Pentecost 13 ~ September 3, 2017 ~ Jeremiah 15:15-21 ~ Pastor Jacobson ~ (9-3-2017 Pentecost 13 Sermon PDF)
“Why is God doing this to me?”
15Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. 16When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. 17I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. 18Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails. 19Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. 20I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord. 21“I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”
Pray. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. In your day of trouble, that’s what the Lord Jesus says to do. “Call upon me in the day of trouble;” the Lord says, “I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). Jesus teaches, “Ask…Seek…Knock.” “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open to you” (Matthew 7:7). Prayer is a powerful tool. Prayer allows you to climb onto the lap of the Almighty God and pour out your heart to him, spill your guts, hold nothing back.
- Be careful of what you say in your prayers.
In the first lesson today the prophet Jeremiah prays. He talks to God. Jeremiah pours out his heart, spills his guts, holds nothing back. It was a day of trouble. It was so bad in the land of Judah the Lord commanded Jeremiah not to pray for these people. It was so bad the Lord shared with Jeremiah that even if the prophets Moses and Samuel prayed for these people, he would not listen. It was so bad the Lord instructed Jeremiah not to get married and have children. They wouldn’t survive the trouble that was coming.
It was a day of trouble so Jeremiah prays. The prayer starts positive. Jeremiah praises the Lord’s wisdom and power. “Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me.” Jeremiah loves the Word of God. “When your words came,” Jeremiah prays, “I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” And Jeremiah willingly applies God’s Word to his life. “I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them.” Jeremiah didn’t go with the flow of society. Jeremiah went with God. Jeremiah did what he was supposed to do.
Then Jeremiah’s prayer takes an immediate and obvious nose dive. Jeremiah doesn’t blame the people for his day of trouble. Jeremiah points the blame finger squarely at God. “I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.” Jeremiah sees no deliverance for his day of trouble. Jeremiah asked, sought, and knocked, but according to Jeremiah, the Lord did not give, Jeremiah did not find, there was no open door. “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?” And as a finish to this rant, Jeremiah calls God a liar. “You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.”
Jeremiah’s rant is like the employee who dreams of yelling at his boss. Isn’t that every employee’s dream? If you have held a job longer than a half an hour, haven’t you ever had that dream? At home? In the car? On the way to the office? “I’m going to tell you what you’re going to do!” “I’m going to tell you what I think of your work!” And then you see your boss and say, “Good morning. How was your weekend? I really love you, and I really love my job.” You can’t talk like that to your boss. You would lose your job. But if you did, wouldn’t your rant sound like Jeremiah’s rant here?
There was no camera on Jeremiah. There was no onlooker with an i-Phone recording his rant and posting it on the internet, but Jeremiah does us a huge favor by allowing us to watch this “throw down” with God. Who of us hasn’t had a prayer or a conversation with someone else and asked, “Why is God doing this to me?”
Be careful of what you say in your prayers. God is never the cause of suffering. Most of the time, we are the cause of our own suffering. If a friend shows up for work a half-hour late every day, gets fired, and asks you, “Why is God doing this to me?” The answer is not, “I don’t know.” The answer is, “God did nothing to you. You did this to yourself. You’re lazy.”
Generally, you do reap what you have sown. If you play nice with others, they will usually play nice with you. If you are a mean, nasty jerk to others, they will be mean, nasty jerks to you or avoid you altogether. However, there are times when your suffering is not related to your sin but to your living in a sinful world. There are times when you do nothing wrong and you suffer anyway. There are times when you do everything right, and you suffer because of it. This kind of suffering is the suffering Jesus talks about in the gospel today. When you do nothing wrong or you do everything right and you suffer, God is calling on you to carry a cross. In our lessons Jeremiah didn’t like his cross. Neither did Peter. But Jesus calls this carrying of a cross a mark of discipleship. He says, “Whoever want to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
What cross are you carrying? What suffering are you enduring even though you have done nothing wrong? Maybe you are even suffering because you did something right. Are you embracing this cross as a mark of your discipleship or are you bellyaching “Why is God doing this to me?” Be careful of what you say in your prayers and listen carefully to what God says in his Word.
- Listen carefully to what God says in His Word
God has something to say to Jeremiah. “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.” This was a gracious response. Jeremiah should have been fired on the spot, but the Lord treats Jeremiah like he treats everyone else, with a call to repentance. God wants repentance. God wanted repentance so bad for Judah he allowed one of his own prophets to be treated like garbage. This trash treatment of the prophet did not diminish God’s love and care for the prophet. God would deliver and bless Jeremiah through this cross, but the Lord wouldn’t let the evil of the people of Judah become an excuse for Jeremiah to commit his own evil. In his prayer Jeremiah said things about God that were not true. Jeremiah needed to repent. Without repentance Jeremiah would be just as bad as the people of Judah. Without repentance there is no forgiveness.
The forgiveness Jeremiah needed for his sin and the forgiveness we need for our sin came at the cross. Jesus’ suffering on the cross was unfair. Jesus had been wrongly accused of starting a rebellion, of insubordination. Justice was not served at the cross, but Grace was! God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we would have the righteousness of God. And for this reason Jesus not only endured, Jesus embraced the cross. The Bible says in the book of Hebrews, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). The cross of Jesus Christ has delivered us from the evil of our sin and from this punishment of hell. The cross of Jesus Christ has given us life with God.
Jeremiah was delivered from his sin and restored as a prophet. We know this for sure because there’s a Jeremiah chapter 16. God also made good on his promised. The Lord had made Jeremiah, “a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze.” In the chapters that follow, the people of Judah continued to treat Jeremiah like garbage. That didn’t change, but Jeremiah did change. Their sin would not damage Jeremiah’s faith in the future. Jeremiah faithfully served the Lord because he denied himself, carried his cross, and followed Jesus. Jeremiah’s cross showed himself, the people of Judah, and us what Jeremiah believed. He believed in God. He believed God would deliver him from evil, and God did. And God delivered Jeremiah from every trouble. And God delivered Jeremiah from his last trouble when he sent his angels to deliver Jeremiah to heaven.
Listen carefully to what God says in his Word. The world is not getting better. The world is groaning. In these last days we are seeing these groans with greater frequency and greater intensity. The people of this world aren’t getting better either. Don’t follow the masses. Follow Christ. See your cross as a mark of discipleship, as further evidence of where you are going. Don’t be negatively affected by the people of this world and the groans of this earth. Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Hold onto these promises of your God, and like Jeremiah, have a positive effect on the people of this world. Amen.