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Sep 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 13-15 09/24/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning and welcome!                 The Lord is with you!

Shanah Tovah!  On Friday evening, September 15, the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashana, began. These are the Days of Awe/Days of Repentance that are celebrated for ten days.  Now it is the Hebrew new year 5784.  Rosh Hashana ends at sunset tonight; then it is Yom Kippur, a very solemn, most holy day on Monday.  In Judaism, Yom Kippur is when God decides each person’s fate, so Jews use the 10 days of Rosh Hashana to make amends and ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year.  

This was initiated in the Old Covenant, a command from God as a statute forever, and required action from the high priest who was to make atonement through sacrifice, and the people to humbly wait on God.

Have you heard the term “scapegoat”?  One of the sacrifices the high priest made was to speak the sins of the people and put them on the head of a goat; then that goat was sent into the wilderness.  We use the term scapegoat in this way, don’t we, as one who takes the blame for others, right?  For believers in Jesus, the scapegoat is a picture of the Messiah, who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, once and forever.  Yom Kippur, their day of atonement is after ten days of repentance and must be practiced every year.

I am privileged where we live to be able to attend services of the Jewish faith.  It inspires gratefulness when I study the law and the prophets and gives me more appreciation of the great sacrifice of Jesus, the enduring work on His cross, and the New Covenant.

During the services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, several things stood out to me. One is the term “Avino Malkeinu,” which means Father King.  Cantor Shula said, “We need a Father and His great love and tenderness toward us, and we need to know that we come under the authority of our King.”  Of course, what’s called the “Sh’ma” from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, being the centerpiece of Jewish prayers, is recited many times.  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”  Sound familiar?  Jesus said that this was our first and greatest commandment.  They also read aloud Psalms 23, which we will use as our opening prayer today.  I’d love for you to join me in speaking aloud any portion of this Psalm as you remember it.

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: The purpose of Yom Kippur was to resolve a problem

Israel was the community of God’s people living in a world of impurities
– some impurities resulted from contact with natural sources (not sinful)
• others resulted from violations of God’s religious and social laws
• these impurities affected the entire community, even God’s sanctuary and its furnishings
– every year, atonement was made for the people and the sacred tent
• Kippur, is usually translated as “atonement” and means “cover”
◦ the lid of the Ark of the Covenant is called a covering (same word)
• on Yom Kippur the priests purified God’s dwelling and his people by covering their sins
◦ the people and sanctuary were covered for the past year

With the destruction of the temple, the practice of Yom Kippur changed,
– but Yom Kippur is still Israel’s holiest day of the year
• one way of thinking about Yom Kippur:
◦ every intimate relationship experiences occasional ruptures that require repair
• sin is the cause of all the ruptures in our relationship with God
◦ atonement is the means of repair
– BUT what if the rituals of atonement stop working?
• what if a year’s worth of sins is not covered?
◦ as we’ll see, this was the dilemma Jeremiah faced
• and this is the heart of today’s talk

Chapter 13 begins with a shocking display of performance art

God instructed Jeremiah to purchase a new linen loincloth
– an undergarment that could be cinched up for active work (2 Ki. 4:29)
• in some cultures, it’s the only clothing people wear due to weather conditions
• Jeremiah was to wear the loincloth for awhile, then bury it under a rock
◦ some time later, he went back and retrieved it
◦ but now it was “spoiled,” ruined and “good for nothing”
– there were two messages in this live parable:
• the first had to do with pride
“Thus says the LORD: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem” (Jer. 13:9)
Hear and give ear;
be not proud, for the LORD has spoken (Jer. 13:15)
But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride (Jer. 13:17)
(A different Hebrew word is used for pride in each verse, which expands the potential for different was that pride can manifest itself)
◦ the first Hebrew word used can be a positive quality; “excellence,” “majestic”
◦ but in certain contexts it can be a negative attitude or behavior; “arrogance,” “conceit”
▫ a legitimate pride can become rotten and trip up a person
▫ they may see themselves as superior to others or become overconfident in themselves
◦ so God was going to spoil Judah’s pride–or let it spoil on its own due to the course they were taking
• the second lesson seems to me an audacious analogy
For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen (Jer. 13:11)
◦ the point of this analogy is that God had intended an intimate connection between him and his people
◦ he tells them, in effect, “All you had to do was to cling to Me!”
cf. Deuteronomy 10:20, “You shall reverence your God. You shall serve him and hold fast [cling] to him . . . .”

