Tough TruthsFriday 04 September 2015
A recap of David Parker’s address on Thursday night of the Bible Week. The key texts are found in Jeremiah 13, 19, 27, 32 and 35.
Reading Jeremiah is akin to sifting through the wreckage of a crash site and the road that leads to that crash is paved on 2 sides: Firstly, with the people’s failure in their covenant relationship with God and secondly, with their profaning of the Lord’s name and misrepresentation of him in the world.
The message God gave to Jeremiah for the people of Judah was a warning of disaster to come, a condemnation of idolatry and unfaithfulness, a proclamation of just judgement, and a promise of restoration beyond exile. Jeremiah brought this message with words, both written and spoken, and with God–directed prophetic actions.
These actions, like living parables, illustrated the truth of the people’s peril, and the emptiness and end of their decisions and direction. They also demonstrated the reality of what it meant for Jeremiah to represent the God he served.
The prophetic acts
In Jeremiah 19 God asks the prophet to smash a clay pot on the ground in front of the leaders. This represents a shattering of God’s purpose for his people.
In chapter 27 he is told to fashion a yoke for himself signifying that it was better for them to go into slavery under the King of Babylon than to die. It was a merciful word. A yoke can have both negative and positive connotations – being yoked to bondage and servitude or being in a positive partnership with God. Jesus invites us into a yoked relationship with him where the yoke is light and the burden easy. What is my life serving? What is it yoked to? Some of you will know that it’s like to be yoked something undesirable – a health condition, a sense of frustration, loneliness – but it is better to bear some yokes than to give way to something else.
In chapter 32: 8–10 Jeremiah is asked to purchase a plot of land in a war zone. He does so and preserves the documents. It was an act of hope because whilst there was destruction, God also said that the land would return to fruitfulness.
In chapter 35 Jeremiah invites the Rechabites to share a meal with him. They are forbidden to drink wine and decline on principle when Jeremiah offers it to them. Their obedience is an open rebuke to the people who hear but do not obey.
Jeremiah 13:1–11. The ruined linen belt is about failure of purpose and the ruination of the house of Israel and the house of Judah whom the Lord had bound to himself.
For you and I, these tough truths don’t just confront an ancient people with the brokenness of their sin, but also challenge us with the opportunity of our faith. Following Christ we, like Jeremiah, are meant to:
Represent the truth: We don’t communicate the truth just with words, it’s our actions that are the most memorable. At funerals what people tend to remember are unmerited acts of kindness. Often we don’t filter the idea of how to represent the truth through kindness. We just don’t represent the truth of ideas it’s the truth of a person. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and be good to them and then we will be like our Father in heaven (Matt 5: 44–45). People are watching our lives and we need to recognise and prioritise the power of kindness and compassion. All our confrontation with brokenness doesn’t produce change in people. The cracks form through the wedge of kindness, patience and tolerance.
Identify with people: Jeremiah is identifying with the people even though they hate him and it’s for righteousness sake that Jesus identifies with us, the broken, in his baptism by John. We have an opportunity to identify with people in their brokenness.
Invest in hope: The field is a prophetic declaration that there will be a return and renewal. There is something beyond the devastation. As we represent Christ and identify with the broken, allowing God to work in our life, we invest in hope in a landscape of devastation.