Sunday, May 15, 2022

“Return to Me” [Matt's Messages]

“Return to Me”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 15, 2022 :: Jeremiah 3:6-4:4

I’ve taken the title for this message from the first verse of chapter 4 where the LORD says through Jeremiah to the people of God, “Return to Me.”

 “Return to Me.”

It’s an invitation and a glorious one, and it’s the theme of this passage of Jeremiah.

In fact, at least four times, the LORD (Yahweh) invites His people to return to Him in this passage.

Which is quite remarkable because of what we heard last time in chapter 2 and the first part of chapter 3. Last time, the LORD was bringing a charge against His people. Remember this? 

They had sinned. They had fallen into idolatry which was spiritual adultery. He went so far as to call it spiritual harlotry, spiritual whoredom. They had forsaken the LORD and turned to other gods! Remember that?

We saw that it was shocking, stupid, and shameful. And it was the reason that the boiling pot of judgment was going to be poured out upon Judah.

So, here is the LORD’s next word on that: After He charges them with covenant breaking sin, He invites them to return to Him. “Return to Me.”

That gives us a glimpse of His heart, does it not?

The Hebrew word for “return” is “shuv.” It means to “turn” or “return” or “repent” or “come back.”

Jeremiah actually uses a form of “shuv” at least 15 times in this short section of the Scriptures. The most times it shows up in concentration in the whole Bible. So, if we’re going to learn about repentance, this is probably a really good place to do it!


What comes to your mind when I say the word, “Repentance?” If you are like me, you probably don’t say, “Yippee! That sounds like fun!” “I just love to repent! It’s like a party word! Whoo! ‘Repent!’”

No, we tend to think of the word as a “downer.” Maybe a harsh word. A finger-pointing word. “Repent!”

A painful word. And there’s a good reason for that. Repentance can be painful. We will see that it requires painful honesty and real change.

But here, repentance is a sweet invitation. 

It’s not a downer.
It’s not annoying. 
It’s not stifling.
It’s life-giving!

Because of the last part of our title, right? “Return...to Me.”

It’s an invitation, not just to turn back from sin, but to turn to fellowship with the Lord. And there is nothing greater!  

So let’s back up to chapter 3, verse 6 and see how we get there.

Before we jump in, I’m going to ask you a tricky question. Are you ready? It’s kind of a tricky question! So maybe think about it a little bit before you answer.

In the Old Testament, which of the two kingdoms (North and South, Israel and Judah, which of the two kingdoms) was more wicked?

To answer that, think back once again to the Books of Kings (which we studied together in 2016 and 2017). In 1 Kings, there used to be one kingdom under David and then Solomon.

But then in 1 Kings chapter 12, it was split into two. North and South. Israel and Judah. And we did the thumbs up and the thumbs down for their kings.

How many “thumbs up” kings did the Northern Kingdom of Israel have? Big fat zero!

Did the Southern Kingdom have any “thumbs up” kings? Yes, it did! Kings like Hezekiah and this one right here in verse 6, Josiah. 


And this prophecy that we’re going to look at today was originally given during the reign of thumbs-up King Josiah somewhere between 627BC and 609BC, so it comes early in Jeremiah’s ministry.

Here’s the tricky question again: Which of the two kingdoms (North or South, Israel or Judah, which of the two kingdoms) was more wicked in the Old Testament?

The answer may surprise you.

Now, one more thing to note before we read: Remember that the Northern Kingdom had been sent into exile in 721BC. And Jeremiah chapter 3 comes somewhere between 627BC and 609BC. How much later is that? Around a hundred years, right? Between 94 and 112 years. About 100. Now, listen to the question that Yahweh asks Jeremiah. Chapter 3, verse 6.

“During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there.” 

Do you get the picture? The LORD starts a conversation–it’s really more of a monologue–with Jeremiah. Jeremiah doesn’t really get to answer.

But the LORD asks him a question, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done?” 

That word translated “faithless” is a form of “shuv.”  It’s like, “Have you seen what that “turned-away” people of Israel has done?” The Old King James has “backsliding Israel.”

“Jeremiah, have you seen what that treacherous shuved Northern Kingdom has done?” What’s the answer to that one? “Well, no, not directly.” There hasn’t been a Northern Kingdom for a hundred years! It’s like saying, "Have you seen what President Warren Harding did?” Harding was president in 1922, one hundred years ago. None of us in this room were born then.

But Jeremiah certainly knew the story. He knew that the people of the Northern Kingdom were unfaithful to the LORD. They had prostituted themselves with other gods. They had shuved away. Now, listen to verse 7. It’s a doozey!

“I thought that after she had done all this she [Israel] would return to me [shuv to me] but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it.”

Two things there. First, it almost sounds like the LORD thought He had made a mistake. “I thought this would happen, but then it didn’t! What a miscalculation on my part.” 

It’s shocking language to get across His point. Remember, the LORD is picturing Himself like a jealous jilted husband. In the metaphor, the husband is married two wives, two sisters. (Which is not something that the LORD recommends, but it happened in this story when the Kingdom split into two.)

And in the metaphor, one of the wives, one of the sisters goes rogue and starts sleeping around.

And second thing, the other sister saw it. Who is that in this story? That’s Judah. That’s the southern kingdom that Josiah is king over and Jeremiah is prophesying to.

Judah saw how Israel acted...and did not learn anything from it. V.8

“I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries [off into exile at the hands of the Assyrians]. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,’ declares the LORD.”

So you see what happened? The prophet Ezekiel has as similar prophecy (though more graphic) in Ezekiel chapter 16.

The second sister, saw what happened to the first sister, and she didn’t think much of it. “In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me [shuv] with all her heart, but only in pretense,’ declares the LORD.”

Only in falsehood. Only a fake repentance. Only a pretend return.

