door neighbors, who are out of work and in great need. It will bless them more than the usual plate of cookies I give my neighbors.

When we perceive something as worthless, we only see in part. Only God can see the value deep within ~ and with His help and leading, we can, too.

Kat Heckenbach said...

I believe this goes along with the idea of "be IN the world but not OF the world." This earth is fallen and everything and everyone has suffered the effects of sin. Sin makes things worthless. But we are not completely made of sin, it is only a part of us. If we can extract the precious--the part of us that has not been infected by sin--then we can be purified and return to God's side.

What I think is unique about this though, is that the command is to extract the pure from the unpure, rather than remove the contaminate.

I'm a scientist so I'll take this from a biological perspective. You can kill invasive bacteria, but the body is not changed--it's still vulnerable to reinfection. But if say, the immune system could be strengthened and made to run perfectly, then the body would become invulnerable.

In the passage God says, "Then I will make you to this people A fortified wall of bronze; And though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you." The focus should not be on removing sin--we are not capable of doing that, which is why Jesus was sent--but rather on strengthening the good parts in us so we become invulnerable to sin, through our reliance on the Lord.

Kat Heckenbach

Jessica Hill said...

I agree with Pam. There are people that society as a whole might see as worthless, such as a dirty, seemingly homeless, man, but maybe that homeless man has been ministering to others (I know of at least one), and God sees him as priceless, and worthy.
The flip side of that is that there are people society sees as worth more than average, a rich man, but than rich man may be greedy and hording his riches, which would be seen as selfish to God (not very worthy or priceless, but not totally worthless either).
We don't always see the whole picture (from God's point of view), but sometimes we start to see a small piece of the puzzle of life slide into place before us, and it makes sense for a second. You take pity on the rich man for hoarding, because he is scared of losing something that isn't that important, and you admire the man who is living on the streets and giving everything he has to the people who are seen as worthless to others.

Maybe I got a bit off topic, but I said what was on my heart, and I hope this will shine some light on a few things, or help you see a piece of the puzzle. ;)


WayneThomasBatson said...

I think it's interesting here that God tells us to extract the precious from the worthless. Isn't that what God does? He shames the {worldly} wise with the foolish? He took tax collectors, fishermen, and harlots and made heroes. He even took a very foolish worldly young man I know and made an author out of him. ;-)

Bryan Davis said...

Thank you for the ideas. I think they all have merit.

I wonder if the "worthless" is a collective, and we are called to search in the midst of the sea of people to locate and rescue or redeem those who are trying to honor God.

When extracted from the "worthless" collective and shown the way of life and truth, they begin to shine like precious gems.

I think there is so much truth to mine from the book of Jeremiah. Every time I read it, I find new treasures.

Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

I like Wayne's idea. He's probably right, as is everyone else.

The term "precious" is interesting, because I've heard a local pastor on television talk about passages in the New Testament that relate to precious stones and comparing them to believers. Jesus Himself is referred to as the rock upon which the church is built. Now, precious stones are forged in high heat below the surface of the earth. The layer of soil around it doesn't have any value, but the diamonds or the gold or silver that's forged from it is of great value.

Maybe that could mean something.

- Jason

Nikoxine said...

'Therefore, thus says the LORD, "If you return, then I will restore you-- Before Me you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.' that is the most important part in the verse as I see it. but being as this is the doom prophet's book your dealing with I would assume that it dose in fact mean that there are few of you who are actually cleansed of sin, a few who truly turned to God and begged forgiveness. also this is the Jews in ancient times, they were few and they sporadically darted between being heartfelt devout followers to being enslaved or religiously screwed. although there is a ray of hope, it says "If you return, then I will restore you..." Isn't that the entire point to Christianity, come back to God Every time you happen to mess up. That is what it means to be Christian. To look to The One Who Is Holy. That is not possible in any way without Christ Jesus. God called us to be followers of Christ, meaning 'go out and do your best to be perfect and WHEN you mess up, I will be here to forgive you, pick you up and put you back on you feet and lovingly set you back on your path to try to follow the only one who is AND CAN BE perfect'.

I apologies for rambling to you, but I needed to give my opinion to some God-fearing-people who if they disagree, I can hopefully tune them out

Bryan Davis said...

Nikoxine, thank you for the comment. I don't agree with your statement regarding the nature of Christianity, that is, to "come back to God every time you happen to mess up."

Jesus didn't command us to "go out and do our best to be perfect." Jesus commanded us to BE perfect. There is no "WHEN" we mess up. We are to obey at all times and in all circumstances.

Christianity is about perfect holiness in all things, not the Old Covenant system, a cycle of sin and repentance. Those days are gone.

Nikoxine said...

I couldn't agree with you more, that is our command, and we all need to follow it to the letter. but I hate to ask it, are you perfect. is anyone perfect but Jesus without Jesus. that is the blessed miracle of Gods holy grace. He said come as you are.
as we get close to Christmas, we should wonder how well we are honoring Christ birthday. and remember His death and Resurrection now and every day week month.

once again sorry for my tirade.

Bryan Davis said...

Jesus does want sinners to come to Him as they are, but He doesn't leave them in that condition. He cleanses them of all sin and unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) so that true Christians are made holy. We become perfect regarding sin (1 John 5:18), yet not perfect in knowledge (Philippians 3:12), the area in which we always continue to grow and gain more understanding.

Nikoxine said...

When I said come as you are I MEANT come out of your filth to be cleansed and don't wait till your a better person. sorry for that confusion.

go with God