Jeremiah (3 Feb 2019)

“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,   In accents most forlorn, Outside the church, ere Mass began,   One frosty Sunday morn.” As the Men of Mark discussed the effect of the drought.

And so around the chorus ran “It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan, “Before the year is out.

Fortunately the rains did come and a bumper harvest seemed in sight While round the church in clothes genteel Discoursed the men of mark, And each man squatted on his heel, And chewed his piece of bark.

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man, There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan, “Before the year is out.”

Hanrahan was a man we might call a Jeremiah!

We call someone a Jeremiah meaning they are a person who complains continually or foretells disaster. 

Jeremiah the Old Testament prophet has been called the “weeping prophet”,He was called by God to be a prophet to the people:

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

All went well under the godly king Josiah, but then the kings who succeeded Josiah abandoned the faith of their fathers and led the country to false gods and false prophets. Of course, they lost the favour of God because of this faithless disobedience so God called on Jeremiah to warn the people.

Jeremiah passes on God’s warnings and identifies their sins and treachery; he points them out, because he wants them to realize the serious condition of their sinful ways.

People ask, “why does God let bad things happen?” but I ask, “why aren’t things worse?”

God is almighty and even today he restrains evil in the world.  If he did not then we would all be experiencing the consequences of our disregard of his rule.

Jeremiah was warning the people that God had restrained their enemies and protected them but he was about to respond to their rebellion by ceasing to protect them from the Babylonians.

•    Chapters 11-28, Jeremiah passed on God’s warning of the destruction that would be poured out on Judah because of their unfaithfulness. He tells them they are about to experience God’s holy anger that was to come. God was about to allow the Babylonians to overpower the country and removing their king.

‘Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, “This is what the Lord says: look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.” But they will reply, “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.” ’ (Jeremiah 18:11-12, ESV).

•   King Zedekiah did not heed his warning and turned on Jeremiah

  • Jeremiah was beaten and put in the stocks
  • A death sentence was passed on Jeremiah
  • Jeremiah’s prophecy was put on a scroll showing the consequences of the King’s rebellion against God. The King scornfully cut it in bits and burned it.
  • Jeremiah was let down into a nearly empty well and left to die in the mud in the bottom.
  • He was called a liar – perhaps dismissed as an early example of “false news”
  • Because he called the country to repentance and renewed submission to God and warned them of the judgement to come he was called a traitor.  

Modern labels are that he was out of touch, deluded, judgemental, to be false-god phobic, to be ramming God’s word down their throats, un-Australian.

Nevertheless, Jeremiah persevered and warned that the people and the King would fall into the hands of the King of Babylon.

•    In chapters 29-38, Jeremiah writes about the New Covenant and the hope that God would bring when He delivers them after the captivity.

In other words he was telling them, “God still loves you”  You are bringing this on yourselves but God is standing by to help when you are ready to ask him for it.

•    In Chapters 39-52 he records his prophecies coming true. Jeremiah records the events of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. just as he and other prophets had announced in the past. God used the Empire of Babylon to lay siege on Jerusalem and the land of Judah. This completes the exile of both kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. and now the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C. As Jeremiah had declared in 37:17, King Zedekiah was captured and his son murdered in his presence, he was blinded, bound and dragged off to Babylon in captivity.

•    Despite all this bad news, within his prophecies God promises to rescue His nation from captivity and Jeremiah gave clear prophecies of the coming of the Saviour, Jesus.

What about Jesus?

Luke 4:22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.

23Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” ’

24 ‘Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his home town. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.’

28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Despite wonderful teaching and extraordinary miracles in his own time and in his own town he was scoffed at, rejected and driven out of town.

They were amazed at his words – and then turned on him! Who do you think you are?

It started as a simple, scornful put-down: “isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They didn’t want a local boy to tell them what’s what.

This is Jesus himself we are talking about! And if this is the way Jesus was received should we expect things to be better for us?

But it got worse when he reminded them of times when the Israelite people were bypassed in favour of gentiles because the Israelites had corrupted their faith in God.

Elijah and Elisha also found themselves in times when the people had turned away from God and were living with the consequences – times of great suffering; times from which relief came only when the people repented and turned back to God.

In the midst of the suffering the prophets brought saving miracles to gentiles, not to Jews! Now Jesus was warning the people that their lack of faith would result in them missing any blessing.

Their self-confidence, their self-righteousness brought the result that their minds were so closed to the notion of others sharing in the bounty of God’s deliverance that they themselves were incapable of receiving it.  Having left God behind it should not have surprised them when God left them behind – but it not only surprised them it offended them.

Do people in our community give God the respect that is due to him?  Is our country really interested to know what God wants of it?

There is the old question, “if God seems far away, guess who moved?”

Why should God care about people who don’t care about him? He shouldn’t, but he does.

Corrections and calls to repentance are often so unpopular that not only is the message rejected but so also is the messenger.

So what about us?

We are called to follow the examples of Jeremiah and of Jesus.

Jesus has called on each of his followers to share his good news to everyone we can in whatever way we can.  “Go … and make disciples …” he said.

Jesus has called us to be prophets and priests to the nations – starting with our own town of Bellingen.

It would be wonderful if lots of people responded to our good news with joy and acceptance, but we are not surprised when they respond the way they did – and the way they do. Listen to what Jeremiah again and again was told to expect and ask, do people respond any differently today?

 “Yet they did not listen or incline their ears, but stiffened their necks in order not to listen or take correction.” (Jeremiah 17:23, NASB).

He was rejected but he did not stop.

Jeremiah 20:8Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long.

9But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

He kept going as an act of obedience to God and for the sake of his people who desperately needed to hear this message from God Almighty.

Jesus, too, was rejected – indeed rejected to the extent that they crucified him.  They did not achieve the result they wanted because he was raised from the dead to become King of kings and Lord of lords.

In some countries around the world every day Christians have their homes and businesses destroyed, are put out of work, have violent acts against their families and are killed.  We have it pretty easy.

In our day we are told, “Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when people will not endure sound teaching… They will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2Tim 4:1-4).

Jesus told his disciples, “Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult youand reject your name as evil,

because of the Son of Man. 23 ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

We might be called a whole series of falsehoods; Jeremiahs, mocked, scorned and dismissed as being misled, out of touch, even deluded, racist, to be phobic about something and even un-Australian.

God told Jeremiah and he tells us, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” and, like Jeremiah, we will persevere.

BUC 2019-02-03