The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2017
Standing Alone— but Standing Tall
O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Report him! Let’s report him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.” But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Imagine that you wake up one morning and find yourself in totally unfamiliar surroundings. You look out the window only to realize that you are no longer in the state of California. You are in an apartment overlooking some sea port. On the streets the horses outnumber the cars and the cars look more like carriages. Everyone you see is dressed in rather odd looking clothes. Unsure of whether you are having a dream or whether you have had some kind of Jules Verne meets Steven Spielberg type of experience you go outside to see if you can figure out what is going on. You pick up a newspaper and find that you are in the port city of
If you can imagine yourself standing on the dock in
The prophet Jeremiah lived and worked in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He was called to be a prophet of the Lord in approximately 626 B.C. — the very same year that Nabopolassar founded what became known as the Babylonian Empire. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had long ago fallen to the Assyrian Empire. In 612 B.C. the Assyrian capital of Nineveh was falling to the Babylonians. When Egypt tried to come to the rescue of the Assyrians, Josiah, the King of Judah, tried to stop Egypt near Megiddo. Sadly, Josiah— who had done well in steering
The response that Jeremiah received to this message and the impact which that response had on Jeremiah is painfully clear from the opening verses of our text. Jeremiah laments, “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.”
Jeremiah did not ask to be a prophet of the Lord. Jeremiah did not choose to proclaim to the people of
Personally, it is very easy for me to empathize with Jeremiah. Over the course of the last 32 years there have been days when I look at my own ministry and I say to myself, “Why in the world am I doing this? No matter what I do, no matter what I say it seems as though somebody is going to be either upset or disappointed. When I try to do what I was trained to do, namely, faithfully proclaim to God’s people the teachings of God’s Word without adding to it or subtracting from it then I hear people say, “Boring! Heard it all before!” In our religious climate today many people are looking for a church where they will be entertained not edified. And as you have learned I am simply not much of an entertainer. When I confront people with their sin and proclaim God’s Law to them I hear, “Who do you think you are!” Many people today do not want to hear that they are sinners. Oh, they don’t mind hearing that they have “made mistakes.” They don’t mind confessing that they “fall short” in certain areas. Just don’t try to tell them that they have sinned against the holy, just and perfect God and that one day they will be held accountable for each and every one of those sins! When I look at other people my own age and see where they are at this stage in their life— where live and what they drive and what they are able to go out and do— I sometimes wonder where I might be had God not called me into the public ministry of His church.” Yes, I understand Jeremiah’s complaint very well. What about you?
Two weeks ago you heard how Scripture teaches that each and every one of you has been “called” to be a “minister,” that is a servant, in God’s church. Today God’s Word reminds you that as a Christian, you are a “soldier” in the Church Militant here on this earth. Being a Christian soldier is not something can be is confined to Sunday mornings. Being a Christian soldier means boldly standing up for the Truth of Scripture no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, no matter whom you are with, no matter what kind of reaction you might receive. Many times this means that like Jeremiah you may find yourself standing all alone. Many times this means that like Jeremiah you may receive ridicule, mocking, insult and reproach. How do you react?
For example, a couple of weeks ago there was the annual San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. In the short time I have lived here in northern California I have come to see that this is a big event for many people! It’s advertised on various forms of media. It was televised so that anyone can tune in and watch the parade. It has major sponsors such as Alaska Airlines, Bud Light, KOFY TV, Xfinity and Blue California. What do you say when people openly support such an openly sinful lifestyle? Did any of you use this as a “teachable moment” with your friends, your co-workers or perhaps most importantly, your children and your grandchildren? Did anyone avoid even talking about it? Did anyone simply remain silent while others talked about it? Whenever we discuss a subject like this— and the are many such subjects— we can very easily find ourselves standing very much alone as we strive to faithfully proclaim what God Himself has given us to proclaim.
What are we to do when we find ourselves standing alone? What are we to do when our spiritual Babylonians are amassing on the horizon all around us? We are to follow the example that Jeremiah gives to us— not the example he gives us in the opening verses of our text, but rather the example he gives us in the closing portion of our text! After venting his complaint to God, Jeremiah takes a deep breath, stands up tall and says, “But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.”
Once Jeremiah got past his own personal pity party and refocused himself on the fact that he was proclaiming the holy Word of a holy, just and perfect God then he was indeed able to stand tall even though he was standing alone. And the same can be true for us, my friends. When we are standing up for the Truth of Scripture as God Himself has given it to us then we know that the Lord will be on our side like “a mighty warrior.” If people ridicule us, mock us, insult us or avoid us because we faithfully maintain that a sin is a still a sin no matter what our society might say, that every sin is worthy of eternal condemnation in hell and that the only way to be forgiven and to live forever in heaven is through faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary’s hill— if that is why people are against us then like Jeremiah we commit our cause to the Lord God Almighty, the God who examines both the heart and the mind, the God who will judge the living and the dead. Knowing that God Himself will fight for us, knowing that God Himself will rescue us from all of our enemies, leads us to realize that even when we are standing alone we can indeed stand tall and boldly say with Jeremiah, “Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD!”
As surely as the RMS Titanic came to the end of her voyage and was engulfed by the waters of the
To God be the glory!