Hard To Say
Jeremiah 28:5-9

We continue our journey with Great People in God’s Story today with the prophet Jeremiah.  Here is a young fella, about thirteen years old, called by God to speak to his people and give them a message that they don’t really want to hear.  Can you imagine what that would be like?  I have a thirteen year old son and he wouldn’t even want to stand up in front of this crowd and tell you something you didn’t want to hear, let alone telling the whole nation that they were on the wrong track.

It’s little wonder that young Jeremiah questioned God’s call to him.  Like pretty much every prophet before him and after him, Jeremiah didn’t feel up to it, too young, to shy, too immature, but God had other plans, and encouraged him to go out and speak the message that he had revealed to him.

Jeremiah was around at a time when God’s people were being particularly difficult to get along with, and as a result King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came in from the North and conquered Judah, he destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and took God’s people into captivity for 70 years! 

When we meet him in today’s first reading he is going up against another prophet, Hananiah, but it seems that Jeremiah could see through him and knew that he was a self-appointed prophet.  You see Jeremiah and most of the prophets before him had been sent by God to prophecy to God’s people telling them that they needed to repent, to return to God and follow his commands, or else there would be war, famine and pestilence, but Hananiah was prophesying that within two years everything will return to normal, the Babylonians will no longer rule over them and will return the vessels of the Lord’s house to their rightful place.

Jeremiah is confident that this message isn’t from God but is from the prophet himself, wanting to gain favour with the people, and he’s not afraid to call him out on it in front of the priests and the whole crowd that had gathered to hear his message.

Jeremiah is only able to be confident in his message because he is sure of what God’s will is, he knows it well and knows that God speaks through him, his prophecy has been put to the test and has been confirmed.  Even though the word that Jeremiah brings to God’s people time and time again is difficult for them to hear and difficult for him to deliver, he does so out of obedience to God.

Have you ever had to be such a bearer of difficult news?  There are times in life when we must share messages that are tough to do, when a family member has died or been killed, or a difficult diagnosis has come regarding sickness.  Maybe you’ve had to front up to your parents to let them know you’ve damaged the car or been caught doing something you shouldn’t have been doing.  These are one kind of messages to bring, but what about if you see someone you know or love doing something that is against the law of the land or against God’s law?

How willing would you be to point out to that person where they are going wrong?  Should you point it out to them even?  Sometimes it’s difficult to speak the truth into a situation, especially when it is to admonish, To reprove gently but earnestly, To remind of something forgotten or disregarded, as an obligation or a responsibility.

Here it is again from a Biblical perspective: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

This comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossians encouraging them to follow in the footsteps of Jeremiah and to speak the word of God to each other as they teach and admonish one another.

Through these words we are encouraged to gently and peacefully offer a word of encouragement to correct our thinking or our ways of conducting ourselves.

The recent Ambassadors of Reconciliation refresher I did covered some steps to follow when restoring those who may be erring:

  1. Overlook minor offences, from Proverbs 19:11 Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.
  2. Talk in private to the person, from Matthew 18:15 “If another member of the church* sins against you,* go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”

Obviously there are more steps involved if the person doesn’t want to listen to you, but ultimately the purpose is to encourage them to live a life in accordance with God’s will and to take the journey with them.  Especially important is the step to offer them forgiveness and restoration.

Even this can be difficult to face, and if done poorly can bring with it difficult consequences.  The first step for us though, before we head off to admonish someone else is to get the log out of our own eye.  We need to test our own motives, check it against God’s word, seek counsel from another who has the knowledge of God’s word to help us test our standpoint, and even seek the advice of a pastor before approaching the other.  In the end we are seeking to glorify God in the process, to share his word in the context of our lives and encourage one another for the building up of God’s church.

The goal for Jeremiah was to deliver God’s word of judgement to encourage God’s people to repent and return to God, it was a difficult message for him to deliver, but he did so lovingly and dutifully.  We are also called to deliver God’s word into our world, starting with ourselves and then sharing it lovingly and dutifully, whether it is hard for us to share or not.