I have four points of application this morning that all relate to repentance; that all describe what it means to truly return to the LORD, and here’s the first one:

#1. GET REAL.

Judah faked some repentance, but you can’t fool the LORD.

He knows our hearts. He knows that Judah saw how Israel had run around behind His back and had been severely punished for it. And how Judah just didn’t really seem to care.

“Oh, that? No biggie.”

Perhaps she was frightened temporarily by what she saw Israel get, and so she cleaned up her act a little bit, but it sure didn’t stick.

Perhaps He’s describing the reforms under Josiah! Josiah went through the nation taking down altars to foreign gods. Josiah read the Book of the Law that had been found in the temple, and started to make changes across the southern kingdom. But it was apparently only “skin deep.” Because look what Judah has gotten herself into!

Can you guess the answer now to the tricky question? V.11

“The LORD said to me, ‘Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.”

In the end, the southern kingdom was more wicked than the northern one. Why? Because they had the example of the northern one and ignored it! And just pretended to change.

How about you? Is your repentance real? Repentance is not just something we do at the beginning of the Christian life. It is also something we do (or should do!) every time we are freshly confronted with our sinfulness.

Martin Luther famously said that the Christian life is “a race of repentance.”

Have you learned from how anyone else is running? Do you look at the negative examples of the people around you, and take a clue? “Oh, when they fell into that sin, this was the consequence. I should take note of that.” Or do we just say, “Look at those dummies! They got caught!” “I’m glad I don’t do that.”

Get real. He knows. He can see. You can’t fool Him.

Now, this next verse is amazing. It’s the first of the four invitations, and look whom He is inviting! V.12. He says to Jeremiah, “Go, proclaim this message toward the north: ‘'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.”

Isn’t that something?! In verse 12, the LORD invites the northern kingdom which is scattered in exile to return to Him! “Return, faithless Israel.” 

Remember, “faithless” comes from “shuv” as well. In Hebrew this is, “Shuva, Meshuva!” "Turn back, O Turned Away!” “I know I sent you away, but you are still invited to return.”

Doesn’t this just reveal His heart?!

“'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.”

The word for “merciful” is “hasid” from “hesedthat word that means loving-kindness or loyal-love.

They have been faithless, but He is faithful. And if they repent, He will not be angry forever.

“Return to me.”

If you are listening to this message, then it is not too late for you to repent. It’s not too late. Some people think that they are too far gone. I talked to somebody this week who was afraid that he might be too far gone for God’s mercy.

But listen to His heart! “'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.” And how much more is that true on this side of the Cross? Where the just wrath of God was satisfied by the sacrifice of His Son?!

“Return to Me. It’s not too late. I will not be angry forever. Return to Me.”

But here’s the condition. V.13

“Only acknowledge your guilt–you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,'’ declares the LORD.”

You’ve got to get real. You must acknowledge your guilt. You must take a good honest look at your heart and confess what is really there.

And, yes, sometimes, that’s hard to do. Israel hated to admit to their pervasive idolatry. And we hate to admit when we have been chasing counterfeit gods, as well.

But you can’t truly come to Him unless you get real about what is keeping you away.

What is keeping you away? 

Get real. The Lord knows anyway. You can’t fool Him.

In verse 14, the LORD issues the second invitation, and He tells them why they ought to take Him on it. Look at this! Verse 14.

“‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you–  one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.”

Wait a second! I thought that He divorced her? 

Remember how the chapter started by asking if a husband should take a back a wife who married another man? That was against the Law of Moses. But Israel didn’t marry another man. She had just played the field. She had just “scattered her favors” which is worse, right...?

But Yahweh says that they are not divorced. Not really. Not ultimately. Not, at least, for those who repent and return.


Same picture. Same deal.

And the LORD says that He is going to bring them back as a remnant, one or two at time, all the way to Zion, and He’s going to give them better kings this time.

Shepherds after His own heart (like David at his best) who will lead them with knowledge and understanding.  

He says that this going to happen. When? Well, I’ve got bad news, and I’ve got good news. 

The bad news is that it won’t be for a long long time. Remember, Jeremiah is a prophecy of a tragedy. 40 years in the making. Israel has been in exile 100 years by now, and they are only come back in little tiny scattered amounts. Hardly enough to speak of in the whole rest of the Bible

But the good news is that when the Messiah comes in all of His fullness, all of these promises will be fully fulfilled, will truly come true. 

And you can tell that He’s talking about the Messiah’s Kingdom because He starts to use phrases like, “In those days.” Look at verse 16.

“In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.”

Do you hear how He kicked it into another register?

You can tell that He’s looking down the corridor of time and prophesying what it will be like when the Kingdom truly comes.

It will be, in word, blessed!

#2. GET BLESSED.

To return to the LORD, you have to first get real, but then, get ready to be really blessed. When God’s people truly repent, they find that they get truly blessed. At least, when the Kingdom comes.

Then there will be (v.15), a shepherd after [God’s] own heart.

And His name will be Jesus! Jesus is the Best Shepherd, and He will lead us with knowledge and understanding (read John 10).

In those days, God’s people will have grown and grown and grown. Blessing!

And they will no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.”

That’s a little strange, isn’t it? Why is that a good thing? Why would it be good for them to forget the Ark of the Covenant? 

I said to my family last night that I should have named this sermon, “Forgetters of the Lost Ark.”  

Why won’t there be Ark of the Covenant in the Kingdom? Because it won’t be necessary! It would be irrelevant. 

What did the Ark stand for? What was in it? The Law was in it, right? Where will the Law be in Kingdom? It will be in our hearts, right? That’s the New Covenant fulfilled! We won’t need the golden chest. The Law will be in our chests!

And the Ark served as the symbolic footstool of the Yahweh. It stood for His presence. Well, verse 17 says that they will call Jerusalem, “The Throne of Yahweh.” The whole city will be the throne! Not just right there in the Holy of Holies.


