The Second Sunday in Lent at Hope, Jerseyville
Sermon Text: Jeremiah 26:8-15
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Jeremiah was either incredibly brave or incredibly dumb. In Jeremiah 26, the chapter of our Old Testament reading, Jeremiah stands in the biggest city in Judah, in the middle of Jerusalem, in the court of the Lord’s temple, and tells the people that unless they change and start listening to God and His prophets, the temple, the city, and the land of God will be desolate, empty, and a curse for all the nations of the earth. He is threatening the most important and powerful people in the whole country to their face, in the most public and important place they have. That doesn’t even mention the fact that he is foretelling the destruction of God’s temple in God’s temple and that if he is wrong or if God didn’t actually tell him to do this, he will most likely be struck dead on the spot by God. In spite of all this, Jeremiah still speaks.
He makes a bold confession of the truth of God in a place that will likely kill him for saying it. And Jeremiah isn’t the only prophet God calls to make a bold confession of the truth. You probably know about Jonah, the prophet swallowed by a whale or big fish who went to Nineveh to foretell the destruction of the city even though he thought it would get him killed. It worked out for him, the people repented, and God relented of the disaster. It did not work out so well for Jeremiah as the people did not repent, but called for his death, threw him into prison, and then did try to kill him.
But regardless of the outcome, whether the people repent and believe or not, what remains the same is God’s call to these prophets to boldly speak the truth no matter the cost. What remains the same for us, today, is God’s call for us to continue to boldly speak the truth of God.
And that truth of God which He gives us to proclaim is not always sunshine and rainbows. The truth of God is both the Law and the Gospel. The truth of God includes calling a sin a sin, calling sinners to repentance, foretelling death and desolation for those outside of Christ. The call of the prophets, the call of the church, my Call, is not to make the way to heaven easier or more acceptable to the culture, but it is to make the culture and the people acceptable to God by always proclaim the truth, and sometimes, that truth hurts.
It hurts because the truth is that our culture, this world, and we are not good. In fact, it is in serious, grave, deadly danger. We are on the brink of desolation and destruction because of our sin. We need to know that. We need to know the stakes, the price that we will pay if we do not listen to God’s Word. You need to know that if you don’t shape up, turn and repent right now and devote yourself to the things of God rather than the things of men you are on the verge of hell.
And I don’t care if it hurts your feelings to hear. In fact, I pray that it does. I pray that it cuts you to your core, insults you, attacks you and offends you in the very innermost fibers of your being because it means that God’s Word and His Law is doing exactly what it is meant to do: kill you. And if it means that you hate me for saying it, or you want to kick me out, or your never coming back to this church again, or you want to kill me or Jeremiah for it, then so be it, but that is what God has given us to proclaim.
And it is that same message that we, as the church, are given to proclaim in today’s culture that is so hostile to it. It may not make us popular or well liked. It may create hard feelings and make people angry with us for speaking the truth and that is unfortunate, but it also might make them repent. That was Jeremiah’s goal and that is ours too: to speak God’s love to them, His truth to them, even if it might hurt them or get us hurt or hated. Because the most loving thing we can do, the thing we are called to do, the greatest way we can serve our neighbor is not by telling them that everything is fine when it’s not, but by telling them to come and fix their eyes on Jesus, their savior and yours.
And in order to know, see, confess, and believe in a savior, we must first confess that we need saving. Sin leads to death. Sin must be punished. Sin against God will be met with the full wrath of God. And that wrath, that punishment, and that death will be yours unless you repent, mend your ways, obey the voice of the Lord and He shall relent from this disaster upon you and instead put it on His Son. Jesus becomes desolate, abandoned, and alone instead of the house of Jerusalem, God’s people. Jesus is struck down, crucified, and destroyed in your place. He has saved you from this disaster and restored you to peace.
That is why four chapters later in Jeremiah, from chapter 30 through 33, Jeremiah speaks and promises restoration and peace. He foretells that although Jerusalem is being destroyed and exiled now, although we are separated from God now, we shall be restored, brought back, and returned to peace. So through the cross of Christ our punishment is taken now and we are made acceptable to God, restored, brought back, and returned to peace with Him.
That is the truth of God which we proclaim, the Law and the Gospel. God has called you a sinner, called you to repentance, called you to faith in the Gospel, called you and all believers to everlasting life with Him. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.