Chapter 14 begins with a message regarding a drought

We can feel the effects of the drought in the poetry of first six verses
– then Jeremiah asks, what seems to me like, audacious questions
O you hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
Why should you be like a man confused,
like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
(Jer. 14:8-9)
• the question “Why” is frequently found in Psalms of complaint
• it is frequently the first question we ask in the face of tragedy
◦ it doesn’t usually do any good to ask, because there’s no way to get a satisfactory answer
◦ but still, we can’t help but ask “Why?”
– Jeremiah comes to God with a question burning in his heart
• it’s not in the questions that he asks
◦ these risky questions, are merely expressions of his grief and frustration
(he doesn’t, for a moment, think God is confused or powerless)
• what Jeremiah feels is an unexplainable contradiction
◦ he feels his own confusion, because he knows God is no stranger in the land of Israel
• he wants to ask why the all-knowing, all-powerful is doing nothing about the drought

God’s answer in verse 10 is that he is not the problem
– he allows Judah to suffer as if they were not his children, because they have been living as if he were not their God

It’s at this point we come to the question I asked at beginning

What if the means of repairing our relationship with God does not work?
– for instance prayer would be the first stage of repair
The LORD said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people” (Jer. 14:11)
• in the next chapter, God says something, and it’s a radical break from Israel’s history
Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send the out of my sight, and let them go!” (Jer. 15:1)
• historically, Moses and Samuel were Israel’s two greatest intercessors
◦ they had been able to change God’s mind
And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people (Ex. 32:14)
◦ but now God says not even the prayers of those men work
– another stage of repair would be to seek God in worship
• to bring sacrifices for their sins and receive forgiveness
Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burn offering and grain offering, I will not accept them (Jer. 14:12)
• but God is saying that would not work either

Can you imagine God telling you not to pray for someone?
– perhaps a friend who has relapsed into drugs or alcohol
• or an abusive boss who has taken ill
◦ it’s unimaginable
• but God did not need to tell Jeremiah, “Don’t pray for them”
◦ he could have simply ignored Jeremiah’s prayers
◦ isn’t that how God treats some of our prayers? – or at least, so it seems
– why the formal command? I believe, to open a door of hope
• God wanted his people to hear these dreadful words,
◦ to feel the hopelessness of their situation
◦ their God, giving up on them, rejecting them, their situation so severe that not even the prophet’s prayers could help
• but as we read on, Jeremiah does very thing he’s been told not to do: he prays for the people
◦ he turns to God to bring rain – only he can save them
Have you utterly rejected Judah?
Does your soul loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down
so that there is no healing for us?
We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD,
and the iniquity of our fathers,
for we have sinned against you.
Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
do not dishonor your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.
Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
[and so end the drought]
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O LORD our God?
We set our hope on you,
for you do all these things
(Jer. 14:19-22)
– Jeremiah knows the heart of his God
• he knows that God never gives up on his people

God sums up the problem with his people in one line

You have rejected me,
declares the LORD;
you keep going backward . . . .
– if I’m not getting anywhere, I should check which direction I’m moving
• this is like a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder
• if you have to return to make sure you turned the over off or locked the front door,
◦ and do this a hundred times or more, you will never leave your home or get anywhere

Once again we find Jeremiah complaining
Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and convention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me (Jer. 15:10)

His entire prayer of complaint is worth reading
O LORD, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance take me not away;
know that for your sake I bear reproach.
You words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of revelers,
nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,
for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing,
my wounds incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail?
(Jer. 15:15-18)
– Jeremiah did something that was unnecessary
• he provided God with reasons why he should help him
◦ God’s reasons for acting on our behalf are in himself
◦ he loves us beyond our comprehension
◦ he wants to forgive and embrace us
• nevertheless, I can appreciate what Jeremiah says
◦ especially in verse 16 about finding God’s words and devouring them
◦ Job, in his complaint, made a similar affirmation
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food (Job 23:12)
– I think it’s possible that Jeremiah had bouts of depression
• his unhappiness surfaces more than any other prophet
Why is my pain unceasing? he asks
◦ too much suffering can break a person’s mind
A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
(Pr. 18:4)
• if you tell person with a broken spirit that their words are blasphemous, they say,
“Who cares? Can it get any worse? If God won’t listen to my cry for help, maybe he’ll listen to my blasphemy”
– God’s answer to Jeremiah’s complaint is different than before
• now it is a loving kick in the butt
Therefore thus says the LORD:
“If you return, I will restore you,
and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall be as my mouth.
They shall turn to you,
but you shall not turn to them.
And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,
declares the LORD.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jer. 15:19-21)
• God tells Jeremiah to “return” – or turn, or change his attitude
“Get back to work and I’ll restore you and enable you to finish your job”
• for the prophet, any kind of answer is enough of an answer
◦ this time, Jeremiah does not need to be sweet-talked

Conclusion: I didn’t point this out before,

But chapter 13 is loaded with word pictures besides loincloth
For instance: jars filled with wine, feet stumble on the twilight mountains, beautiful crown, beautiful flock, scatter like chaff, and lift up your skirts over your face
Each image is familiar, and each image carries a secret meaning

When we begin our day with prayer, we can leave home looking for God
If God gives us eyes to see, anything physical can become a door
Anything can become a symbol of something else
A cloud, of course
A flower, of course
But even a rattle snake (as I saw on one of my walks this week)
Anything that brings awareness of God
Hidden truths come to us through images
God’s revelations find openings and his parables are plentiful
If we’re on a quest for enlightenment, God will accommodate us
So maybe our prayer this week can be,
“Open my eyes, Lord, that I may see”

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