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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 4:5,6

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Coming Judgment (Jeremiah 4:5–6:30)

This section forms the second half of a five-chapter long call to repentance. God has offered forgiveness and restoration again and again to his people; even to the people of the long-lost exiles of the northern kingdom who have been absent for over a century. Now God points ahead to what is coming like a lookout in a military camp.

Judgment from the North
5 Announce in Judah
     and proclaim in Jerusalem:
Say, “Blow the ram’s horn throughout the land.”
  Shout loudly and say, “Gather together,
  we should go into the fortified cities.”
6 Raise a banner toward Zion!
     Flee for safety!
     Do not stay behind!
I am bringing disaster from the north;
  terrible destruction.

On May 2nd, 1863, a vast Union army under the command of General Joseph Hooker thought they had fought a Confederate army to a draw the day before. An observer in a balloon had reported a large Confederate army on the move, which Hooker thought was Robert E. Lee crossing the Rappahannock River, heading back toward Richmond. Hooker and his men were settling down to supper at about 5:30 in the evening when rabbits and deer started running through the Union camp, scurrying past stacks of unloaded rifles and their set tables where the meal was being served to tens of thousands of hungry troops.

That should have been a warning as to what was about to happen only a minute or two later, but the Union soldiers didn’t understand how near the danger was.

As this part of Jeremiah begins, the Lord himself calls for a warning blast on the shofar or ram’s horn, the signal that danger is near; a call for all of the men to rally and be on the lookout.

The Lord gives new orders: “Raise a banner toward Zion!” He urges the people to run back into the city of Jerusalem, to take refuge there. But he is not talking about a physical attack like the one that happened at the Battle of Chancellorsville. An interesting point about Chancellorsville is that at the time of the battle between Hooker and Lee, the “village” consisted of little more than a single house in a clearing surrounded by acres upon acres of dense forest. There wasn’t much in the way of a refuge from the hurricane of lead and steel that was racing silently through the trees.

The refuge of Zion to which the Lord was calling his people was the refuge of his holy word; the Kingdom of the Lord. The coming danger, the great Day that was and is approaching, is the terrifying storm of the End of the World. God calls us all to refuge under his protection, which is the only protection possible from Judgment Day.

The first time Jeremiah describes the coming danger as the “day,” the Last Day, will be a little later in this chapter in verse 9. But the early warning has already come, like the recognition and sudden understanding in the eyes of the sergeants lifting a forkful of food to their mouths at 5:31 on the 2nd of May. There, behind the advancing line of terrified animals was a flash of light from the setting sun on twenty thousand drawn swords and fixed bayonets coming through the trees under Confederate flags led by Stonewall Jackson himself. The moment was upon them, and it was almost too late…

The time for repentance, the time to repair our relationship with God and confess our sins is not the deathbed, because too many of us will not die peacefully and gracefully in a bed surrounded by our loved ones. We must not wait until we actually see Christ descending from the clouds. It will be too late. The time to repent is today, while the trumpet call is still blowing, while the sun is still in the sky. Ask God for his grace today, right now, and remember that his gospel promise of forgiveness is yours in Jesus. Turn away from sin, and turn to your Lord God. In him there is forgiveness, there is pardon, and there is peace.

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.