Sermon on Jeremiah 26:1-6
Text: Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’”
During the last part of the church year, which ends in two weeks, the focus of our lessons shifts slightly. During the majority of the Pentecost season, we focus our attention to our response to the love Christ showered upon us by his life, suffering, death and resurrection, or the believer’s life of sanctification. The last couple of Sundays in the church year focus our attention on the end times. Today is as day on which we focus on Judgment Day, the day when Jesus will come again to judge the world. What an awesome day that will be! We will see Jesus in all of his glory as he returns to the world. For some it will be a day of great terror. For others it will be a day of great joy. We are told to always be ready for Christ’s return, because we do not know exactly when it will be. How are we to prepare for this event in the world’s history? We will answer that question as we study this portion of God’s Word. PREPARE FOR THE LORD’S RETURN! 1. Listen to the Lord’s Word. 2. Turn From Your Evil Ways. 3. Take Hold Of The Lord’s Forgiveness.
As we study this portion of God’s Word, it would be good for us to be reminded of the time and content of Jeremiah’s ministry. Jeremiah prophesied just prior to and during the Babylonian captivity. He would watch as Jerusalem was besieged and taken by King Nebuchadnezzar. He was called to the task of announcing the destruction of Judah. Not only was Judah threatened by her enemies. The country was living in a time marked by idolatry, immorality, dishonesty, etc. Jeremiah was called upon to speak about the people’s weak spiritual lives. However, that would not be his only message. He also told them when the nation of Judah would return from Babylon. He also had beautiful prophecies of the coming Messiah.
With that in mind, we focus our attention on a specific proclamation of God’s will. We read in verses 1&2, “Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.’” Because we have a specific time reference, the message took place around 608-609 B.C.
But, more important than the exact time is the mention of the king who was reigning at the time. His name was Jehoiakim. He was an evil king, who oppressed the nation so that he could live in luxury. He shed innocent blood. Jehoiakim not only practiced idolatry. He also promoted it in his kingdom. The reason that we make mention of the man’s character is that Jeremiah would not enjoy the king’s protection when he spoke the message, as he had under King Josiah. Jehoiakim and the rest of the nation of Judah would be hostile to and persecute Jeremiah for what he would say.
For this reason, you can understand why God would make the statement as to what Jeremiah was to proclaim, “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.” (Verse 2) Jeremiah might have been tempted to soft peddle what God had to say, or to not tell the people the harsh parts, especially in light of the political and spiritual climate of the day. But, God told Jeremiah not to do so. He was supposed to tell the people every part of God’s message. They were to listen to what God had to say to them.
You and I are also called upon to deliver God’s Word. We may not feel as though we are under the same pressure that Jeremiah faced as he went out with his message. He, very likely, could have been killed for his unpopular message. Yet, we still face pressure to omit those parts of God’s Word that are offensive to people. We may be tempted to soft peddle what God has to say, especially when it comes to pointing out sin. After all, we don’t want to offend anyone. We want to be liked. However, God comes to us, as well, and says, “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.” We, as his messengers, are to share the whole message of God, not just the popular parts. We take our stand on God’s Word. Don’t ever apologize for God’s Word. This is God speaking. We want to be clear and faithful witnesses to what God’s Word says and that includes all of it. As Jesus said to his disciples before he ascended into heaven, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” He tells us how: #1 by “baptizing” and #2 by “teaching everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19)
Dear fellow witnesses of God’s Word, we are to do more than tell others. We, as we read and listen to God’s Word, are to witness to ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves and realize that God isn’t just talking about everyone else out there. He is also talking to me. He, also, wants me to be prepared for the Last Day. When he speaks the Law, he is also speaking to me.
Listen to the message of the law in verses 4-6, “Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’” First of all, we note that this is what the LORD says. This is nothing new. God’s law had been set before the people from the time of Moses on Mt. Sinai. It had been repeated again and again by God’s prophets like Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Habbakkuk and Zephaniah. They couldn’t say that they didn’t know any better. God was very clear about what he expected from his people.
