Jeremiah 1:11-19

Sermon preached on 11th November 2012 – Remembrance Day

Remember the LORD

Jeremiah (TV series)

Jeremiah (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Remembrance Day and it is good to remember those who have given their lives for others.  It is better to remember Jesus, the Son of God, who gave his life for our sins and was raised on the third day to life.

In the Old Testament Moses reminded the people not to forget the LORD and all he had done for them.  By Jeremiah’s time we find the very thing Moses warned against so strongly about was the very thing they had done: they had forgotten the LORD and turned to other gods.

When we forget something, like when I forget where I’ve put my glasses(!), that’s just a memory failure.  But forgetting in the Biblical sense is a deliberate choice not to give attention or glory to the LORD.  It is forsaking the LORD, which is the word Jeremiah uses in v16, a deliberately abandoning and renouncing of God’s existence or relevance in our lives.

Jeremiah would have been steeped in the Bible as it was then and probably completely memorised it.  He would have been well aware of the warnings Moses had given, for example in Deut 8:19-20 Moses, “If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.”

So by simply reading the Bible he could see disaster coming, it wasn’t rocket science.  But Jeremiah was a prophet and he realised this message was urgent for the people of his day.

But how can a loving God bring judgment?   We comfort ourselves with the thought, “Well, that’s just the Old Testament.”   This is a big mistake.  Dr Samuel Schultz, who was an eminent US Bible scholar, said, “There is no room for the idea of a harsh vindictive God of justice in the Old Testament to be contrasted with a God of love and mercy in the New.  Love and mercy are always offered before judgment is rendered.  Jesus’ warnings concerning judgment in the New Testament are as severe as anything in the Old, even if we argue that the highest personal revelation of God’s love is seen in Jesus!”   The truth is that just as the Old Testament reveals God’s deep affectionate love for his people, so in the New Testament there is judgment.  In the end God does bring judgment precisely because He is God of love and cannot allow evil to continue forever unchecked.

We are created in the image of God to love and to worship Him.  The first question of the Westminster catechism says,

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

It was this that the people of Jeremiah’s day had forgotten; it’s what the people in Jesus day had forgotten; and it’s this that the people of our day have forgotten as well.  We remember our soldiers, but do we remember our Creator?

Jeremiah 1:11-19 represents the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry.  God speaks to him 3 times using 3 images:

  1. An almond tree, v11-12
  2. A boiling pot, v13-16
  3. A fortified city, the iron pillar, the bronze wall, v17-19

1. The almond branch

The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.  The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” [Jeremiah 1:11]

Imagine Jeremiah sitting outside;  it’s early spring;  he’s in his rocking chair or sitting cross-legged, enjoying the fresh air, meditating, and the Holy Spirit whispers to him, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”  And Jeremiah looks up, and there to his right in the courtyard was a beautiful almond tree, with a branch covered in white blossom.  So he said, “I see the branch of an almond tree.”   This was not a trick question.

In the Middle East the almond tree is like daffodils in middle England: it’s a sign of spring.  The almond tree was also known as the watching or wakeful tree because it was the first tree to blossom and wake up, it was the first tree watching for spring.

There is a play on words in these verses.  Jeremiah says, “I see the branch of the watching tree,” and the LORD says, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

These verses show that God is wide awake and He is watching everything, and what He says is what will happen – He will fulfil his word.

For Christians this is a very comforting thought because we know the loving nature of God.  He is watching over those who love Him and remember Him to fulfil all his good promises.

“Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” [Jos 21:45]

The almond branch reminds us of something that it seems the leaders of our world have forgotten: that God is in charge and what He says is what will happen!

2. The boiling pot

God was watching and saw all the terrible wickedness among the people.   God knew all that was going on in Jeremiah’s day just as he knows all that is going on in our day.

The Holy Spirit whispers to Jeremiah a second time, “What do you see?”  Let’s use our imagination again: somewhere near the almond tree in the courtyard was an open fire with a cooking pot on it, boiling away, and tipping away from the north. So Jeremiah says, “I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” which was the right answer!

Then God gives a strong word of warning which summaries what that will happen unless there is a turning away from wickedness and back to faith in God: Jerusalem will be besieged, the towns of Judah will be raided, and the nation will be destroyed by invading armies.   In the end, 40 years later, this is exactly what happened when the Babylonian armies invaded.  It is a terrible thing to happen to any nation.  What was it which brought such devastating consequences?    Jeremiah tells us in v16:

“… because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshipping what their hands have made.”

When we disconnect ourselves from God our Creator we can expect trouble, in a personal sense and nationally.  Reading through Jeremiah I think the sin which really was the final nail in the coffin was their treatment of their children.

They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.  [Jeremiah 32:35]

This kind of child abuse was so terrible that it didn’t even enter God mind that human beings could be so wicked.

What about us?  We don’t sacrifice our children in the fire thank God.  But we abort 10’s of 1000’s of unborn children through abortion each year, not for medical reasons but just for convenience.  I think this is a far more serious sin than we realise.  We cannot continue to do these things and think there will be no consequences..

3. The fortified city, the iron pillar and the bronze wall

God used the almond branch and the boiling pot to explain what He was doing in the world.  The last image, which is really three images, of a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall, was a specific word for Jeremiah to encourage him and strengthen him.  We can also receive it as a word for the church.

First God says to Jeremiah, “Get yourself ready!”  In other words, “Roll up your sleeves.”

There’s work to do. Don’t be afraid, this isn’t time for a bunker mentality.   I think this is the last thing many of us want to hear.  We’re busy enough!  But the question is, not whether we’re busy, but what we are busy with.  We are called to Christian discipleship and we are called to serve and glorify God with our gifts, while we can.  Are we busy with the right things, or does our busyness push God out of our lives?

Young men and women give their lives for this country, and this can be seen as a way of glorifying God.  What are you giving your life for?  Yesterday some of us went to an ordination; this young man has given his life to serve God in Christian ministry.  Not all of us are called to that, but we give our lives in other areas.  For example I believe God calls some to business because it’s their gift and God’s desire is to use them to finance God’s mission.    Or are we just out for ourselves; do we just want more money; do we just want glorify ourselves?

When we give our lives to the right thing God will strengthen us with courage and supernatural strength, like: a fortified city:- to be protected from the enemy; an iron pillar:- that gives support to others; a bronze wall:- that is impenetrable.

Conclusion

The world is becoming a frightening place.  There is a real danger the world will begin to experience the judgments of God unless there is some dramatic change.  But it’s just in times like these that the world needs to see people living the Christian life so that they might remember and come to know Jesus who gave his life for them.

 

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2 Responses to Jeremiah 1:11-19

  1. Pingback: Is there a God? | USA COINTELPRO VICTIM OF THE PATRIOT ACT

  2. Pingback: Jeremiah 2 « Sermon notes and other resources

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