The Message

17 08 2009



Jeremiah 2 August 15, 2009

The LORD’s Case against His People

1 The Lord gave me another message. He said,2 “Go and shout this message to Jerusalem. This is what the Lord says:

“I remember how eager you were to please me

as a young bride long ago,

how you loved me and followed me

even through the barren wilderness.

3 In those days Israel was holy to the Lord ,

the first of his children.s

All who harmed his people were declared guilty,

and disaster fell on them.

I, the Lord , have spoken!”

4 Listen to the word of the Lord , people of Jacob—all you families of Israel!5 This is what the Lord says:

“What did your ancestors find wrong with me

that led them to stray so far from me?

They worshiped worthless idols,

only to become worthless themselves.

6 They did not ask, `Where is the Lord

who brought us safely out of Egypt

and led us through the barren wilderness—

a land of deserts and pits,

a land of drought and death,

where no one lives or even travels?’

7 “And when I brought you into a fruitful land

to enjoy its bounty and goodness,

you defiled my land and

corrupted the possession I had promised you.

8 The priests did not ask,

`Where is the Lord ?’

Those who taught my word ignored me,

the rulers turned against me,

and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal,

wasting their time on worthless idols.

9 Therefore, I will bring my case against you,”

says the Lord .

“I will even bring charges against your children’s children

in the years to come.

10 “Go west and look in the land of Cypruss;

go east and search through the land of Kedar.

Has anyone ever heard of anything

as strange as this?

11 Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones,

even though they are not gods at all?

Yet my people have exchanged their glorious Gods

for worthless idols!

12 The heavens are shocked at such a thing

and shrink back in horror and dismay,”

says the Lord .

13 “For my people have done two evil things:

They have abandoned me—

the fountain of living water.

And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns

that can hold no water at all!

The Results of Israel’s Sin

14 “Why has Israel become a slave?

Why has he been carried away as plunder?

15 Strong lions have roared against him,

and the land has been destroyed.

The towns are now in ruins,

and no one lives in them anymore.

16 Egyptians, marching from their cities of Memphiss and Tahpanhes,

have destroyed Israel’s glory and power.

17 And you have brought this upon yourselves

by rebelling against the Lord your God,

even though he was leading you on the way!

18 “What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt

and your covenants with Assyria?

What good to you are the streams of the Niles

or the waters of the Euphrates River?s

19 Your wickedness will bring its own punishment.

Your turning from me will shame you.

You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is

to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him.

I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!

20 “Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you

and tore away the chains of your slavery,

but still you said,

`I will not serve you.’

On every hill and under every green tree,

you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols.

21 But I was the one who planted you,

choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best.

How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?

22 No amount of soap or lye can make you clean.

I still see the stain of your guilt.

I, the Sovereign Lord , have spoken!

Israel, an Unfaithful Wife

23 “You say, `That’s not true!

I haven’t worshiped the images of Baal!’

But how can you say that?

Go and look in any valley in the land!

Face the awful sins you have done.

You are like a restless female camel

desperately searching for a mate.

24 You are like a wild donkey,

sniffing the wind at mating time.

Who can restrain her lust?

Those who desire her don’t need to search,

for she goes running to them!

25 When will you stop running?

When will you stop panting after other gods?

But you say, `Save your breath.

I’m in love with these foreign gods,

and I can’t stop loving them now!’

26 “Israel is like a thief

who feels shame only when he gets caught.

They, their kings, officials, priests, and prophets—

all are alike in this.

27 To an image carved from a piece of wood they say,

`You are my father.’

To an idol chiseled from a block of stone they say,

`You are my mother.’

They turn their backs on me,

but in times of trouble they cry out to me,

`Come and save us!’

28 But why not call on these gods you have made?

When trouble comes, let them save you if they can!

For you have as many gods

as there are towns in Judah.

29 Why do you accuse me of doing wrong?

You are the ones who have rebelled,”

says the Lord .

30 “I have punished your children,

but they did not respond to my discipline.

You yourselves have killed your prophets

as a lion kills its prey.

31 “O my people, listen to the words of the Lord !

Have I been like a desert to Israel?

Have I been to them a land of darkness?

Why then do my people say, `At last we are free from God!

We don’t need him anymore!’

32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry?

Does a bride hide her wedding dress?

Yet for years on end

my people have forgotten me.

33 “How you plot and scheme to win your lovers.

Even an experienced prostitute could learn from you!

34 Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor,

though you didn’t catch them breaking into your houses!

35 And yet you say,

`I have done nothing wrong.

Surely God isn’t angry with me!’

But now I will punish you severely

because you claim you have not sinned.

36 First here, then there—

you flit from one ally to another asking for help.

