In case I haven’t blogged about this enough, this coming Sunday is the first worship service of Ember Church! God has brought us through a lot in the past few months, and we’ve seen both his tenderness and his strength. I could not be more excited to go to church this Sunday evening!
Our first sermon series will be through the book of Jeremiah, which is actually the longest book (highest word count) in the whole Bible. Obviously, we won’t be hitting everything, so I’m going to be doing a little sermon supplementation on the blog from time to time. Today I want to write about some of the things we won’t have time to talk about this coming Sunday.
Jeremiah the Subverter
Jeremiah grew up under the reign of King Josiah, who was, quite possibly, Judah’s most righteous king. He put a lot of religious reforms into effect, and brought the people back to worshipping the one true God. He outlawed idolatry and destroyed the shrines of the various false gods that had been leading the people astray for almost a century.
But Josiah’s grandfather Manassah had pretty much sealed the fate of the country when he encouraged and participated in child sacrifice. There’s just no coming back from that. So even though Josiah was leading a revival, God called Jeremiah to declare a message of judgment and condemnation against the nation. His prophetic ministry subverted the reforms of the king. God called Jeremiah to say, “Time’s up!” The reforms of Josiah were not enough to save the nation. Even though he was, in many ways, the ideal king, Josiah was unable to stem the tide of God’s judgment against Judah.
Predictably, Jeremiah encountered resistance throughout his life. (It seems, though, that he was never opposed by Josiah.) People don’t like to hear negativity; they detest those who pronounce judgment. But Jeremiah remained faithful to his ministry of subversion and his message of judgment, and God carried out every word that he spoke through Jeremiah.
Near the end of his life, on the other side of God’s judgment (executed through the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon), Jeremiah was finally able to offer a message of hope. We find these words in chapter 31:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. …I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. …For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
There is hope on the other side of judgment for Judah and Israel. But the exile to Babylon was not the full extent of God’s judgment. When the people returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, it became clear that, though they had returned to the Promised Land, God had not returned to them. They were still in a spiritual state of exile. This is because the judgment of God had not been fully executed.
That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus suffered the full judgment of God for the sins of Israel, Judah, and the whole world when he died on that Roman cross. We live on the other side of God’s judgment. It has already been executed, and his own son took the full penalty of it because God loves us beyond measure. And then God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. He declared Jesus guilty of our sin. Jesus endured the sentence of our sin by dying. Then God declared him innocent by raising him from the dead.
And so we have hope–a real, living hope–because we have a real, living Savior. And we enter into this hope not through some rigorous moral exam, but through simple, childlike faith that Jesus is who he said he is and did what he set out to do. And we demonstrate this faith by repenting of our sin, receiving full pardon, and living under the authority of Jesus, who now reigns over all creation as the Resurrected King.