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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 6:11b-15

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 19, 2014

“Pour it out on the children in the street
   and on the young men gathered together.
Both husband and wife will be taken,
  the old along with the very old.
12 Their houses will be turned over to others,
      together with their fields and their wives,
      for I will stretch out my hand against those who live in the land,
      declares the LORD.
13 From the least of them to the greatest,
      all of them are greedy for dishonest gain.
From prophets to priests,
  they all practice falsehood.

God’s judgment is coming. In this passage, the prophet assures the people of Judah and those of us who are reading this that God’s judgment will spare no one. All sinners—young and old, men and women, old men and little children, prophets, priests and kings. Their words and actions won’t matter. What matters is faith.

14 They have barely dressed the wounds of my people.
      They say, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.

This verse has for its subject the “prophets and priests” of verse 13. They have “barely dressed” the wounds of the people. They’ve been putting Band-Aids on amputated limbs; they’ve been treating bullet holes as if they were nothing but boo-boos. They were spiritual leaders who ignored spiritual problems.

This is still happening. The state may extend all kinds of civil rights to sinners. That state can extend civil rights to people who are gay. The state has that right. But that doesn’t mean that homosexuality isn’t still a sin. In 1 Corinthians 6, homosexuality is listed along with sins like drunkenness, stealing, and slander (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). A drunk has a right to get married and even has a right to buy a drink in the eyes of the state, but that doesn’t mean that getting drunk isn’t a sin against the Fifth Commandment. A kleptomaniac has a right to shop and to visit museums and other places where he might be tempted to steal. He even has a right to get married, hold insurance, and so forth—although certain businesses can ban him from shopping there. But he’s still sinning against the Seventh Commandment, and the Ninth and Tenth, too. A person who slanders still has the right in the eyes of the state to free speech, although he’s still guilty of breaking the Eighth Commandment.

The responsibility of the church is to point out these sins, proclaim the truth, and call people to repentance. Jeremiah’s condemnation is against spiritual leaders who see sins and encourage them instead of condemning them as sins. That’s what he means when says that they say, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” That’s a religious leader who says to his people: “Go ahead and offer a sacrifice to Baal. God doesn’t care.” Or “You can use God’s name in vain. God will forgive you.” Or “You have a right to be gay, and God loves everyone—God doesn’t care who you marry.” These things are like the indulgences being sold when Luther was at Wittenberg in 1517. They were free passes to sinning. One day Luther found a monk falling down drunk, who had an indulgence from the pope, who claimed he had paid for his own sin. That wasn’t just a sin against the Fifth Commandment. It was a sin against the First.

All of these things lead people to hell by making them blind to their sins, treating mortal wounds like bumps and bruises—and worse, treating mortal wounds like strong muscles and a good tan. “Way to go! Do that some more!” That’s saying “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

15 Are they ashamed of the detestable things they have done?
      No, they are not ashamed at all;
      they do not know how to be ashamed.
So they will fall with the fallen;
  they will be thrown down when I punish them,” says the LORD.

A shepherd who knows a good pasture but lets his sheep graze in the poisoned glen is responsible for their lives. A spiritual shepherd who lets his people live in their sins without pointing out those sins is letting them think that they’re not sinning; that God is pleased with them. He is letting them be their own gods.

Now, a pastor might point out a sin and call someone to repentance, and that person might not repent. But that’s not the fault of the shepherd, nor is it the fault of God himself. A shepherd is called to be faithful and to proclaim. That’s what Jeremiah was doing in this passage. It isn’t always easy, but it’s what God wants us to do. Pray for the strength to do it when the moment comes, and pray for you pastor to have the strength and the courage to do it, as well.

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.