This morning we read excerpts from Jeremiah 15-18, and essentially they were the poems that Jeremiah would sing or say from the mountain tops to the people. They were written down on Papyrus by his scribe, Baruch. Jeremiah kept saying, “Thus Saith the Lord” in order to give authority to his words. Everyone wonders about God speaking to someone, as we don’t seem to see that happen very much today. When Jeremiah visited the potter and noted how he molded and remolded his clay objects, he used that as an object lesson for how God molds and shapes us. The evangelistic preachers and those who believe in predestination could use the words of Jeremiah as he talked about God using the enemies of Israel to discipline the people. He also used pestilence, but for example in verses 16:1-15, he also gives them hope. But God is certainly involved in both the good and bad that happens to the people. He is like a parent who punishes when he needs to and provides support when he approves of what his people are doing. One wonders at how much of this was really prophecy or responding to the events of the day and how they were unfolding. For example, Jeremiah could see how King Nebuchadnezzar was building up strength and was a menacing force taking over kingdoms right and left. It is easy to see him taking over the promised land as it was a fertile area. Mark talked about the passage in verse 16:15 where it states that the Lord brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them. I think that this refers to their return from the area controlled by the Babylonians after their captivity.
Last Saturday, during an archaeological dig near Luther Seminary, we uncovered a partial manuscript entitled “The Prophecy of John.” . . . . . The writer happens to be our very own John, the Most Reverend John Meyer. . . . . And to think, . . . . some of us have insisted that there are no new revelations.
We would like to share with you what we found. The passage we found is quite suitable to responsive singing. We trust you will be inspired.
And now, the following from the Prophesy of John.
(Two persons sing, one singing the first line of each verse and the other responding with the second line.)
Deep in a dream a stern voice called unto me.
There is an odd thing in Iowa City I demand that thou see.
Early each Tuesday thou shall rise from thy bed,
and to a strange place called Zion thou shall be led.
There thou shall find a gathering of bewildered old men,
who know not where they go, nor where they have been.
Thee have I appointed to shepherd these pitiful sheep through holy writing.
Thy task shall be to make the Old Testament relevant and exciting.
Then I cried out, “What have I done to deserve this woeful assignment?”
Surely my planets and stars have been cast in a horrible misalignment.
“This,” said the loud voice, “shall be thy personal testing by fire.
But thou shall be given the strength that this task doth require.”
It will go poorly if thou presentest thyself as their preacher.
While not admitting to be it, thou must serve as a teacher.
When putting forth wisdom, be as brief as you can.
Most of these Lost Boys have a delicate attention span.
Expect from some of them a measure of incorrigibility.
Forgive them for they suffer the early onslaught of senility.
A few of them fancy themselves to be quite theological.
In spite of their academic degrees, they can be quite illogical.
Beware of those who consult their smart phones and Wi-Fi machines.
They count as divinely inerrant that which appears on their screens.
Some cannot shake off their need to possess right belief.
Nothing thou offerest to such souls can give them relief.
Some of these men will reject the Old Testament demands to obey,
insisting that this is not what the New Testament writers say.
Forgive those who think themselves more righteous than they’ve ever been.
They confuse righteousness with no longer having the strength to sin.
Forgive also those too eager to acknowledge their sins.
Such flaunting of sinfulness is where their foul pride begins.
Often they shall intentionally throw thy lesson off track.
It shall require of thee strong will to get the topic back.
They may threaten serious contemplations like marauding sharks.
They will undo thy sage instruction with their wiseass remarks.
Their uncircumcised humor may smite thee as disgustingly raw.
Like naughty children they fixate on foreskins instead of the law.
Whilst thou art with them they may take thee for granted.
But they shall miss thee sorely when thou art transplanted.
As they look back they will all be confessing
that thou hast to them been a wonderful blessing.
The time is at hand when thou shall be leaving.
Turn not around to behold their sad grieving.
