Sermon Date: July 9, 2017
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Jeremiah 20:7-13
Children of the Heavenly Father, Take Courage!
We join the early Christians in this prayer. But now our concern isn’t just for our nation or the direction things are going. How do we handle it, when people we love are buying into the craziness? Do we let them “have it”? Do we write them off? Do we get angry with God for allowing it, or doubt the power of His Word? These were the kind of questions Jeremiah was asking in our text this morning, and here’s what he came up with: Children of the Heavenly Father, Take Courage! 1. The Lord stands behind His Word. 2. The Lord stands beside us.
1. The Lord stands behind His Word
Our text reads: You persuaded me, Lord, and I was persuaded. You are stronger than I am, and you prevailed. – Jeremiah 20:7 Jeremiah is referring to when God first called him into the ministry. At that time he was just young man, in fact Jeremiah said, too young. But God told him: Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you. – Jeremiah 1:7-8 Jeremiah obeyed God, because after all, God was bigger than Jeremiah. And now here’s what God had him say to the people of Jerusalem and especially to the king and the high priest. They were guilty of forsaking God and instead were praying to the gods of the Zodiac. They murdered anyone who got in their way, we might think of here chariot-rage. They also murdered their unwanted babies. Yet all the while they claimed nothing bad should ever happen to them, because they were God’s children.
Well, Jeremiah had news for them. If they didn’t repent, God would send the Babylonians. The Babylonians would burn down every house, where the people had burned incense to the Zodiac. The people themselves would either be killed with a sword or starve to death, and the few that survived would be taken as slaves to Babylon. These threats were real! Sadly, the people wouldn’t listen. The high priest even accused Jeremiah of false doctrine, had him beaten, and put in jail overnight. When Jeremiah got out the next day, he repeated everything God had told him to say. After that he went off to feel sorry for himself. Jeremiah’s problem at this point was he had forgotten that God was His Heavenly Father, and was blaming Him for allowing what had just happened.
Reading on in our text: I have become a laughingstock all day long, and everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I call out. I call out, “Violence and destruction!” because the word of the Lord has brought me insult and mockery all day long. – Jeremiah 20:7b-8 The Hebrew word for “call out” shows the turmoil in Jeremiah’s heart. It means to shriek in anguish or danger. Jeremiah saw the danger the people of Jerusalem were in with their impenitence, and so he calls out to them like a mom shrieking at her two-year old as he’s running into the street. At the same time Jeremiah is also shrieking out for himself, because he was in real danger of being murdered.
And what did Jeremiah accomplish for all his shrieking? Nothing except he felt even worse inside. So, he decides he’s just going to keep quiet. That didn’t work for him either. We read on: If I say, “I will not mention him or speak in his name any more,” then there is a burning fire in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in. I cannot! – Jeremiah 20:9 We get what Jeremiah was going through. If someone we care about is possibly on the road to hell, how can we keep quiet? Or, how can we sleep at night? On the other hand, if we do say something, how far does that get us? Here’s what it got Jeremiah. We read on: I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” “Denounce him! Let’s denounce him,” say all my close friends, those who are watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived, then we will prevail against him and we will take our revenge on him.” – Jeremiah 20:10 Using today’s terminology even Jeremiah’s friends were saying he was delusional, an extremist, and out of touch as far as modern religion and science are concern. But worst of, they said he was unpatriotic and a traitor.
What had happened to Jeremiah’s friends? Apparently, they were being dragged along by what everyone else was saying. Except there was even more to it than that. Our sinful nature doesn’t like to be told that the things it likes doing are sin. For example, what happens if a parent catches a child lying? Does he immediately burst into tears and say, “I’m sorry”? Or, does he sometimes get angry that he got caught? Or suppose an adult adopts a sinful lifestyle, and a caring friend or relative talks to him about it. Many times, at least at first, he’ll accuse his friend butting it, or being judgmental and unloving. Ironically, Jeremiah’s friends were the ones being judgmental and unloving. Their plan was they would leave Jeremiah be for a while, long enough for him to be proved wrong, and then they would take revenge on him for stinging their conscience. On the other hand, what if Jeremiah was proved right, and what he had told them was from God? Well, they would just take their chances.
Taking our chances with God is never a good idea. Anyway, it terrified Jeremiah to think about what would happen when his friends met God face to face. And so, Jeremiah had to choose. Would he side with his friends against God? Or, he would side with God for the sake of His friends? The choice was easy, because Jeremiah knew that the Lord was standing beside him.
2. The Lord stands beside us.
We read on in our text: But the Lord is with me like a fearsome warrior. So my persecutors will stumble and they will not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed because they have failed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. Lord of Armies, you who test the righteous, who see the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for I have revealed my cause to you. – Jeremiah 20:11-12 At first this sounds kind of judgmental. But wait! Didn’t Jeremiah in verse 7 accuse God of being unfair? Wasn’t Jeremiah almost like blaming God for how things were going in Jerusalem? Jeremiah was a sinner too! Also, if he wanted vengeance on his so-called friends, as it sounds like in this verse, how was he being any different than they were?
Here’s how, and I can see this in verse 13, which we’re coming to. Jeremiah’s friends doubled down on their sins by denying they were really sins, and then continued in them, and so they hardened their hearts. Jeremiah on the other hand, spread his sins out in front of God for God to look at. Then He confessed his powerlessness to get rid of them from his life and not commit them again, whether in thought, word, or deed.
When we call out to God like Jeremiah did, He promises that He will not condemn us. Instead He is our fearsome warrior standing by our side, for He defeated Satan’s temptations in our place, and then died our death for us on the cross and rose again. For this reason, when someone points out a sin we committed, there’s no need to get angry with them. We can spread out that sin to God, and then our disgrace, our sins, which He can never forget, He does forget and remembers them no more. And instead what He does remember is us! Isaiah put it this way: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands – Isaiah 19:15-16a. (Here we may think of the marks of the nails).
And now we go from seeing this picture by faith, to looking around at what’s going on in the world, or at what’s going on in the lives of some people we love. How can we not call out to them like Jeremiah called out to His friends? And then especially how can we not keep pointing them by word and example to the Savior of us all? Yes, some may refuse. And if they do, we can ask God, just like Jeremiah was asking, that He do with them whatever it takes, so that His Word won’t be hindered, and so that His Kingdom will grow.
Still, at such times we might feel like failures for not speaking up sooner, or for not saying things better. We can be tempted, then, to go back to blaming God for the way things are or doubting the power of His Word. That’s exactly what Jeremiah did in the verses after our text. Yet right in the middle of his being down on himself and being down on God, here’s what the Holy Spirit led him to say: Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord, for he has delivered the life of the needy from the grasp of the wicked. – Jeremiah 20:13 Jeremiah was a child of God, not because he was without sin. He was a child of God through faith in the Savior, who stands behind His word. Likewise, Jeremiah was a servant of God, not because he never messed up. He was a servant of God, because the Lord stood beside him in everything he was given to do. Finally, what does all this mean for us in these days, when such hostility toward the word again, and persecutions are possible? Don’t be afraid! Take courage, and remember: You Are Children of the Heavenly Father. Amen.
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net