'I am the law'
There was an article in the Boston Globe last week by an Italian journalist describing how, despite being even better informed of all the facts and all the recommendations from health officials, he like many in the country didn’t take them seriously. (https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/13/opinion/coronavirus-cautionary-tale-italy-dont-do-what-we-did/) Somehow, they were smarter. There were no government regulations in place yet, and the laws of nature seemed like they didn’t apply. People whether out of ignorance or just plain arrogance believed that they were in control of the situation. Within days the cases of coronavirus had ballooned exponentially.
Sometimes we think we’re smarter than nature, smarter than God. How often do we disregard what God says about our circumstances, about our relationships, about what is wise or foolish? Do we ever think we are in control of our situations and therefore nothing bad is going to happen? We appoint ourselves as the authority, and potentially over life and death decisions.
Jeremiah had the hapless duty of representing God to a people grown immoral and entitled, even while on the verge of devastation. At times he found himself arguing with God for mercy. And what we hear are two ways that we make ourselves the law.
"Then I said, "These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God.”” (Jeremiah 5:4 ESV)
First, we make ourselves the law when we are willfully ignorant of God’s Word.
I remember a time my wife and I were on vacation in Orlando in the years BC – before children. We found a cheap hotel off the reservation and had to drive 15-20 miles in each day. The first morning there was a thick fog and, coming through one little town, flashing lights came up from behind. ‘Do you know why I pulled you over?’ No, sir. ‘You drove right through the stop light.’ Have you ever been so distracted that you never even saw a signal? I turned around and looked and there it was. It had been there the whole time, but I was thinking about getting to the park when it opened to beat the crowds.
How much of life do we go through not even looking to the Word of life and what is put in place to guard us and guide us, to explain our origin, meaning and morality, and our destiny, to teach us about God, His will and His ways, as people heard from the Author of life Himself? Because it’s been there the whole time.
It’s to the point we are willfully ignorant. I make myself the law when I don’t even look for the law that’s in place. We can keep ourselves uninformed of God’s Law, which means we are unfamiliar with what real justice is.
There’s a second way we make ourselves the law.
“So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God." But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds.” (Jeremiah 5:5 NIV)
In Jeremiah’s time the Book of the Law had been rediscovered in the temple after having been lost for perhaps decades. Without God’s Word, how did people worship or know how to order their lives? What could they know about God and what was His will? (How is that like people who go to church today?...) The ones who presumably knew better had rejected God’s restrictions and requirements, and therefore weren’t teaching them to anyone else.
We make ourselves the law when we are actively arrogant, intentionally disbelieving God’s Word.
Sometimes I hear people say that the Bible can’t be true, or did Jesus really mean what He said, or that’s what Paul said but Jesus never talked about that, or things are somehow different now, that after 2000 years we know better what it means than the primitives at the time God actually spoke… I’ve learned to listen much more closely when you hear people, or when I myself in my head challenge Scripture. Recall the question the serpent asked Eve in the Garden: “Did God really say...?”
I make myself the law when I think know better, when I look for and pick the parts I agree with, when we take only what fits into the story we already believe - which is often what some unbeliever taught us. I’ve said all those things in my past. I wonder how many you are saying today? Even priests and pastors are guilty of this.
There’s another way.
God told Jeremiah, "Is not My word like fire?" declares the LORD, "and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29NAS)
Discernment is critical for us. How can we begin to discern some capital “T” Truth? When we’ve accepted Jesus as our Way and our Truth and our Life, Jesus promises the presence of Holy Spirit:
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26 NIV)
“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8 NIV)
First, are we encountering God in His Word, wrestling with all of it, even the parts that are hard to understand or simply difficult to do? Second, do we prioritize the Truth of Scripture over the fads and teaching of the secular world? Holy Spirit is there to guard and guide as we take every thought captive to Christ.