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The Lord deals”perfectly” with us. What does that mean exactly?
I believe that His perfect dealings have a few different connotations. He knows where our hearts are so He can judge perfectly, and He also surrounds His judgments in our favor as much as He can. Even His most strict judgments are in our favor. Even when we don’t deserve it, even when He has every right to give up on us, the tragedies that come our way can inch us closer to Him.
Sometimes to better understand the principles, we have to understand some of the history. At this part in the bible, Jeremiah is a prophet during a wicked time. As in, the Israelites are literally sacrificing their children to heathen gods. The Babylonians have already won Jerusalem at one point, and they install their own puppet king. One of the puppet kings was Zedekiah. Zedekiah was originally good about it, but he started scheming with surrounding nations about fighting Babylon off. Babylon has to go fight with Egypt for a time, and Zedekiah sees his chance. They make their move against Babylon.
Let it be known that this entire time, Jeremiah is pleading with the people to submit to the Babylonians. He is preaching that they are coming in the power of the Lord because the Lord wants them to win. He is called a traitor and is immensely persecuted for it.
I find that a little ironic because if the people had been willing to listen to a prophet, Jeremiah might not have had to prophesy of Babylon’s impending victory at all.
Jeremiah is right. Babylon lays siege against Jerusalem and wins again. Thousands upon thousands of Jews are carried out of Jerusalem and put into Babylonian society.
The Lord’s judgments
So what were the Lord’s judgments precisely? What did this judgment include? If we know what it includes, we can ask ourselves why He chose to take those actions, and we can learn about how the Lord deals with us.
Jerusalem, a once holy city, is overtaken and destroyed. The temple is destroyed and plundered. The people are taken directly out of Babylon and placed in a foreign land with foreign gods.
This all seems quite interesting when you consider the fact that the Lord has been pleading with His people to keep His temple pure and holy. He has been pleading with them to avoid outside influences and gods.
But Jeremiah teaches that all of this is according to the will of God.
So did He change? Perhaps the Israelites got so wicked that He said, “Fine. Have it your way. Go be part of the Babylonians,” and He just quit trying to help them.
But that doesn’t seem right with what I know about the Lord, and if that’s how He really felt, He probably wouldn’t be using Jeremiah to also teach about the gathering of Israel.
We often look at the scattering as a great tragedy, and it certainly was because it never needed to happen. However, with the Lord, tragedies turn into beautiful gifts.
The judgments of God are a gift
There is nothing more singularly important than our salvation through the Savior, Jesus Christ. If all of this is true (and I obviously believe it is), then every bad thing that can happen to you in this mortal life will be a grain of sand on the beach. I don’t say that to diminish pain; I say that to give hope.
These terrible things feel so large sometimes. However, when you compare them to the accumulation of experiences that are gathered over an eternity, they are nothing.
How these terrible things change you will affect every grain of sand that is collected afterwards.
If we recognize mortal life for what it is and if we have the assurance of the atonement of Jesus Christ, then these terrible moments will be a distant memory.
In some cases, they will become sacred memories because of what they did for us.
The Lord scattered Israel; He spread them out because of the way they were poisoning themselves and their children after them. He scattered them but knew exactly where they were at. They were never lost to Him.
Serving a mission
I remember a time when the Lord called me on a mission. The mission age changed, and I went to the temple to pray about it even though I reeeeeeally didn’t want to serve. It was interesting because I had always wanted to serve, but when the moment came, I wasn’t so sure. So I went to the temple and prayed about it.
After praying about whether I should go, I flipped open my scriptures to one of the verses that read, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the gospel…” Basically, I got a verse about missionary work when I prayed about whether I should serve a mission.
I distinctly remember being like, “Yeah…that’s definitely not my answer.” And I kept flipping pages to find a new answer!
I can’t think of a single other time in my life when I’ve done that. Sure, I’ve gotten answers at other times that were painful or I didn’t want to do them. I’ve done my fair share of murmuring, but I can’t think of a single other time that I so blatantly ignored the Lord.
So I continued on with my life.
I had just dropped out of college to be a musician. I was working for a company that prepped musicians to strike deals with record labels. I did not want to leave.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, I have mentioned previously that I struggle with mental illness. Well, at this point in my life I finally decided to get some help for it. I had doctors who prescribed me different medicines, and nothing was working. In fact, it got significantly worse. I got really, really sick in the head.
There was a night where I found myself sitting up in bed. I knew I was supposed to pray, but my mind was so messed up that I couldn’t really get myself to do it. I had been fighting so hard to stay in Utah where I could pursue music, but that night was different. I remember quietly whispering, “I think I’m in trouble. I think I need help getting out of this.”
It was in that very moment that everything changed.
My mother flew out to see me up in Utah because she had free tickets from my brother who was working for an airline. After a couple of days, my stuff was packed up, and I left Provo. My sister invited me to live with her in Kansas City because she felt prompted to. I declined, and she left it in the Lord’s hands. A couple of days after I got home to Texas, she fell and broke her leg and desperately needed me to move in with her because she was eight months pregnant with five kids. I moved in, and it was precisely what I needed. I needed to be in a place where I could serve and forget myself and get better. After I spent a significant amount of time healing, my papers were submitted, and I left on a mission.