We cannot fathom the blessing that Jeremiah is writing about here, the blessing of repentance.

Imagine the unity! V.18 says that the nation will be reunited. Israel and Judah together again in the Land.

And verse 17 says it’s even better than that. Gentiles are going to come. “All nations will gather in Jerusalem.” The New Testament says that Gentiles get grafted into the people of God. Not just Israel and Judah, but Israel, and Judah and people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9)–even Pennsylvanians!

And here’s how good it gets...there will be no more sin. Verse 17 again. “No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to be sinless. I am so tired of living with my own sinful desires.

This is a picture of the total blessedness that is promised to all who will truly repent.

To all who will truly answer the invitation of the LORD to “Return to Me.”

The LORD wants to bless them, but, sadly, they do not yet really want that blessing. V.19

“‘I myself said, ‘'How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn [shuv] away from following me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,’ declares the LORD.”

Again, the LORD is pictured as shaking His head at a miscalculation He made. “I thought you (Israel) would be like sons to me, and I would give you the Promised Land. All of that Abrahamic Promised Land. You could call me, ‘Dad.’”

But (switching figures of speech again), “You have been unfaithful to me.” Causing me grief.  

And so you have experienced grief. Verse 21.

“A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God.”

Now, some scholars think that right here is a moment of repentance by the people of Israel. And that might be right. I think the Israel here is probably standing for all of Israel (Northern and Southern kingdom), probably more Judah at this point. 

Perhaps they are weeping and wailing because Josiah has torn down their sacred altars to foreign gods at all of the high places around the nation. And this is a little taste of repentance. That’s possible.

My read, however, is that they are probably crying their eyes out because they are mad that their gods gotten taken away. They are protesting the reforms of Josiah.

And the LORD is trying show them the way back. Verse 22. Third invitation. V.22

“‘Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.’”

That’s “‘Return [shuv], faithless [shuv] people; I will cure you of [shuv] backsliding.’”

He’s really giving them the “shuv,” isn’t He? 

I think He’s telling them that they need to take this seriously.

#3. GET SERIOUS.

I think that Yahweh is putting the words out there that they need to say if they are going to truly repent. It’s like a script. So far, they haven’t been willing to say all of this.

This is what they should say. Verse 22.

‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel [and no one else!]. From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our fathers' labor–their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God.’”

That’s what they ought to say!

Notice the repetition of His name.

Yahweh Our God.
The LORD Our God.
The LORD Our God.
The LORD Our God.

We have been sinning against the LORD Our God!
What a terrible deal we have struck.
What a price we have paid.

These shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our father’s labor–their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters.

I think that hints at the unthinkable reality of child sacrifice.

Sin is shocking, and stupid, and shameful. And we must take it seriously. 

But we don’t have to stay stuck in it! The LORD invites us to repent. Chapter 4, verse 1.

“‘If you will return, O Israel, return to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.’”

Do you see how seriously the LORD says that we must take this?

Repentance is not a slight thing.

It requires us to make real change. Israel had to put away their detestable idols and chart a new and straight course.

And look at those 3 words, “truthful, just, and righteous.” Those are not playing around. Those are not just playacting. They are not fake or skin deep. This goes down into the heart. Repentance is a heart issue. V.3

“This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: ‘Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.”

Get down deep. Repentance has to go below the surface. And break up the hard ground of our stony hearts.

Did everybody see the roto-tilling job that Jon and his dad did out on the Ark Park yesterday? It looks really nice. There will be a lot more soft landings now that they have tilled up that hard ground. Thank you, Jon and Shane! The LORD wants us to do that to our hearts.

In verse 4, He uses another cutting word than plow. He uses the word “circumcise” which emphasized the cutting away of flesh to symbolize the cutting away of sin and the marking of someone as belonging the LORD. V.4

“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD [not physically, that was already true fo the Jewish men], circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it.”

His message is: get serious or get seriously burnt. At the heart level. Consecrate yourselves. Dedicate yourselves. Turn away from the idols or else.

Sadly, we know how this story ends. We know what they did with these words. They did not heed them.

Remember, Jeremiah a prophecy of a tragedy. We got that the first three verses. 

Next time, we’ll see what is coming to Judah because they will not answer this invitation.

And yet He holds it out to them, because it reveals His heart. And it reveals His heart to us today.

He is saying to you and me, “Return to me.”

“Return to me.”

Shuv.” “Come.”

Remember, the emphasis is on Him here.

“Return to me.”

#4. GET GOD.

If you and I repent, we don’t just get blessing. We get the Fount of every blessing!

“‘If you will return, O Israel, return to me,’ declares the LORD.” 

And verse 2, “Then the nations (not just Israel, not just Judah, but you me and me, as well, the nations) will be blessed BY HIM and IN HIM they will glory.

If we repent, we get God.

And there is nothing greater.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19

Sunday, May 08, 2022

“Do Not Forsake Your Mother’s Teaching” [Matt's Messages]

“Do Not Forsake Your Mother’s Teaching”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 8, 2022 :: Proverbs 1:8-9

The title of this messages comes right out of the last phrase of verse 8 where Solomon says to his royal son, “...do not forsake your mother's teaching.”

That’s the whole message for today. It’s in the Proverbs, so it’s short and sweet and to the point, and it’s meant to be meditated upon, chewed on, mulled over.

“...do not forsake your mother's teaching.”

And there was, all of a sudden, a whole lot of elbows in the ribs and knowing looks passed around this room!

“Are you listening to this? I hope so, son. I sure hope so, daughter.”


Verses 8 and 9 are the opening salvo of the opening appeal in the first major section of the Book of Proverbs. The book began with a short explanation of its purpose. Look at verse 2:

This book is “...for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young–let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance–for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

The point of this book of Proverbs to its original readers was to help young people especially (and anybody else who wants to be wise) to gain and grow in true wisdom. 

