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Aug 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 5-6 – 08/27/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning RefleXion!            The Lord is with you!

When my pedicurist paints nail art on my toes, she always says don’t look until it’s finished -I try to look– she says, “not yet!”  What she means is that if I start to judge it now, I’ll want to correct it or ask her to make adjustments. 

This world we live in, this life we lead,  is full of things “not yet,” of this and thats.  We want to fix, resolve, or decide and move to this OR that, to think we can declare a “good” or a “bad” or a final answer.  “Their friend died…oh, but she’s in a better place.”  “That was a terrible fire…oh, but people came to help and the forest has new growth.”  “That is a scary procedure…oh, but God will be with them.”

It’s not this or that; it’s this AND that.  If we give ourselves time and space to sink down to the part of us that can hold this tension, the seeming polarities, we will find that part of us that is expansive, and at the same time, grounded enough to hold the full human experience.  We can hold the grief and the hope, the anxiety and God’s faithfulness.  We can hold both joy and sorrow – Jesus did. 

The image I sometimes have when I hold two seemingly opposing things is the one of Jesus on the cross.  On one side the unrepentant thief and the other who gave his heart to Jesus.  Jesus’ arms were outstretched to them both, holding the tension of his own sorrow and joy. We share in the sufferings of Christ, as well as being a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.

We are living in the gap–the little pathway between this and that.  If we try to focus on one or the other, we’re up against a cliff, or shall we say a rock and a hard place.  Everything is being woven together.  Do you remember the adage about the tapestry…that we’re only seeing the tapestry of life from the underside?  And if you create anything, you probably don’t want people to judge it from the underside.  So, black and gold, rough and smooth, joy and sorrow are all being woven together.  Wait until it’s finished – and then we’ll see the whole picture.  We’ll be in glory. 

I’m reading parts of “A Liturgy for Embracing Joy & Sorrow” from Every Moment Holy for our opening prayer today:

Lord God, in one hand we grasp the burden of our griefs, while with the other we reach for the hope of grief’s redemption.  And here, between the tension of the two, between what was and what will be, in the very is of now, let our hearts be surprised by, shaped by, warmed by, remade by the same joy that forever wells within and radiates from your heart, O God.  For this is who we are:  a people of The Promise, a people shaped in the image of God whose very being generates all joy in the universe, yet who also weeps and grieves its brokenness.  So we, your children, are also at liberty to lament our losses, even as we simultaneously rejoice in the hope of their coming restoration.  Let us learn now, O Lord, to do this as naturally as the inhale and exhale of a single breath.  We turn our hearts and minds to You this morning, O God. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her
Jeremiah 5:1
Then I said, “These are only the poor,
they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the LORD,
the justice of their God.
I will go to the great
and will speak to them,
for they know the way of the LORD,
the justice of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke,
they had burst the bonds
Jeremiah 5:4-5

Intro: In 1989 Bob Dylan released the song “Everything Is Broken”

I’ll read some of the lyrics:
Broken lines, broken strings
Broken threads, broken springs
Broken idols, broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken
Broken bottles, broken plates
Broken switches, broken gates
Broken dishes, broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken
Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties, broken vows
Broken pipes, broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling, bullfrog croaking Everything is broken

– it’s a bluesy song that I love listening to when I feel down but not out
• when something that is important to you falls apart,
◦ or a lot of unpleasant things line up in your day, this song fits your mood
◦ lots of people, in different situations can connect with these lyrics
• it sometimes seems everything, everywhere is going wrong
– this was Jeremiah’s world

Reading through most of Jeremiah is rough and unpleasant

It is everything we don’t want to hear God say
– for instance, that decisions and actions have consequences,
• and the worse our actions, the more severe the consequences
◦ also, that God has been sending his people (us) messages and warnings,
◦ but they (we) have been ignoring them
• in context, the whole culture of Jerusalem had become a trap
◦ that if you were to go up and down it’s streets,
◦ looking for a decent person, you would be wasting your time
– it’s as if God is the District Attorney, taking Israel to court
• in chapters 5 and 6, he delivers his “opening statement”
◦ his argument comes down to a question, he asks twice (first in verse 9, then again in verse 29)
“Shall I not punish them for these things
declares the LORD;
and shall I not avenge on myself on a nation such as this?”
• but before God condemns, he investigates to see if he can find a reason to pardon Jerusalem (v. 1)
◦ he’s a reasonable DA – willing to look at all the evidence

Jeremiah’s first response is to make an unwarranted assumption

These are only the poor . . .
– he makes no apology for this prejudiced view of the poor
(an assumption not based on theology but sociology)
• the poor were deprived of anything like a formal education
• the majority of the poor were most likely illiterate
• they were perhaps more susceptible to superstition and conspiracy theories
• they were easier to fool, trick, swindle
• they had less leverage to resist social trends and pressures of the rich
– when Jeremiah tested this theory, he realized it couldn’t hold water
• everything and everyone was broken

This conclusion is repeated and amplified further on

But it also comes with a surprise at the end of the chapter
An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rue at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
Jeremiah 5:30-31
– the prophets and priests were abusing their authority
• I would expect a lot of unrest and agitation would erupt in the community
• people would be up in arms and lodging complaints – but God says,
my people love to have it so!!!
– the populace gave consent to the corrupt leadership
• they wanted prophets who would lie to them, give them false assurances and worthless promises
• they wanted authoritarian priests who were complicit with prophets