Everything came together so perfectly to orchestrate this in my life. From my brother working for that airline to getting depressed to my sister breaking her leg, I know that the Lord saved me despite the fact that I had rejected the Savior’s call for me to go on a mission.
Back to the Israelites
I don’t know the story of each individual Israelite that was scattered. We don’t even really know what happened to most of them as a people; they’re called the “lost ten tribes” for a reason.
However, if their stories are anywhere near what the Lord did for me, then that scattering was precisely what they needed, and their gathering will be just as miraculous. I wonder if there will come a time when we get to hear those stories. I wonder if we’ll be able to see how the Lord brought about a tragic scattering to save His people, not because He grew sick and tired of their wayward choices. I wonder if we will see how He delicately and purposefully moved across generations to prepare His people to return to Him in our day and age. I think we will, and I think we will be floored by it.
18 Thou showest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name,
19 Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings:
Tragedies can be miracles, intricately timed and placed in our lives to bring about the most important thing: our eternal salvation. I know this to be true in my own life, and I know this to be true with the scattering of Israel.
The scattering of Israel
The scattering of Israel was brutal. Assyria took the northern tribes and scattered them in horrific ways. If I read too much about Assyria conquering, I literally get nauseous. Then Babylon comes in and takes out the southern tribes.
But it was exactly what needed to happen to save their
Ancient conquering of lands was no joke. It was war and siege and famine. Jerusalem knew that outside the city walls was a tremendous army, and there is no way that wasn’t terrifying. Even Zedekiah, who threw Jeremiah in prison, came back to Jeremiah and was like, “…should I really surrender to these guys?” Deep down, he knew.
And it was devastating. The judgments of God that came upon Zedekiah alone were horrific. The last thing he saw was the murder of his sons, and then he spent the rest of his days blind and in prison. The Jews were ripped from their homes and sent to foreign lands.
And it was the best thing that couldn’t have happened to them. They were sacrificing children.
Jeremiah 32:18-19 great is thy counsel
Reading Jeremiah and Lamentations is a little depressing. In fact, many scholars call him the weeping prophet because there aren’t a whole lot of breakthroughs for him. He watched Israel committing terrible sin; they were literally sacrificing their children to idols. He is very young when he is called as a prophet, and I don’t really blame him for not wanting to say anything. Why would this incredible wicked city listen to him? Why preach against the inevitable? He knew that Babylong would conquer, and the Jews would scatter. He tried to warn them, and they persecuted him for it. They accused him of treason when he tried to spare them the fate of Babylon. He was beaten, imprisoned, thrown in an empty cistern, and put in stocks. His family tried to kill him. Tradition says that he was stoned to death.
And honestly, there weren’t a whole lot of bright moments. The stuff he was witnessing and experiencing were heavy things. There weren’t any breakthroughs that we know of, no moments of small conversions of even a few people. There weren’t any recorded moments where it seemed as though Judah would listen and pull through.
No. It seems as though the entire process was utterly depressing.
And yet, there are hidden lessons here. We know that Israel will be scattered and gathered, but let’s bring that down to a personal level. Despite the overbearing weight of Jeremiah and Lamentations, where is the message of hope we can rely on and how can we apply it this week?
When loved ones leave
There are few pains that compare to watching someone you love leave the covenant path. I try to be sensitive when saying that because I know it’s not easy for those who leave either, and I’ve also learned that 99% of them are trying to do what they believe is right. But that’s a conversation for a different day.
Regardless of whether your loved one is trying to do the right thing, it can be terrifying to watch them walk away. You have these beliefs, and you can’t see the future. You wonder if there was more you could have done. You wonder if they’re freezing their eternal progression forever.
I think sometimes we mistakenly believe that our fear and desperate worries come from a place of love. This can be a potentially dangerous tool of the adversary. The more we love them, the more we worry about them. It’s only natural, right? In actuality, Satan seeks to keep us fearful and worried about the future so that it bleeds into our relationships with the people we love. That fear and worry will not help your loved ones feel closer to you; it will push them away, and that’s precisely what Satan would like.
Scattering was the best thing for them
So how do we overcome the fear?
Jeremiah wasn’t perfect at it; he got depressed but have the goal (trust in Him) in mind
It’s ironic because if they had listened and trusted Jeremiah, then Jeremiah’s prophecy wouldn’t have come true. In fact, he would have been guided to teach them to repent. So why tell people about their damned fate?
Jeremiah 31:33 I will put my gospel in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts
32:14 He bought it and hid it
Why even send Jeremiah?
Jeremiah was known as a traitor for telling them to surrender to Babylon.
I find Jeremiah’s story ironic. He was thrown into prison for telling the Israelites to surrender to Babylon because the Lord had already declared that the Babylonians would win anyway. It’s ironic that he was called a traitor to his people when he was trying to save his people.
This story is ironic because the outcome might have changed if they had listened to Jeremiah. If they had been willing to listen to a prophet, the Lord might never have decreed His judgment through the Babylonians in the first place.
Honestly, it’s ironic that Jeremiah was called at all if the Lord knew His people needed to be scattered regardless of what was prophesied.