But your new friends in Egypt will let you down,

just as Assyria did before.

37 In despair, you will be led into exile

with your hands on your heads,

for the Lord has rejected the nations you trust.

They will not help you at all.

God gives Jeremiah another message to share with the people.

Starting with the history of the people, God recounts the young love that was shared.  An eagerness and a willingness to follow.

The Lord shares how he treated the people as holy and he protected them – especially when other nations harmed Israel.

“Listen,” God says.

God wants to know what the people found to be wrong with God?  Why did their ancestors stray?  They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves.

The were not seeking God.  They weren’t longing for Him.

Even after God brought them great gifts, they defiled those gifts.  The teachers ignored God and the leaders turned against Him.  The prophets spoke in the name of a false God.

Therefore, God says, I will bring charges against you, your children, and your children’s children. *

God asks them to look around – has any other nation swapped out their gods?  Even though, they are merely superstitious idols – they don’t abandon them.

Yet, God’s people have done this!

The heavens are shocked and dismayed – they shrink back in horror.

God says, His people have done two evil things.  First, they abandoned him – the fountain of living water.  Second, they have dug their own wells – cracked wells that can’t hold water.

Now, here are the results.  They have been carried away as plunder, the land has been destroyed, the towns are ruined.  Egypt has destroyed their power and glory.

But, they have brought this on themselves.

God wants to know what they’ve gained from these unholy alliances?

Your choices – your bad choices will bring their own punishment.  You will see bitterness and evil as a result.  You will find that losing the fear (respect) of God is a bad thing.

God has spoken.

Long ago, God released us from bondage and the yoke of oppression.  He set us free from our slavery.  However, we prostitute ourselves everywhere.

Though He carefully selected Abraham, somehow we grew to be a corrupt vine.  No amount of soap will make us clean or remove our guilt.

God sees the stain of guilt.

He has spoken.

But we say, “That’s not true.”

We haven’t worshiped false gods.

God says, “Go look.”  We are like a female camel looking for a mate – desperately!  Like a wild donkey, sniffing the wind at mating time – our lust cannot be restrained.

God wants to know when we’ll stop panting after other gods.  But we say, we are in love with these other gods and we can’t stop loving them now.

We are like a thief that only feels shame when we are caught.  Everyone is guilty – kings, priests, officials, prophets.  Everyone.

We call wood and stone our parents – but when things get really tough, we run to God!

For some reason we don’t trust the wood and stone with the real issues – we don’t believe they will save us.  We have as many gods as we do towns in Judah.

We accuse God of doing wrong – when actually, it was us who rebelled.

We don’t respond to His punishments – and we have killed the prophets.

God wants to know why you won’t listen?  Is he like a desert – a land of darkness?

Probably not, but you say you are free and you don’t need Him anymore.

Does a woman forget her valuables?  Does she hide her bridal dress?  Yet, God’s people forget Him.

We plot and scheme to win other lovers.  Experienced prostitutes could learn from us.  Our clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and poor.

We continue to say, we’ve done nothing wrong.  Surely God isn’t angry with US!

But God says He will punish us – severely – because we claim we’ve done nothing wrong.

We go from one ally to another asking for help – but our new friends continue to let us down.

In despair, we will be led into exile, for God has rejected the nations we put our trust in.  They won’t be any help at all!

This is the message I’ve been called to preach.  I see it so clearly.  It isn’t a message i want to preach.  But, really, I’m just the messenger.

As I’ve struggled with my own spirituality for the past 30+ years, I’ve not found the answers I’ve looked for.

First, it was religion via rules.  Follow the rules and everything will be OK.  But I couldn’t keep the rules – it was too much.  So then they told me to make sure I confess my failures and the slate would be wiped clean – but what if I lost track?  What if I missed one?  I was screwed!

So, I chucked it all.  I sought a life of absolute freedom.  I will make my own rules, I will do my own thing.  That worked for awhile – I remember dancing with glee.  I had discovered an unburdened life.  It was awesome.  For awhile.

Pretty son, the method became my prison.  I couldn’t stop.  I couldn’t get out of the rut.  They call this addiction.  Sex, drugs, Rock’n Roll.  It was terrible.  I was in a pit of despair and I couldn’t get out!

So, after several failed attempts at different brands of spiritual enlightenment, I went back to church.  How depressing.  Really.  There was no Spirit there – no life.

So, my mother gave me this advice: “You don’t go to church to receive, you go to give.”

My reply was, “but I have nothing to give.”

After a long conversation with my brother, where I listed all the things wrong with the church, my brother told me, “You can’t fix it from the outside, you have to fix it from the inside.”

