“The Kingdom’s Fall”
The Story, Ch. 17
Jeremiah 2: 1-13; Matthew 23: 37-38
Pearl: Things which grieve our Lord.
Function: To move worshippers to pick up a tissue and join the Lord Jesus in grieving the ways in which his people miss the point, thus identifying with Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.
Are you getting tired of the “same ole, same ole” with these evil kings and the repeating cycles of failure of our ancient spiritual ancestors?!
1. We have seen in recent weeks that of over 30 kings of both the northern and the southern kingdoms of God’s people only about 5 were considered good in their overall lives of leadership.
a. Think of all of those legacies! All of these king’s careers are recorded in scripture and their legacies have lived on through the ages. Most of them are not good legacies.
b. At the time of death people’s legacies are often thought of. At a funeral a son talked about his mom. He was the oldest of four children. He said that growing up they did not have much. His mom raised four children as a single mother. She worked three jobs in order to provide a happy home for her children. It turned out that her home was so warm and welcoming that her home was the place to be. Many kids hung out there. Many young people called her “mom.” At the funeral for this woman her eldest son spoke of how though she could not give them much in the way of material things she gave them much love and laughter. Her legacy is that, while not having much at all, she gave a wealth of non-material things to her children and too many other children.
2. The legacies of most of the kings of Israel (northern) and Judah (southern) were miserable failures. Of the last 6 kings in Judah, only Josiah, who began his reign when he was eight years old, was good.
Israel fell to the Assyrian empire in 722 BCE. Judah was heading down the same road. Their exile began in a first round in 597 BCE at the hands of the Babylonian empire.
1. Along with the many different kings of the two kingdoms the Lord stirred up many different prophets to speak critical words to the kings and to God’s people so that they would return to their singular devotion to God and to God’s ways.
2. Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” demonstrated God’s disfavor with things through being a very emotional prophet. He wrote the book of Lamentations which follows the book of Jeremiah in the bible. Lament is a kind of literature found often in the scripture. The following is a taste of Jeremiah’s anguish over the state of God’s people.
a. For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed (1:16).
b. See, O Lord, how distressed I am; my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death (1:20).
c. My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city (2:11).
d. (God) is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow. He shot into my vitals the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt-songs all day long. He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord’ (3:10-18).
3. If there was ever a prophet who was depressed, it was Jeremiah. Many of the writers of scripture knew true and hard depression. Jeremiah’s depression was rooted in the failure of God’s people to do and to be what the Lord desired.
Like Jeremiah, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He even quoted Jeremiah in his lament:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate (Matthew 23:37-38).
The question is, “What brings tears to our Lord today?” I am sure that there is much which grieves the Lord about his people today. I will suggest some ways in which God’s people miss the point and miss the Lord’s will today.
1. The many divisions and divisiveness over secondary issues when people in our own communities do not have enough to eat, not to mention throughout the world. Why don’t we get as energized over the hunger of so many?
2. God’s people become polarized over theological doctrines and political philosophies when people need to experience the amazingly-better-than-we-can-possibly -imagine good news of God’s love for everyone and everybody!
3. Clashes over worship styles and what version of the bible should be used when we should be addressing the needs of many for affordable housing or who need help maintaining their present homes.
4. Jesus probably weeps over his people’s self-centeredness and self-indulgence when our Christ showed his followers to be other-centered and other-directed.
5. Our Lord probably weeps over the way in which his people here in the USA are such highly accomplished “consumers” when we could be better accomplished “sharers.”
6. I am sure that God weeps over how his people today are so good at dividing and not as good at working through the things over which we disagree or really seeking more to understand than to be understood.
Jeremiah and others tried to provoke God’s people back to God’s ways. God’s prophets were not liked, they were often hated. They were abused. Many were martyred.
Jeremiah wept and wailed and wrote down his thoughts. He lamented the people’s predicament. But biblical laments always have happy endings.
Listen to Jeremiah’s conclusion. At his lowest, most depressed state he wrote:
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’ (Lam. 3:19-24).
The very One, Jesus Christ, who continues to weep over the state of things will himself eventually dry up all tears. He is the One who wipes away tears right now. Christ wants followers to weep over the things He weeps over and get about His ways of abounding grace, mercy, love, justice, peace, wholeness—even shalom for all of the world’s people!
The church has far to go, but the journey is assured to the extent that she follows the Way of Christ Jesus!