Sermon for Sunday August 28th, 2016, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
Lessons: Psalm 81:1-2, 10-17; Jeremiah 2:4-13; Luke 14:1, 7-14
Theme: The Command to worship God alone
A South African man surprised nine men who were robbing his home. Eight of the robbers got away, but the homeowner managed to shove one into his backyard pool.
After realizing the robber couldn’t swim, the homeowner jumped in to save him. Once out of the pool, the thief yelled to his friends to come back. Then he pulled a knife and threatened the man who had just rescued him.
The homeowner threw the thief back in the water.
– Kashiefa Ajam, “Homeowner Threatened by the Robber He Saved,” Cape Times, Cape Town, South Africa (March 23, 2004)
ISRAEL’S INGRATITUDE AND UNFAITHFULNESS
The ungratefulness of this robber reminds us of Israel’s ingratitude in rejecting their Lord God, who had delivered them from Egypt and brought them into the fertile land of Canaan he had promised by covenant to give them.
In the passage preceding our Old Testament Lesson today, God recalls the honeymoon period of his relationship with Israel and their devotion to him in their journey through the desert to Mt. Sinai. Israel was a holy nation and the first fruits of the Lord’s harvest (Jeremiah 2:3).
JEREMIAH 2:4-13: GOD’S CASE AGAINST ISRAEL
Through Jeremiah the Lord asks Israel the question, “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” (v. 5). They have not sought out or asked for the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt, led them through the wilderness and sustained and fed them on their journey (v. 6). The language God uses here through Jeremiah is the legal language of divorce proceedings, as if Israel had found God to be an unfaithful marriage partner. In fact, it is Israel that has been unfaithful to the Lord. They had forgotten their redemptive history, the wonder of their deliverance and exodus from Egypt, and God’s faithful guidance, provision and protection during their wilderness wanderings. They did not remember how God had driven out other nations from Canaan and brought them in, and planted them as a nation in a country of agricultural abundance (v. 7). Instead of showing gratitude to the Lord for this, they defiled the land through their idolatrous worship of other deities and “made God’s heritage an abomination” by idolatry and all the other sins following from it and associated with it.
Kings, priests, prophets and people transgressed against God, walking away from him; instead of seeking to know him by obedience to his laws, they followed worthless things.
Because of this ingratitude and infidelity, God brings an accusation against his people and passes judgment on their sin. He calls them to consider all the nations both in the east and in the west (Kedar and Chittim). Has any of them ever changed their gods, which in any case are not gods? The implied answer is “no,” which makes Israel’s sin all the more serious – they have exchanged their glory (the Lord) for useless things. God calls the heavens to be amazed at this, and completely distraught.
The two evils of which Israel are guilty are expressed in terms of abandoning a well, or spring of water that never fails, and digging out cisterns in the ground that are broken and cannot hold water. Most people in arid conditions would want to live in an oasis, near wells or springs of water that are unlikely ever to give out. If they could help it, they would hardly want to leave such wells and springs to go to places where they would have to store their water in cisterns which they dug, lined with stones and plaster, then to find the cisterns were broken and the water kept leaking out. God is the fountain of living water that they have forsaken, and the leaking cisterns are the worthless deities that the Israelites embraced.
Idolatry was rampant in the last half of the seventh and early sixth centuries B.C. during which Jeremiah prophesied. King Manasseh and King Amon of Judah re-instated idol worship after King Hezekiah had abolished it. King Josiah, son of Amon, instituted a thorough reform of Judah, abolishing all idolatry, but the people reverted to idolatry under Kings Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, and, in fulfilment of prophecy, the Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it and the Temple, deporting all but the poorest class to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:17 ff.)
APPLICATION TO THE CHURCH TODAY
God regards Israel as his chosen nation, the Bride whom he has married. Today, through Christ, all people of all nations who have come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, have become the Church, the Bride of Christ, and the Church is described as Christ’s Bride in Revelation 21 & 22. Since all Christians are united with Christ in this way, we must endeavor to be found faithful as the Bride of Christ. God speaks to us as to ancient Israel, “What fault do you find in me that you have wandered so far away, and pursued worthless things?”
How much time in the day do we spend with the Lord himself, conscious of his presence, listening to his word, praising him, and praying to him? Let us not be found to have divorced ourselves from the Lord by deliberately disobeying his laws and not seeking him out! Day by day, we must humble ourselves before him, coming to him in prayer, reading and studying his word, and obeying him with all our might, praying for the grace to persevere and stand before him blameless on the last day. Let us not choose futility and worthless pursuits in place of the living God, the fountain of living water!