Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
He Rescues - June 25, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Jeremiah 20:7-13
The preacher in Ecclesiastes was right, there is nothing new under the sun. All these seeming new sins we have in our world today are nothing more than warmed over sins and some with new names. And today we do not even call it sin, we call it a mistake or an error in judgement, or a lapse in judgement, anything except sin. As we get into our text for this morning, if we did not know that it was written between 626 and 586 BC, we might think it was something being written today, here in the good old USA. I must confess, that especially as a pastor, I can relate to this text, but as a Christian who exercises your faith, I am sure that you also will relate to this text as well.
The context of our text is that Jeremiah was prophesying God’s truth, especially the truth of violence and destruction, of gloom and doom, and the other prophets, the king, and the people did not like it. We might liken what Jeremiah was doing to the pastor who continually preaches the truth of God’s Word, rightly dividing law and Gospel, no matter how politically incorrect, or against public opinion his proclamation might be. As we will see, Jeremiah was proclaiming what the Lord had given him to proclaim. Unfortunately, because of the sin of the children of Israel and because of their refusal to acknowledge and repent of their sin, the only thing the Lord was giving Jeremiah to proclaim was violence and destruction, or as we might say today, gloom and doom.
In particular, Jeremiah faces off against the temple-warden, Pashur, who holds him in contempt. Notice how everyone is against the messenger, as if the message does not mean anything, only a way to accuse the messenger. How often do we get mad at the Pastor for what he says, when he is only saying what God has given him to say?
Getting into our text, we begin with what I call “the Word,” that is, Jeremiah’s complaint. We begin at verses seven, “7O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long” (7-8). Jeremiah says that he was deceived by God into being a prophet. He thought that he would be able to prophecy good things, but now he has only violence and destruction, gloom and doom to prophecy. If he had only known that he was only going to be prophesying gloom and doom then he would not have signed up, or so he thinks.
He complains because he is ridiculed. He is ridiculed because he never prophecies good. All the other prophets are prophesying good things and he has to keep prophesying the bad. If only he could be like the other prophets then he would not be ridiculed, then he would be able to get along better, again, or so he thinks.
Notice how he turns to blame God for his troubles. It is God’s Word that has made him an insult and a reproach. It is all God’s fault that he is having so much trouble. Even Jeremiah has a hard time seeing that it is the people who have brought this violence and destruction on themselves. God is merely keeping His promises. He is merely dispensing justice. God is giving the people what they want. He is giving them their own way. Which suggests to us to be careful of wanting our own way, lest God would give us our own way, which leads to the road of violence and destruction.
At this point in our text we might ask ourselves, “are we more like Jeremiah, or the people?” Do we proclaim God’s Word as truth and have others complain of our “close mindedness,” or do we complain because the pastor proclaim’s God’s Word as truth and we complain to him about his “close mindedness?” Do we listen to the message, or do we blame God and miss the message all together?
Getting back to our text, we read what I call “the plan.” We pick up at verse nine, “9If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! ‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my close friends, watching for my fall. ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him’” (9-10). Jeremiah has a plan. He knows how he will get out of always being in trouble with everyone. He knows how he can be politically correct and not offend anyone. His plan is that he will just be quiet and say nothing. If he does not say anything, then no one can accuse him of anything. That sounds like a good plan. Perhaps we have felt that way before. And certainly this would be in line with what we have always been told as children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” If only it were that easy.
There is just one minor flaw to his plan. He cannot do this. He cannot be quiet, because God’s Word is like an all consuming fire within him. He just has to say something. He just has to say what God tells him to say. He just has to, otherwise he will burn up.
He has to say what God gives him to say and, yet, the whole while his friends are waiting for him to get something wrong so they can accuse him of being a false prophet. Nice friends, right. His friends are watching his every move. They are writing down and documenting everything he has to say, looking, searching, waiting for him to say or do something wrong so they can say, “gotcha.”
At this point we might again ask ourselves, “are we more like Jeremiah? Do we try to hide God’s Word, do we just not say anything and not have others complain of our “close mindedness,” or does this merely apply to the pastor?” Do you stand out as being different in your workplace? Or do you say what everyone else is saying, not trying to rock the boat? Does your faith show, or do you try to hide it for fear of being set out as different? Please understand, I am not trying to make this a belittling issue. This is a tough thing and we believe the words of Jeremiah, he was ready to quit, or at least to try to quit.
The last section of our text is a word of good news and encouragement, what I call the “promise and praise.” We pick up at verse eleven, “11But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. 13Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (11-13). After all is said and done, Jeremiah knows that God’s Word does what it says. He knows that God is on his side and that the word which he prophesied, the Word of the Lord which he proclaimed, will happen, not because he proclaimed it, not because the words came out of his mouth, but because they are the Lord’s Words and the Lord does what He says.
Jeremiah knows that he holds the trump card. He knows that God will bring vengeance on his enemies. He knows that no matter how much his enemies watch him, how much they record, how much they wait, how long they wait for him to slip, their waiting and watching are in vane, because God will do what His Word says.
All of this thinking, this inner struggle we hear Jeremiah doing ends up with his giving praise to the Lord because, as he says, “He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” Jeremiah puts his trust in the Lord knowing that the Lord will rescue him from the wicked.
The final upshot of all this is the fact that God’s Word does what it says. No matter what we might do, say, or think, no matter whether we confess God’s Word or not, no matter what we do, God’s Word will do what it says. No matter how much we do not say, or how quiet we try to be, God’s Word cannot be quieted. We have the advantage of looking back in time and seeing that God’s Word has accomplished what it says. The giver of peace, true peace has come. Jesus has already given His life on the cross for us. The violence and destruction, the gloom and doom that should have been ours has been dealt to Jesus. Jesus is the one who has rescued us from the hands of the wicked, from the devil. As the Lord examines our hearts and minds, by faith in Jesus, He sees Christ’s righteousness as ours. And God receives His just praise and glory.
The first question we might ask ourselves is, do we proclaim God’s Word, through our thoughts, words, and actions, or do we not want to cause any conflicts with our differences? The second question we might ask ourselves is, do we want a pastor who will preach God’s Word, whether we like it or not, or one who will preach what we want to hear, whether that leads to heaven or to hell? These questions are not new questions. This is not a new problem, this is an old problem, it just has a new name, political and religious correctness. The answer to how we deal with this problem is the answer of Jeremiah, the Lord’s Word will do what it says, “sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” If these problems only affected this life then we might have a different course of action or result. But the answer to these problems affects our more important life to come, our eternal spiritual life. Do we deny God, or proclaim Him no matter what happens in this world. Praise be the name of the Lord, because He is the one, the only one who can help us to profess, and confess our faith in Him through our thoughts, words and actions. And He does. By Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, He forgives us when we doubt, when we try to be quiet, when we try to hide and even more, He stirs in us to show forth His love for us.
By God’s grace, He has given us life, from the moment of conception. He has given us new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution. He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word and through His Holy Supper. All that we have is a gift from our great gift giving God. As we talked about a couple weeks ago, although all of this is freely given to us, none of this came without a price. The price for all that our Lord gives is the life of His Son on the cross. Yes, our Lord gives us all things and He even stirs in us a response of faith, that is that we do not hide our faith, nor do we keep our faith quiet, but rather that we rejoice and give thanks for our faith, that we share our faith with others, sometimes with our words, often with our thoughts and most often in our actions, and that we give glory to our Lord for all His good gifts and blessings saying, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.