Pentecost 13C 2013 (Jer 23, 16–29)


            The LORD speaks. He reveals His Word. And what He speaks is a bit terrifying. “‘Am I a God near at hand,’ says the LORD, ‘And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?’ says the LORD; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the LORD.” The LORD sees your deeds. He knows what you do. He knows how you act, when you act like you’re alone. Well, we’re not alone. The LORD is there—always there. Yet, for our text today, it’s not so much that the LORD knows what were doing. He’s concerned with His Word. “‘I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’’” Truly the LORD is everywhere, but He’s not necessarily concerned with that. You can’t be spiritual off in nature, you can’t commune with God out there because He’s out there. He’s where His Word is and reveals that Word. He’s concerned with that Word. In fact,


(I. …as a Word of condemnation.)

            Is this always a good thing? The Lord reveals a Word of condemnation. That’s certainly what’s going on here in Jeremiah. But this is not a Word of condemnation for those who don’t know His Word. It’s not that the LORD is angry with pagans, those who disregard His Word, who couldn’t care less about what the LORD has to say. No, it’s those who should care—His own people. He’s condemning the prophets who should speak His Word but instead speak their own word. “Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.” So it is with LORD’s people. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The LORD’s people are stiff-necked, hard-hearted. So it was in Egypt, in the desert, in Judah, and wherever and whenever the LORD’s people may be found.

What’s to be done with them? Whirlwind and tempest of the LORD’s anger, that’s what!  “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury—A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.” Fire and wrath breaks out from the LORD: Condemnation on godlessness—on ignoring the Word of God. The wicked don’t stand a chance.  A whirlwind of anger breaks against those who say, “I’m the LORD’s” but aren’t. So the Babylonians come. They come and wipe Judah off the map. That’s what Jeremiah sees. But that’s just a type, an image of what the LORD will do eternally to those who disregard His Word. Who say, “Don’t worry about it. What were doing is fine. It’s okay.”

The LORD’s Word is not just a whirlwind, but “‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the LORD, ‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’” It’s is as if the LORD were saying, “You think you regard my Word? You who look elsewhere for what my will is for your life. What have I said to you? Do you remember it? You’re life goes well, I’ve blessed you, but does not the life of the wicked go well too? You stand condemned. I break your hard heart. Yes, it is hard. You look to other things than what I’ve promised. I consume with my fiery word what you build up upon other foundations. What is this before me? Am I not a consuming fire? As I am, is not my Word the same? You are consumed and broken before me.”

All of this is similar to what the Apostle Paul says, “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” But what Paul speaks is better than what the LORD speaks in Jeremiah. But in Jeremiah the work is consumed and the foundation broken.

Such is the life of those who have stony yet living hearts, who have pure and impure motives and lives. Such is our life. Which of us lives every day immersed in God’s Word?  Maybe 10 minutes and call it good, if that? Don’t we live as if everything is hunky-dory with us when everything is hunky-dory. “Peace and safety!” “It’s all good.” Don’t we think, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; but you do not know what will happen tomorrow.” Maybe we think, “But I read the Lord’s Word everyday. I pray.” But why do we look for meaningful spirituality in what the Lord doesn’t promise? Why do books about healings, visits to heaven, angels, demons, whathave-you fill shelves and make appearances even on national television? “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.” Whirlwind, fire, tempest, hammer, breaking. That’s what the Lord’s Words does when it’s revealed to you.

(II. …as a Word of consolation.)

            But there’s more. The Lord’s Word reveals His Word to you, but this is a good thing. He reveals His counsel, what’s in His heart. The Lord’s Word doesn’t just burn up and kill. It’s a living Word, that makes you alive. It turns your heart. “If they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.” That’s what the Lord’s Word does. It’s not a “stop that” Word, but a word that truly makes alive. For only a Word that makes alive could do anything.

According to Jeremiah the counsel of the LORD, His plans, the thoughts of His heart, will be performed. “The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.”  What days? What’s the will of His heart? Those are the days when Christ comes. When we see the account of those days we see the true thoughts of God’s heart. Those are the days when the anger of the LORD is finally turned back once and for all.

The counsel, wrath, plans, intents, breaking, burning, all culminate in Jesus. Jesus sent for you. Jesus who focussed on the LORD’s Word—His Word, His Father’s Word. You’re not listening to the Word is covered by the blood of Jesus. Jesus’ good deeds are swapped out for your bad deeds. “What is the chaff to the wheat?” In Jesus, the burning of the LORD is taken away. In fact He took that burning for you on the cross. The Father pours out His wrath on His Son, breaks His Son for you.

You aren’t burned up. That’s the true counsel of the LORD: Your sins are forgiven. Your sins against the Word (forgetting it, moving past it, ignoring it, living as if it didn’t matter): forgiven. That’s what’s in the LORD’s heart and its revealed to you. That’s what the LORD in His heart of hearts wants to reveal to you: your sins are forgiven.

The LORD REVEALS HIS WORD TO YOU…to comfort you, to forgive you. In Jesus you’re forgiven. You aren’t broken down before God—not now and not on the last day. That’s the Word which the LORD wants spoken faithfully to you: you’re forgiven. It’s spoken from pulpit and in the absolution: You’re forgiven. The cross of Jesus says so. It’s what His Word says, and that’s the Word He truly reveals to you.


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