Jeremiah had the difficult task of watching his nation be overrun by the Babylonians. Many people lost their lives and and the Temple was destroyed. Yet in the midst of all this God comes to him with a word of hope. God offers a reminder of a promise made long ago, a promise which God had not forgotten. God promises come to us in the midst of difficulty as well, and sometimes we wonder why God seems so slow to act. Jeremiah's hope would eventually be fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. God proved faithful. God remains faithful today and we should cling to hope even when it seems things are falling apart.
Our text today comes from an interesting moment in Old Testament history, a moment when a long lost scroll is found in the temple. This scroll was in fact the law given to the people through Moses, the terms of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Following this the rediscover of these words which had been lost or hidden, the people repented and renewed their covenant with God. In a similar fashion, Jesus himself is a word which was hidden but eventually revealed in history. Jesus too is a Word revealed that merits a response. He is a Living Word which calls us to repentance and invites us into a covenant relationship with God.
In today's sermon we consider the fate of Judah (the southern Kingdom). In particular we consider their fall to the Babylonian empire which Isaiah likens to the destruction of a vineyard. Isaiah also presents this pending fate, as a divine response to the faithlessness of the people. That may be the case, but not all suffering should be seen this way. The Bible itself challenges this idea. One aspect of Isaiah's message, however, remains universally applicable. There is always hope. Even from a stump, new life can grow and flourish. There was hope for Judah, and there is hope for us. Always.
God is to us a faithful parent. As such, God grieves at the thought of harm befalling us. It is God's heartfelt desire that we live the lives God calls us to live, but it is also God's desire to spare us from the repercussions of our failings. There is a tension here, but in the end God chooses compassion over condemnation, and mercy over judgement.
Our passage today deals with an interesting passage from the Old Testament which reminds us of both our need to witness but also our need to redirect ourselves. Our witness is not terribly effective when we fail to let the good news inform and transform the living of our lives.
Ruth is a wonderful short book that speaks to us on so many levels. Among the messages it offers is a moving example of devotion. In fact, Ruth devotion to Naomi can serve as model for our devotion to Christ. While this sermon provides an overview of Ruth a short series in 2018 dug a little deeper. You can check out videos of series here. Just to keep everything together we have added this sermon to that series. Series on Ruth
The text for this message is the Ten Commandments, but this is the second time we have seen them. In restating these commands, central to God's covenant with the Israelites, Moses invites a new generation to claim for themselves a first hand relationship with God. While tradition and knowledge can be and should be passed onto our children and grandchildren, every generation must choose faith and a relationship with God for itself. The same is true for us when it comes to the new covenant revealed in Jesus Christ. We do no inherit authentic faith; that is something that we, with God's help, must choose for ourselves.
We are good at making excuses. This has been the case since the beginning of human history. We even offer excuses as to rationalize decisions and actions that are not in keeping with God's will for our lives. Those excuses are often just a cover up for the truth, that we would rather be in charge of our own lives. Rather than engage in excuse making we ought to engage in discernment and make every effort to follow God. God goes with us and will bring to completion his will for our world and lives.
Jacob's struggle by the Jabbok is not only a pivotal moment in Old Testament History but a great metaphor for our lives as Christians. In one way or another we are often wrestling with God. We are wrestling to make sense of God's plan for our lives. We are wrestling with discipleship. We are wrestling with some of the more challenging aspects of Christian Theology. Yet in our persistence we are blessed and we discover over and over again God's name for us in Christ, we are children of God, sons and daughters.
Abraham and Sarah were confronted with a promise they didn't expect, a promise they found hard to believe. The same is true for us. When we find ourselves in the midst of difficulty, God's promises of hope and joy and peace are sometimes too much to take in. We are sometimes more likely to laugh in disbelief than we are to trust in God's promises. Yet our God is the God of seemingly laughable promises. God has shown that time and time and time again. With God all things are possible; God is faithful. We ought always to be expecting the unexpected. We ought always to be expecting that God, at any moment, may surprise us and make our lives new.