So, I took that advice – if you can’t beat them, join them.

I have worked hard at this.  Probably too hard.  But like my friend Lawrence says, “there are two reasons I do this, one is biblical, the other is dysfunctional.”  That’s me.

I tried to work inside a contemporary foundation, but found it seriously lacking.  I tried working inside of a generational niche, but that didn’t work so well – it was fun, but…  I went to school and learned from the best.  I read a couple hundred books, went to seminars, attended presentations, subscribed to newsletters, listened, watched, learned, traveled, and investigated.

Then, with all that energy and insight, they put me in a church that was just fine the way they are, “thank you very much.”  I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and the feeling was mutual.  I tell people, it nearly killed me and it nearly killed them.

And yet…  There were some true seekers in that church.  They wept when we left.  They wept for a long time.

Then we were given the opportunity to start a church from scratch.  “Yay!” I shouted.  “Finally, we’ll correct all the errors.”

We built the church from the ground up – a church without walls, so-to-speak.  We designed it with much prayer, a deep commitment to be used by God, and a deep desire to reach out to the unchurched seekers.  For some odd reason, we thought the unchurched would come running – “Finally, a church that gets it!”  We also thought the denomination would start throwing resources our way – “Finally, a church that knows how to reach the unchurched!”

None of that happened.

Well, some of it happened.  We were reaching the unchurched – we just needed more time.  Our funding was only for 5 years.  The majority of those attending our community of faith, were from unchurched backgrounds – many 12-steppers and recovering addicts.  Though our attendance was averaging a mere 100, we had an actual congregation size of around 150-200 and our reach was around 400.

If given another few years, I believe we could have crested the wave.  But we needed more resources.  We needed a second pastor.

In the long run though, the unchurched have such a prejudice against church, that they really don’t want anything to do with anything that even looks like church.  The church has such a fear of apostasy, that they don’t want anything to do with anything outside of the mainstream.

So, that brings us back to the present.  Given the opportunity to pastor a church in a traditional format, we thought it would be easy.  We thought we could just be ourselves and not wrestle with the big issues.  We thought our fellow believers would cradle us in comfort and security.

Unfortunately, what we found was a deep-seated mediocrity.  It was so hard to overlook.  I felt God calling me to preach repentance and commitment.

It was really interesting.  The people on the “fringe” – those that weren’t a part of leadership and had no real voice in the church, they responded well to this clarion call.  People would come to me with tears in their eyes.  Thanking me for the courage to speak the truth.  Thanking me for speaking up.  Thanking me for speaking truth into their lives.

Unfortunately, those in leadership tried to shut me down – they thought my message was discouraging and disheartening.  Eventually they were successful in shutting me down.  I was fired.

But at least I wasn’t put in prison, stoned, or killed.  I’m still alive.

Two days ago, as I prepared to preach to another local congregation, I had an interesting conversation with the Lord.  It was as if He was telling me to continue to preach this message in Scappoose.  Now, I had nothing to lose.  I could return – and unlike other zealots the church has faced in the past – I really have no axe to grind.

To me, it’s not about so-called Historical Adventism, or the proper use of Ellen White’s writings.  It’s not about which version of the Bible is correct, whether we eat cheese, or not, or how we pray.  I’m not going to stand up in the worship service and denounce the preacher, I’m not going to hijack Sabbath School classes with some harbinger of “truth.”

Instead, it is an opportunity to speak the truth through a life lived in harmony with the Creator and Savior.

As I continued to work through this thought, I was reminded of Jesus’ example to shake off the dust.  He also reminded me that He released me from service in Scappoose, a couple of months before I was terminated.

However, at this point, I’ve not been released from pastoral ministry.  And I’ve not been released from denominational service.

I am called to preach.  I am called to bring Kingdom values into the lives of people.  I am called to help people truly experience God.

Saturday morning, I went and preached.  The reception was good – and once again I was affirmed that the message is clear.

We live in a day, not much unlike the days of Jeremiah.  We have turned our backs on God – if not fully, we don’t fully commit to Him.  It is time to let go of the distractions, and move forward.


Father God, just for today, help me to walk with courage and transparency. Let my words be few.

* In my opinion, this isn’t because God is mean and vindictive, but because the actions of our ancestors affect their children.  For instance, when my great-grandparents decided to come to Oregon in the 1880s, that forever had a determination on my life.  I love it in Oregon, but I often wonder what my life would have been like in Wisconsin – or to take it further back, in England, or Germany?

When God imposed something on His people, it was bound to affect multiple generations.  He was just recognizing it here.




One response

18 08 2009

Wow. That’s quite an overview. Excellant, really. It makes me wonder what’s next. I guess God will reveal that in his time.

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