Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41
Preached by Anna C. Haugen, Saint Luke Lutheran Church, Bloomsburg, PA
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah was not a very popular guy. Do you know the story of Cassandra, from Greek mythology, the woman who was doomed to prophesy disaster and not be believed? Jeremiah was the Cassandra of the Old Testament. When all the other prophets in Judah (particularly those paid by the government) were predicting that Judah would defeat the mighty Babylonian army that was attacking them, Jeremiah said the opposite. Even though the Judeans were God’s people, the Babylonians were going to conquer their tiny kingdom. And Jeremiah refused to be bought off, and he refused to be silenced, and that’s why the king had him locked up at the beginning of today’s lesson. When everyone else was turning themselves inside out to pretend things were going just fine, Jeremiah pointed out the obvious. When everyone else was singing hymns to the glory of the Kingdom of Judah and insisting that since they were God’s people nothing bad could ever happen to them, Jeremiah pointed out the ugly truth. They weren’t acting like God’s people, and bad things could and did happen to them. And what was going to happen to them—being conquered by Babylon and deported into exile—was going to happen whether they believed it or not. The only choice they had was whether they were going to let it take them by surprise, unprepared, or instead let God help them prepare for the trials ahead.
They didn’t want to hear what Jeremiah was saying. They would rather follow false prophets who told them comforting lies. So King Zedekiah, the ruler of Judah and the man who had ordered Jeremiah to be locked up, came to Jeremiah, and asked him why he insisted on prophesying that the Babylonians were going to win. The answer may seem obvious: Jeremiah was a true prophet, and that’s what God had told him to say. And I’m sure Jeremiah had told him that before, but apparently King Zedekiah had a hard time believing that God would allow anything bad to happen to God’s people.
Have you ever felt like Zedekiah? Like you couldn’t believe something bad was happening, and so you’d rather keep you head in the sand than face it? We laugh at the image of a guy with his head buried in the sand like an ostrich, but only because we’re looking at it from the outside—we’re not in that guy’s head pretending that everything is fine and if he can’t see the problems they don’t exist. I know there have been times in my life when I’ve tried to pretend that everything was okay, as if wishing things would turn out fine would make it happen. It’s hard to face unpleasant realities. But pretending that everything is fine doesn’t make it true; and that’s as much the case today as it was two and a half thousand years ago when the Babylonian army sat right outside the Jerusalem city wall. Jeremiah could have told King Zedekiah that. But he didn’t. Instead, he told King Zedekiah about a piece of property he’d just bought.
Property? With the enemy at the gates, Jeremiah bought land? And why tell that to the king? I think it has to do with why we have trouble facing unpleasant truths. I know when I don’t want to face the truth, it’s usually because I think it’s hopeless—that there’s nothing to be done. I sometimes hide from the truth because it makes me feel like God has abandoned me, or no longer cares for me. And there have been times in my life where I’ve hidden from the truth because I didn’t want to admit what I had done wrong. I don’t want to see the truth because I can’t see a way forward.
But you know what? Whether they were in exile or in Babylon or home in Jerusalem, God was with them. Just as God is with us no matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter what happens to us. By telling Jeremiah to buy that property, God was telling him—and the people of Judah—that there was a future, that God would be with them, that the dark times wouldn’t last forever. God was telling them that there was something they could do: they could follow God. There was hope for the future, but that hope could only come through facing their problems and trusting God to guide them through. God was telling them that the promises he had made them—to be their God and to give them land—were still just as true in that time of trouble as they had been in times of safety and security.
God has made promises to us, too. God’s promises come to us through Jesus Christ, who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. In this broken, sinful world there will be times of trial, times when the world seems to be coming apart around us, times when it’s hard to face what’s coming. Just as God never abandoned the people of Judah, God will never abandon us. God loves us so much that he gave his only son to die for our sake. God loves us so much that he is willing to take our burdens on himself, and redeem us from our brokenness, and make us whole. God will always be our God, even when we stray from the paths he has laid out for us. And God will always be with us to guide us back home to him. God will never draw back from doing good to us, in the midst of our brokenness. In the midst of our darkness, there is light, and hope. And that light comes from the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.