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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 10:19-22

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lament for Judah
19 Woe to me because of my wound!
      My injury is severe!
But I said, “Surely this is my sickness,
  and I must bear it.”

The speaker at the beginning of verse 19 is Jerusalem, or Jeremiah quoting what the people will say (some translations even inject this into the text: “The people of Jerusalem cried out…,” TEV). The cry is simple: “My wound… my injury… my sickness!” Then at the end of the verse the phrase “I must bear it” can mean one of two things. Most translations have something like “I must bear it,” indicating that the people have recognized their sinfulness and they’re trying to bear up under chastisement. But another possibility is that the speaker says something like: “This is my sickness, and I can deal with it.” In that case, Jerusalem would be making light of the troubles ahead. Either way that Jerusalem thought about it, the injury, the wound and the sickness were coming.

20 My tent is destroyed.
      All its ropes are broken.
My children are gone and they are no more.
  No one is left to pitch my tent
  or to set up my dwelling.
21 The shepherds are ignorant.
      They do not seek the LORD.
That is why they do not prosper
  and all their flock is scattered.

Imagine a nomad in the desert with no support system, no roads, no phones, staring at his destroyed tent. He wasn’t camping out in that tent, he was living there, with no other place to go. He can’t fix it—the ropes are snapped and the tent has been slashed and beaten to pieces. There is no one to help—all his children are gone.

Jeremiah condemns Israel’s leaders by saying that the shepherds are ignorant and do not seek God. By “shepherds” he means all of those who should have been watching out for the people—prophets, priests and kings. All of them failed; all of them were leading the people deeper and deeper into sin by saying nothing about the sins of the people. We don’t need shepherds who encourage us to sin. We need shepherds who shout warnings from the walls: You’re being tempted! Turn away from your sin! And we need shepherds who pray for us—not parasites who prey upon us.

Judgment on Judah
22 A voice! News is coming:
     A great commotion from the land of the north.
It will make the cities of Judah desolate.
  It will make them a haunt for jackals.

The “great commotion” is the sound of advancing troops. It’s a warning that although there is still time to repent, the time is now measured in minutes rather than months or years. This is the judgment of God on its way: The time to ask God for forgiveness is right now.

Repentance means being sorry that I’ve sinned. It does not mean just being sorry that I got caught. I don’t mean wishing for a “do over.” It means admitting that my sin is serious, and that I need to change. Maybe my habits need to change, or the way I react to people, or the way I spend my free time. Maybe I need to focus more of my attention on my Savior and less on the person who’s been saved. And maybe I need to be grateful for that “voice” at the beginning of verse 22. That voice—the warning of one faithful shepherd, or one friend who cares—might be the last warning I ever get. I shouldn’t hate that voice, but too often we get angry with the people who point out our sins. Instead, we need to thank God for them, and listen to them.

Repentance also means knowing that out sins are forgiven in Christ. Last night I was helping my youngest son memorize a Bible verse for school: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). As he struggled with the words and got them down pat, I asked him what they meant. “Being baptized means that all of your sins are washed away by Jesus.” That’s right, I told him. But it means something else, too. It means that all of the perfect things Jesus did—keeping all the Ten Commandments perfectly and loving everyone in world—all of that is what we’re clothed with, and it covers us all up (I tossed a child’s blanket over my head). He laughed—“I get it!” he said. “That’s what it means when it says we clothe ourselves with Jesus.”

Listen to that voice that calls out the warning. Trouble is coming. A tent is falling. We are sick with sin; wounded and ill. But there is hope, too—so we put our faith in Jesus alone. He is the Prophet, the Priest and the King who did everything right. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and he gave us everything we lack. Jesus covers us, and that’s what God sees. It’s so good to be his child.

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.