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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 17:12,13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, November 28, 2014

12 The glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,
        is the place of our sanctuary.

Jeremiah does not say that “our sanctuary” is the place of God’s throne, although many people in Israel seem to have thought that this was the case. It was the reverse. God’s throne was the place of Israel’s sanctuary. That’s didn’t mean that a geographic location, like the temple mount above the city of Jerusalem, was where God would always dwell. Anyone could ask what happened to Shiloh and find out the truth about that (Jeremiah 7:12-14). The misguided attitude of the Jews would have been comical were it not so deadly. They thought that all they needed to do was be born as Jews, live in the proximity of the temple (“the temple, the temple, we’ve got the magic temple!” Jeremiah 7:4), and everything would be fine. They could ignore God’s commands, cheat one another, cheat on their wives, plot against each other, worship false gods or even demons if they chose, and nothing would ever happen. God was like a side bet for them: Just in case all of this “Lord of Israel” stuff was right, at least they still had the temple.

Jeremiah is saying otherwise. God’s throne transcends our world. We must worship him wherever he is. God himself must be the temple of our hearts. God is in heaven, and we worship him there. God is omnipresent, present everywhere, and we recognize this, too, with our worship. God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and we understand this as we worship him. God is also all-knowing (omniscient), and we know that we cannot hide our inner sins and plots from him, but we can also be comforted that our faith, however feeble or limping it might be, is still there. We trust Jesus. God took on human flesh, and we worship Jesus Christ as our true God. His glorious throne was a cross one Friday, but he has been exalted from the beginning. The Son of God has truly been God from eternity.

13 You are the hope of Israel, LORD.
        All who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust ª
  because they have forsaken the LORD,
  the spring of living water.

ª 13 Or “written in the earth.”

This verse is clear: Those who turn away from God will be condemned. The phrase “put to shame” has a deep theological meaning in the Old Testament. Those who trust in God will “never be put to shame” (Psalm 31:1, 71:1; Isaiah 45:17). In fact, all sins are covered by Christ, even the most crass sins, as God gently promises: “You will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me” (Zephaniah 3:11), because through repentance and trust in Christ we are forgiven.

But anyone who rejects God utterly will not be saved. Rejecting the forgiveness of sins is also called the sin against (or blasphemy against) the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29). That sin pushes forgiveness away.

But what does Jeremiah mean by “written in the dust”? The “dust” here is erets, the usual Hebrew word for “earth” or “land.” Since the context is of some kind of shame or punishment, it seems to be the opposite of the eternal place with God, the spring of living water. So they will belong to the dust of hell rather than the paradise of heaven.

What about a person who has become mentally unbalanced, or falls victim to the disease of depression? What if such a person might, in their despair, take their own life? In such a case, we must run to the comfort of God’s grace. “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” (Acts 15:11). When Jesus encountered a boy possessed by a demon, the boy’s father shared the terror of the boy’s life: “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him” (Mark 9:22). If the demon had succeeded, it would have been the devil’s work, not the boy’s act, that claimed his life. So it is with a disease like depression, or insanity. Such a disease might be as deadly as cancer or Ebola, but we still take comfort in God’s saving grace.

Twice, Jeremiah calls God “the spring of living water” (see Jeremiah 2:13), and we can’t let this pass without remembering that these are the earliest references to “living water” in the Bible. This living water is at the same time the grace of God and the word of God. The grace of God never runs dry. The Lord is no empty cistern, nor any sometimes-full, sometimes-empty gulch in the desert. His grace never fails; his mercy endures forever. Be comforted in his forgiveness, and know that his love covers over all of your sins.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.