Sunday, September 04, 2022

[Matt's Messages] “I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity”

“I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 4, 2022 :: Jeremiah 16:1-21 

So often Jeremiah had to be the odd man out.

The last two times we have been in Jeremiah together, we have focused on how weird and how painful it must have been to live the life of the faithful Old Testament prophet in Jeremiah’s day.

Last time, we focused especially on the painfulness of it. Jeremiah felt alone and attacked because he often was alone and attacked. Even though he didn’t owe anybody any money, and nobody owed him any money, everybody treated him like he did! And his neighbors conspired to kill him.

And he had to deliver the same sad message for 40 years! A broken record about a broken covenant and the judgment that was, therefore, on the way. So that Jeremiah was always weeping and, sometimes, he actually wished that he had never been born.

In fact, last time, he went too far in what he said in his pain because he just about accused the LORD of being unfaithful and unreliable. So the LORD had to rebuke Jeremiah and call him to repent and be restored.

Two times ago, we focused on how weird it was to be a prophet. All these strange things Jeremiah had to do. Like the time he had to travel 700 miles round-trip to bury a beautiful linen belt next to the River and then travel 700 miles round-trip back to dig up the ruined linen belt to wear around town just to make a point about how ruined the people of Judah were. Weird!

Well, chapter 16 puts together the weird and the painful in a new and fresh way. We’re going to see how his call to be weird must have been extremely painful for him. All to get across the painful point of the title of this message which is drawn right from the painful words of verse 5 where Yahweh says through Jeremiah, “I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people, declares the LORD.”

Those are scary words.

They go right together with the scary words of last week’s title in chapter 15, verse 6, “I can no longer show compassion.” “I’m worn out with relenting. Time is up. It’s time for judgment. I have withdrawn my blessing.”

Do you feel how scary those words are? Those words are the message that Jeremiah was called to live out by being the odd man out. 

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s start in verse 1 and see what the LORD asked Jeremiah to do, probably from a very young age. Chapter 16, verse 1.

“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.’” 

That would have been very hard for Jeremiah to hear. He was going to be the odd man out. It was incredibly unusual for a Jewish man in Old Testament times to not be married. In fact, there was no one Hebrew word for “bachelor.”  There were ways of saying it, of course, but there isn’t a word for it because all of the young men got married. 

“Be fruitful and multiply.” It was part of what it meant to be God’s people during that time. So being told by the LORD to not marry was a deprivation. It was out of step with the culture. It was unusual. It was weird. It was a hardship. It was odd. 

No marriage, which means no sex. And no children. And the Hebrews loved their children, didn’t they? Think about what the Psalms say about the blessing of having children. But Jeremiah? None. Celibacy and childlessness.

Now, there are many worse things than that in the world. Not everyone gets to marry and not everyone gets to have children. Our Lord Jesus Christ was unmarried, never had sex, and never had physical children, and Jesus was the most blessed person there ever was. It’s not the end of the world.

But in Jeremiah’s day, this was very odd, and it was probably very painful. And it was supposed to be because he was supposed to live that way to make a point. “Jeremiah, I want you to be the odd man out and watch all of your friends marry and have kids, but you don’t go on any dates and never buy a car seat or a stroller.”

“‘You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place...’ (V.3).

“For this is what the LORD says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: ‘They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like refuse lying on the ground. They will perish by sword and famine, and their dead bodies will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.’”

So when his family gets together, and his Jewish aunts say, “Why didn’t Jerry ever get married?”

The answer is, “Because so many of our kids are going to die in the exile.”

Because Jeremiah’s life is a walking parable. Judgment is on the way. And every day that he walks alone, his very life says it to the people around him. I suppose it was a mercy to Jeremiah that he didn’t have those loved ones to lose when the exile actually came, but it was a deprivation all the same.

And it wasn’t just celibacy and childlessness. Jeremiah also wasn’t allowed to attend funerals. Look at verse 5, from where we get our title:

“For this is what the LORD says: ‘Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,’ declares the LORD.”

Fred and Susie would have never seen Jeremiah at Strange and Weaver or Johnsons. He would have not have been allowed to sit down and eat ham and scalloped potatoes in the Fellowship Hall after a funeral. 

He was the odd man out. He missed those social opportunities to band together with your neighbors and family members to help each other to grieve and to just be together as you mourn. Because he had to live a point. Verse 5 again, “...because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,’ declares the LORD.”

