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2020 – A Year for Removing the Dregs

From t-shirts declaring I survived 2020 to sentiments on social media which express, in palpable relief, that the end is in sight, it’s clear that, for most people at least, this hasn’t been a year that we’d like to repeat. Why? Because a new virus appeared out of the blue and disrupted our (mostly) comfortable lives and our great plans. From the major devastating life changes caused by the loss of a loved one, health or employment, to the minor inconveniences of increased hand-sanitising, mask-wearing, and following a one-way system around the supermarket, all of us have been affected to some extent.

When I think of life pre-Covid, I can’t help but recall a certain verse in the prophecy of Jeremiah.

‘Moab has been at ease from his youth; he has settled on his dregs, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent has not changed.’

Jeremiah 48:11

What does this mean? Charles H Dyer gives the helpful explanation in The Bible Knowledge Commentary that, after the grapes were pressed, ‘the juice was placed into bottles or skins and allowed to ferment. During this time the sediment, or dregs, would settle to the bottom. After 40 days the fermented wine was carefully poured into another container to separate it from the dregs. If the dregs were allowed to remain, the wine would become too sweet and thick and was spoiled.’

Up until now, many of us have been a bit like Moab. Life was good. We had our friends, our holidays, our freedom, our health. For the most part, we were comfortable. Settled on our dregs. But people who are settled and comfortable don’t improve. In fact, when we are too settled, we become spoiled. Often God has to shake us up. And He has allowed the pandemic this year to do just that.

2020 has taught us many lessons. We have learned things we never knew about each other, both good and bad. But, more importantly, we have also discovered things we never knew about ourselves. What is it that threatens to tip us over the edge? Concerns about our health? Lack of social contact? Feeling out of control? Dislike of being told what we should or should not do? This year may have brought out the best in many people, but it has also surely brought out the worst. It has shown us our fissures, our weak places, our shaky foundations. It has shown us the quality of our character and where we are really placing our trust. Is it in God? Or is it in people – the government, medical advisors, friends or family, or even in ourselves? We think we are trusting God, until we’re tested on that trust. 

When He commands ‘Fear not’, was this only for some abstract imagination we may have entertained in 2019? Or could it possibly apply to the very real threat of an out-of-control, never-before-seen virus? Remember, while God has given knowledge to human beings, ‘it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man’ (Psalm 118:8). We have trusted Him with no less a matter than our eternal souls, so why can’t we trust Him with our transient lives on earth? He is as much in control in 2020, regardless of circumstances, as He has ever been.

Have the legislations of this year unveiled a resentment of submitting to authority? Providing what we are asked to do by our government isn’t causing us to violate scriptural commands, God wants ‘every soul [to] be subject unto the higher powers’ (Romans 13:1).

Is our ability to ‘live peaceably with all’ (Romans 12:18) being tested? Not everyone sees the present situation in the same way, and we should respect that. Getting agitated and worked up about what someone is or is not doing, especially if it’s a brother or sister in Christ, is not helpful and breaks down the unity which our Lord Jesus Christ made clear is so important (John 17:21).

So as we race towards the end of this very different year, rather than slamming the door closed on it and banishing it from our memory, let’s take time to reflect and learn what God has been showing us about ourselves. I speak for myself when I say it’s not pretty – the dregs never are – and the unsettling process certainly isn’t pleasant. But while God’s methods for removing the dregs from our lives are often difficult and painful, His desire is to produce in us spiritual character of the highest quality – likeness to His own Son.

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