Preaching from Jeremiah – A Sermon on Judgement and Hope

JEREMIAH – JUDGEMENT AND HOPE

Sermon Draft – 27 June, 2010 (SAIACS Chapel) (All bible references are taken from the NIV)

Jer 17:14 Heal me, O Lord , and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

The point of the sermon is this: The story of the (early part of the) book of Jeremiah is that there is false hope being offered by the people, which God entirely rejects. Judgement is coming. However, there is also true hope for the people of God, that not everything will be destroyed, God will restore his people.

INTRODUCTION

Personal confession: I find the Bible difficult to understand.

Yet God led me to Jeremiah, to challenge me to know him outside the normal simple texts that I chose.

So for that past few months I have been meditating on the book of Jeremiah. I have thorough enjoyed reading Jeremiah and have even begun to understand parts of it that I thought I wouldn’t understand. Despite the generally negative tone, there is a fundamental positive message for the people of God, and a little of that excitement and hope is want to share with you today.

For my text I am taking a marathon survey through the first 31 chapters of Jeremiah, though focussing on 27-31.

Please don’t be shocked, we are not going verse by verse! But I’m hoping that we will get a feel for the text. But I also hope that you will read for yourself, test for yourself, what I am saying, and take a journey into this difficult yet fascinating text.

BIBLICAL SURVEY

The first 30 chapters take the reader through a message of judgement, shown from the perspective of God who is hurt and angry with his people who have forsaken him.

GRACE TO JUDGEMENT

Shifting from possible grace to inevitable judgement

One of the early chapters (chapter 2 in fact) shows God as the accuser, bringing charges against the people of Israel for forsaking their God.

As a result of this betrayal, God has decided to judge the people with Death/destruction and Exile.

In the early parts there also seems to be the possibility of redemption or a way out. For instance in 3:14 God declares, “Return, faithless people, for I am your husband.”

Similarly in 4:1

“If you return, O Israel, return to me,” declares the LORD. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.”

However, by the later chapters we begin to see a mood change; from the call to repentance, a warning of judgement, the sheer futility of the call is felt. God’s growing anger against the people results in the exile becoming a certainty.

A key turning point is Chapter 11 where God declares that the people have broken the covenant and will receive all the curses of the covenant.

In Jer 11: 11

Therefore this is what the Lord says, “I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”

Furthermore, Jer 11:14

“Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.”

Again God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people in Jeremiah 14:11-12

11 Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. 12 Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.”

Funny interlude (for us, and not the people) is that Jeremiah is earlier seen as praying for the people, calling for redemption. But then, when he is threatened by a plot to kill him in chapter 11, he too calls the people to be “dragged off like sheep to be butchered!” (Jer. 12:3)

GOD IS ANGRY

God is shown to be angry over many things; some of the most severe are…

  • a non-repentant attitude
  • false hope
  • false prophets who preach false hope

1. No repentance, no shame in the people for their sins.

An example of this is found in Jer 6:13-15

3 “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.
15 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord.

2. Two, there is a false sense of security in the promises of God (the temple, peace etc).

1. Nothing will happen because Jerusalem has the temple; the covenant.

2. There will be peace.

3. Other gods (Jer 13:10) and other nations will save.

4. The exile will be really short (no drastic consequence).

In Jer 5:12-13 we see the people questioning the prophets who preach destruction.

“They have lied about the Lord; They said, “He will do nothing!
No harm will come to us; We will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; So let what they say be done to them.”

Similarly… God warns of the belief to trust nothing will happen because the temple of the Lord was there.

In Jer 7:4 warns against the “trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”

Jer 7:8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

9 “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,a burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” — safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord .

3. God is also angered by the false prophets… who give false hope.

Jeremiah 14:13-16

13 But I said, “Ah, Sovereign Lord , the prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.'”
14 Then the Lord  said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. 15 Therefore, this is what the Lord says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. 16 And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them or their wives, their sons or their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.

Furthermore in Jer 23:16-22 God warns

16 This is what the Lord  Almighty says:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord .
17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord  says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?
19 See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord  will not turn back until he fully accomplishes
the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly.
21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.

BATTLE OF THE PROPHETS:

We see the battle of prophets in Jeremiah 27-28: The Yoke

A true prophet… Jeremiah is shown to be true… vindicated by the events that follow.

Jeremiah 27-28 : The fight with Hananiah

TRUE HOPE

True hope is shown through in chapter 29-31

Chapters 29-31 however end with a story of hope for restoration after the Exile period is over.

1. Exile… accept the conquerors yoke (the good figs are the ones who are taken away, not the one’s who stay behind or elsewhere).  This is because it is within the plan of God.  Jeremiah 27.

2. It is a long exile… 70 years. (letter to the exiles) But the people are to live their lives… grow their plants, marry… all plans that involve making an alien land a home.  Jeremiah 29:4-14

READ:  Jer 29:4-14

4 This is what the Lord  Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord  for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord  Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord .
10 This is what the Lord  says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

3. The restoration of the people (healing) Jeremiah 30:12-17, Sing with joy…

Jeremiah 31:3-9 Note: Virgin Israel! 31:4

READ Jer 30:12-17

12 “This is what the Lord says: “‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. 13 There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. 14 All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many. 15 Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.

16 “‘But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil.

17 But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord , ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’

4. God will establish a new covenant, with the new people. Chapter 31

  • Unified community… no more division between Israel and Judah (27).
  • Fresh start… no facing judgement for the sins of the fathers (29-30).
  • Law in their minds and hearts (inner transformation). 32-33. God’s word in the mind-heart… unlike fanciful dreams of the false prophets.
  • Know God (34) (unlike the false kings and shepherds who did not know God)
  • Bound in the laws of creation (35-37)

Read the text to summarise

Jer 31:27-37

27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord , “when I will plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the offspring of men and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord .
29 “In those days people will no longer say,’ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes — his own teeth will be set on edge.
31 “The time is coming,” declares the Lord ,”when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord .
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord .
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord .
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
35 This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — the Lord  Almighty is his name:
36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.”
37 This is what the Lord  says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the Lord .

IMPLICATIONS / REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1. What are the sins we need to confess/name/repent from; as a community/church?

2. Suggest how Indian Christians today can be seen as “new covenant” people. (read 2 Corinthian 3:7-18)

2 Cor 3:7-18

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

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Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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