Commandments, Security, Repentance, Jeremiah 8-9, July 2nd 2023

Commandments, Security, Repentance, Jeremiah 8-9, July 2nd 2023

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You have created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.” Rev. 4:11

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that we can come before you to listen to Your word. We ask that I may speak the words that You want to speak to Your congregation. So that it may contribute to the edifying of your church.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Good morning All Saints! Today we heard the readings from Jeremiah, Revelation and the gospel according to Matthew. We will have a look primarily to the piece of scripture from Jeremiah. We will look at what Jeremiah was saying to the people of Judah and how that relates to us, as Christians.

We will look at three points from the text of Jeremiah. We will first look at the using of the law in the time of Jeremiah and how we can use that in our time. Secondly, we will look at the feeling of security and identity in the time of Jeremiah and how we can see that in our time. And thirdly and lastly, sin and how it was handled in the time of Jeremiah and how we can use that in our time.

How can we say we are wise, for we have the law of the Lord, when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” Jeremiah 8:8

We see here that Jeremiah is asking this question to the people of Judah. He is speaking at the temple gate. This message contains chapter seven up to chapter ten. This message, according to the Scofield study bible is addressed to religious Judah. The way they worship the Lord is not according to the way the Lord wants to be worshipped. We see here that the scribes handle the law or the word of the Lord wrongly. In the passage in the Gospel, we read that blind guides are leading the blind. The people of Judah think they are following God according to the laws which were given to them. But apparently that is not the case. Because they have rejected the word of the Lord. The law of the Lord was given to Moses when the Israelites were led out of Egypt. God showed them plenty of signs that He was with them at that time. But in this time, it is different. As Jeremiah asks himself “is the Lord not in Zion?”. The people of Israel were told clear standards which they should reach.

In Deuteronomy 6: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

And again, the first of the ten commandments, you shall have no other gods but Me. Apparently, the people of Judah have left these commandments as Jeremiah is asking himself the question “Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”. The people of Judah have left the ways of the Lord, they started worshipping other gods, idols made of gold, silver made by human hands. As Psalm 115 says: “they have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” So, with worshipping their idols they gain nothing. They even can become like them.

Jeremiah is telling the people of Judah things they don’t want to hear. The scribes were people who had authority in the community of the Jews. Jesus also encountered the same problem. In the gospels we read some stories where the pharisees try to counter Jesus with laws that they made. One example from this we read in Matthew chapter fifteen where the pharisees ask, why the disciples of Jesus don’t wash their hands before they eat. Jesus’ reply is that they forsake the commandments of the Lord for their traditions. He calls them hypocrites. And He follows to use a prophecy of Isaiah “these people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by man”. So, we see that Jesus also had problems with the rules which the scribes gave the people. How can we use the law correctly according to the Lord Himself?

Jesus was very clear when He got the question what the biggest commandment was. In Matthew 22 Jesus answers this question in the following manner:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like this: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. So, in our time we should follow these two commandments. How can we practically do that?

It is interesting that the word which is used for ‘you should love’ is in Greek Agapēseis. I don’t speak Greek, but I have heard the word Agape before. It is seen as a sacrificial love. It is the love Jesus had for His Church, the reason why He gave His live for us all. So, there is a great example of how we should love the Lord our God and our neighbours.

Another practical example is the way how we spend our free time. I guess you have all seen the banner in the Kwekerij next door. In the kwekerij Sociale Gasten has its office. Sociale Gasten is an organisation that connects youth in Amersfoort to people who need help. This help is mostly practical, helping someone move, helping someone to maintain their garden and so on. I believe this is a beautiful way of connecting in Amersfoort and sharing God’s love to our neighbours. A good practical example of loving your neighbours.

“They dress the wounds of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace they say when there is no peace”. Jeremiah 8: 11.

