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Sep 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 9-10 – 09/10/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community.             The Lord is with you!

If you know me, you know I love cats…and butterflies, particularly the endangered Monarch butterflies.  A couple of years ago, we got to watch the entire life cycle from egg laying to emerging butterflies on our balcony milkweed.  Last year, only a few.  And this year has been awful.  First, they were late laying eggs.  I had just about given up seeing them, and the milkweed was past its prime, but they did come.  At one point, I counted 10 caterpillars of all sizes chomping on their leafy greens, to the point that I bought two more plants, making a total of five on my tiny balcony.  As you probably know, when they have completed their larva/caterpillar stage, they find a place to hang and form their chrysalis. After the caterpillar inside the chrysalis is pretty much liquified, the remaining cells—called imaginal cells—go to work creating the butterfly that will emerge in 10-14 days.  It’s truly a metamorphosis; they are becoming a new creation. 

Many of “my” caterpillars crawled off to do their hanging/pupa/chrysalis; but a  few were right before me on my railing and pots, and I was excited to see the butterflies emerge.  But I could tell the chrysalis was deformed; and they ended up dying.  My friend had warned me that if I saw strings hanging from them (I did) it was the dreaded T-fly.  The tachinid flies are parasitoid, depositing THEIR eggs within the Monarch caterpillars.  I was so sad.  I mean, they had a good life as caterpillars, eating all they could, free to crawl here and there.  But they didn’t get to metamorphosis, to be fully formed, because they were filled with a life that wasn’t their true life.  They weren’t fully formed.  I was very sad.

It got me thinking about how the Lord might feel when he watches us get infected with pests, when we, though walking out life the best we can, are overwhelmed with what is alien to our nature.  I’m sure he’s sad too, that we are not fully formed.  His plan is that we become new creatures in Christ.  Well,  I’m sure he loves caterpillars as well as butterflies, but don’t you think it gives him more delight to see us free and resurrected as a new creation?  What kind of parasites are we dealing with, sucking the life out of us?  Let’s continue to ask God to heal us so that we can become fully formed, changed from the inside out.  My thoughts…. 

Will you join me in prayer?

Lord God, you have made us to be free and beautiful.  We have developed other ways, and we have grown accustomed to living lives that are not our true birthright.  Will you help us to notice and to turn?  That was John’s baptism of repentance, to turn from and to turn to You Jesus,  for you are the Word who created us, the lover of our souls, the author and finisher of our faith.  Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can discern what is good for us and indeed our birthright.  May the words offered this morning be a living and freeing work in our hearts and minds.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

They bend their tongue like a bow;
falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me,
declares the LORD
Jeremiah 9:3
Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
they refuse to know me,
declares the LORD
Jeremiah 9:6
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight declares the LORD Jeremiah 9:23-24

Intro: There were two times in the gospels when Jesus identified precisely what had to be done in the moment
– once, when he told a wealthy man, “you lack one thing
(the man had to liquidate all his assets and follow Jesus)
– another time he explained to Martha, “one thing is necessary”
• then he defended the one thing Mary had chosen to do
– it can be a big relief to narrow down what’s most important now to one thing

Through Jeremiah, God confronted his people for their many betrayals
– one of their worst failures was their attachment to other gods
• but regardless of their many sins, there was one most important thing;
◦ namely, that they would know God
• unfortunately, they did not know their God
◦ and as we saw in the verses above, they refused to know him
– so God re-introduces himself to them
• for me, this passage is one of the major highlights in Jeremiah
◦ so we’re going to spend some time with it

The one thing in life that matters more than anything else

All through this prophetic book, the fundamental problem is idolatry
– chapter 10 illustrates the problem by alternating the message,
• going back and forth from idols a. (that are nothing) to Yahweh b. (who is everything)
a. in chapter 7 (17-18), serving idols was a family project
• now, in chapter 10 (1-9) idols are the products of creative and skilled artisans
◦ but God says idols are powerless
they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good (Jer. 10:5)
b. then comes the contrast between idols and Yahweh
There is none like you, O LORD;
you are great, and your name is great in might (v. 6)
◦ so the conclusion that is drawn regarding idolaters is,
They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood (v. 8)
(i.e., idolaters are looking to a wooden board to instruct and guide them)
◦ I’m sensitive to the word “stupid,” because it’s offensive
◦ but God is making a point, that he will reiterate two more times
a. craftsmen and goldsmiths do the work of beautifying idols
they are all the work of skilled men (v. 9)
b. then the contrast:
But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God and everlasting King. . . .
It is he who made the earth by his power. . . (vv. 10-12)
◦ the conclusion Jeremiah draws from this is also the next contrast:
a. Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them (v. 14)
◦ the Hebrew word ruah is used for wind, breath, and spirit
◦ idols have no breath, no heartbeat; they are lifeless
b. the contrast:
Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the LORD of hosts is his name (v. 16)
– the word stupid appears one more time in this chapter
For the shepherds are stupid
and do not inquire of the LORD;
therefore they have not prospered,
and all their flock is scattered (v. 21)
• a problem that many leaders have, is that they get stuck in “leader mode”
◦ even religious leaders can forget that they too are followers
◦ they’re merely a link in a chain
. . . for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them (Ecc. 5:8)
• if I can inquire of the LORD, but I don’t bother to seek him, then I’m stupid for not asking
If any of you lacks wisdom, let [them] ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given [them] (Jas. 1:5)

