Today we will continue looking at the Book of Jeremiah. We have spent some time looking at the calling of the prophet, now we will get into what his calling involved. Keep in mind that the Bible was not written in chronological order. This book, just like Isaiah, deals with the time period around the exile. God calls Jeremiah to go to Jerusalem:
"The word of the Lord came to me: 'Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: 'I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his harvest...; This is what the Lord says: 'What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me?" (Jer. 2:1-3,5)
Judah is now on trial. "Therefore I bring charges against you again,' declares the Lord." (2:9) The people have left the Lord to "worship idols." The charges against the people are two-fold: "They have forsaken me (God), the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (2:13) This is a case of a people who once said "Yes" to God, but have now turned away from him. God says to the people "You are a...wild donkey...sniffing the wind in her craving-in her heat who can restrain her?" (2:24a) Wow! God why don't you tell them how you really feel? The images are vivid. The people are chasing craving after craving regardless of where it might lead them. God even calls the people prostitutes. "You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers." (3:1b)
Well, it is clear that Jeremiah's task will not be easy. What we must try to remember in this book is that there is still a northern kingdom (Israel) and a southern kingdom (Judah). At times one is dealt with and at other times the other is. God's wrath is upon both the north and the south. No one is innocent, but at times it sounds as though God compares the sins of the two; "The Lord said to me, 'Faithless Israel is more righteous that unfaithful Judah." (Jeremiah 3:11) God gives a "rundown" of all that the Judeans are guilty of and then declares: "and my people love it this way." (5:31b) The people seemingly love their lifestyle and are not ashamed of it at all. Now, we know that God has accused them of being prostitutes and even of committing adultery. But the charge even goes beyond that: "They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man's wife." (Jer. 5:8) Is God saying they are involved in wife-swapping or animalistic behavior? Or both? Either way it is bad and Jeremiah see firsthand how bad it is.
Another charge that God levels at the people is that the Judah's culture had become a habitat for predators: "Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men." (Jer. 5:26) Wow! Does this not sound like our world today? And these people did not even have computers to do their dastardly deeds. Of all the charges perhaps the most damning is the fact the people apparently are ok with who they are. Well, as you know Jeremiah was sent to warn the people and proclaim the word of the Lord.
Jeremiah is to "Stand at the gate of the Lord's house and there proclaim this message: 'Hear the word of the Lord...Reform your ways, and your actions and I will let you live in this place." (Jer. 7:1b,3) This sermon takes place in the courtyard of the temple. This was the perfect place for the sermon for obvious reasons, but for a less obvious reason. Worship was at the center of Israel's life, in spite of how the people acted. The people believed that Jerusalem and Mt. Zion was the center of true religion. Therefore, the people believed that the temple on Mt. Zion automatically protected Jerusalem. Guess what Jeremiah's message was? "If you think you are protected by the temple being here...think again!" Jeremiah claimed that the people were immoral, and since they were nothing could save them, including the temple. He claimed that genuine security could only come from faith in Yahweh. Their faith had to be evident in moral living and undivided loyalty to Yahweh. So, what did Jeremiah tell these people to stop doing?
1) Stop oppressing others. (7:6) Apparently they were oppress the foreigner (the alien), the orphans, and the widows. They were also shedding innocent blood.
2) Stop stealing, murdering, and committing adultery. (7:9)
3) Stop walking after other gods (v.9)
4) Stop lying
5) Stop praying! What? Yes, Jeremiah tells them (7:16) that God is completely disgusted with them. God basically is telling them that their worship stunk.
Now, every so often after I have preached my sermon on a Sunday morning someone will come up to me and declare: "That was a good sermon preacher!" Yes, every once in a while that happens. And I appreciate hearing that, especially when I am thinking to myself: "Uh...that had to have been the worst sermon I ever preached." Well, after Jeremiah preached this sermon I promise you that no one walked up to him and said, "Good sermon preacher!" In fact, we get more detail about the aftermath in chapter twenty-six. It is there that we discover the reaction of the people. What do you expect it was? "Kill Him! Kill Him Now!" Yes, the priests and the prophets of the temple pressed the government to execute Jeremiah. They, of course, fail to succeed.
There is so much in regard to Judah's sin that I have not gotten into. I think, however, you are able to understand how bad it is. I did not go into the slaughter of children. Yet, this also took place. Because of this God warns the people that they will be slaughtered in the same place as the children. I have a lot to say about the abuse of children (and worse), but I will be careful not to say it. Judah was guilty, and punishment was to come. As we know they are exiled. But, God is not finished speaking to them. We will return to this book tomorrow. Take care! -Pastor Rick