Every year I try to label the year base on what I’m sensing for the year. For example, 2019 was the year of completion (of not only the entire decade but also my degree) and 2020 was the year of vision (more than I could have imagined on 12/31/19!). Last year (2021), I sensed was the year of war. On January 6, I feared that actual war was breaking out. In many ways, though, I saw wars happening – rather than unity, I saw division. I sensed in social media posts that people are angry – on both political sides – at one another. Hearts seem to have grown cold quickly. Rather than caring for humanity, I sensed a lot of people focused on “I” and “me.” Personally, I felt that 2021 was harder than 2020 as everything was new in the former and people seemed to rally together while in the latter, everyone took a very adamant and very differing opinion on how to best move forward. We may not have seen physical war, but verbal wars and spiritual wars were present and obvious.
So, last month in December, as I always do, I took time to reflect on the past and the future. What will 2022 look like or be like? At first, I thought “2022 – the year of NEW!” Even though change can be hard, new feels good at times. Fresh. Different. But, at the same time, my daily Bible reading was in Jeremiah, and I saw so many parallels to current times that I can’t help but pause and ask God if He is speaking through His word. That is, I was sensing that 2022 may be the year of famine.
Jeremiah was a prophet sent by God to warn Israel of coming disaster. Israel was made up of God’s chosen people, the “firstfruits of His harvest” (Jeremiah 2:3). At the time, because they knew who the Lord was, over time they became proud and thought they were untouchable. They broke God’s covenant, worshiped other Gods, and their religion grew out of rules rather than relationship. “Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord, “Should you not tremble in my presence?” (Jeremiah 5:22) Instead, their sins deprived them of good, and they were described as rich and powerful, fat and sleek, full of deceit, having limitless evil deeds and not seeking justice or promoting the case of the fatherless or defending the just cause of the poor (5:25-28). “Should I not punish them for this?” declares the Lord? (5:29). Even the prophets were prophesying lies, claiming peace when there was no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).
I see the same thing today. Pastors proclaiming peace and prosperity when over half a million people have died, as if there is nothing going on. As if God Himself is not in charge of both blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience as He promised in His word. My heart literally aches as I read trends that Christians are choosing not to get vaccinated at higher percentages and that the unvaccinated are hospitalized and dying at higher rates than those who get the vaccine. I fear that many are being lead astray by false teachers who may mean well but are not speaking the truth. In Jeremiah, God was proclaiming difficult times to come… FOR HIS PEOPLE. Jeremiah was warning them to repent of their sins and return to the Lord, the same message that John gave and Jesus spoke in Matthew. God is loving, but God is also just. God offers mercy, but He also warns of judgment. In Jeremiah 7, it speaks of Israelites worshiping other Gods and arousing the Lord’s anger, but He also noted, “Are they not harming themselves, to their own shame?” (7:19).
I remember turning on the news even before COVID19 and shuddering at what I would see and read. Although this was a nation founded on Christian principles and “in God we trust,” over time prayer has been removed from schools, Bibles banned, and people have been grossly mistreated (an understatement!). Even though we have God’s word, many choose to live life according to their own standards. Is this not harming ourselves, to our own shame? I read a news story of a woman putting children in the oven and turning it on where the kids died. The very thought of it made me sick to my stomach and brought literal tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the suffering that has gone on in this nation as we turn a blind eye.
Jeremiah continued, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts” (7:23-24).
Later in chapter 14, Jeremiah continues, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine, and plague.’ But I said, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord! The prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the word or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.” God promised a day of disaster was coming, “…I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord” (Jeremiah 16:21).
Jeremiah continues with warnings of just punishment and then eventually (after 70 years, i.e. a lifetime/new generation) God’s restoration for a hopeful future. And indeed, the book of Jeremiah ends with the Fall of Jerusalem (and the restoration is told in future books like Nehemiah). As I was reading Jeremiah, I kept seeing the word plague (which I’ve written about before: https://valgood.com/2020/03/25/biblical-plagues-part-1-reasons-and-warnings/) and thinking about it in relation to COVID19. (It blows my mind that people still say COVID19 is the common cold or flu when so many people have died and are suffering from long-term health issues because of it; if you don’t believe the news in the US because your political misgivings, check out global news sources to help inform you on current events.) That said, the word plague was also discussed in tandem with the words sword and famine. As I sensed that last year was the year of war (the sword), I’m sensing this might be the year of famine. And coming from a place of absolute abundance, I honestly cannot even imagine what famine might look or feel like, so I think that goes along with it being the Year of New as well.