According to Jeremiah the priests and prophets proclaim peace to the people. They don’t take seriously the wounds of the people. They are creating a false sense of security. If they follow the rules the pharisees and scribes make them think they will be well. They are Gods’ people so they are safe. This is not correct. Jeremiah laments on this: “we hoped for peace, but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror”. Due to the fact that Judah didn’t follow the commandments of the Lord, they were led in exile. So, they have gotten the opposite of peace. The people were probably scared when they heard the words of Jeremiah. Maybe even confused, how could this happen. They were told that because they were the chosen people of God, they would be well. No harm would be done to them. And now they are hearing that they will be sent to exile by an army from the north. Jeremiah is also asking why there is no healing for the wound of his people. I think we all have had a moment in our lives when we have asked this question. Why is there no healing? Does God not see, does He not hear? Jeremiah asked the same question; why is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Jeremiah was also longing for healing, but not for himself but for his people. The security of the people of Judah was thus placed in the wrong things. What can we learn from that? How can we use that in our time?

For an answer to those questions, we look at the one who overcame death. Our identity should be in Christ and not in what we do or have on this earth. It might seem that we have peace here in the Netherlands, but actually there is a war here as well. We as are church a more and more drawn away from the Lord by all the things which happen around us. I think we can all think of things which distract us. We should fix our eyes on Jesus and be on our guard that we, with the help of God, may resist the attacks of the devil. And by that we keep the promises that those of us who are baptized and confirmed, made at their confirmation and the promises our Godparents made when we were baptized.

Secondly when we look for security in Jesus and when we follow Him, we have the promise that we may one day enter into eternal life with Him. And that promise is one who will be soon fulfilled. Jesus said a couple of times that He would be coming back soon. Let us never let go of that hope.

Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush”. Jeremiah 8:12.

We have seen that the people of Judah knew that they were sinning against the Lord. Still, they have no shame about it. They have turned away from the God who brought them out of Egypt with His outstretched arm. The promises then made are now at stake. If they would follow the Lord and obey His commandments, they would have remained in the promised land.

There were plenty of promises that the Lord would give them the land if they followed His commandments, and yet they rebelled against Him. They went after Baal and other gods, they sacrificed their own children to the false gods (Psalm 106:  37).

We see that the people of Judah have left the instructions and commandments which they got from God himself. We see in Leviticus chapter 20 verse 22 that the following of the law was a requirement to remain in the land promised to them.

22 ‘Keep all My Laws and do what I tell you, so the land where I am bringing you to live will not spit you out. 

The consequence of what Jeremiah tells the people was one, which was to be expected. They were told how to act, what not to do and how to live their lives in the way which God had commanded. Their forefathers had seen the mighty works of the Lord done in Egypt, and during the Exodus from Egypt. I can imagine that their parents told them those stories. And they were to be celebrated every Passover. With all these promises we might ask why they left the ways of the Lord and followed other gods? In Dutch there is a saying: the grass at the neighbours is always greener. In situations in life, it would always seem that other people do better. That they feel better, have a better job, a nicer car, more friends etc. It can seem in those moment that the grass at the neighbours is greener. But it isn’t. In my testimony I shared how I was drifted away from the Lord. I experienced how it is to live without God and strive after the things of this world. And it didn’t work for me to follow the riches of this world.  Leaving God left an empty space in me. A space which couldn’t be filled with all the things the world has to offer. And we all have slipped some times. But we have confidence that we can turn our backs on the Lord, but He would not do the same. When we repent, we are assured that He will forgive us. And He will not leave us!

There is a lot of comfort there for us. When we repent of our sins, He will forgive them. Our relationship with God will be restored and renewed. We will be able through Him to be with Him. What a mighty Saviour we have!

And therefore, we ought to join the 24 elders in saying:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You have created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being”.

To conclude: we have seen three themes in this passage from Jeremiah. We have seen that the law was used wrongly, that the people of Judah didn’t find their security and identity in the right place and lastly how sin can be of impact. Therefore, there are three points for you all to take home and to reflect on:

  1. Follow the commandments.
  • Search for security and  identity in Christ and in the hope of His speedily return.
  • When we fail, repent and go back to Him who makes all things new.

With these three points I believe we can make a good start to get ready to meet the Lord when He returns. With His grace we will be able to follow Him and to be a light and salt in this world.

Let us pray. Almighty God, we thank You that we can always return to You. We ask You to fill us this week with Your love that we may be able to follow You and be strong to resist the attacks of the devil. And we humbly beseech You to hasten the day when You will return. Make that we may be ready and on guard so that we may enter with You into eternal life. We ask this through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.