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Sep 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 11-12 – 09/17/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome RefleXion Community!           The Lord is with you!

When I was studying theology, my course in the Old Testament required that we read through the entire Old Testament in one semester.  If you’re like me, I got a good dose of New Testament in church, but I was only familiar with  Genesis, the Ten Commandments, and maybe some Psalms and Proverbs from the Old.  I also had the understanding that the God of the Old Testament was harsh and angry, and it was only in Jesus was He a God of Love.  But reading through the first 39 books of the Bible at one time, I could clearly see the God of Love.  I think Chuck’s also helping us with that perspective.  This is how Richard Rohr puts it:

“What God was doing in their heart was loving them to life. God was loving them, calling them, and drawing them to God’s own heart. God had loved Israel to life when they were still enslaved. God invited them to life when God gave them the Torah to follow. God drew them to life when they had given up on life, in exile…

God’s call to life was, at the same time, a call to love. Drawn into the love of God, the prophets loved YHWH with all their heart and soul. They loved their own people and with clear insight saw that living in the love that is God implies hospitality to strangers, charity to the poor, justice for the oppressed.”  

Yet, through the prophets, did the LORD use some strong language?  You bet.  But let’s call it a “Lover’s Quarrel.”  I think this idea is important to keep in mind as we read the prophets and as we engage in dialog in our community and culture.  We can ask, “What’s our motive?” for anything we say or do, and we might come up with “Love.” Yet the Way of the message, the energy of the message, must be infused with Love.  It’s not just about the outcome we think the Lord wants.  To follow Him is to follow His Way.  That is how we can demonstrate that we know God and are His children.  It is not just “what Jesus wants,” but Jesus’ Way.  Do you agree?

Let’s pray:

Lord, there are so many things we can know and understand.  One thing is necessary for us to learn and practice – the way of Love. Let all our criticism and correction be a “Lover’s Quarrel.” Love has wisdom and compassion embedded.  Love knows the “how.”  By your grace, infuse your love in us that we may operate in this way – your way.  This is our ultimate concern, that we become love.  May we move closer to the fullness of that this morning.  Safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith jr.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “Amen, LORD” Jeremiah 11:1-8

Intro: To fully appreciate what’s here, we need perspective

If we take an aerial view and rise high enough,
– we’ll discover in Jeremiah themes and sayings from Deuteronomy
• both use the metaphors of a circumcised heart and an iron furnace
• both lay great emphasis on God’s covenant with Israel
The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today (Deut. 5:2-3)
◦ it turns out, Deuteronomy is laid out in a covenant format
J. A. Thompson, “It is beyond question that the structure of Deuteronomy is related in some way to the structure of political treaties of the ancient Near East.”
– those covenants had lists of stipulations for both parties — same with the biblical covenant
• God’s part: to be Israel’s God–always bless and care for them
◦ Israel’s part: to be his people and obey his commandments
So shall you be my people, and I will be your God (v. 4)
• the most important moment in a wedding ceremony is when the bride and groom swear their vows
◦ this happens for Israel in chapter 27 of Deuteronomy
◦ the entire nation would gather on two hillsides
the Levites shall declare to all the [people] of Israel in a loud voice: “Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the LORD . . . .” And all the people shall answer, “Amen” (Deut. 27:15-26)
– God and Jeremiah perform a mini-version of that ritual here
God announces, Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant . . . .”
Then Jeremiah responds, “Amen, LORD” (vv. 3 and 5)–the exact pattern of the covenant ratification in Deuteronomy 27

God never lets up on this message that he and Israel belong to each other by covenant
– throughout Jeremiah (and Ezekiel) God refers to the sin of Israel and Judah as “adultery”
◦ he is the jilted lover – betrayed and brokenhearted
◦ but still, his love never gives up
What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? (v. 15)
I have given the beloved of my soul
into the hands of her enemies (Jer. 12:7)
• she is still his “beloved”
◦ the affection implied in this term accentuates the offense of their trysts with other gods
◦ God’s love for his people is unbreakable
• if we can’t see what’s in God’s heart, we miss the point
– this brief reenactment between God and Jeremiah reveals the love God’s people had abused
The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers (v. 10)
• the warnings he gave them in Deuteronomy were now descending on them
◦ that was the meaning of this moment of Israel’s history
Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not (v. 8)
• this is the persistent message in Jeremiah–until, God provides an answer for their persistent failure
◦ a new covenant – but now I’m jumping too far ahead