I read again in Ezekiel today, “He then said to me: ‘Son of man, I am about to cut off the food supply in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair for food and water will be scarce. They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin” (Ezekiel 4:16-17). Ezekiel was also warned that he was responsible – even accountable – for warning others, both wicked and righteous alike in the third chapter.
When I write about the Year of Famine, I’m not suggesting stockpiling or hoarding. Rather, I’m writing this to give the same call that God’s true prophets gave in His Word: it’s time to repent; it’s time to obey. It’s time to ask for forgiveness and acknowledge God alone as Savior.
I’m saddened and troubled by the Christians who have turned their political beliefs into a false theology and lead others astray in the process. I’ve heard some say, “I’ll only wear a mask if the Bible says I should,” ignoring Leviticus 13:45 that notes to “cover the lower part of their face.” When hearing this verse, a new excuse emerges! I’ve heard some saying that life should just go on as normal and “sheltering in place” is ridiculous, but Moses instructed the Israelites in Exodus 12 to cover their doorposts in blood and emphasized, “None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning” while the destroyer was passing through. I can just picture folks today saying, “I’ll go out if I want to! I’m not living in fear!” An older woman in her late 80s in my Bible study told me that she was talking to an electrician fixing something for her about the vaccine (this conversation started at random when I called her to check in and see how I could be praying for her). She told me without my asking that he said he wasn’t sure about it, and she told him the story of Numbers 21 about how God instructed the Israelites to look at a Bronze snake to live. She considered that God works in mysterious ways and sometimes that can be through medicine that can save us. If the Israelites would have gone against their leader back then and questioned his authority, they would have died.
The same is happening today. Because of political rationale – not Biblical rationale – folks are choosing to walk a dangerous path rather than using the wisdom that God gives them to make decisions that glorify Him. We have become a proud people. We think that we live in the U.S. and nothing can touch us. We rely on our riches. We don’t stand up for justice. We neglect others in our selfish pursuits. We spend our time, attention, and resources on things rather than loving God and loving others. And, sadly, we even do so under pretenses of religion at times. Even a Bible study I’m currently part of (I opted to participate in one of the few online groups) refuses to ask in-person participants to wear masks to protect the vulnerable in the name of “unity” while I know that women who are required to go as part of the leadership have lost children and spouses to COVID19. If such a small act as wearing a mask indoors – which has been strongly recommended in our area – could allow us to invite even one person in the door who might not otherwise come and hear the message, is it not worth it? If this minor inconvenience could keep just one person from being hospitalized, is the one person worth it? Why are decisions on unity based on freedom and individual comfort vs. loving our neighbor and protecting the vulnerable? I admit I don’t understand the wisdom. Even folks who refuse the vaccine opt for some of the medical treatments once they are sick and on a ventilator that were likewise based on medical science. Isn’t an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? Yet, preventative measures are being shunned by people in the name of “religion.” It’s not right, and it makes me sad.
Speaking about judgment, plague, sword, and famine isn’t something you’ll hear at the typical church service. Even though it’s part of the Bible – and Jesus said He wasn’t coming to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) – it’s not popular and doesn’t feel good, and I’m sure it doesn’t drive donations. But, God doesn’t need your money. He wants your heart. He sent His Son so that you could live with Him in eternity. Moreover, even when eternal salvation is secure, that doesn’t mean that we get to do whatever we want and neglect God. He desires authentic relationship with us. His commands are pretty simple: love God, love others. As a nation, we haven’t done either very well. Perhaps if we repent and turn from evil, He will relent from what we deserve and be merciful… so, what will you choose? What will this year 2022 look like for you?