“Symbols of an Everlasting Love: A Fought For Love” sermon from 10/24/10, Jeremiah 25:15-29
So this morning we enter into our 7th week on our current sermon series through the OT book of Jeremiah. We have been engaging this OT book through the use of symbols in which God shows to Jeremiah that have messages to him and God’s people within them. The title of this series has been Symbols of an Everlasting Love for that is the message behind the messages. For the people remember God saying to them in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Behind all of God’s actions, everything He does and says, is His everlasting love. Love is such a complex subject. There really is a lot to it. I Corinthians 13 proves this as it says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.” It is my hope that through this series we have come into contact with more of the fullness of God’s love and the many ways it is expressed and shown by Him to His people. We have already looked at this in a variety of ways. First, we know God’s love for us in how He knows us deeply to the core, and how He calls us, seeks us out to join Him and be a part of what He is doing. Secondly we know His love toward us is a FULL love and also a committed love. He has devoted and committed Himself to us and He desires us to do the same with Him. Thirdly we’ve talked about two wonderful aspects of God’s love toward us; God as the Potter and we the clay, and also God as the Great Shepherd and we the flock under His great care and leadership and sending of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, to be the Lord Our Righteousness. Finally then, last week we talked about how all these things put together develop in us a Ripened Love in our hearts toward God. A state in which we are ready, willing, and wanting to know God more and be His; in this we offer ourselves as a sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; God takes pleasure in us as first-ripe, delightful fruit.
Today we enter into yet another aspect of God’s love toward/for us, but I am not sure it’s an easy one. As we have been on this journey through the book of Jeremiah I have known this Sunday was coming and truthfully it’s had me a little concerned because I’ve wondered how I would approach it. You see, the plan we have been using through Jeremiah is from a Bible study format I have followed in the past. So I didn’t totally come up with this by myself and I am aware of where we’re going each week. Our passage for this morning follows the same theme of symbolism with a message, but it also shows God in a way I am not sure is easy to perceive Him as; that is angry.
Many of us have heard the description of God from Scripture (and I use it quite often and am quite fond of it) that God is “The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” We speak easily and often of His steadfast love and faithfulness, and even His mercy and grace; it’s easy to come away feeling especially loved experiencing & connecting ourselves to these things. But when was the last time we took a look at something else mentioned in that description; God’s anger (slow as it may be)? The image of God’s wrath I think we can easily avoid greatly (truthfully I don’t really like thinking about it either). I am thankful for the description I just mentioned in that it says God is slow to anger, but it doesn’t say He is without anger. Also, the description of love found in I Corinthians 13 says that love is not easily angered, again it doesn’t say without anger or not angered. How are we to understand God’s anger in light of His love? That’s an important question, and one that I hope we can engage well this morning. First off, just as we talked about love being different then we think (never in a song or on a tv screen…) during our message on Worshipful Love, so is anger (God’s anger) different then we think. When we think of anger we think of someone who gets mad or ticked off at something. God’s anger is much more deeply profound than this. God’s anger is centered on injustice, and He’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. Another thing that comes to my mind is that I think we can have a tendency to only want to picture, esteem, and think of God as only a “nice” (kind, polite, etc) God. However, I don’t think this does God and His being complete justice. In our passage for today God declares that He cannot withhold His anger forever towards His people or anyone. Justice will be His, meaning all things He will make right! Ultimately God must act in a way in which complete justice is served. But in this I believe we can see another aspect of God’s love, what I am calling A Fought for Love. Before talking too much more, let’s open our Bibles to Jeremiah 25 and read verses 15-29…
15 For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and go out of their minds because of the sword that I am sending among them.
17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, an object of hissing and of cursing, as they are today; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, and all his people; 20 all the mixed people; all the kings of the land of Uz; all the kings of the land of the Philistines—Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod; 21 Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites; 22 all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who have shaven temples; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed peoples that live in the desert; 25 all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; 26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Sheshach shall drink.
27 Then you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.
28 And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! 29 See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that is called by my name, and how can you possibly avoid punishment? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.
And again then, here we have another message from God to Jeremiah with specific imagery in it. The symbol within this passage is a wine cup and I have this represented here in this wine-cup to my left. There is also imagery of wine cups in front of me on our Communion table. The wine cup in today’s passage holds different connotations to it than these I have here and ones we’ve become accustomed to in church settings. The wine cup God showed to Jeremiah is said to be a cup of wrath. Now I feel like I can’t help but admit that this is a tough passage and subject to dive into today. I pray God helps me do it well and in a way that is pleasing and honoring to Him. Also, I pray as we get to the end and see the full extent of what God did in order for there to be justice and make things right that we’ll respond to Him even more in love and worship. So let’s run through what’s happening here in this passage then… Let me set the stage…
“For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to [Jeremiah]: Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and go out of their minds because of the sword that I am sending among them.” Jeremiah was instructed to take a wine cup from the hand of God and make many nations drink of it; 17 nations to be exact. This wine cup would make them stagger and go out of their minds because of the sword God was going to send among them. What is this sword? Well, most often in God’s Word His very Word is said to be a sword. Because of this I connect what’s happening here with I Corinthians 1 starting at verse 18 where Paul says, “For the message about the cross is foolishness (idiocy, out of one’s right mind, like being drunk) to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And Paul goes on to say in the second part of verse 20, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” This was how God was going to display His anger and bring justice, as well as thwart the nations; through the message of Christ crucified!