And after that opening section, there are like 10 different appeals in the next 9 chapters from all of the authors (the main one of whom was King Solomon) for the reader (who is pictured as a royal prince) to choose wisdom over foolishness.

The path of wisdom is the right path, and it is the path of blessing.

And here’s where it all begins. The starting line of that path. Verse 7. 

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

And so in our verse 8, the King appeals to his son to choose that wisdom and to stay with it. And he pictures that wisdom as coming through Dad and Mom.

Yes, Dad is in this passage, too. And he will show up again and again in the Proverbs talking to his son this way. Proverbs was written primarily by men for young men, and then it was given to all of us.

But we are not going to focus this morning on “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction...” [Maybe I’ll preach this same message again in a month on Father’s Day.] No, instead, we going to focus on the parallel idea, “...do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

That is God’s word to all children who want to be wise.

“...do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

And that’s regardless of your age.

If your mother 70 years ago taught you the Lord’s wisdom, this is God’s Word to you today: “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

I have just two points of application for this morning’s message. One from verse 8 and one from verse 9, and they are both very simple. 

#1. WALK IN THE WISDOM OF YOUR MOM.

And don’t stop walking!

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Now, yes, this assumes that your mother taught you or is teaching you wisdom.

So, we could address the Moms today and encourage all of the Moms to be teachers of your children. Teach them the fear of the LORD.

But we just did that in March with the message, “Impress Them On Your Children.” Do you remember that? In Deuteronomy 6? How parents are to be the resident theologians in their homes and pass on the faith to the next generation.

Moms, you might want to go back and review that message if you are looking for some teaching on being a disciple-making Mom this weekend. You can do it! 

But this passage is not addressed to the Moms. This passage is addressed to the kids–especially the sons, though the son stands for all of us who are the children of a wise mom who has taught us the fear of the LORD.

Notice that verse 8 begins with the word, “Listen.” It’s the same word as Deuteronomy 6, “Shema!” “Listen up!” “Hear this, my son!”  He’s flicking the lights on and off. He’s pulled the power cord on the wireless router. I have a friend who when he wants his family’s attention, he turns off the wireless router, and his kids all come of out their rooms. 

Solomon is getting his young son’s attention, and once he does, he is telling him to take to heart his parents’ instruction. Their homeschooling in the fear of the LORD.

And he wants his son to stick with it.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Don’t just let it go in one ear and out the other.
Don’t just nod your head and then turn away.

Don’t walk away from the wisdom of your Mom. Walk in it. And don’t stop.

Now, some of you do not or did not have a wise mom. It is very possible that a number of you in this room did not have that particular blessing. Perhaps your Mom was not a believer or died when you were young. Or she had some wisdom, but her life was marked more by folly.

Don’t worry; this passage is for you, as well.

Because the wisdom that this Mom is sharing here is in this book. You don’t have to have a Mom to teach it to you, though she should, and it is a blessing if she has.

But it’s not like this teaching can only come through your biological Mom.

If you didn’t have a wise Mom or don’t have a wise Mom, I encourage you to find one and adopt her. This church is full of women who can serve as a spiritual Mom to you. Go after their wisdom. Even if you have one already, it doesn’t hurt to have more. The family of God has plenty of spiritual aunts and grandmas to teach the next generation the fear of the LORD.

The point is to get that wisdom and then to not lose it.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

I don’t think there is a greater heartache for a Christian mother than for her children to walk away from the faith. All of those years of a Christian Mom not just feeding and clothing their kids and nursing them when they’re sick and driving them to all of their things and helping them with their schoolwork and paying their bills and cleaning them and cleaning after and cleaning after them and cleaning after them, not just doing all of that but all of the time those Moms have put into teaching–by both word and example–the Christian faith to their kids.

And then the kids turn their back on it? That is top-level painful for Christians Moms.

But that’s not why Solomon says we ought to stick with it.

This verse does not say, “Please do not disappoint your Mom” even though it would.

This is not about pleasing your Mom, but about what is right and good and (perhaps surprisingly) what is good for you. Look at verse 9.

“They [Mom’s teachings] will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

Here’s point two of two:

#2. WEAR THE WISDOM OF YOUR MOM.

Walk in the wisdom of your mom and keep walking in the wisdom of your mom, and you will be wearing the wisdom of your Mom.

Her wisdom will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Maybe that doesn’t sound so awesome to guys at first. But think about it.

A garland on your head would be like some kind of a wreath or a headdress of honor.

So, guys in our culture may not know what a garland is, but we do like hats.

And we like hats that show that we have status.

Crowns, for example, everybody still likes a crown.

Or the white hardhat that says that you are the boss.

And this chain around your neck? That is a status symbol, too. That is not like a prison chain. Some translations have “pendants,” that sounds too much like Pandora jewelry to me.

It is bling, though. Many guys today wear chains. Think like Mr. T!

Or the jersey of your favorite team. The jersey at the signing ceremony. Showing off what team they have just joined.

The wrestler that puts on that big belt. Holds it above his head.

10 years ago this month, I graduated with my doctorate from Westminster Theological Seminary. When you get one of those, you have to step in front of the faculty and kind of kneel and they put this stole or “hood” over you head ,and then it hangs around your neck, and it says, “Your are Dr. Mitchell now.” It is an honor.

Like the at Olympics when they place that gold medal around their necks. And they take a bite out of it show that it’s real. It’s a real honor.

I think this in verse 9 is an honor. A garland, a chain.

If you walk in the wisdom your Mom is trying to teach you, you will be blessed!

You will be rewarded. You will be recognized as wise. You will experience favor.

Your Mom’s teaching will become swag for you. Doesn’t that sound good?!

Now, why does he have to tell you that? 

It’s because it’s not obvious, right? Is everybody who walks in wisdom honored for walking in wisdom? Not right away.

