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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 9:22-24

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 19, 2014

22 This is what the LORD says:
Dead bodies will fall
  like dung on the ground
like freshly cut grain after the reaper
  with no one to gather it.

This verse ends a long section warning about the coming destruction, still within Jeremiah’s temple sermon (chapters 7-10). He pauses to meditate on the horror of the aftermath, when dead bodies will lie around on the ground with no one left to bury them. The image of sheaves left by the reaper was common in Israel. It was how poor people were able to collect grain. But imagine a village where the harvest had taken place, and then disaster struck, and there was no one left even to pick up sheaves of grain left lying on the ground—not because people had become wealthy and able to buy their own grain, but because everyone in the village was dead. Jeremiah prophesied this once before (Jeremiah 8:2) and he will return to this thought again (Jeremiah 16:4,6, 20:6, 25:33, 50:16; Lamentations 3:45). Unburied bodies lying on the ground were as shameful to Israel then as they would be to us today.

At this point, the prophet changes the tone of the message. Perhaps what follows is from a separate prophecy delivered on another day. It is still part of the same discourse or temple sermon. At the moment, my associates and I are in the middle of a six-part sermon series, all under the same theme. Imagining Jeremiah delivering more than one sermon on the same topic in the same location is the simplest explanation to sudden changes like this within the text of his book.

23 This is what the LORD says:
Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom.
  Let not the strong man boast in his strength,
  or the rich man boast in his riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
      They have understanding, and they know me.
They know that I am the LORD who shows mercy,
  justice, and righteousness on earth,
  for I delight in these things, declares the LORD.

The Apostle Paul summarized this passage in a concise little phrase: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). True wisdom (if you’re going to boast about wisdom) is true faith in the true God. A man with a high I.Q. might think that he is very smart, but if he trusts himself over God, he is a fool, and his intelligence is nothing but a test he has failed. The same is true of the strong man’s strength. If he knows that his strength is nothing but a gift to be used in God’s service, then he is wise. If not, then he is a fool, and his strength is nothing but a test he has failed. The same with wealth. Anyone who is comfortable because of his wealth and not because of Christ is spiritually bankrupt. And anyone who is poor and thinks God doesn’t care because he has allowed him to be poor is not just financially poor, but spiritually poor as well.

Luther said, “The thing you set your heart on and put your trust in is really your god” (Large Catechism, First Commandment, para. 3). So the best thing we could ever do is set our hearts on Christ and put our trust in him alone. We look to him for every blessing, and we turn to him in times of trouble. Listen again to the list of blessings God offers that are simply part of his divine nature: mercy, justice, and righteousness on earth. He wants us to look to him for every blessing, and we want to respond with thankful lives.

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.