Jeremiah 22:1-5

Thus says the Lord: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, 2and say: Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah sitting on the throne of David—you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. 4For if you will indeed obey this word, then through the gates of this house shall enter kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their servants, and their people. 5But if you will not heed these words, I swear by myself, says the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.  Jeremiah 22:1-5

The book of Jeremiah describes how the people of Israel slipped into one of their darkest chapters.  The not always so subtle slide that began with the excesses of Solomon, the fall of the north to Assyria, finally gave way to the Babylonian army camped outside of Jerusalem, demanding pay off money for years, and finally crushing the city and its inhabitants.

Jeremiah’s job, as God’s prophetic spokesperson, was to name reality for what it was.  The city was in dire straights, not because of the strength of the Babylonian army, but because of its own decadence, its own oppression and neglect of the powerless among them, and its own pursuit of worldly comfort rather than spiritual centeredness.

In today’s verses, Jeremiah lays out the issues very clearly – if the king of Judah would return to God’s will of justice for the poor, and care for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, then God would rescue them.  If not, they were doomed.  They chose not.

Any time we choose to serve an idol, a god of our imagination, seeking to preserve our lives, we are doomed.  God doesn’t have to push any punishments buttons to take us there.  The consequences come built in to the choices.  Idols kill; God gives life.  That is the foundational bedrock of reality.

Many of us have been reading and hearing various comments regarding the death of the actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  He died of an overdose of heroin, a needle still in his arm, with 30 bags of heroin and a dozen fresh needles in his apartment.  His was a tragic death, a great loss, but it wasn’t his fate, or his destiny, nor was it the inevitable end for him.

Addicts who seek help are quickly told that the inevitable end of a life of addiction is death, insanity, or prison.  But they are also told that there is a way out – the possibility of a new life, freedom from the obsession to use, a new way of being that depends on the support of God and other addicts, provided they take certain steps.  That provision – the taking of certain steps – grounds the spirituality of recovery in real life, with real people, seeking a real solution for a real problem.  It isn’t pie-in-the-sky empty spiritual mumbo jumbo.

Hoffman knew all about that.  He had been privileged to spend time in rehab, a privilege available only to a small percentage of addicts.  None of us can climb into his brain but, from the outside looking in, his addiction erased the memory of his own powerlessness.  Forgetting that, he neglected to reach out to another addict, to get to a meeting, to do what he knew he could do to get the help he needed.  Forgetting his powerlessness, he acted it out with tragic consequences.

God didn’t kill him.  God wasn’t even punishing him.  God loved him right to and through the end.  The deadly consequences were built into the drug and the lies that addiction tells.

Jeremiah was right.  Israel was soon to be decimated.  A generation would grow up in the refugee camps in Babylon.  The holy city would be destroyed, the temple demolished.  But God would still be with them, even in the darkest moments.  And God would enable them to return, to rebuild, to get on with their lives.

The message for today is simple – God will always hold open the door to life, and will love us enough to give us the freedom to take certain steps to find it.

Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, we pray today for all those who live their lives on the edge, suffering from the indecision, unwillingness, or blindness that denies God’s presence or claim upon their lives.  Work in, through and among us, that we might surrender to your will and turn our lives over to your care and protection.  May we find life in honesty, openmindedness, willingness, and humble service to others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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4 Responses to “Jeremiah 22:1-5”

  1. Terry Beloncik Says:

    TRUTH. The Creator made His “choice” when He created us: to give us “choice.” Would that we would make choices that bring Life, Love, Peace. I am grateful that God gives us freedom, and loves us in spite of what we often do. Thank you, Pastor Kerry, for applying the Word to our present time.

  2. Carolee Groux Says:

    This calls to mind the hymn, “Built on a rock…”

    1 Built on the rock the church shall stand
    Even when steeples are falling.
    Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land;
    Bells still are chiming and calling,
    Calling the young and old to rest,
    But above all the soul distressed,
    Longing for rest everlasting.
    2 Surely in temples made with hands
    God, the Most High, is not dwelling;
    High above earth His temple stands,
    All earthly temples excelling.
    Yet He who dwells in heav’n above
    Chooses to live with us in love,
    Making our bodies His temple.
    3 We are God’s house of living stones,
    Built for His own habitation.
    He through baptismal grace us owns
    Heirs of His wondrous salvation.
    Were we but two His name to tell,
    Yet He would deign with us to dwell,
    With all His grace and His favor.
    4 Here stands the font before our eyes,
    Telling how God has received us;
    Th’altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice
    And what His Supper here gives us.
    Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim
    Christ yesterday, today, the same,
    And evermore, our Redeemer.
    5 Grant then, O God, Your will be done,
    That, when the church bells are ringing,
    Many in saving faith may come
    Where Christ His message is bringing:
    “I know mine own, My own know Me
    You, not the world, My face shall see.
    My peace I leave with you. Amen.”

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