Jeremiah's broken spirit wasn't merely a yearning for the good old days. He was shockingly aware of spiritual realities evident in Jerusalem and Judah in the here and now. The artistry of his poetic gifts accurately described the glories of their former years. As he reviewed them, however, he noted several national character flaws that primed them for crisis. Among them was the sin of presumption, that is, the error of taking things for granted. The people of Judah were God's chosen nation. Jerusalem was thought to be the actual dwelling place of God. The Temple was their holiest place. They never dreamed that God would allow them to be taken into exile or that his Temple would be destroyed. Jeremiah wrote about it in poem 4---
The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world, that foe
or enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem.
Lamentations 4: 12, ESV
Surely God had been faithfully patient and forbearing in his covenant relationship with Israel. He had forgiven their disobedience and stubborn attitude time and again. Finally, in Jeremiah's day, God punished their prideful spirit and condemned them to national folly. Their precious city and glorious temple were laid waste. Many of their people were carried into exile. The prophets, priests, and elders of the people had failed to fulfill their assigned duties. How in the world did such drastic and horrific events shatter God's chosen people? Well, yes, no doubt there are many reasons. Super-imposed over them all was the sin of presumption. They never dreamed foreign armies could overcome their borders or inflict such pain. They took God's care for granted.
The sin of presumption is a significant Scriptural theme. Many passages warn of expecting the same ol' same ol' in life and mission, especially those about God. Let me reference just one, the profound yet practical words of James---
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and
spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow
will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then
vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.
James 4: 13-15, ESV
"If the Lord wills" (see also Acts 18: 21) is the actual truth about what is coming around every hidden corner. It is a spirit that acknowledges God's sovereign guidance and places our plans and expectations down the line of priority. To presume what is there because it has been before is prideful arrogance. "If the Lord wills" governs every tick of the clock.
You know, we're experiencing unexpected surprises about American life right now. It's happened before in our lifetimes--like September 11, 2001. I remember the stunning reaction when we all realized that our skies were not inviolate and that terrorists could penetrate our defense systems. It was a wake-up call about the state of American border detection and our own diverse population. The same can be said about Covid-19. Our presumption that we're no third world country and therefore foolproof against ghastly illnesses is just wrong. The sin of presumption again. Yes, our nation is a unique one-of-a-kind system in many respects. But, we cannot presume it is immune to the vagaries of the real world.
Nobel laureate and British philosopher Bertrand Russell once observed, "In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted". Yes, there is absolute truth declared by God that we must not question. Many human devices, however, are precious gifts that we should handle with care. With King David let us confess "My times are in your hand" (Psalm 31:15) as we face the challenges of uncertain times.
And, let us join Jeremiah in mourning presumption.