Look at the Lord Jesus Christ! He was Wisdom itself. Wisdom incarnate, and not only was He not recognized for it, but He was crucified for it. The garland on his head was twisted together with thorns.

So, this blessing is not a prosperity gospel blessing. This honor is not always immediate or obvious. But it is nevertheless quite real.

If you keep walking in the wisdom of your Mom, you will wear the wisdom of your Mom. Her wisdom will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

It will be a prize all by itself. Obvious to all who have eyes to see it and forever.

Jesus is now crowned with many crowns.

Turn with me to chapter 6? Verse 20?

This phrase, “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching” appears a second time there in the book of Proverbs. I want you to look at it and see how it takes this one step further. Look at verse 20.

“My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching [same exact words in Hebrew]. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.”

See how that’s similar?

But the emphasis here is not the honor of that decorative chain. That’s there, but it’s more than that.

Here it’s keep that teaching close to your heart. Not letting it go.

Like if you have a key that you want to keep safe, you wear it on a chain around your neck inside your shirt.

That word “bind” is the word we saw in Deuteronomy 6 for what the Israelite parents were told to do with God’s Word and their children. “Tie them as symbols on [their] hands and bind them on [their] foreheads.” Don’t let it go!

Why? What will it do? V.22

“When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life...”

Doesn’t that sound good? And doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s like what the parents were taught in Deuteronomy 6. “Impress [God’s words] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

This is saying that if you and I take Mom’s wise teachings to heart, they will guide you through all of life!

Doesn’t that sound good? Why would we walk away from that?

Why would we turn off the lamp, the light, and get off the path to life?

Well, fools do despise wisdom and discipline.

That’s why we need to be reminded, “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Do not step off the wise path.

So, I want to do something a little different at this point in the message. I’d like your help. I’d like to hear from you.

Would you share with us something that your Christian Mom either taught you about the Lord or is teaching you about the Lord?

We have two microphones. There is one right here and one going around.

Either put up your hand or go to the mic. I’d love it if we heard from 10 or 15 you today.

This is for any disciple here, no matter how old or how young.

Last time, I said that I might put the kids on the spot and ask them what their Mom has been teaching them.

Well, today, we’re all on the spot. Would love to especially hear from some guys. What has your Mom taught you about the Lord?

[HEARING FROM CHURCH FAMILY.]

I could say a lot of things, but the one that came to mind yesterday was how my Mom taught me in many different ways about the value and valor of strong Christian women.

Christianity is not just a masculine thing. It’s not boys’ club. It’s not just about dudes.

One little way she did that was by emphasizing all of the Bible stories about women. Where women are the heroes, the heroines.

Mom was the only female in our family. We had Dad and my brother and me and then Mom. And when we went on long trips in the car, we would fill the time with lots of things, but one of them was a Bible trivia game, where we were supposed to guess what each other was thinking. “I am thinking of a Bible character whose name begins with...” And if it was J it could be Jesus or Joseph or John or whatever.

And Mom was a little predictable. She often started with “D.” I’m thinking of a Bible character whose name began with “D.” And it wasn’t David. It was Deborah or it was Dorcas. And she did R for Ruth and E for Esther and M for Mary. 

And so from a young age, I knew that the Bible was a book for strong females of faith.

And look at this amazing thing in this book that a woman is called to do!

She is called to teach the faith to the next generation!

If she is called “Mom,” she is called to raise up royalty in wisdom!

Think about that. If this is Solomon’s son, that means that he is a prince who may one day be a king whose job it will be to rule with wisdom and justice and faithfulness.

Where will he learn that? At his mother’s knee.

Moms, I can’t help but point it out, you are called to raise up royalty in wisdom, justice, and faithfulness–sons and daughters, not just of Israel’s monarch, but sons and daughters of the Living God!

That’s how important it is for you to teach your children the fear of the LORD.

But again, this passage is not written to Moms. It’s written to us kids.

And it tells us to walk in that wisdom and to not forsake it.

By the way, what is the warning of wisdom that is emphasized in Proverbs 1 and Proverbs 6?

After both of the initial calls to “not forsake your mother’s teaching,” and a description of the beauty and benefits of that teaching, there are two examples of that teaching in action.

In Proverbs 1, the parents warn their son to not take up with a gang. And in Proverbs 6, the parents warn their son to not take up with a loose woman.

One commentator I read this week pointed out that these were common temptations of young men: easy money and easy sex.

Money gained not by hard work and prudence but by violence and theft.

Sex gained not by marriage and faithful commitment, but by stolen pleasure.

The wise mother warns her son against those things and warns about the inevitable consequences of those foolish choices.

This afternoon, read chapter 1 all the way through. And read chapter 6 from verse 20 to verse 35. There is only trouble for those who take those paths. Death is at the end of those paths!

“Fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Moms, thank you for teaching us the fear of the LORD. Keep it up!

We need it! We are, by nature, foolish, and we need your wisdom to speak into our lives–to show us the way to go and to warn us against the other way.

And all of us, let’s walk in the wisdom of our moms and keep walking in that wisdom. So that we begin to be marked by it. Visibly! People can see it in our lives.

All our Moms are fallen and fallible. None of them are perfect. 

So their teaching will not be perfect either.

Where their teaching was wrong, we need to discard and depart from it.

This is not saying that we need to unthinkingly follow Mom wherever she leads even into error or foolishness. No.

But it saying that God has given us wise Moms for a reason.

They have been given to us to teach us the fear of the LORD.

And to the degree that they do that, we need to hold on for dear life to their instruction.

Because that’s where life is!

“Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck [for safe keeping]. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life..."

Walk in the wisdom of your Mom.
And wear the wisdom of your Mom.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”


Thursday, May 05, 2022

Twenty Years of Ordination with the EFCA

Rejoice with me! On this day, 20 years ago, I was officially ordained under the authority of the Evangelical Free Church of America. (I was licensed with the EFCA for almost 4 years before that.) 