I want to emphasize a truth: everyone believes in something

Everyone relies on something, pursues something
– theologian Paul Tillich gave this a name: “Ultimate Concern”
Tillich, “Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of a meaning of our life.” “whatever concerns a [person] ultimately becomes god for [them]”
• for Tillich, there’s no such thing as an atheist
◦ that would mean a person had nothing to live for
• any Ultimate Concern that is not the true and living God is an idol — a false god
– this opens the range to a wide spectrum of potential idols
• most deities in the ancient word represented a natural, human obsession
◦ material wealth, fertility and erotic pleasure, military power, and so on
• I think most of us consider the last line of 1 John to be a throwaway verse
Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 Jn. 5:21)
◦ but it is not–it is as relevant now as it was in the first century

What did the gods the people of Judah chose for themselves represent?

Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom
(“boast”: to give such a high value that it is worthy of praise)
– a book that was formative in my understanding of theology, was John Mackay’s
Christian Reality and Appearance
◦ God’s self-revelation in scripture, and especially in Jesus, establishes the core reality of the Christian life
• in one chapter, Mackay address “The Idolatry of Ideas”
◦ although theology is a necessary concern,
◦ “ideas” formed around that reality can become substitute for it
Mackay, “Doctrine must not claim to be itself reality, but to be a true and necessary instrument by means of which reality is discerned, defined, and embraced.” “Woe to the . . . Christian community when ideas about God take the place of God himself, when allegiance to ideas about him takes the place of allegiance to him!”
– I don’t think I need to say any more about this

let not the mighty man boast in his might
– military might, individual fighting skills, athleticism, etc.
• God is not impressed or interested in human strength
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him
in those who hope in his steadfast love (Ps. 147:10-11)
– I can’t prove this, but I have a hunch, that the worship of idols inevitably results in addiction
• a person reaches a point where they cannot stop
◦ previously in Jeremiah, when God tried to stop his people from chasing after idols, they cried,
“It is hopeless, / for I have loved foreigners,
and after them I will go ” (Jer. 3:25)
◦ even when it self-destructive, the idol demands more devotion from its followers

let not the rich man boast in his riches
– I read in James chapter 1 yesterday,
Let [the rich boast] in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away . . . . So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits (Jas. 1:10-11)
• the wealth of the rich is never enough–the can never rest
◦ it’s always a pursuit for more
My meditation: “No matter how old the rich person, and no matter their net worth, they will always be in the ‘midst of their pursuit‘ for more when death catches up to them.”
– I’m curious about something
• Christians who get fired up regarding the sins of America
◦ what do they blast? abortion, homosexuality, removing formal prayers from public schools
• why don’t we ever hear them condemning greed, which is one of the most widespread sins in the U.S.?
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5)

What is the one thing most important to God?

That we understand and know him
– not just know of him, but understand God and his ways, how he operates
• we also want to know the things in which God takes pleasure
justice: a society taking right action in every specific situation
righteous: doing what is right in interpersonal relationships
• for me, steadfast love is a big one!
In July I was reading through the Psalms, and posed at Psalm 136 to let it sink in
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever
(Ps. 136:1)
(Every verse in this psalm repeats this second line)
My Meditation: “Some words are difficult to define, because they can communicate more than one idea–or–they are simply too full of meaning to translate with one word. There are also words difficult to define, because they represent a feeling or emotion, and we may experience those feelings differently from others.
The Hebrew word hesed, translated ‘steadfast love,’ is one of those words with too much meaning for one English word. Hesed was first translated ‘mercy,’ ‘lovingkindness,’ ‘goodness,’ and ‘favor’ in the King James Version of the Bible. Hesed is a benevolent attitude that one feels, or an act of kindness that one person shows to another, or mercy granted for an offense. It was in the list of words God used to describe himself in Exodus 34:6, where after announcing his name and describing himself as ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger,’ he adds, ‘abounding in hesed.’
Steadfast love is too specific and narrow to capture all of this. In fact, I think each time hesed appears, we were meant to feel it as well as understand it.
Now I want to read this psalm again and feel the richness of the second line in each verse; experiencing God’s kind and loving goodness toward me. This will make the poetry much richer, and how I experience it richer too. With the repetition of this line, I think of God’s goodness pouring into my life, my wife Barbara’s life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his unfathomable love and affection and faithfulness endure forever!

Conclusion: The question we have to answer now–the most critical question of our lives–is:

How do we demonstrate the fact that we understand and know God?
The simple answer is,
We do the thinks in which he delights
As the prophet Micah said,
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you,
but to do justice, and to love [hesed],
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

Jeremiah says something we need to take to heart
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
Correct me, O LORD, but in justice;
not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing (Jer. 10:23-24)
We do not move toward God on our own
He draws us to himself – we go willingly because we want him and trust him
We respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me”
Like Jeremiah, I pray “Correct me” – put me on the right path
It’s a stretch for me, but I have to remember to stop and ask for directions

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