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From Mourning to Positive Action

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From Mourning to Positive Action
 
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassionate Internet Church
 
22 July 2012
 
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Jeremiah 7:1-34
Matthew 23:37-39
Luke 19:45-48

The prophet Jeremiah has been referred to as the weeping prophet, for he laments over the hardness of heart that is so prevalent among the people of Judah.
 
I relate very much to how he feels; for I, too, am in a constant state of mourning for the people who have hardened their hearts and turned away from the heavenly will of God, and for those whom they caused to suffer through their horrible atrocities committed upon billions of animals and millions of our fellow human beings every year.
 
With this in mind, let’s take a look at Jeremiah 34:1-34 and see the message that God had for His people in Jeremiah’s time, for it is also being given to the world today.

1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
 
2. “Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the LORD!’”

It is very important for us to recognize that God has Jeremiah addressing the supposed believers, those who come to worship the Lord. This would be the same as addressing the church goers of today in the doorway of the church.

3. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.
 
4. “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’

Just because people come to worship the Lord in His house of worship, doesn’t make them children of God, nor is it any indication that the clergy are following the heavenly will of God, for they may be leading people astray with deceptive words.

5. “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor,
 
6. if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin,
 
7. then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

Think very carefully about what we are being told in verse 6.
 
Innocent blood refers to both animals and humans, but only the innocent animals’ blood was shed in the temple.
 
God, through Jeremiah, is clearly telling the people not to participate in the sacrificial system of the priests, but to do what is righteous, and loving, and compassionate in the sight and will of the Lord.
 
Furthermore, for anyone to eat the flesh of an animal, that innocent animal’s blood had to have been shed.
 
So, even if most people don’t actually shed the animals’ blood with their own hands, they still are co-conspirators in the killing and shedding of the innocent blood, for they eat the products of the suffering and death, which makes them equally guilty.
 
Let’s go on…

8. “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail.
 
9. “Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known,

We often wonder if this passage about offering sacrifices to Baal, a false god, presents a double meaning:
 
The actual sacrificing of animals to a false god.
 
And, if God does not want animal sacrifices and the shedding of blood, and people still offer sacrifices to God, are they not really following the deceptive words of the devil, and offering the sacrifice to him and his demons?
 
Furthermore, since the eating of animal products is responsible for most of our chronic diseases, are they not really a curse for turning against the will of God?

10. then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—that you may do all these abominations?
 
11. “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the LORD.

These passages also reflect what Jesus did some 600 years later, as recorded in Luke 19:45-48…

45. Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling,
 
46. saying to them, “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
 
47. And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him,
 
48. and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.

Think about this very carefully:
 
The selling of sacrificial animals had become a big business in those days, for their love of money overshadowed the will of God.
 
These are the same leaders who are leading the people away with their deceptive words.
 
And, these are the same people whom Jesus is driving out of the Temple to cleanse it.
 
Thus, these are the very people who are seeking to destroy, or kill, Jesus, and the only staying power against their evil ways is the power of those who truly are seeking to hear God’s message and live in His heavenly will.
 
The same holds true to this very day.
 
With this in mind, let’s return to our Jeremiah passage.

12. “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.
 
13. “And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the LORD, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer,
 
14. therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.
 
15. “I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim.
 
16. “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.

I struggle with this verse, for I still pray for these ungodly people, that they would wake up to the fact that they are working against God, and that they would truly repent and turn away from their evil ways.

17. “Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?

I see all this evil and a whole lot more.
 
I see all the horrible suffering, pain, bloodshed and death of billions upon billions of farmed animals every year, as well as the suffering of millions of our fellow human beings who are caught up as “collateral damage” in our warring madness; and I still find myself praying for those who cause all this suffering, as I pray for those who suffer.
 
I pray that if the evil people won’t change their ways, that the Lord would come now and put an end to all the suffering and the corruption of this earth.
 
And, I pray that all who hear or see my words would pray along with me.
 
Jeremiah continues…

18. “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me.
 
19. “Do they spite Me?” declares the LORD. “Is it not themselves they spite, to their own shame?”
 
20. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched.”

This is the wrath of God.
 
Then the Lord sarcastically chides the people to continue to do evil.

21. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh.
 
22. “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.
 
23. “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’

Even after all their evil deeds and His pronouncement of the wrath to come, God still offers His grace and mercy to the people if they truly repent and return wholeheartedly to Him.
 
This is also why I hope that we all will pray and do everything we can to end the suffering and death in this world, even if others do nothing and even work against the will of God.

24. “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.
 
25. “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them.
 
26. “Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.

This is exactly what Jesus reminded the people of Jerusalem about when He entered the city (Matthew 23:37-39).

37. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
 
38. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!
 
39. “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

Jesus confirmed the blessing and the curse, as Jeremiah did 600 years before, and as I try to do today no matter how frustrating it gets.

27. “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you.
 
28. “You shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God or accept correction; truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
 
29. ‘Cut off your hair and cast it away,
      And take up a lamentation on the bare heights;
      For the LORD has rejected and forsaken
      The generation of His wrath.’
 
30. “For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,” declares the LORD, “they have set their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.
 
31. “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.
 
32. “Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of the Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place.
 
33. “The dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth; and no one will frighten them away.
 
34. “Then I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a ruin.

And even though Judah was taken into captivity and Jerusalem was destroyed, it is no excuse or reason for us to allow that same thing to happen to us today because of our ungodly ways.
 
We can and should make a stand against the evil ways of the world around us, as the peacemaking children of God we’ve been called to be.
 
Amen.