I’m tempted to belabor the point of this passage

That’s because I don’t think we’ve ever come close to comprehending divine love
– this episode unlocks the soul of God’s covenant with Israel
• and it reveals a depth of love that sustains his covenant with us
– however, I’m going to force myself to move on, because God’s interactions with Jeremiah, help to personalize the divine love in how it can be shown to individuals

Jeremiah had become a target
The LORD made it know to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more”
Jeremiah 11:18-23

People in his own community were plotting to kill Jeremiah
– this was a typical usual fate of God’s prophets – “kill the messenger”
• representing God, Jeremiah felt in himself the force of their rejection of God
• David experienced this as a reaction to his devotion for the temple
For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me (Ps. 69:9)
◦ Paul could also see how this verse applied to Jesus
For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me” (Ro. 15:3)
– this could become one of the heavy burdens the prophets carried
• Jeremiah did not complain–this time
• he took this new challenge to God
◦ and God assured him that he would deal with it

In the very next movement, Jeremiah is complaining
Righteous are you, O LORD,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart
Jeremiah 12:1-2

I love the way Jeremiah steps into this
Righteous you are, O LORD – but still I’m going to complain!
• that’s because there’s a vantage point, from which it looks like God doesn’t do anything about the deeds of the wicked
• in fact, rather than be punished for the evil they do, they prosper
– this is one of several complaints that Jeremiah will lodge
• and God deals with each one in a different way
◦ for instance, in the previous complaint God said, “I will take care of it”
◦ but here God has a different response
If you have raced with the men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
what will yo do in the thicket of the Jordan?
Jeremiah 12:5

“men on foot” refers to foot soldiers or infantry
– the meaning of this analogy is obvious: “What you’re complaining about is lightweight. If you collapse at a simple challenge, how will you handle the big stuff?”
• Jeremiah may be complaining about invasion of the pagan armies
◦ God’s long answer is given in the remainder of the chapter
◦ the enemy will serve God’s purpose, then after that he will drive them out and bring his people back (vv. 14-17)
– God’s response is not harsh or threatening
• it’s more like a pep talk a coach would give his losing team at halftime
• what does Jeremiah hear?
◦ God’s confidence in him – he can survive this
◦ Jeremiah just needs to double down and keep going

In scripture, the complaint department is always open

Complaints appear in many of the psalms,
– and a few psalms consist entirely of complaint
• is God okay with this?
◦ traveling in the wilderness, Israel grumbled a lot
◦ on one occasion, God told Moses
“Get away from all these people so that I can instantly destroy them! (Nu. 16:45 NLT)
• so what made it okay for psalmists and Jeremiah to complain, but not for the people of Israel in the wilderness to grumble?
– Israel grumbled about God, Jeremiah complained to God
• Israel’s grumbling was a turning away from God
• Jeremiah’s complaint was a prayer in which he turned toward God

Why is it okay to bring our complaints to God?
– one obvious reason: God wants us to bring everything to him
Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you (Ps. 55:22)
. . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7)
– but another reason is, God wants us to open our hearts to him completely
• when David confessed his sin to God, he came to a realization
Behold, you delight in truth in the [inner being],
and you teach wisdom in the secret heart (Ps. 51:6)
◦ God wants a full disclosure of what we think and feel
• perhaps I have secrets in my heart I keep even from myself; after all,
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)
◦ there are my selfish, sinister, or self-protective motivations
◦ but also my doubts and disappointments with God
• God wants me to bring all of that,
◦ and with the angry, confused, or hurt feelings those things produce
◦ he wants to be with us in all of it
– psychologists sometimes describe people with infantile dependency issues
• they’re always wishing for a parent-figure to provide, protect, comfort, and nourish them
• Arthur Deikman said that complaint’s implicit message is, “I’m not happy and someone should do something about it”
• but when it comes to our relationship with God, dependency isn’t a disorder–it’s our salvation

Conclusion: I began Friday morning in a deep pit

After getting the grandkids to school, I forced myself to take a walk
On the trail, I realized I could be listening to something edifying
Looked up Tim Keller on YouTube, and found a talk he gave entitled, “How to deal with dark times”
It was exactly what I needed –
He explored the complaint in Psalm. 88 (and it does not end on happy note!)
I would recommend his talk to anyone who needs reassurance of God’s love
When we pray, we need to talk freely with God – and we need listen carefully to his response
His response is not always “the answer,”
but it will always enlighten us, enable us to go on, and–even if slightly–change us

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