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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 14:17,18

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 4, 2014

17 Say this to them:
Let my eyes overflow with tears,
  without stopping night or day
because my virgin daughter—my people—
  has been severely hurt.
  It is a very serious wound.

The people have been hit with a “very serious wound.” This is my translation of what is more literally “they have been wounded very much.” God grieves over the pain of his people. His lamentation matches the sorrow of anything Jeremiah has said. They both describe their tears (Jeremiah 9:18)  and the constant sorrow that lasts day and night (Jeremiah 9:1).

The Lord describes Judah as his “virgin daughter.” This is a term of endearment, the way we would say “my little girl” or “my darling.” The Lord’s darling has been hurt. The reason was that she was acting like a prostitute with other nations, but that doesn’t keep God from being sad for her pain.

18 If I go out to the field,
      I see those who are slain by the sword.
If go in to the city,
  I see those diseased by famine.
Both prophet and priest
  have gone to a land they do not know.

How often do we imagine God being far away, off in heaven, aware of what’s happening here only through our prayers or because he’s watching us on some sort of heavenly TV set, flipping through his “earth channels,” getting only a glimpse of our lives here and there? Here he shows us what really happens. He shows that he is everywhere all the time. We call this his omnipresence, which means “always present” or “present everywhere.” God is with us—and that’s the meaning of his name, Immanuel. He is there in the field walking among the slain. He is there in the city watching over the people suffering from disease. He is there in Jeremiah’s future, watching the false prophets and priests going into exile “to a land they do not know.”

He is also here with you and me today. His omnipresence extends everywhere, all at once. That’s how he can be in heaven, rejoicing with the souls of the believers and the angels who adore him, and here on earth watching over us and also in the bread and wine we eat and drink in the sacrament.

Does that mean that if I’m too ashamed of my sins that I shouldn’t come to the Lord’s Supper? Not at all. I don’t make God filthy, God makes me clean. Luther said, “The saints were cast into filthy prisons, even into public sewers. If God were not present there, they could not have called upon him until they had been transferred from these revolting places into a beautifully decorated temple. But God is everywhere and fills all things. Whoever takes offense at God’s presence in filthy places has human and childish ideas of God.” (Pieper Christian Dogmatics I:443).

God’s omnipresence is both a practical teaching and a comforting doctrine.

First, it is a warning that there is no place where God cannot or does not see us. A sinner can’t close a door and think, “God can’t see me or won’t bother with me just now.” There is no place where God doesn’t see us, as Jeremiah will say: “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24). Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) said: “Quite often such things are done under the cover of darkness from which we would recoil in the presence of any upright man. But God is present everywhere.” God’s omnipresence should do more than give us pause—it should terrify us.

But secondly, God’s omnipresence comforts and consoles us. Nothing separates us from his loving protection. He is with us in the darkest places when we fear death or insanity (Psalm 23:4). He is with us to the very end of the world (Matthew 28:20). We sing in the Reformation Psalm, “The Mighty Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7,11). God’s omnipresence gives us comfort when we doubt or fear, “for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:10). Sometimes our dungeons are mental or emotional prisons, but God is still with us: “While Joseph was there in prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor” (Genesis 39:20,21).

God promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God… I love you… I am with you” (Isaiah 43:2,3a,4b,5a).

Here in Jeremiah, God weeps as he steps among dead bodies fallen in battle and dying people in a starving city. Here in your life, the Lord grieves when you grieve, he laughs when you laugh, and he restores your soul (Psalm 23:3) with his Holy Word.

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.