I’m sure it gave offense if Jeremiah didn’t come to the funeral. But that was the point. The LORD was saying that he is not offering his blessing (literally His peace, His “shalom”) which consists of His love (His hesed, His steadfast, loyal, unfailing love) and his pity (His compassion). They are being rolled back.

All of the blessings of the covenant are being withdrawn, taken away from these people. Like a man who is not allowed to attend a funeral and express peace and commitment and comfort. Because the exile is coming, and it will mean no blessing, no love, and no pity for Judah. Verse 6.

“‘Both high and low will die in this land. They will not be buried or mourned [no funerals!], and no one will cut himself or shave his head for them. No one will offer food to comfort those who mourn for the dead–not even for a father or a mother–nor will anyone give them a drink to console them.”

Jeremiah lived his life in such a way as to say, “Soon there will be so much death there won’t be any funerals. There won’t be any Hospitality Team to put on a funeral meal.”

Jeremiah lived his life as a preview of coming detractions. 

And it wasn’t just the funerals. It was also the celebrations, like weddings. Verse 8.

“‘And do not enter a house where there is feasting and sit down to eat and drink. For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Before your eyes and in your days I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place.”

Jeremiah wasn’t allowed to go to Labor Day family picnics. And he sure wasn’t allowed to attend wedding receptions. Because soon and very soon, there would be no more feasting and no more dancing and no more joyful voice of the bride and bridegroom in Judah. Because the LORD was withdrawing His blessing, Jeremiah had to be the odd man out.

Now, how could we apply that to our lives today if we want to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ in 2022?

Thankfully, these commands were for Jeremiah and Jeremiah alone. These strange ways of living are not the pattern that the LORD has called you and me to follow today. We are allowed to marry. In fact, it’s encouraged for Christians to marry other Christians though singleness is also valued in the New Testament. But marriage is on the table as a holy option, and having children is a blessing for married couples to pursue.

And we’re allowed to go to funerals and often should to show love and express grief with the people we love. And we’re allowed to go to parties, too!

Because you and I are not called to be prophetic symbols of a broken covenant.

However, I do think there’s a lesson in here somewhere about being okay with being out of step with our culture, even our Christian culture. I think there’s something in here about being okay with being the odd man out, the odd woman out, being something of an odd duck.

Could I put it this way?


Live weird for Jesus!

What I mean is, our lives may not be living parables about a broken covenant, but our lives do send a message by how we live them. So we need to be okay with living differently than the people around us to send a message with our lives. Not that we are better than anybody else, but we belong to Jesus, the Savior Who enacted a better covenant–the New Covenant with His blood.

So there’s bound to some ways that we will live our lives differently than the people around us, even than other professing Christians. You can probably think of the ways.

And some of them will be painful. They will be things we can’t do, that we don’t feel allowed to do because we belong to Jesus. The people around us may feel free to do them, but you and I do not.

You know what I mean? I don’t think it would be hard for us to come up with a short list. And we will seem weird.

And of course, it’s not just what we’re not free to do, but also what we are free to do that will make us stand out. Live your life with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, and you will be seen as an odd duck!

Live weird for Jesus!

Live like a walking sermon. Not exactly like Jeremiah, of course, but following his example and being willing to be uncomfortable, to be different because we belong to Jesus.

Like Peter said, “ foreigners and exiles [as weirdos an outsiders] ... abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul and live such good weird lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good weird deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Live weird for Jesus.

One key way to live weird for the Lord is to clearly see our own sin. Because Judah sure couldn’t. Look at verse 10.

“‘When you tell these people all this and they ask you, 'Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?'’ Stop there for a second.

Are you, like me, wondering where these people have been?

They see Jeremiah living like the odd man out. He doesn’t have a family. He doesn’t go to funerals. He doesn’t go to weddings. He doesn’t go to parties. And when they ask him why not, he says, “Because judgment is coming.”  Because the the LORD has withdrawn His blessings, His love and His pity from this people.

And they say, “How come?! What did we do wrong?”

How did they not know what they had done wrong?!

We all know what they have done wrong. We’re in chapter 16 wondering how we’re going to get through to chapter 52 listening to Jeremiah say what they had done wrong! 52 ways that they had left their divine lover! Jeremiah was a broken record about a broken covenant.