It is a solemn joy and a great privilege to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church under this particular banner. We are not the only association of churches out there, nor the biggest, nor the oldest, or any other -est, but we are grounded in the Gospel, tethered to the truth of the Scriptures, focused on following the Great Commission through living out the Great Commandment in the Great Community. 

I know that I am blessed to be a part of this family and recognized as qualified to preach the Word, equip the saints, and shepherd the flock of Lanse Evangelical Free Church. Pray for me! I aspire to be faithful in the next two decades to what this ordination represents.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

“I Bring Charges Against You” [Matt's Messages]

“I Bring Charges Against You”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 1, 2022 :: Jeremiah 2:1-3:5 

We learned last week that Jeremiah was not a bullfrog but a prophet of the LORD in the southern kingdom of Judah for the last forty years before Judah was sent into exile.

Last week, we also learned about Jeremiah’s inescapable call to unflinching prophetic ministry–faithfully speaking God’s words, patiently waiting for God’s words to be fulfilled for good or ill, and resolutely standing with God’s words no matter how unpopular he became.

Today, in chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, we begin to hear more of Jeremiah’s message of judgment for the nation of Judah.


Before I read any of this chapter to you, I have to warn you that it’s not pretty. The language here is actually very jolting. It’s scorching, really! 

There are parts of the Bible where the language is sweet, and beautiful, and heartening. But there are other parts of the Bible where the language has to be, because of its essential message, more stunning, more painful, more harrowing, harder to hear, harder to listen to.

And a lot of the Words of Jeremiah are like that, including this section. Chapters 2 through 6, really. Jeremiah can be like a broken record stuck on a really mad and sad song. Remember, it’s a prophecy of a tragedy.

There are a lot of strong accusations leveled in this section at the people of Judah, and he really presses them home.

The prophets of the LORD in the Old Testament often had to act as the prosecuting attorneys of the covenant.  Often the prophets were like lawyers.

Have you spent any time in a courtroom? I have spent a little time there, not very much, thankfully. Mostly supporting somebody else who had to be there for some court case or another.

But I have watched a lot of “Perry Mason.” We watched one last night! And some “Matlock.” And some “Law & Order.” And, as I love murder mysteries, I have read about thousands of court cases.

What is the scariest seat to sit in in a courtroom?

Is it the judge's? No, though I’m sure they feel a kind of pressure.

It’s the defendant's, right? In a criminal case, the person who is being tried. That person, even if they are innocent, are the ones who are squirming the most (unless they are Jesus!). And if they are guilty, then they are really squirming!

The prophets of the LORD in the Old Testament were often called upon to be the prosecuting attorneys for the LORD against the people of Israel as the defendants.

Often the prophecies of the prophets were less about fore-telling what was going to happen some day in the far future, and more about forth-telling, bringing charges against the nation for their disobedience to the covenant that the LORD had made with them in the past.

And that’s the focus of Jeremiah chapter 2.

It is un-dated, unlike last week’s, so we don’t really know when it was originally delivered, but most scholars assume that it was early on in Jeremiah’s ministry.

It’s actually more like a sampler. More like a “mixtape” of Jeremiah’s greatest hits as a prosecuting attorney–pointing out the awfulness of Judah’s sin. 

I’m sure that listening to it was painful for the defendants. Because the picture that Yahweh paints through Jeremiah is not pretty. And it would be easy, I think, to distance ourselves from it while we read it. To shake our heads at those foolish Israelites. “What were they thinking?” “Go get ‘em, Jeremiah! You tell ‘em!”

But I believe that one of the major reasons why these words are in our Bibles is to help us to see ourselves and our sin. Their sins give us insight into our sins. And what God says about their sin gives us insight into how God thinks about our sin.

So let’s listen in to Jeremiah the prosecuting attorney bringing some charges against Judah.

He begins, strangely enough, with describing a honeymoon.

Jeremiah chapter 2, verse 1.

“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: ‘'I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,'’ declares the LORD.”

Those are the nicest words that you are going to hear from Jeremiah today. He was hit with the word of the LORD again. Bam! “The word of the LORD came to me:” And Yahweh told him to walk up to Jerusalem [remember that’s about an hour’s walk from Anathoth. Here to Kylertown.] and deliver these words: “I remember our honeymoon.”

The LORD uses this metaphor of the covenant of marriage again and again in the Bible, both testaments. The LORD as husband, and the people of God as bride. United in a covenant of love.

And so full of promise at first. Holy, firstfruits. Idyllic. Devotion. Love. Loyalty.

Yes, there were problems in their marriage from the git-go. They struggled some in the wilderness. But there were no other parties in the picture. No other gods. It was just Israel and Yahweh on their honeymoon.

And the LORD was completely faithful. He provided for His bride. He protected His bride. He was a great husband. “Declares the LORD.” Mic drop. That’s the way it was. Nobody can argue.

So what happened?! What happened? How did they get here?

Remember last week that boiling pot that Jeremiah saw? Tilting towards Judah. There was a scalding judgment going to come down from the north. Why? Because Judah has been unfaithful to the covenant.

How did they get here? How did they get to this place? Verse 4.

“Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: ‘What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. [They went from holy to worthless! Why? How? What happened? What did I do wrong? V.6] They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?' [“They should have. I have taken care of them, and I would have taken care of them still.” V.7] I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. [The leaders were no help. V.8] The priests did not ask, 'Where is the LORD?' Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal[!], following worthless idols. ‘Therefore I bring charges against you again,’ declares the LORD. ‘And I will bring charges against your children's children.”

That’s where we get our title for today, in verse 9, “I Bring Charges Against You.” And if your kids and your grandkids keep it up, I’ll bring charges against them, too.