Today we welcomed back Pastor Pries after his sabbatical. He distributed a numerical summary of his sabbatical which was an impressive record of travel, meditation, (both at the monastery and while fishing), research, and writing. After Mark led us in prayer, we read Jeremiah 14-15. In 14, we read about the plight of the people and learned that the people had been involved in worshiping other gods, such as Baal, than the true God of the Israelite and that God was prepared to abandon them. Jeremiah describes the plight of the people in the drought that was happening and that they were searching for help anywhere they could. So they were praying to God as well as Baal for help in ending the drought. Jeremiah discussed the problem of false prophets who were saying that everything would be OK if the people just continued to endure. But this was at a time when there was an increasing threat from the Babylonians and they ultimately did come and took away the best and brightest from Israel.
In chapter 15, we read of how God has promised to destroy the people because they have not obeyed him and have gone away from worshiping and obeying Him. Then Jeremiah recites his credentials and states that God has designated him to be the prophet that He will speak through. Jeremiah says “your words were found and I ate them.” Thus Jeremiah starts the framework to ask God to save the people.
Several questions were raised with one of our regular questions being that of what is the importance of this reading for us today? What instruction can we take from these books in the Bible? Do we read them just because they are in the Bible, or is there some message for our faith life we can take from them? Various answers were giving such as saying that here we read of a time not unlike today when people are worshiping a variety of gods and maybe our worship of God has gone to the back burner. There are many false prophets and we need constant vigilance to find them and expose them. Jeremiah presents us with his credentials which provide us with a path to an understanding of how God talks with him and leads him to obey and worship God.
There is an open assignment to read the next 14 chapters of Jeremiah before next time, through Jeremiah 29. This would complete the part of Jeremiah that is thought to be written by Jeremiah and prepare us for the section written by his secretary Baruch. Jeremiah is credited with writing the books of Jeremiah, I Kings, II Kings, and Lamentations. Judaism regards Jeremiah as the second of the major prophets, and Islam considers Jeremiah a prophet as well. Actually, when Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem in 586 BCE, he ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well. This couldn’t have been a good thing for Jeremiah’s credibility with the Israelites.
Pastor John started off with a discussion about Matthew’s references to Jeremiah. There were three references that he noted: (Information about these references can be found in detail in http://www.auss.info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=730&journal=1&type=pdf Matthew in his references is trying to link Jesus and his ministry to the prophecy of Jeremiah.
1. Matthew 2:17-18 Matthew was describing how Herod thought he was being mocked by the wisemen at Jesus birth decreed that all male children under the age of 2 should be killed. Matthew links the mourning of Rachel for her children as related by Jeremiah to this current act of Herod. Rachel was Isaac’s wife so this goes back to the early years of the Israelites.
2. Matthew 16:14 Here people were making comparisons of Jesus and saying that he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. This reference states Jeremiah as the specific one of the prophets. Some say that this reference was because of Jeremiah prophesying about the destruction of the temple and Jesus making a similar prophecy about the temple at his time.
3. Mathew 27:9-10 This is the story of Judas who after he betrayed Jesus, said that he had sinned, threw the silver on the floor of the sanctuary, and went away and hanged himself. The prophecy from Jeremiah referred to taking 30 pieces of silver and established a Potter’s field which is where Judas was buried. Biblical scholars say that Matthew was referring to Jeremiah’s words in 32:6-10 but many say the quote was actually from Zechariah 11:12-13. Zechariah says, “And I said to them, if ye think good, give me my hire; and if not forbear. So they weighed my hire thirty pieces of silver. and Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at by them.” The reference in Jeremiah 32:6 is more about a purchase of land rather than the direction of Jehovah to throw the silver back at them.
We then went on to discuss a variety of topics from Jeremiah 13. In particular, Jeremiah writes about God telling him to take a sash and burying it in the Euphrates. Then going back to after some time and finding it in tatters. God said that because of the ways in which the people had been disobeying Him, meaning God, that is what they are as a nation, all in tatters. He then has another parable in which he says that the people are acting as if they are filled with wine and drunk all the time. They can’t obey God as they should. We had quite a bit of trouble with these two analogies.
Our session finished with Bill and Al reading a very clever thank you and tribute to Pastor Meyer for working with us during Pastor Mark’s sabbatical.