Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
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Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet

Three Stages of Rebellion Against God
Seminarian Mark Ehrlichmann
July 23, 2006


We continue our study of God’s Word through Jeremiah. 

We have learned that God called Jeremiah to be His prophet,
Jeremiah responds "No, I am not old enough."

And last week we discovered that God has had enough of Israel’s silliness and unresponsive actions to God’s love for her.  He tells Jeremiah that it is over. He gives Jeremiah two visions of what will happen. 

That God will watch over His Words, meaning that because He has had enough, He will punish Israel for her lack of faith.   And that destruction will come from the north, meaning that Israel will lose freedom and suffer much.

Today we will discover the three stages of Rebellion against God, personally and culturally:
a. Deny sin (Jeremiah 2:31-35)
New Century Version
 31 ...Why do my people say, 'We are free to wander. We won't come to you anymore'?
 32     A young woman does not forget her jewelry,
    and a bride does not forget the decorations for her dress.
    But my people have forgotten me for more days than can be counted.
 33 You really know how to chase after love.
    Even the worst women can learn evil ways from you.
 34 Even on your clothes you have the blood of poor and innocent people,
    but they weren't thieves you caught breaking in. You do all these things,
 35     but you say, 'I am innocent.  God is not angry with me.'
    But I will judge you guilty of lying, because you say, 'I have not sinned.' " 

God has Jeremiah tell Israel: "Stop sinning. God will forgive you!"
But the people respond: "We are not sinning."

The people of Israel have not realized that they have become slaves, stuck, locked in the thought process of following their own desires instead of following God.  They became unfaithful in their relationship to God.  Like a marriage where the wife or husband completely ignores the other and follows his or her own desires.  But they know they have a spouse.  They completely abandoned God.  They didn’t even care if other people knew they abandoned God.  They didn't care if God’s feelings were hurt! 

They were worse than people who worshipped false gods.  They conducted false worship in the Temple, God’s Holy House.  This was too much for God.  People who worshipped false gods were more faithful than Israel because they did not dishonor their gods with false behavior.  

What is the image of Israel, what is her character?  Surely, not worthy of God’s love.  God agonizes over His decision to destroy Israel, but He must because His own character demands it for He Himself said that He is Holy.  Therefore, because He chose Israel as His people, they are to be Holy.  God's Word is His authority, and is pure.  God is Love.  It hurts His heart terribly and He can't stand it anymore.  He wants to share His Holiness but Israel keeps getting dirty and dirty.  They did not think they were sinning.  Just the fact that they do not see themselves as sinners is the final straw for God.  So, God tells Jeremiah to proclaim to Israel: "Enough!  Enough!  It is over!  My relationship with you is finished."  Yet, Israel laughed.  They did not believe God, as we come to the second stage of Rebellion: Israel’s Denial of God’s Judgment.

b. Deny judgment (Jeremiah 5:10-13)
 10 "Go along and cut down Judah's vineyards, but do not completely destroy them.  Cut off all her people as if they were branches, because they do not belong to the LORD
11 The families of Israel and Judah have been completely unfaithful to me," says the LORD.
 12 Those people have lied about the LORD and said, "He will not do anything to usNothing bad will happen to us! We will never see war or hunger!
13 The prophets are like an empty wind; the word of God is not in them.
    Let the bad things they say happen to them."

This reminds me of my experience working the farm for my cousin and attending technical college for Farm Management.  For through my working on my cousin’s farm clearing some land for him to expand, I was helping to prepare the land to grow grain.  Because I did a good job in preparing the land my cousin was able to grow much.  Because of my faithfulness and right way of clearing the land, both of us received blessings from the land.  Now, if I did not do my job in preparing the land, if I did not pay attention in my Farm Management class, I would not have a relationship with my cousin and he would not have good land to grow grain.  Because I did not care about him.  I only cared about myself.

Now think of Israel as the land, and her prophets as the ones clearing preparing her for growing fruit.  God is telling Jeremiah that those prophets did not do the right thing in not proclaiming His word.  The prophets were just as guilty as the people were.  The people were not getting the warnings that God was not happy with them.  The prophets themselves were like an empty wind blowing apathy and false security because the prophets themselves did not believe that God would do anything, good or bad. They would say: "It can’t happen here."  Not facing reality.  They believed their own lies.  They would leave people searching for the truth because they forgot where that truth is.  They knew God.  But neglected to listen to Him.  It became "Whatever works for you."

Just like it is today in America.  People are still searching for the truth.  And people also are still afraid of the truth and prefer not to hear it over and over.  Because they don't want to give up their false idols.  Their love of their things.  They begin to deny God.  The last stage of Rebellion.  God says:

c. Deny God (Jeremiah 6:16-17)
 16 This is what the LORD says: "Stand where the roads cross and look.
    Ask where the old way is, where the good way is, and walk on it.
    If you do, you will find rest for yourselves.  But they have said, 'We will not walk on the good way.'
 17 I set watchmen over you and told you, 'Listen for the sound of the war trumpet!' 
    But they said, 'We will not listen.' "

God declares that the time has come for Israel to awaken from its slumber party.  Time for the reality of real hard life as His chosen people.  To realize the consequences of their abandonment of their relationship with God.   To understand that their souls will not have any rest because of their decision not to walk in the right way of life.  Their decision not to listen to the sound of the trumpets, i.e. listen to the prophets over the years, of the warnings of God to not abandon their faith.  They will find no rest for their souls.

We can also ask ourselves, where are we, in our lives?  Are we walking in His ways, Are we walking with God?  Are we listening to God?  How is your soul?  Do you have peace in your soul? 
I opened with Martin Luther’s quote of "Man has either God or an idol."  Do you worship God or an idol?   Are you happy with who you are?  Ask Jesus to help you, I guarantee He will if you will let him.

I am struck by the 14th verse of chapter 5, where God says: 
     14 The Lord God rules over all.  He says to me, "The people have spoken those words.  So my words will be like fire in your mouth.  I will make the people like wood.  And the fire will burn them up."

I found it interesting because when I studied the Gospel lesson for today, Mark 6.1-6, I noticed a parallel in that God was grooming Jeremiah to be a prophet without honor and that His Words would be like fire for destruction.  There is a similarity in that Jesus said a prophet is without honor in his hometown and found it amazing that the people of his time did not want to believe him either.  Even though they could SEE him and His works.

God sends Jesus, His own son, a prophet without honor, but with a fire that will clean and not destroy!!

Think about that!  Thanks be to God that we have a Savior, that through our faith, will clean us instead of destroy us.  Thanks be to God for His Great Love and Patience with us.  Even today, Jeremiah’s words speak to us of God’s love for us.  He also speaks of God’s warnings to us not to let ourselves be obsessed with things that cannot give us rest for our souls.

In this world of "lost-ness" may God shine His Word on your hearts and may the Holy Spirit guide you into the Way, the Life, and the Truth in Jesus Christ, your savior, so that you may find rest for your tired souls, that you may find living bread and living water for your bodies.