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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 8:4-7

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, September 4, 2014

4 Say to them, “This is what the LORD says:
      Do people fall and not get up again?
      If someone turns away, do they not turn back?
5 Then why has this people turned away?
     Why is Jerusalem always turning away?
They take hold of deceitfulness
  and refuse to turn back.

Jeremiah presents God’s message here is a form called a disputation, which is a question followed by an accusation: “Doesn’t this usually happen? Then why haven’t you done it?” In this case, the Lord asks “When people fall down, don’t they get up again? Why are you still lying there? You turned away, but you never turned back again!”

6 I have paid attention and listened,
   but they do not say what is right.
No one repents of their wickedness,
  asking, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone pursues their own course
  like a horse charging into battle.

We get a glimpse here of the way cavalry was used in the early centuries of warfare on horseback. “A horse charging into battle” was not really an animal under much control. The rider just spurred her on, and into the melee she went, wherever she decided to run. It was a chaotic way of fighting. That, the Lord says, is the way my people live. They just charge around doing whatever they want. None of them turns back or turns aside or goes where the Lord wants them to go. Everyone pursues their own course.

7 Even the stork in the sky
   knows her seasons.
The dove, the swift and the thrush
  keep the time of their migration.
But my people do not know
  the requirements of the LORD.”

Where I live we see flocks of ducks, geese and thrushes flying south every winter. People are often amused to see some of the V’s of geese flying due north instead of due south. Don’t they know which way they’re going? Of course they do. They’re just heading to a starting point, or picking up family members, or even trying to chase a warm updraft so that they can climb easily up to the right altitude of about 3,000 feet (some geese fly as high as 20,000 feet or higher, but migration altitude is usually 3,000 feet).

What would you think of a goose spending the winter in a snowbank next to your driveway? It would starve. Geese have to be able to fish, so they need to go where the ice is thin enough (or where ice doesn’t form at all) so that they can eat. If birds can do it—Jeremiah mentions storks, doves, swifts and thrushes—why can’t people turn away from the bleak state of their sinfulness and migrate back to God? His blessings are waiting to be given, but his people were stuck where the blessings would never come. They were spiritually starving to death, like a goose in a Minnesota snowbank in January.

The requirements of the Lord are no burden. “Come to me,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). If his blessings aren’t coming, maybe it’s time to fly back to him in repentance. Turn away from your barren sinfulness, and know that his forgiveness is there like open fresh water. It takes no effort to land there, and drink in his blessings and be satisfied. His mercy endures forever.

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.