I hope you will consider this message when you pray.
Do You Really Want it All to Stop?
An Adventure in Missing the Point
Text: Jeremiah Chapter 12
No news is good news, and I'll tell you why. Every time I turn on the radio or pick up the paper, something else has gone wrong in the world. Recently storms made tornadoes in Texas, six people lost their lives, many being flung far from their houses! Hurricane season is approaching and it seems like yesterday when Sandy came to the States, and caused so much trouble. Everyday it seems like someone else is dying for what amounts to no real good reason. Have you seen the Crime coming out of Chicago? Do you ever feel like the world is broken? What about the people around you? What about the government? Why is it that Lindsay Lohan can be arrested multiple times for drugs and alcohol and spend less than 2 hours in jail, but you sleep in the bushes, and it takes three months to get a court date sometimes!?! It's messed up and I'm tired of it!
The bad news is that this is nothing new. I say it's bad news because nothing has changed as far as injustice is concerned. Things were messed up when the Bible was written, and I'll just go ahead and say that things will be messed up until they are made complete in Christ's Kingdom. No matter who is the leader, you will find injustice. Jeremiah the prophet lived in the middle of one of the most wicked times in the history of the children of Israel. There was rampant idolatry, manifesting itself in wicked practices like temple prostitution by both men and women, and child sacrifice. Even the kings of Judah, the very sons of David would engage in this horrible practice. This is what Jeremiah Says:
Jeremiah 12:1-4 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? (2) You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart. (3) But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. (4) How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because they said, "He will not see our latter end."
It is important to understand what we feel when we look around at all the suffering, and I think that this passage is one of many that shows that God doesn't expect us to keep living our lives without question why sometimes. The problem I think, and that this passage will show us is that many times when we ask for Justice, we don't really understand all that that implies, and that we often get more than we bargained for. For one thing, things here are in a state of constant flux, and everyone agrees that seemingly insignificant acts can lead to something with grave unintended consequences. I think God is doing something big, but it's something that is taking a long time in manifesting itself in the world. Things really are so screwed up God is going to have to use a do-over to make it right! As we look at this passage, I want us to see one point taking shape: Because making things right means making things over, let us brace ourselves for the change to come. To understand this, we first need to realize that things are not right, and it's not fair.
point one: The question has already been asked: how can an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God allow evil to go unpunished? Things really on the surface seem to be unfair. Jeremiah starts the passage off assuming that God is righteous, and yet he doesn't do anything about the situation. Jeremiah can see and record with his own eyes the atrocities of the people, even the leaders and priests are not innocent in the matter. First of all this isn't the first time Jeremiah has complained about evil people winning. Jeremiah 5:28 says that the wicked have grown "fat and sleek" by way of their wickedness. Read Psalms 73:1-12, or listen to this: "I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree." That's what Psalm 37:35 says, the wicked just rest themselves, go check out Job 12:4-6, and Malachi 3:14-15. Jeremiah could say much the same thing today, just listen to these recent little news blurbs:
a. The eldest member of a young trio that beat and stoned a homeless man in March of 2007 pleaded no contest to aggravated battery.
Jeremy Woods threw a punch that sent John D’Amico tumbling into a wall March 27 in Daytona Beach. The 58-year-old homeless army veteran was then pelted with rocks and bricks by two 10-year-old boys, suffering a serious eye injury.
Woods, 17, agreed to a maximum sentence of 15 months in state prison with his plea before Circuit Judge Juliane Piggotte. He will ask for less when he's sentenced Sept. 6. The two 10-year-olds are now in juvenile detention programs. (From the 13th Juror Blog)
b. A Florida judge sentenced John Evander Couey to death for the kidnap, rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
Couey, a convicted sex offender, buried Lunsford alive in two black trash bags with her hands bound and her favorite purple stuffed dolphin tucked in her arms, Circuit Judge Richard Howard said. Lunsford's body was found in a grave in Couey's yard about three weeks after she disappeared. (From Fox News)
Jeremiah wants to see the bad guy get theirs! He screams out in prayer, aloud to God, and on paper so that we can read it today. He asks God to set them apart for the day of slaughter because even the very land the wicked inhabit cry out against them. Today, I think it would be wise for us to pray like Jeremiah prays here, to pray to God to make things better soon, because it is so hard to stand. Also, I don't think we will be ready to hear God's answer to Jeremiah until we express the disgust in our souls.
Good Lord, your righteousness is from everlasting to everlasting. You see all, and not even a simple sparrow dies on this earth without you knowing about it and allowing it. Father we ask you to no longer let the unrighteousness go unpunished. We ask you to bring judgement on those who continually do us harm. Do not delay in bringing judgement Father, our hearts are heavy, and we feel sick. In Jesus' Holy Name we Pray, Amen.
