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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

How To Act When Rebuked

Against This City

Oculi – The 3rd Sunday in Lent, 3/3/2024

Jeremiah 26:1-15

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Jeremiah in the twenty-sixth chapter, with special emphasis on verses eleven through fourteen which read as follows:

               

“Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you.”

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                Have you heard the old saying, “don’t shoot the messenger?” There is a reason that many of us know it; it is a common truth that many of us have experienced. If you have not heard it before, the basic gist of this saying is that often times when we have to bring bad news, correction, or rebuke to someone, they do not like to hear it and often take out their negative feelings on the person who informs them. For example, it is common enough in movies that the police officer informing a person of a death is the recipient of the person’s anger and sorrow. Or how about the time you either had someone tell you about something you were doing that upset or hurt another person. How did you react? Did you bear the news graciously or, like me, was your first reaction to get upset or make excuses? If nothing else, I bet you have had this happen to you when bearing bad news or trying to correct a friend.

                This is all to say something basic about human nature: we do not like bad news, we do not like to be wrong, and we certainly do not like it when our sins are brought to our attention. And our usual tactic when confronted with such things is to either turn the anger, guilt, sorrow, or other negative emotions against the person or persons who bear us bad news as a way to shift the negativity off of ourselves. Of course, doing this sort of shift does not really remove the negative things we experience, but we do certainly try to make it work that way. Hence another old saying among us, “misery loves company.”

                Now, we all know that the way we should respond to bad news is to not attack the messenger. And while we certainly can understand why a person who gets sorrowful news might be in a bad state of mind, the Scriptures remind us that a wise man loves correction.[1] Therefore, it is something that we all should work on, that is, being able to graciously receive the correction of our fellow Christians.

                But it is not just individuals that this happens to, but to larger groups of people as well. The example of this phenomenon in our reading from Jeremiah is a refusal to hear anything negative being prophesied against the city of Jerusalem. The leaders of the city and the priests of the Temple refuse to hear the prophet’s words or heed his warning. Jeremiah foretold, by God’s command, the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah. This prophecy was fulfilled when the Babylonians conquered the kingdom after destroying Jerusalem in 586 BC. After their victory, the Babylonians hauled off a number of the Judeans, particularly the educated, skilled, and wealthy in order to lower the possibility of an uprising in their newly conquered territory. What makes this historical episode particularly difficult is that the northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians almost one hundred and fifty years prior[2] and the political reality that Babylon had already conquered all the neighboring countries to Judah in the years leading up to the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. In other words, it would not have been unusual or unthinkable to see the destruction coming. Despite the circumstances and the clear word from God, the powers that were refused to acknowledge the truth. Worse, they threatened the very life of the prophet.

                This corporate dimension to denial of truth and going after the messenger is not limited to that time and place either. Just as then, so is now. Today, if an organization has its sin brought to its attention, the response is much the same as the leaders of Jerusalem of old. This happens all over in this world from businesses to non-profits to churches to communities and everything in between. Just as we must all be on guard for watching the denial of the truth that leads to “shooting the messenger” in our selves, we must also be on guard in those organizations and groups which we are a part of, including and especially our congregation, circuit, District, and Synod. Why these areas? Because the church of Christ is to be of and in the truth and of all the things, we are part of in this life, we above all should be truthful and honest about our sins and quick and lavish with forgiveness as our Lord is.

                But the messenger of God, Jeremiah the prophet does not just bring words of warning and condemnation that invite the wrath of God, he also brings words of promise as well. The Lord is always slow to anger and quick to give blessings and that is true even of those in sinful organizations and those who have a hard time taking a rebuke. Indeed, even and despite our hard-heartedness and our lack of desire to be corrected are not enough to keep us from the love and mercy of the Lord, our Savior. Indeed, this particular reality of our human nature is but another reminder of the full extent of the Lord’s own mercy. That is to say, our Lord loves and forgives you even in spite of our sin and our stubbornness and general difficulty in even hearing what the problems we have are.

                Dear friends in Christ, this passage illustrates a central theme of humanity’s relationship with God: no matter how foolish we are or how grave our sins, ignorance, or even how poorly we receive the truthful and loving diagnosis of the Law of God, the Lord our God still loves us and wants us to be saved. This is the entire logic of the Gospel; and while we should be far more understanding about hearing about our sins and faults than we are, we even more should trust in Christ who has redeemed us.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 


[1] Proverbs 12:1

[2] Israel was destroyed in 722 BC.

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