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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 8:8-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, September 8, 2014

Jeremiah has been preaching judgment on the priests, scribes, and leaders of Judah in a long passage (chapters 7-10) known as the “temple sermon.” So far, he has condemned false religion as worthless (Jeremiah 7:1-29), he has prophesied that the valley where their false worship took place would become terribly defiled (Jeremiah 7:30-8:3), and that their sin was bringing on eternal punishment from the Lord (Jeremiah 8:4 ff.).

9 The wise will be put to shame.
     They will be dismayed and trapped.
They have rejected the word of the LORD.
   What kind of wisdom do they have?

These wise ones are still the scribes condemned in verse 8. Some of Jeremiah’s closest companions were scribes, such as his secretary Baruch and his friends the sons of Shaphan, and they were all faithful believers. Shaphan was the scribe who read the Book of the Law that was found in temple in the days of King Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:18). His sons and grandsons were supporters of Jeremiah throughout his ministry (Jeremiah 26:34, 29:3, 36:10-12, 39:14, 40:5-11, 41:2, 43:6). Sadly, not all of the scribes listened to the Lord’s prophet, so Jeremiah asks: What kind of wisdom is that?

10 That is why I will give their wives to other men
      and their fields to new owners,
because from the least to the greatest
  all of them are greedy for dishonest profit.
From prophet to priest
  everyone practices deceit.

God’s judgment in this case is to lead people who have turned away from him to see that they have nothing without him. This is still what happens today when someone decides that for no reason at all apart from the imperfections of their spouse that they want to end their marriage and go and chase after some new love or freedom in their life. This freedom they want will mean freedom indeed. It will be a freedom that sits in a courtroom freely exposing private things in public. It will be freedom from credit and freedom from being able to apply for a loan and freedom from being out of debt. It will be freedom from possessions and money and security—because all of those things will vanish with a signature on a piece of paper. It will be freedom from what was once a fine reputation, now smeared and damaged and so very nearly impossible to repair. It will be the kind of freedom that a runaway has, burning bridges and running away from every helping hand, choosing to be lost in the world. If that is the kind of freedom they want, God says, then I will give it to them.

11 They dress the wound of my dear people
      as if it is not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
   when there is no peace.
12 Are they ashamed that they do such a detestable thing?
      No, they have no shame at all.
      They do not even know how to blush.
That is why they will fall among the fallen.
  They will be brought down when I punish them,
   says the LORD.

Jeremiah said this before (Jeremiah 6:14-15) almost word for word. In his 95 Theses (October 31, 1517) Martin Luther used this passage to condemn the claim of the pope to have power to release souls from hell and purgatory. Luther said (Theses 91-93):

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

Luther meant that if the pope truly had power to release souls from hell (and purgatory—Luther was not debating the doctrine of purgatory directly with the 95 Theses), then it was cruel and heartless of the pope not to release every soul from torment. Surely an hour of such torment—even a few minutes of it—would be enough to purge the desire to sin from anyone at all. Yet the pope, claiming to be able to do what God does not even do, cruelly allows people to remain there without hope of freedom. And then he, and those who preach this doctrine along with him, tell people who trust in the pope rather than in Christ that they have peace. This is preaching “‘peace, peace’ and there is no peace!” That’s because we must trust only in Christ. That’s why Luther becomes flippant and goes so far as to say that it would be better to preach “‘cross, cross’ even if there were no cross.” There certainly is the cross. But it is the only true comfort and the only true peace. Preaching anything else—Nirvana, Shambala, Jannah, Clarity, the Celestial Kingdom, or anything like them—is a passport to hell. Only through the cross of Christ is there forgiveness and eternal life.

13 “I will take away their harvest,ª
      declares the LORD.
There will no grapes on the vine,
  there will be no figs on the fig tree,
  and the leaves will wither.
What I have given them
  will be taken away from them.”

ª13 Greek; Hebrew has “I will completely snatch them away.”

Again, the prophet returns to the warning that for those who reject the Lord, there will be nothing. What they have in this world will be taken away, and their hope for the next world will be ripped from them as well. They will fall victim to lies that predict that there is no danger, but the Lord’s judgment still stands.

What the Lord wanted to be a garden will be useless dust. That’s true of the blessings he wanted to give because it was true of the hearts where he planted his word. They rejected him, and when they did that they rejected his blessings.

What true freedom it is to be embraced by the love of Christ! What a blessing to have such biting condemnations like this in the Bible, to be given a glimpse of what it would be like if we didn’t have the cross of Christ! So revel in God’s embracing love and mercy. Let his love and compassion wrap all around you and cover every part of your life. His mercy is forever, but it’s also for every single sin and imperfection. You are covered by Jesus. To be his is to be saved—and you are his through faith.

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.