Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Empathy, not Judging”
Jeremiah 14:19-21 (ESV)
“Have you utterly rejected Judah? Does your soul loathe Zion? Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us? We looked for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror. We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, and the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against you. Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us.”
In my teenage years, I had a habit of saying “I hate” this or that. “I hate mayonnaise.” “Ugh, I hate this song.” Even if it only irked me a little bit, I would express that I hated it in front of others. Seeing this, my mom told me something in passing that stuck with me. She told that there was never really a good enough reason to say “I hate…” out loud. Her words made me re-assess how I speak. Even if I did hate something, I could choose to stay silent or say something more thoughtful and constructive, instead.
In today’s passage, we see the prophet Jeremiah in an environment where there is really nothing good to say. The Israelites have broken their covenant with God yet again, by going after Canaanite idols. The Israelites knew their covenant stipulations and that disobedience would result in sword and famine falling upon them. Jeremiah was sent to remind them of it, again and again. However, when false prophets spring up among them, promising that sword and famine would not fall upon them, some Israelites choose to believe false prophets instead. At this point, if you were in Jeremiah’s shoes, what would you have said? What words would you have chosen to say about the Israelites? Would it start with, “I hate . . .”?
In v. 17, we read that God gives Jeremiah a word to give Israel. Jeremiah is sent to mourn over their rebellion and the impending famine with “tears night and day.” Neither God nor Jeremiah ignores the grim situation, but Jeremiah prays over them, asking God “not to spurn [Israel], for [His] name’s sake” and have grace on them. In response to this situation out of his control, Jeremiah chooses to stand in the gap for His people and be an intercessor. Instead of judging, he empathized with and mourned for them.
In today’s world, we tend to be surrounded with groups judging each other and describing why they do so. Reality is, every situation is complex and there will always be multiple perspectives. Instead of discerning, judging or discussing, we should also be led to empathize and intercede for those we agree and disagree with. Like Jeremiah, let’s discover where God has uniquely placed us to be effective intercessors, and thoughtful and constructive friends.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the power of words to not only speak truth and bless others, but intercede for all in prayer. Would You raise up a generation of powerful intercessors. In complex situations, give us the wisdom and maturity to speak in a way that builds up, not breaks down. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 28
Lunch Break Study
Read James 5:13-16: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”
Questions to Consider
- What are some circumstances we are instructed to pray?
- How can we become intercessors with great power?
- How have you been defining “powerful intercession”? Did your definition change in response to this passage?
- In every mood, whether we are suffering or cheerful. In every circumstance, whether we are sick or struggling in sin. In particular, we can confess our sins and pray with each other in order in our communities, to be forgiven and healed
- “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In Christ Jesus, we are righteous people and all believers can become effective intercessors.
- Personal reflection.
We tend to be quick to think and speak, but slow to empathize and pray. Are there any areas of your life you felt called to pray over? Any ministries you serve in but felt called to pray more over? Let’s do so today because God is listening to our prayers!