In the 1970’s, ultra-conservative Christians were denouncing “secular humanism”
– they sharply criticized “lifeboat ethics,” “situation ethics,” and moral relativism
• they argued that doing the right did not depend on circumstances
◦ theft was always theft, a lie always a lie, blasphemy was always blasphemy
• people were fit or unfit for leadership, according to their moral character
– today, people in that same religious demographic,
• turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of their politicians
◦ and it doesn’t make any difference whether we are talking about Democrats or Republicans
• these believers justify their compromise with unethical leaders with lame excuses,
◦ like, “Well, all politicians lie”
◦ it is not so difficult to slip into the lax attitude of Jeremiah’s audience

There was one major crime the people committed against God

Before Jeremiah was called to prophecy (probably before his born),
– the worst king in all of Judah’s history reigned in Jerusalem
He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the LORD had driven from the land . . . . He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father, Hezekiah, had destroyed. He constructed altars for Baal and set up an Asherah pole . . . . He also bowed before all the powers of the heavens and worshiped them. ¶ He built pagan altars in the Temple of the LORD . . . . Manasseh also sacrificed his own son in the fire. He practiced sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the LORD’s sight, arousing his anger. . . . Manasseh also murdered many innocent people . . . . (2 Ki. 21:1-16, NLT)
• although Manasseh had died, and they nation made a turn back to Yahweh during Josiah’s reign,
◦ there moment of devotion to Yahweh was short-lived
• soon they were sharing their devotion to God with other gods
– so God’s response was to give them up to other gods
And when your people say, “Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?” you shall say to them, “As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.” (Jer. 5:19)

God is relentless as he continues his line of accusations in chapter 6

You can see that I’m highlighting specific verses in each chapter
– what I will point out here, are examples of Judah’s brokenness
• there are specific social systems that must be kept in proper order,
◦ to maintain a healthy connection with God
• in chapter 6, we learn four systems that were broken
– the first two appear in verses 13-15 (note that verse 13 rehashes what we heard in ch. 5)
For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, there were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the LORD
Jeremiah 6:13-15)

Brokenness Number 1: Providing simplistic solutions to complex problems
A few years ago, another pastor I had known for a long time told me, “The difference I see between us, is that you make everything complicated, while I make things simple.”
– he believed that there were no complex problems
• that from the right perspective, all problems could be solved with simple solutions
◦ for instance, no one needed therapy – “Just read Bible and have faith”
• my heart broke for the people he counseled
◦ he didn’t need to listen to them – but he preached long sermons to them
◦ he was treating cancer with band aids
They have healed the wound of my people lightly (slightly, superficially)
– just saying the words does not create the reality

Brokenness Number 2: They lost the ability to blush
There is prophetic irony in this line, they did not know how to blush
– no one tries to blush – in fact, sometimes we try not to
• it’s something the body does on its own
◦ an automatic physiological response to an emotion like anger or embarrassment
• that they did not blush, indicates their insensitivity to shame
◦ they could not longer feel how wrong their actions were

Brokenness Number 3: Their worship was broken
What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba,
or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burn offerings are not acceptable,
nor your sacrifices pleasing to me
Jeremiah 6:20
Worship is where we connect with God – it is our ongoing conversation with him
– it is our prayer and praise – it is our listening and speaking, our waiting and watching
• when worship is everything it’s supposed to be, it is acceptable – we are accepted
– but incense and rituals and loud praise are empty without intimacy

Brokenness Number 4: The refining process was broken
I have made you a tester of metals among my people,
that you may know and test their ways.
They are all stubbornly rebellious,
going about with slanders;
they are bronze and iron;
all of them act corruptly.
The bellows blow fiercely;
the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,
for the wicked are not removed.
Rejected silver they are called,
for the LORD has rejected them
Jeremiah 6:27-30
The “tester’s” (assayer) concern had to do with impurities
– that is because an impurity could weaken the strength of a metal or decrease its value
• God was turning up the heat on Jerusalem
• but the impurity of wickedness had merged with society and could not be removed
– silver is found in lead ore
• in this instance, even if the fire separated the ore from the silver,
◦ the silver was still not pure
◦ that is why it would be called “rejected silver”

Conclusion: There is a subtle sign of hope for Jerusalem in these chapters
Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
but make not a full end . . . . (Jer. 5:10)
But even in those days, declares the LORD, I will not make a full end of you (Jer. 5:18)

Have you ever seen the movie A Walk in the Clouds? A young man returning from military duty during the second World War, meets a young woman whose family owns a vineyard in northern California. The vineyard is exceptional for the quality of grapes and wine in produces, because of the excellence of the original vine. Tragically, a fire destroys the entire vineyard. The family stands by the burned fields stunned by the loss that will now ruin their lives. But the young man suddenly remembers something he had seen. He runs into the field and kneels down in one row where he finds a portion of a vine with its roots intact. He shows it to the family, and now it is time to rejoice and celebrate. Out of that small bit of life, an entire vineyard will return to the fields.

Read these words again:
Go up through her vine rows and destroy,
but make not a full end
That little bit that was not destroyed would be the salvation of his people
It doesn’t take much,
but if we return to God with the little bit we have,
his touch will be our salvation

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