How many prophets has Yahweh sent? And they are unaware of their sin?!

We can be weird and different for the LORD just by being cognizant of our own sinfulness and temptations.

Last week, I asked you to answer the question, “What lies do you want to believe?”

What did you come up with?

Are you aware of your own weaknesses?
Are you aware of your own shortcomings?
Are you aware of your own temptations?
Are you aware of your own sins?

Or are you like Judah saying, “I don’t know. What have we done?” Look at verse 11.

“...then say to them, 'It is because your fathers forsook me,' declares the LORD, 'and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. [But not just them. You learned from them and then did them one better. V.12] But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.'”

They are going to be uprooted. They are going to be shown no grace. The LORD has withdrawn His blessing, His love, and His pity from this people.

And we call that justice. 
Because the LORD is holy, holy, holy.
And Judah had been wicked, wicked, wicked.

Now, one of the things I love about this chapter is that the LORD sprinkles in some hints of hope among all of the hopelessness of the rest of the chapter.

It’s a pretty depressing chapter with Jeremiah’s odd lifestyle and Judah’s wicked sin and the LORD’s guaranteed withdrawl of His covenant blessings. But there are also little pinpricks of light that burst out of the darkness.

Yes, the exile is coming for sure, but the LORD has some plans for His people for AFTER the exile. Look at verse 14.

“‘However, the days are coming,’ [I love it we He starts to talk like that! The days are coming!] declares the LORD, ‘when men will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.' For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers” (Vv.14-15).

Do you see what’s going on there? What was the biggest rescue that the LORD had ever done for His people? What did they always come back to?

The Exodus, right?

“Let my people, go!”
The Red Sea Rescue.
Pharaoh and his army have been hurled into the sea!

So when they wanted to swear by the living God, they would say, “As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of Egypt...” I will do such so so forth!

But soon, Jeremiah says, they will have something bigger to celebrate and to swear by! “As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites...” back from the exile!

And not because they deserve it. This is going to be all of grace! A greater Exodus is on the calendar.  The LORD plans to restore His people to the land. Though, first, He must root them out and send them away. Verse 16.

“‘But now I will send for many fishermen,’ declares the LORD, ‘and they will catch them [the Judahites]. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols’” (vv.16-18).

“They may not know what they have done, but I certainly know what they have done. And they will not escape the judgment that is on the way.” “I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,’ declares the LORD.”

But in God’s amazing grace, this chapter ends on a high note of hopefulness.

Because the LORD plans to restore His blessings to His people. What He had withdrew and rolled back, He is now going to roll back towards. And not just to His own Jewish people, but to Gentiles, too. To the nations! Look and see what Jeremiah says in verse 19.

“O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, ‘Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!’ ‘Therefore I will teach them–this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD.”


Doesn’t verse 19 sound like something out of the Psalms? Just a year ago we finished up our long series on the Psalms. Doesn’t verse 19 sound like one of them? 

I love how Jeremiah piles up these strong names for the LORD.

“O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress...”

The LORD is the one bringing the distress, and yet, the Jeremiah knows that the LORD is still the place to run to when it comes.

My strength.
My fortress.
My refuge.
My safe place.

The weeping prophet knows where he really should turn when times are tough. Because He knows just how gracious the LORD is. Even though He has withdrawn His blessing from His people, it won’t be forever. He has also promised a time when those blessing, His peace, His love, His compassion will be poured out again on His people.

And not just the Jews, but also the nations.

You know who that means? It means the Gentiles of central Pennsylvania. The gospel is going to reach the end of the earth. All the way to Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.

I joke to people that Lanse is the center of the known universe. But it’s really not. This is the ends of the earth compared to Jerusalem! And the gospel has reached all the way here, and Gentiles like you and me have woken up and said (v.19), “Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, we do! But they are like scarecrows in a melon patch. They are not real gods. They are empty.

But the LORD is full. He is now our strength. He is now our fortress. He is not our refuge.

We have come to know and trust in Him!”

Amazingly, you and I have a relationship with God!
Like Paul said to the Thessalonians, “[Y]ou turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:9-10 NIVO).

Jeremiah could only see this hazily in part. It was really far off for him. But we are living in verses 19-21 right now. The LORD is teaching us His power and might, and we know Him.

So that you and I can take refuge in Him.