THE STING OF THE TRUTH
Good morning, today we will conclude our look at Jeremiah. Like all the other books we have covered there is so much that we will not look into. Again, this gives us more to talk about some other time. When I get to the New Testament I will take a more slower approach. My intention with the rest of the Old Testament is to simply give more of an overview, while focusing on a few highlights.
Over the past couple of days or so we have focused on Jeremiah's message to the people both in Jerusalem and Babylon. (The exiles). Today, I want to go back and look at the prophet himself. As far as the people are concerned God promises a return to the homeland and that God will make a new covenant with them. (He will write the Torah on their hearts.) Jeremiah, as you may recall, was a living sermon. His life reflected what God wanted to tell the people. This made him an unpopular prophet. It's easy being a prophet, or preacher, or teacher, etc., as long as you tell the people what they want to hear. There is at least one television preacher (more of a personality) who has made it big by telling people what they want to hear. I won't mention his name but he is "smiling" all the way to the bank. But, I will also say that while there are those who tell people what they want to hear by way of "You're ok, I'm ok, we're all ok, and you are loved and you are.....so smile and be happy and claim all that God has waiting just for you, etc..." There are those who also preach doom and gloom...because that's what their audience wants to hear. Yes, there are times when folks need to be encouraged. Yes, there are times when folks need to be warned. Jeremiah did both. But, what toll did all this take on Jeremiah?
We began by looking at the scripture where God told Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jer. 1:4-5) As I said before, folks today often use this passage as an argument against abortion. Now, I'm not addressing abortion today, except to say that this passage had nothing to do with the issue of abortion. (I understand why it is used, but God was saying these words to Jeremiah for another reason.) From long before his birth God set Jeremiah apart for a particular purpose. This is about the calling of a prophet. Now, keep in mind all that Jeremiah has been asked to do, and what he was forbidden to do.
"O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me..." (Jeremiah 20:7) Wow! These are the words of Jeremiah; not to the people, and not from the people to God. These are the words that Jeremiah speaks to God from Jeremiah. Think about these words for a minute and we will return to them .
Have you ever heard someone say, or you may have said: "I have given my life to Christ?" What does it mean to "give one's life to Christ/God?" Does it simply mean that we all of a sudden start going to church on Sundays and that we pray and that we believe in God and that Jesus died for our sins? And, of course we go to heaven after we die. Is that what it means? Well, give that some thought...I'm not going to answer the question, but let's look at what it meant for Jeremiah. (*still building in the verse quoted above [20:7]) If you recall as part of Jeremiah's "living sermon" he was forbidden to marry and have children. *This was not his choice, but God's choice. (Because God has set him apart from before birth) Then we read the words quoted above.
Jeremiah is complaining to God about how the people are treating him. But, he is doing far more than complaining. He is expressing frustration, but he is doing more than expressing frustration. Jeremiah is accusing God, but of what? Jeremiah was accusing God of abandoning him even after God had promised him divine support. Hmm...have you ever felt this way? Jeremiah the prophet, who is given a personality and a voice, I think, speaks for many. Here is a guy who says what's on his mind. Now, the question is; "Can God handle us speaking our mind to God?" I hope so, because Jeremiah ultimately accuses God of doing more than abandoning him. Jeremiah uses graphic language in the passage I quoted above. When he says: "you...overpowered me and prevailed." (20:7b) what was Jeremiah accusing God of? Well, for my safety I won't say, but I'll let you decide.
Why would Jeremiah get to the point where he would accuse God of (again I'll let you decide what the accusation was)? He had just been placed in stocks. Then he would be dropped into a cistern. All this along with all the other things we have looked at. Yes, for Jeremiah, this is what it meant to "totally belong to God." It had nothing to do with the kind of music he listened to, or the programs he tuned in to, or how he talked, or how often he went to church, etc...It had everything to do with every part of his life, good and horrible, reflecting the message God was sending to the people. He was "surrendered to God" before birth and all throughout his life.
Jeremiah is not a book about happy endings. It does deal with the promises of God, but sometimes those promises come over time. God will prevail, but along the way there are stocks, cisterns, exiles, etc...This book also gives insight into the real life of a prophet of God. Let me let you in on a little secret: Being a spokesperson for God is not easy. Sometimes I don't like what I have to say. To tell the truth to someone comes with a cost. Why? Well, is there anyone who really likes the truth? No matter which side you are on politically, religiously, on the issues or on anything at all, the pain of the truth crosses all lines. That is what we get with Jeremiah.
Let me give an illustration about truth. One of the greatest lines from any movie was from the movie "A Few Good Men." In the movie Tom Cruise' character said to Jack Nicholson's character: "We want the truth!" Jack Nicholson's character then yelled back: "You can't handle the truth!" Now, that is also one of the truest statements ever. Now folks believe that whatever they believe is the truth and nothing but the truth, etc. And, yes, no matter what, there is always such a thing called truth. I have many views on many things. They are my views. But, are my viewpoints the truth? I like to think that I have hair. I tell myself that I have hair. Why? Because I look in the mirror every morning and comb my hair. *My wife says it takes me longer to comb my hair than it does her. I go to the hairdresser (yes, I go to a hairdresser) and it takes her a while to cut the hair on the top of my head. So, I have hair. Correct? Well, then I see a photo that was taken at an angle that shows the top of my head. I ask, "Who is that man who looks like me in the face, but is bald headed on top? Who is it? It is me. No,...yep...no! Yes, it really is. I promise you, I can not handle the truth. The reality of the truth is always painful. There are folks who have convinced themselves that they are living right and are ok with God regardless of their lifestyle. "Everyone else is doing it! It's the way of the world!" they proclaim. Well, what the people were doing in Jeremiah's day was the way of the world. But God sent Jeremiah to them. He shared the truth, and they could not handle it.
Tomorrow we will look at the Lamentations. I hope you can join me. -Pastor Rick