Pastor Peter Walther / February 21, 2016
Lent 2 / Jeremiah 26:8-15 / The Continued Love of our God
A child never fully grasps why a parent leads the family the way that they do. That child may be told that they can’t have something like the perfect toy. It doesn’t matter if that toy is 5 dollars or 500, that child may whine and complain no matter how many times a parent says no. Yet, they don’t understand why they can’t have it. As the child grows up into a young adult, the context simply changes. A curfew at midnight seems like it’s too early and that child will whine and complain. The thoughts of this young adult seem to have gotten more angered from when they were a mere child. You can hear that young adult screaming at their parent that they hate them and that they don’t want them in their lives, as if that young adult wanted to live on an island like Lord of the Flies taking care of themselves. Sometimes, being a parent almost seems to be a very loveless and thankless job. Jeremiah and God were much like parents to their people. And looking at this text, we can’t help but hang our heads in shame in how similar our hearts and lives end up looking like these people’s lives, but we can’t help but thank God as we see how Jeremiah’s life paralleled our Savior’s and how Jeremiah saw his Messiah as the only one who would bring comfort to our ailing hearts.
From the beginning of his ministry, Jeremiah could see the symptoms of a sick nation. The rich oppressed the poor, the prophets taught lies, the priests served only for material gain, and the king vehemently opposed Jeremiah and God. What was worse: the people loved it that way. Jeremiah knew that God would use the Assyrian nation to destroy what they had loved. In spite of the warnings from Jeremiah and some of his God fearing contemporaries, the people didn’t care. They believed that they would be able to enjoy peace forever because they were simply the chosen people, even if they had removed God from their hearts. Their worship was hollow and shallow, as if they were only worshipping because it was something to do and they hated to hear the words of law from Jeremiah, and so they arrested him.
I look at these Jews, these unbelievers, and I point at them and think how terrible they are. How could they do that? But…I hang my head in shame. Am I any better than they are? I have not loved God with my whole heart. In fact, many times I have dismissed him from my life entirely because it is simply inconvenient. I have become dull to the idea of God in my life and empty in my worship. The things I do in my life benefit me, myself and I, rather than serving and showing love to my God. I am like a spoiled child whining and complaining to God for my misfortunes and for not getting what I want. I want to compromise the values I have learned in God’s word with the values of this world, and in doing so I simply leave God’s values in the dust. I so often dismiss the call to repentance, thinking that I’ve earned God’s favor with some of my good deeds and that I’m a member at St. Paul. How could God punish me? I’ve been to church a couple times. I mean sure, I didn’t listen to what the pastor said, but at least I was in the church. God has to count that for something! And when I hear the words of law that cut to my heart, I am ashamed with myself when I have dismissed that message. When I thought, who are you to judge me? In my defensive attitude, I shut myself off from what God is really doing, as he is reaching out to me. How foolish I am for thinking that I don’t need God! How foolish I am for living in my arrogance!
Have you ever heard of the nickname given to Jeremiah? He is often called “the weeping prophet” simply because of the difficulties that he suffered and the message that he delivered over and over again to people that would not listen. And yet, he never stopped. Like a loving parent or a guardian or a teacher, he continued to bring a message. Because a new king was sitting on the throne, the Lord wanted Jeremiah to deliver this message again, exactly like he had done it before. There would be no softening of the message. The message was simple: see your sins. Repent and turn back to God. God would then stop the war that was brewing, the war that would destroy the Israel nation completely. God would relent.
These words of repentance and love fell on deaf ears. These people didn’t see their sin. They couldn’t understand why God would punish them. After all, they were the chosen nation and they even had the temple mount dedicated to serving the true God. No way! Jeremiah had to be lying. And interestingly, they accused Jeremiah not of false doctrine or of being a false prophet but of treason. They seized him and demanded that he be killed for his treason. Don’t you hear those same words in the distance? Crucify! Crucify! Crucify! Jesus would see the same unbelief and hear the same hatred. Jesus would give the same words of repentance to the world, but so often that calling to repentance is hated.
Our sinful nature hates hearing that we are wrong. We don’t want to own up to our sin. We don’t want to face the consequence of that sin. Sometimes, it isn’t necessarily that we are putting up desecrations in the Lord’s temple. It’s that we simply don’t care about sin anymore, just like the nation of Israel began to see nothing wrong with the sin around them. And soon we find ourselves going through the motion. And yet, the words of Jesus and of Jeremiah continue to ring out! They ring out to us today. They ring out to us as believers with the reminder that we need to daily drown our sinful nature because it is a serpent that continues to crawl back, slithering up the tree and trying to persuade us that we know what’s best. The call to repentance is never an easy one, but it steers us back to Christ. God isn’t there to push us away when he gives us the law and tells us to repent, but the complete opposite. He wants us to open our eyes to the reality that we are blindly leading ourselves away from our loving God. He wants us back with him in his loving arms. That’s why he ESPECIALLY gives these words to his children.
Think of it this way: If you were compiling a list of nations to punish, which ones would top the list? Maybe it’s not necessarily a nation but maybe it’s a terror group. Would you put our nation as one of those nations? Do you think we should direct all our military towards ourselves? I think that’s how these people felt with Jeremiah’s words. How does it feel to know that God is hardest on his own people? For example, sometimes when a parent coaches a team with their own child on it, which child does the parent/coach tend to yell at most? Usually, they are hardest on their own child compared to the other children. The Apostle Peter says in his first epistle, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” God reaches out to us today, calling us back to him, bringing us back out of the dark and the cold and into his loving embrace.
That’s why Jeremiah wasn’t afraid when all of this was happening. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t fear for his life. He maintained his composure because Jeremiah cared for his own people so much and he knew that he was innocent. The anger they had wasn’t directed towards him but towards God. He was only obeying God and preaching what he had to say. Either way, he trusted in the Lord and trusted in his Messiah who would go through the same accusations. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was innocent. And yet, Jesus wasn’t scared. In fact, he went willingly to his death and he took on the guilt of our sin as if he was the worst sinner of all. His love for all people is unfathomable. Jeremiah trusted God with his life. But Jesus, in his humanity, trusted in God’s will to carry out our salvation with his death. Do you see how much God loves us that He wants to bring us in closer? God says forget your sinful past, because I already have. God says look at what I’ve done for you and come closer to me.
See this great history lesson today: Jeremiah was not afraid because he knew he was speaking the words of God. Jesus, himself, spoke God’s Word to defend against Satan and all the attacks. Jesus and Jeremiah knew that God’s Word is powerful and effective and it changes hearts. These words before us are not written just for our literary enjoyment by some drunk fishermen who were not educated. No, these are the very words of God. How sad when people today don’t believe the Bible to be true, and that it must be reinterpreted in every passing age because people don’t want to hear about sin anymore. No, I stand with Jeremiah and Jesus knowing that this is God’s Word, that it is eternal truth, that we have in our possession the Gospel which is the power of God holding salvation. Knowing that we really have the words of the Almighty God right here in front of us, we are equipped by God to persevere any difficulty, and any danger.
There is the old adage: those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. We see what these people did in our lesson for today and yet we see how we have consistently repeated that same sin over and over again. But when you look at God’s history, see God’s love for you in Christ. God’s Word gives to us the reminder time and time again that God wants us to cling to him.
Every day, God continues to bring us closer to him. Don’t dismiss his words but listen to them. Use his words and become familiar with them and take comfort that your God doesn't see all your failings, but He sees you as a child of God. Being a parent or a guardian, can often be a loveless job and yet they continue to love their child. Take the time to thank God today for his continued love in spite of our sin and simply be amazed that our God daily brings eternal peace to our souls. Amen.