God is also clear about what he expects from us. We, also, like these people in our text, have been taught again and again what is right and what is wrong. It’s not as though any of it is a surprise to us. We can’t say that we didn’t know any better. How often don’t we find ourselves faced with a temptation to sin, and, knowing full well that it was wrong, went ahead with the sin. Whether it was going some place we shouldn’t go or seeing something we shouldn’t watch, or saying something we shouldn’t say. We knew it was wrong, but we did it anyway. Perhaps after we did something, we may have even felt vindicated or proud. We knew that we shouldn’t say that mean thing, but we did so and we feel like we got them back. The cashier failed to charge us for a product, so we walk out, hoping that they won’t notice, feeling proud for having snuck that one past them. Dear friends, don’t ever delude yourself into thinking that your sins aren’t that much or that big of a deal. God is very serious about the way that we live.
To help show how serious he is, God adds a threat for Judah. If they didn’t repent, God said that he would make them “like Shiloh.” Shiloh was the place where the Israelites had set up the tabernacle when they entered Canaan. It was a place of worship. The Philistines completely destroyed that city about 450 years before Jeremiah prophesied. God added that threat to Judah, that he would destroy them. That is exactly what happened. The nation of Judah was taken away into captivity. Jerusalem was destroyed.
God also shows us that he is serious about his law in our lives. He makes this threat, “The one who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) The death that is being spoken of is an eternal death, an eternity in hell. Now, I know that hell isn’t a very popular subject. For example, when I type the word “hell” on my computer and run a grammar check, it tells me to “Consider revising to avoid this word.” But, the fact remains, hell does exist. God will send people there. This is not an idle threat! You and I deserve to go there, because of the many sins we commit every single day. Dear friends, don’t downplay or belittle your sins. Come to God in repentance. Turn from your evil ways.
Judah’s message is a stern preaching of the law. And, although it might offend our sensitivities, we need to hear it. We need to know that there is no way that we can save ourselves. But, thanks be to God, that is not the end of the message. Jeremiah had the task of preaching law, but his message also included comfort. He told of the day Judah would return. He also foretold the coming of the Savior.
In verse 3, God says, “Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.” Note that this is not a change in God, as if he really didn’t mean that part about sin. Rather, this is in keeping with God’s plan that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Now, there is no way, on our own, that we can turn from our evil ways. That turning, that conversion, only happens after the Holy Spirit creates faith in the heart. Then, with that faith we can accept the blessings of forgiveness that Jesus won for us. Where we could not be perfect, Jesus was. He followed his Father’s will to the letter. When he did so, he was doing so for us. God also demanded that payment be made for our sins. Rather, than exacting payment from us who deserved it, God poured out his wrath upon his Son. In doing so, all of our sins have been washed away. We are cleansed in God’s sight. Rather than the “disaster” God was planning “because of the evil they had done,” namely hell, we have heaven to look forward to. Dear Christian friends, rejoice in the fact that your sins have been forgiven. Lay hold of that forgiveness. It is yours!
One way that we can rejoice in our forgiveness is to live lives that say “Thank you” to God. Each of us can take inventory of our lives. Are there places where I’m not stacking up? Are there things that I constantly find myself doing what God does not want me to do? Dear Christians, repent of those times. Don’t hold on to your sins. Repentance involves feeling sorry for our sins, but there’s more to it than that. It means knowing that Jesus has paid for that sin. Repentance also means that, with the Lord’s help and strength, we turn from our evil ways to a life that is pleasing to God. God has forgiven your sins. Rejoice in your forgiveness.
Earlier we talked about Judgment Day and asked how we could be prepared for it, especially when we don’t know when exactly it will come. The answer to that question is faith. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved. If you do that, since faith has been worked in your hearts, you are prepared. Live each day in joyful anticipation of your loving Savior’s return. May we be found ready at that time. Amen.
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