You see, the description of Jews and Gentiles used by Paul covers the nations God instructs Jeremiah to make drink of the wine cup of wrath. The first nation listed to drink is Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials; in other words, the Jews. Secondly, the rest of the nations listed are those of the Gentile nations, basically everyone else, because in Paul’s day you were either a Jew (a descendant of Jerusalem, Judah, and therefore Israel) or a Gentile (of other origin). What the passage signifies is the coming judgment to all peoples. First, we are already aware of God’s judgment on His very own people in their taking out of their land and homes and into exile. This was done because the people turned from God to other nations and their gods (basically the other nations mentioned in our passage today). And to be just, God couldn’t just let His own people suffer as verse 29 tells us as it says, “See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that is called by my name, and how can you possibly avoid punishment?” If God’s very own people were going to suffer so were those nations who never called on His name, led His people astray, and never really loved Him or His people. It was declared in our passage and also earlier in Jeremiah 25 what the extent of all this would be. Those who drink of the cup would fall to rise no more and God’s people who suffered defeat at the hands of Babylon and were in exile would remain so for 70 years but God’s hand wouldn’t remain against them forever (verse 25:11-12). As we saw last week, He would keep His eyes on them, bring them back, build them up, plant them, give them a heart to know God, and be their God. For these are His people, His beloved; He couldn’t just leave things in this state! SO HE INTERVENED! He did so by bringing physical destruction to these other nations; that’s how God’s people were finally able to return to the land after 70 years. However, how He did so in a much more lasting way as well in which we’ve already looked at… through the message of Christ crucified…
You see, this imagery of a wine cup is weaved throughout Scripture and God’s greater story. Now, I am sure I can’t get to the complete greater depths of this imagery, however let me just show you how this is linked to Christ and the Gospel. If you follow the account of Jesus in the Gospels you come to the night when Jesus was betrayed… When we hear those words (or at least when I do) we think of the Lord’s Supper for its often recited… “On the night when Jesus was betrayed He took the bread… in the same manner also after they had eaten Jesus took the cup saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood given for the forgiveness of sins…” When we partake in the Lord’s Supper we partake in the body of Christ broken for us and the blood of Christ shed for us as we remember and claim for ourselves the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And as John 6:54 says, “Those who eat my (Jesus’) flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day…” This small verse ties back into our passage from Jeremiah. Those who remember and claim for themselves the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will be raised on the last day. Whereas those mentioned In Jeremiah 25 and those to whom the message of Christ crucified is foolishness will fall and rise no more. For you see, after Jesus has His Last Supper with His disciples He goes with them to the Garden of Gethsemane where while there Jesus is deeply grieved and falls on the ground in prayer, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but not My will, but Yours be done (Matt 26:39).” Jesus takes on Himself the cup of God’s wrath, the cup of God’s punishment to mankind, therefore providing a means for those who believe to be raised on the last day, saved from judgment by the power of God.
Now, I have to bring this in… My wife has done a great job with the bulletin; especially this week as she hasn’t been feeling the greatest. And she picked out a great quote for this message for the “wisdom from the back page” in your bulletins. Check it out with me… Martin Luther once said, “Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.” Now that’s the Gospel! This is how God made things right. Injustice broke into the world when Satan disbanded himself from God. Ever since God has been working, fighting, providing to make things right and redeem His creation. The greatest of His works has already been done, and the next greatest is yet to come; the 2nd coming of Christ and the resurrection of mankind. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did send His Son into the world to condemn the world (leave it in its judgment) but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).”
So, why do I call what’s shown in this passage of Jeremiah 25 and God’s cup of wrath for the nations “A Fought for Love”? Well, because that’s what the Gospel story (the message of Christ crucified) shows me, a God who is willing to go to the greatest lengths and depths to win back those whom He loves with an everlasting love! God wasn’t willing to give up. He knew justice had to be fulfilled and all things made right, and He provided for the perfect means of doing so. Read Isaiah 43:8-14 (I just added this last night, but to me this is a great example of this…)
Ultimately, the theme of Jeremiah is judgment followed by redemption. That’s what we see for the people of God throughout the book and Jeremiah’s ministry to them. I’d say this too is the over-arching theme of God’s complete greater story in Christ Jesus as well; judgment followed by redemption. One question I think we need to ask ourselves (if you take anything away from this message it should be this) in light of the things I’ve covered for today is (at least I had to ask myself this this past week)… Do you serve a passive God? One characterized by niceness, kindness, being polite and “loving” in that sense… Or, Do you serve an extremely passionate God? One whose passion drives Him to fight for those whom He loves and provide redemption even at the greatest cost of Himself! If your answer is the latter, there’s only one thing left to do; repent and believe, give your heart and your life to God your everlasting Lover!