Sin and Punishment

Jeremiah 8:4-9:26: Sin and Punishment

This rather somber reading may be characterized by Jeremiah 8:11: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.” So many times I’ve joked at the wrong time and wrong place, words that burned because I didn’t weigh the thought before speaking. I forget how serious ministry is at times, how precious each soul is to God, his great desire to see all come to Christ.

My prayer today is that this will wake us up from our sleep, that we would insert our names in the text and be stirred to action. Read the words, but don’t dismiss them as “they did such and such.” Lord, help me to take this to heart and be changed as a result.

I have listened attentively,
but they do not say what is right.
None of them repent of their wickedness,
saying, “What have I done?”
Each pursues their own course
like a horse charging into battle.
Even the stork in the sky
knows her appointed seasons,
and the dove, the swift and the thrush
observe the time of their migration.
But my people do not know
the requirements of the Lord.
Jeremiah 8:6-7

May we stop running in every direction, pursuing personal interests rather than working together cohesively. There are many ways to effectively minister to people, but we must be on the same page. We can’t do everything, but we can do that which is most important. Lord, help us to be a community of faith that works together on the course you have plotted.

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when they are punished,
says the Lord.
Jeremiah 8:12

I am ashamed of my sin, but don’t let me wallow in self-pity, nor allow me to keep on sinning. I am not proud of my transgressions, my sinful thoughts and desires. You, Lord, are perhaps the only one who knows, but that shouldn’t give me peace. Lord, I pray that we develop deep relationships that would allow us to confess our sin to one another in complete trust.

Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
I mourn, and horror grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing
for the wound of my people?
Jeremiah 8:21-22

As we (Healthy Growing Churches) continue to press hard into the space of helping dying churches, these words are on our hearts just like Jeremiah: “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed.” Our hearts should break for churches that have lost their effectiveness. We don’t stand in judgment, we stand with a sincere desire to help.

There Is A Balm In Gilead, is a hymn I will never forget. Earl Reynolds, a true tenor in our little church choir, sang this song every year during Easter. “There is a balm in Gilead to save the sin-sick soul.” When I’m most discouraged, I want to hear his voice sing this song, I want to be reminded that Jesus did in fact die to save my sin-sick soul. Thank you, Lord, for that experience, the the years that church poured into my soul.

The sad state of God’s chosen people is captured by these visceral words:

“Beware of your friends;
do not trust anyone in your clan.
For every one of them is a deceiver,
and every friend a slanderer.
Friend deceives friend,
and no one speaks the truth.
They have taught their tongues to lie;
they weary themselves with sinning.
You live in the midst of deception;
in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:4-6

There are days when we need a prophet like Jeremiah to show up and remove the covers that hide our thoughts. Why should we be afraid of that concept? Because we know full well that our names would be included on the list. Here’s a thought: let’s change our thoughts and be the church Jesus commanded us to become. Lord, help me take personal responsibility for these words.

12 Who is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross? 13 The Lord said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. 14 Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their ancestors taught them.”
Jeremiah 9:12-14

Perhaps this is why the Pharisees were so bent on laws that define laws. They didn’t want to stand accused of forsaking the laws of God, so they created rules about keeping the law. Over the course of many generations they lost sight of their goal, but I can see how they overreacted to the troubles of their ancestors.

In our modern world, it seems we’ve done the same thing with our laws. You can sue anyone for anything, to be sure, and there are regulations and statutes that describe how to enforce the laws–many of which are based on great experience. But here’s the warning: when God is completely removed from our courthouses and a generation is raised that does not know God, new laws will override the old and we, as a people will wander from the ways God has approved. We will relive the words of Jeremiah.

Sadly, this will be our children and our children’s children if we do not correct our course of action. I have no idea how to do this, but it is not beyond the capability of the Lord, however, it must not escape the minds of mere mortals for it seems that God does not favor those who refuse his commands.

We pick up the theme of circumcision of the heart again as we close this morning:

25 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh— 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.”
Jeremiah 9:25-26

Penetrate our hearts, Lord, and make us new. We can’t do this without you, it’s futile to try, but with your help, Lord, we choose to follow the path you have established.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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