I have a keen sense of smell, so if something stinks, even if no one else around me catches a whiff of it, I do.
The other day, I went downstairs into the kitchen and the overpowering stench hit me in the face. I couldn’t figure out what reeked, so I followed my nose like the Froot Loops breakfast cereal mascot, Toucan Sam.
Sniff, sniff, sniff.
I opened the refrigerator and sniffed.
Nope, it wasn’t there.
I opened a cupboard and sniffed.
Nope, it wasn’t there either.
I went over to the garbage can next, where I typically would have started my sniff search, but it had just been changed the night before. When I leaned over and breathed in, boom! Right in the face. It hit me. Whatever was in there smelled rotten. Apparently, the warmth of the house caused the discarded contents to sour in the trash.
Once the garbage was emptied and tossed outside, soon after, the air was fresh again and my senses were no longer assaulted and offended.
Anyone else have a very low tolerance for strong odors? They are the bane of my existence!
So I can only imagine how Jeremiah must have felt when God told him to go and preach in a garbage dump, known as the valley of the son of Hinnom, in Jeremiah 19.
Hinnom Valley, also referred to as Topheth, was a terrible place.
It was gruesome, stinking and stomach-churning. You see, the sinful people of Judah sacrificed their children to the false god Molech in this place. This horrid act, about which God said “I have never commanded such a horrible deed” (See Jeremiah 19:5), is one of the egregious sins that led God to use Babylon to penalize Judah. His people, who refused to remain loyal, would be carried into captivity for 70 years and brought to ruin.
In the New Testament, even Jesus spoke of the grotesque Hinnom Valley figuratively, as a place of final punishment and unquenchable fire for sinners. He used the term Gehenna, which is the Greek translation of Hinnom Valley, and came to be known as synonymous with hell.
Why would God send Jeremiah to “hell” to preach? Why did the Lord tell him to share the gospel from a trash heap? Why would Jeremiah be commanded to stand among maggots, corpses and all things that, under the law, are impure, and naturally speaking, nauseating?
Well, God had His reasons. He was making a point.
He used the prophet to create live illustrations of what Judah’s sin and impending judgment looked like. One time, in Jeremiah 13, God had him put on a pair of underwear, walk miles and miles to bury them in the crevice of some rocks. Then, a while later, Jeremiah was sent back to get the underwear. By then, they were all torn up. The tattered undergarments were a depiction of God’s desire to be intimate and close to Judah, until their sin got in the way, leading to their demise.
In verse 11, God explained to His manservant, “‘Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, but they would not obey.’”
See how God was using a practical method to unveil hidden prophetic revelation to Jeremiah? This unveiling, in Jeremiah 19, required the prophet to go into the Valley of Hinnom, into hellish circumstances. There, he delivered a prophetic word, which was made all the more vivid by the live illustration.
Friend, some of the greatest revelation I have received about the will, character and strategy of God has been given to me in hellish circumstances. Through my sickness, for example, when I almost died, in that deep valley, God revealed His power to me as never before.
I didn’t prefer His method, but I got the message loud and clear.
Had I not sank so low, I would not have appreciated, on the same level, how He brought me out in such grand fashion. He revealed to me in a new way that He truly is sovereign. He has power over death and disease. There is nothing too hard for Him. He is a wonder-working God. He yet performs miracles today. His awesome works did not stop in Bible times.
Just as Jeremiah had to figuratively go through “hell” to accomplish the work of God, so did I. I couldn’t have the testimony I have today without that experience.
Seeing something like this in scripture and in my own life busts up the notion that obedience to God exempts you from unpleasant circumstances. There are just seasons when the Lord will let you go through the valley of the shadow of death. He will let you endure hellish circumstances for the glory of His name. I know it isn’t pretty, preferable or proper in man’s estimation, but it is Providence.
God is not going to leave you where you are. He’s going to bless you. Even now, He’s favoring you in negative situations.
Divine providence, the will of the Father and the Sovereignty of God is much different from man’s preferred methods, treatment and outcomes.
Think about it.
God called Jeremiah to a 42-year-long ministry that would essentially bear no fruit. He knew the nation of Judah would not come to its senses and repent, but He told Jeremiah to preach anyway.
That seems unthinkable, unfathomable and unimaginable, but it was purposeful. Though Judah didn’t listen then, the word of God came to pass. And there was a remnant of people that did repent.
Something remarkable that came out of it is that, today, you and I can look back on the events of Jeremiah’s documented existence and see that the Lord’s word is true. The prophecies came to fruition. Through Jeremiah’s obedience, God’s wisdom, power and faithfulness to perform His word was put on display.
You may find yourself in the garbage dump of life today. But dealing with heartache, pain, struggle and facing what seems unfair does not mean God isn’t with you. Dealing with hardship doesn’t necessarily indicate that you aren’t living right, walking in His will, or obeying God’s orders.
Like it or not, we all go through the Valley of Hinnom sometimes. Nevertheless, when you obey the Lord, He brings you out.
You are coming out of this valley.
Hear this today. God is not going to leave you where you are. He’s going to bless you. He will fulfill His word. Even now, He’s favoring you in negative situations. He’s causing things to work for your good. He’s rewarding your obedience.
He’s blocking the enemy’s attacks on you. He’s bringing you through victoriously. He’s causing you to triumph in Christ Jesus.
When you come out of this valley—not if, but when—you will declare that God is faithful to keep His promises. There is no failure in Him.
I know the situation may stink now. You just want to get out of it. You don’t like where you are. You feel discouraged sometimes and trapped. But fear not. The Lord’s hand is upon you. A hedge of protection is around you. This valley is not your permanent dwelling place. God already has a plan.
Again, you’re coming out of this valley.
Get ready to celebrate. Prepare to rejoice. You’re about to testify. You’re going to be able to tell somebody that when it looked like you were down for the count, God stepped in and shifted things. He turned it around.
That’s exactly what He sent me to tell you today: He’s turning it around!
To remind you of this truth, I’m stirring the words God said to the prophet in the first portion of Jeremiah 30:17 NLT into your cup of inspiration. That scripture simply says this: “‘There is hope for your future,’ says the LORD.”
I’m stirring hope into your cup. As you drink it down, get excited. Praise in advance because a life-altering shift is on the way. God is going to do in your life what He did in mine and snatch you out of the valley, and set you on a mountain, as an example of His power to deliver!
You’re coming out of this valley.
Now let’s pray.
God, You see me and You already know I am in the valley of affliction, but You are my refuge. I rely on You during this hard time. I cling to my faith and declare that this is not my final destination. Thank You for all the ways You have revealed Yourself, even through the test. I will hold fast to Your word and remain in faith for my breakthrough. I am coming out. I speak it. I believe it. I expect it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
As always, thanks for reading and until next time... may today's cup of inspiration uplift, encourage, and empower you!
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