4th Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2020
“Peace…in God’s Way”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the First Lesson from the prophet Jeremiah.
My dear friends,
Say…in my almost 6 years here at GSLCS, have I ever mentioned I like the Nebraska Cornhuskers? I have? Oh good. Growing up a Cornhusker you learn about all of the great Nebraska football history, and right up there in the annuls of football history is “The Game of the Century,” the 1971 meeting between the #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the #2 Oklahoma Sooners, which ended with a 35-31 Nebraska victory. In that game was the famous Lyle Bremser radio call after an amazing 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by Heisman trophy winner Johnny Rogers, “Man, Woman And Child, Did That Put ’Em In The Aisles! Johnny The Jet Rodgers Just Tore ’Em Loose From Their Shoes!” I’m not sure I know what all that means, but I love that song! What a call…what a game. A classic showdown of #1 vs. #2 in The Game of the Century.
Well, in our text today we encounter a showdown that is no less dramatic as the prophets Jeremiah and Hananiah confront each other. At stake is not a football championship, but rather the validity of whether Jeremiah or Hananiah is truly the Lord’s prophet who speaks his word to the people. And that means what’s really at stake is which word, each supposedly from God, we can really believe. In the battle between the prophets the question was peace or calamity.
Jeremiah and Hananiah confront each other about which word is to be believed as God’s plan for Judah – peace or disaster. First, a brief history lesson…no groaning allowed. Suck it up, buttercups!
After the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, Babylon emerges as the dominant Near Eastern “superpower.” Judah would eventually come under the control of Babylon and her king, Nebuchadnezzar. In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s King Jehoiachin and leading Judahites into exile. Nebuchadnezzar also took the vessels from the Temple – a major “no-no.” Nebuchadnezzar then places Zedekiah as king in Judah. But then, civil unrest in Babylon (sound familiar?) caused Zedekiah and Judah and the surrounding nations to consider rebellion (Jer. 27:3) since Babylon was falling apart from within. But, Jeremiah warned that Judah’s disobedience will lead to exile and that the nation must submit to Nebuchadnezzar – that was God’s plan for eventual peace one day.
Jeremiah proclaimed that Judah will go into exile for 70 years (25:1-14) and that the Temple will be destroyed (26:4-6) if they rebel against Babylon. God commanded Jeremiah to make a yoke and wear it on his neck as a sign and symbol that Judah was supposed to submit to the Babylonians…or else (27:1-2), or they will face destruction – sword, famine, pestilence, and exile (27:1-8). That was NOT going to be a popular message with anyone. It was the TRUTH…but not a popular message.
So, Hananiah (spoiler alert…he’s the false prophet) comes along and confronts Jeremiah and prophesies good news and peace…oh, just what people want to believe! Hananiah proclaimed that within 2 years God will break the yoke of Babylon and that Jehoiachin, the exiles, and the Temple vessels will all return (28:1-4). Uhm…that’s not what Jeremiah had been told by God. So, Jeremiah responds by saying that the prophet who prophesies peace is shown to be a true prophet IF that peace comes to pass. Remember that yoke that God had Jeremiah wear? Hananiah broke Jeremiah’s yoke (28:10) as a sign that he was right and Jeremiah was wrong.
We have a conflict between 2 different prophets and 2 different messages. As with Jeremiah and Hananiah, God’s Word clashes with the world when the world offers and wants peace. Like Hananiah, the world offers peace that we’d like to believe in…we’d LOVE to believe in right now. We’d love to believe that COVID-19 will just go away tomorrow and that will finally be that. We’d love to believe that all this social unrest in America will end and we can just get things back to “normal.” We’d love to believe that peace among people will come through “tolerance” and political correctness and advocacy and “fix” all the injustices of the past. We think we’d love to believe “We don’t need any law enforcement because we all agree to behave ourselves.” Right; love to see that, right? As if. We’d love to believe that this world offers peace of mind through possessions and wealth and a secure financial future; “As long as I don’t outlive my money, everything will be okay.” Is it? Is it really? What is GOD’S plan?
Jeremiah’s message was not so popular. He confronted Judah’s sin and proclaimed the consequences it would have. God sent word through Jeremiah that the nations will wear Nebuchadnezzar’s iron yoke and that Hananiah will die in that year because his formula for peace was actually rebellion against the Lord (28:12-16). Sure enough, Hananiah dies two months later (28:17).
But with Jeremiah, God’s Word tells us the truth, and therefore gives peace of a different kind—a peace we can actually believe in. Jeremiah said that after 70 years, God would bring the exiles and Temple vessels back. God promised a restoration that would go beyond physical return from exile. He promised that the Messiah from the line of David would reign as king (30:9; 23:5-8). He promised to make a new covenant (31:31-34) with His people.
Jesus is this Messiah who has established the new covenant and given us true peace. Born as a descendant of the Davidic line, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead have defeated sin, death, and the devil and brought true peace. We are, in fact, at peace with God because the sin that made us his enemies has been removed. We are at peace with other people – we love God and neighbor as ourselves – because they, too, are forgiven sinners, exactly as we are. ALL lives matter, regardless of color, creed, or career. We are ALL forgiven and redeemed sinners…and that brings peace in God’s way. We don’t need the other kinds of false peace when God is for us and with us, giving us everything we really need! One day, Jesus will bring the final peace on the Last Day when he raises the dead and restores creation.
#1 Jeremiah and #2 Hananiah have a showdown in our text today. Hananiah proclaims peace, but it is a false peace. Jeremiah speaks the truth and promises peace in the future. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Jeremiah’s words have found their ultimate fulfillment. We already now enjoy the true peace God gives in His way, and we will rejoice in the consummation of that peace on the Last Day. As a result, we are NOT dependant on peace in the world around us to find true peace in our hearts.
Stay safe, be strong, and Go Big Red!