Remember we are going to learn today that making things right means making things over, so we need to brace ourselves for the change to come. When I am honest to God about how I see things, it helps me get ready for how God responds to me. God's response is shocking in this case.
point 2: If we are going to pray bold prayers, we can expect God to answer boldly. Many of you missed my sermon called "shirt, tie, and mohawk" but in it I mentioned that Jesus likes to mess with us a little bit. In that sermon we saw Jesus messing with a blind man by rubbing dirt into his eyes and telling him to go wash! He gets that trait from God. God messes with people and in this text, he messes with Jeremiah by telling him that things are only going to get worse. Listen to the next part of the passage:
Jeremiah 12:5-13 "If you have raced with 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 you do in the thicket of the Jordan? (6) For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you." (7) "I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies. (8) My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her. (9) Is my heritage to me like a hyena's lair? Are the birds of prey against her all around? Go, assemble all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. (10) Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. (11) They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart. (12) Upon all the bare heights in the desert destroyers have come, for the sword of the LORD devours from one end of the land to the other; no flesh has peace. (13) They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the LORD."
Remember, today's sermon title is "Do You Really Want it All to Stop?" Listen to what happens to the children of Israel because of their sin. It's horrible! Consider Jeremiah, he didn't escape the wrath, he was a part of it all, all the suffering in Jerusalem, all the famine, all the killing. He was even kidnapped and sent to Egypt with some Jewish rebels. I really wondered when I studied this book, if Jeremiah would have run away sooner if he had really known he was going to be in the middle of it. Part of being a person who calls on people to repent is being with that people when they suffer, and suffering alongside of them, so what are you going to do? The little things affect big things: Consider what happens when the gov't JUST changes the mortgage interest rates. Stocks fall, houses go cheap, people lose their jobs, everyone panics! We want God to bring Justice, but let us consider what it would take to punish all the rebellion that's been going on since man started living in rebellion. I do rest, and comfort in one thing though: God fully intends to bring judgement. Revelation six nine through eleven says:
Revelation 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. (10) They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (11) Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
For the nation of Israel, God tells them that he plans on abandoning the temple in Jerusalem. This is significant to the people of Israel, it is, after all, what made them special. They had God with them! No longer would that be the case. God will bring about His punishment in his own time, and when he does, it is complete. I want to know why God Doesn't do it now though, I think I can find some pretty good reasons why not in the scriptures, especially in the New Testament: He wants To Bring the unrighteous to repentance:
2 Peter 3:1-10 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (2) that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, (3) knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. (4) They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." (5) For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, (6) and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. (7) But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (8) But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
He also wants to keep His true people from stumbling and living in constant fear, think about Christ's parable about the wheat and the weeds:
Matthew 13:24-30 He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, (25) but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. (26) So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. (27) And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' (28) He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' (29) But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. (30) Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"Also, I think God withholds his judgement because He wants to teach us about loving our enemies:
Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Sin is God's enemy. God will destroy His enemy completely. He desires us to restore ourselves with our fellow man because that's part of missing the point. Sin is what's wrong, and it is the sin that must Go! When we ask God to bring His justice fully and completely to this world, as we did earlier, we are really asking that He takes all the sin out of the world.
point three: I trust this will happen, over time, because this world is proof that God takes His time. As we continue learning that we must brace ourselves for the change to come, we need to remember that things are really screwed up, and that they are only going to get worse. This is good news, because even in the midst of all this evil, we can accept the lessons God is trying to teach us, and that God will bring us back to Him. Listen to what God says at the end of Jeremiah Chapter twelve:
Jeremiah 12:14-17 Thus says the LORD concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: "Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. (15) And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. (16) And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, 'As the LORD lives,' even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. (17) But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD."God's punishment in this life is meant for one reason only I think, I think it's to bring purity. God tells the lukewarm Church of the Laodiceans in Revelation the third chapter: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent." We would do well to heed that advice. If we do so, God will bring us to our heritage. God's children have a heritage and God will welcome us in it. God even tells the Israelites about us all. Listen again: "and it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, 'as the LORD lives,' even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be bult up in the midst of my people." God has a two fold invitation: that was His invitation to follow God and live. God also has an invitation to destruction: "But if any nation will not listen, then I wil utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD."
Conclusion: Either way, brace yourself for the change to come. Expect judgement, if you will continue to live in disobedience. God will find you. You cannot hide. God did not spare the Israelites, not even one escaped judgement. You won't either. God will burn the sin out of you when the time is right. I want to live. I want you to live too! I would rather have my sins washed away than burned away. God may promise the judgement for the future, but He promises salvation today for all who will seek Him. We all know that the world is messed up. We know that things are going to get worse. We also know that God will take us back inspite of all we have done to offend Him. Don't miss the point: Because making things right means making things over, let us brace ourselves for the change to come. Seek God out with me today, and do not allow yourself to be caught unprepared for the holiness of God to overtake you.