It’s worse because they had been so close, right? This courtcase is kind of like a divorce case. And the LORD is the offended spouse suing for divorce.  And this is scary: He is also the judge. And He is the One speaking through the prosecuting attorney.

There is almost no Jeremiah in here. Just Yahweh speaking through Jeremiah. “Therefore I bring charges against you again,’ declares the LORD.” 

What are the charges? Look at verse 10.

“Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look [that’s Cyprus in the West], send to Kedar [that’s a desert in the East] and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.”

I have three points to make this morning from this chapter, and they are all about what sin is like just from listening to the LORD talk about the sin of Judah. Here’s point number one:

#1. SIN IS SHOCKING.

Do you hear how astonished the LORD sounds about this? “Check from East to West, have you ever heard anything like this before? It’s unheard of. Has a nation ever changed its gods?”

What’s the answer to that one? Only if they were made to.

If somebody came in and conquered you, then you might switch over to their gods, because you had to though you probably snuck around with your gods when nobody was watching. But Judah as decided to change its Real God Who was perfectly faithful to false gods that aren’t even real! “But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.”

How shocking is that?! What was Yahweh’s sin? How had He failed them? He had not!

And yet, they exchanged Him for worthless idols. “I’d like to turn in this Glorious God and take one of those defective models, please.” 

What?! V.12 “Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the LORD.”

The heavens here are like the spectators in the courtroom. They don’t have any role except to witness the proceedings and react to them. The murmur, the sensation in the  courtroom when some amazing thing is brought out in evidence. The whole universe shakes at this thought.

“Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the LORD.”

The enormity of this crime!

Is that how you see your sin?

Because it’s not just Judah that has done this dark exchange.

All sin is like this. Read Romans chapter 1. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images...” (Romans 1:18-23a.). 

Sound familiar? Paul ends all of that description of the shocking nature of sin with, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Why would we ever sin?! Just this description of the appalling horror of sin should make us hate our sin and repent. How evil it is to exchange the Glorious for the worthless. And not just evil but dumb.

#2. SIN IS STUPID.

It’s not just shocking. It’s shockingly stupid. Verse 13.

“‘My people have committed two sins: [Here are the charges laid out in two counts.] They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

How dumb is that?!

Do you get the picture? There is a lot of artistry in the language here. Here are the charges. Their first offense is to forsake the LORD. He is like a spring of living water.

If you a farmer, and you find a spring on your property, are you happy or sad? You are very happy. Especially in a dry place like Israel. If you have water, you have life. But Judah has backed up a cement truck to that the spring and stopped it up. Instead of figuring out how to irrigate their whole field with it, they have figured out how to pretend the spring isn’t there and block the water from getting to crops.

And instead, [and this is their second offence, they have come up with their own watering system.] they have a dug a big cistern to collect muddy rain water and have not even bothered (or can’t figure out how) to keep it from leaking. It’s broken!

And they’re like, “Yeah, I like it. I like the broken cistern. I hated that spring.”

What?! That’s ridiculous. That’s crazy. That’s foolish. That’s illogical.

That’s sin for you.

Sin is stupid.
Sin is absurd.
Sin is a bad deal.

And yet we keep choosing it.

I’ve got a deal for you. I know you have a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster and a McLaren P1 LM in your garage right now. But I have a broken bicycle that I’d like to trade you for. It only has one wheel. No chain. It’s rusty. The steering is off. But it’s handmade by me, myself, and I! What do you say? 

No, I didn’t think you’d go for it. But every day we all do something more shockingly stupid than that, we sin against the Lord our God.

I think one of these reasons this passage is here in holy Scripture is to cause us to rethink our daily proclivity to give in to temptation.

I don’t care what the sin is, it’s stupid.

Because sin never pays off in the long run.

“False gods never fail to fail.” - Christopher J.H. Wright

They are unreliable. They are useless. They worthless. They are broken cisterns. 

When God is the spring of living water.

Remember what Jesus told the woman at the well? “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

Sin is fundamentally unsatisfying. But Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).

Have you come to Jesus for salvation and soul satisfaction? Do you continue to come to Him and drink from Him? That is smart.

Anything else is stupid. And it is shameful. 

#3. SIN IS SHAMEFUL.

In verse 14, Jeremiah picks up steam and begins to lay into the people of Judah about the shamefulness of their sin and the shameful consequences coming because of their sin.

He does it by laying on a bunch of rhetorical questions. You know, lawyer questions. Unanswerable questions. They are damning questions. And he also does it through laying out these damning images and piling them one on top of another. Look at verse 14.

“Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth? [No.] Why then has he become plunder? Lions have roared; they have growled at him. They have laid waste his land; his towns are burned and deserted. [Why did that happen?] Also, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved the crown of your head. [Those are key cities in Egypt. Judah has been defeated by them. The Lord has let them be shamed and treated as prisoners of war, shaved heads. Why? V.17] Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the LORD your God when he led you in the way? [Yes, you have.]

Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Shihor? And why go to Assyria to drink water from the River? [They are tempted to form alliances with other nations, even the ones who had just shamed them, to try to get Judah out of its trouble. Instead of just trusting the Lord and repenting. V.19] Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.”

More. In verse 20, the prosecution begins to bring out, into evidence, statements made by the defendant. Verse 20.

“‘Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, 'I will not serve you!' Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.”

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Not only is the honeymoon over, but the bride is pimping herself out. She’s not just adulterous–idolatry is spiritual adultery–but she is promiscuous.

That could actually be literal, as well as metaphorical. Because the Canaanite gods were gods of fertility that included acts of sexual immorality in their worship. 

Judah was tempted to worship many other gods. And so are we!

What are the gods that our culture lays out before us?

All kinds of sexual immoralities make the list.

Sex is a major god in our culture. It’s funny. They culture says that Christians are fixated on sexuality. And, of course, some Christians are. But the culture is fixated on sexuality! Sexual satisfaction is seen as the greatest, most important thing. And you gotta have it how you want it.

