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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 8:18-19

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, September 10, 2014

18 My joy is gone,
      grief is upon me;ª
      my heart is sick.
19 Listen! The cry of my people
      from a distant land:
“Is the LORD not in Zion?
   Is her King not there?”
Why have they provoked my anger with their carves images,
     with their worthless foreign idols?

ª 18 Or, “My comforter, grief is upon me.”

This poem is filled with triplets. There are three speakers: the prophet (vs. 18-19a), the people (vs. 19b), and the Lord (vs. 19c). He describes his sickness in three ways in verse 18, and there are three separate questions in verse 19. Jeremiah’s poetry does not diminish the seriousness of the moment. His carefully crafted verses underscore the thoughts expressed in the questions.

The people cry “from a distant land.” The prophet lived to see the exiles being carried away, but if this passage was spoken along with the rest of the temple sermon (chapters 7-10) then he was aware that they would be in the distant land in the future. This was a warning of things to come. The people, who thought that “the temple, the temple, the temple” (Jeremiah 7:4) was their safety net, were going to find out that the Lord was looking for faith and not ritual. He was looking for faithfulness and not people just going through the motions. When they would be in captivity, their cries would rise up like the bleating of sheep: “Isn’t the Lord in Zion? What happened to us?” But God’s response comes down once again as it has so many times: “I have always been here. Why have you provoked me to anger with your idolatry!?”

When people today walk and live in their sins, but still go through the motions of going to church and even going to communion, are they repenting at all? Are they showing that they are sorry for their sins? True faith is turning away from a sin. True faith doesn’t hang onto a sin and think that many communions will cover it over. True faith lets go of the sin.

Letting go of a sin can be painfully hard. A sin can be like a safety net: I won’t feel complete without this one sin, without this one crutch in my life. But trusting in God means trusting that he will be your crutch. He will be your safety net. Don’t think that God doesn’t understand your relationship with your sins. He gets it. He knows. Ask him to help you let go, and let them go. See how his forgiveness floods over you, washes away your guilt, and see how he fills you with his compassion and his love. His mercy endures forever. Trust him.

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.