Do you know what we call that? Worship.

But it’s not just sex that we worship.

We worship money.
We worship sports.
We worship politics.
We worship family.
We worship popularity.

We worship...what are you tempted to worship?

I often worship my stomach (Philippians 3:19). I have recently fallen back into old worship patterns of gluttony. And I told Heather Joy just last night, “I need to get back to eating right. And I’m sorry.” I know it because I feel bad. I hide how many servings I ate instead of bringing it out into the open. I’m ashamed of it. Because sin is shameful.

It’s shocking, and it’s stupid, and it’s shameful. Verse 21.

“I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? [Another ugly metaphor.] Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,’ declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Here’s how shameful this sin is, it puts an stain on Judah that they can’t get rid of. All of the lye and the bleach they can find. Scrub, scrub, scrub. And it’s still there. Like Lady Macbeth trying unendingly to wash the blood off her hands. The stain is there.

“The stain of your guilt is still before me...”

You think it’s gone, but I can still see it. Deny it all you want. Verse 23.

“‘How can you say, 'I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals'? [Ha!] See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving–  in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her.”

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Yahweh is pulling no punches. He says that Judah is like a camel or a donkey in heat, reckless, unrestrained, frantic, dangerously, desperately running to copulate. Running to false worship. V.25

“Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, 'It's no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.'” Sin is shamefully addictive.

Here’s a phrase I don’t want you to miss. Look back up at verse 23. “Consider what you have done.”

Look at yourself.

Some of you have tender consciences, and this chapter is really hard for you. Just hearing these words, you feel the shame cling to you. Hang on, stay with me, I have some good news to share with you in just a couple of minutes. Hold on.

But the rest of us, we probably need to take a moment and take a good long look at ourselves. Look back over our lives, or maybe just the last week, and take a good hard look at ourselves and consider what we have done. And think for a minute about how shameful it is. 

Don’t just say, “Nah, I’m good."

V.26 “‘As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the house of Israel is disgraced–they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets. They say to wood, 'You are my father,' and to stone, 'You gave me birth.' They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, 'Come and save us!'

How shameful is that? When things are going good, they are forsaking God. When things are going bad, they cry out to Him for help once again. V.28

“Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.”

And here is the height of shameful shamlessness. Verse 29.

“‘Why do you bring charges against me? You have all rebelled against me,’ declares the LORD. [They are complaining about Yahweh! They think they can bring a countersuit against Yahweh because He let them stay in trouble. Because He brought discipline to them. V.30] ‘In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets like a ravening lion. 

‘You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD: ‘Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? [No.] Why do my people say, 'We are free to roam; we will come to you no more'? Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. [Imagine a bride who forgot to put on her wedding dress on her wedding day! That’s the kind of spiritual amnesia we’re dealing with here. Shameful. V.33]  How skilled you are at pursuing love! Even the worst of women can learn from your ways. On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. 

Yet in spite of all this you say, 'I am innocent; he is not angry with me.' But I will pass judgment on you because you say, 'I have not sinned.' Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria. You will also leave that place with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those you trust; you will not be helped by them.”

Do you see their defense? 

They have no defense. There is no Perry Mason going to get them out of this one. He wouldn’t have taken their case. Perry only defended innocent people. 

Judah is as guilty as the day is long. And their only defense is denying it. “I am innocent. He’s not angry with me. I have not sinned.” Shameful. 

Chapter 3, verse 1.

“‘If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? [We’ve gone from honeymoon to impending divorce.] Would not the land be completely defiled? [They weren’t allowed to do that. Husbands weren’t allowed to basically lend out their wives through divorce and remarriage after the second husband divorced her. That would be defiling.] But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers [not just one other husband!]–would you now return to me?’ declares the LORD.

You’re just going to try to walk back in as if nothing has happened? V.2

“‘Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? [Any place where you didn’t do it?] By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. [Ironically, it hasn’t even worked. All of that fertility worship has not yielded fertility. All the worship of the storm god has brought no rain. But has that stopped you?] Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me: 'My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?' This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.’”

In other words, “You are guilty as charged.”

Now, next time, we’ll see what LORD says about the possibility of repentance for Judah. But right now, I want to just focus on us:

Have you gotten a sense of your sin this morning?

How shocking it is? Exchanging the glory of God for worthlessness. Has that helped you to see how appalling your sin is and hate it and repent?

Have you gotten a fresh sense of how stupid your sin is? Forsaking the satisfying spring of living water for the disappointing broken cistern of sin. Has that helped you to rethink the temptations lying before you?

Have you gotten a new sense of how shameful your sin is? How “not pretty” it is. How very ugly? A stain you cannot remove from yourself.

Whatever you do. Whatever soap you apply. No matter how you scrub.

Stained.

What if I were to tell you that there is a way to get that stain out?
What if I were to tell you that there is forgiveness for your shocking, stupid, shameful sins?
What if I were to tell you that this God Who has every reason to pour out the boiling pot of judgment on you, has instead put forward His own Son to be scorched in your place?

That’s what this table represents.

This meal--the bread and the cup--symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus Christ which was broken and poured out for you and me.
 
The Nicene Creed says, “For our sake He was crucified.” He died for all of our shocking, stupid, shameful sin. He died for all the ugliness in my heart and in my words and in my deeds.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a book on the theology of Jeremiah (by John Goldingay), and I read out the subject headings of a chapter on “Wrongdoing” to one of my sons. The headings were “Unfaithfulness, rebellion, waywardness, transgression, heedlessness, taint, corruption, profanation, shamefulness, mystery and stupidity, self-interest, greed, stubbornness.”

And my son said snarkily to me, “Is that your autobiography you’re reading?” (Playful snark is one of our love languages at our house.)

And, I said, “Sadly, yes. Thank God for the blood of Jesus Christ.”


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