“Symbols of an Everlasting Love: Worshipful Love” sermon from 9/19/10
Well, last week I began a new series with you involving taking us through the book of Jeremiah with the use of symbolic messages God gives to Jeremiah in order to convey His message to His people. Again, I have entitled this series Symbols of an Everlasting Love for that is the message behind the messages, and behind the whole greater story of all history; God’s unconditional, everlasting, exhaustive (thorough, far-reaching) love! Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
So, last week we opened this series with a message on Jeremiah’s call story found in the beginning chapter of his book in the Bible. There we learned a few key things in regards to our own relationships with and calls from God: 1) You/I were made for something(s), 2)God knows who we are and who we can be, 3) due to this knowledge, no excuse is any excuse for God, 4) we needn’t worry about any fears because He is with us and He is enough, and 5) we are called to an epic life in Christ in worship and obedient service. I suppose our message for today is going to revolve around the first aspect of that last point; our epic worship of/with God in our relationships with Him. An epic worship that is full, reverential, worshipful in existence & practice.
Last week I opened this series while showing you symbols. I showed you things I have given to Melanie as gifts that now stand as symbols and messages of my love for her and what she means to me. I also talked about symbols we have/use in our Christian faith like the Communion table, or the baptismal fount, and the cross and how they make invisible realities visible and remind us of things that are true in our faith. Then I introduced you to the symbols I have here on my left that are representations of what are used in God’s messages for Jeremiah and the people. The first of these symbols, and the one we’ll look at today, that God showed to Jeremiah and the people was the Temple of the Lord. Let’s turn there and hear what God has to say to the people about how they were using the Temple of the Lord and their worship in it. Turn with me to Jeremiah 7:1-11…
7 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”
5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7 then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.
8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord.
Wow, what harsh words! Remember what I said last week about the theme of this sermon series sounding all nice and rosy/peachy, but not necessarily coming off as such? Well, this is one of those examples that doesn’t quite fit that mold. God really gets on Judah’s case here. Their worship of Him hasn’t been all it could/should be. In fact, one could say their worship was quite hollow/empty, arrogant, superficial, hurtful towards others (even themselves), and surely wasn’t reverential of God. How is God’s message to the people, or a message like this, a message of love? Well, there’s a song I appreciate by the Christian band Caedmon’s Call called Love Is Different that I think of inline with this. The chorus of the song says, “Love is different than you’d think. It’s never in a song, or on a TV screen. Love is harder than a word said at the right time, and everything’s alright. Love is different than you’d think.” That chorus is simple, yet wise. Love is different than we’d like to think, or maybe than we’ve been conditioned to think. We’ve seen many pictures (you could say symbols) of love in songs, on TV, and in words. We’ve made love extremely broad in that I can love my wife & daughter, but I can also love ice cream, or steak, or Mountain Dew, and the Packers. And I won’t go as far as to say that none of these are ever true representations of love, however love in its truest sense is complex, it’s extensive/exhaustive, deep, heavy and profound. We read in I Corinthians 13 that “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.” This is full love! This is love that is also immensely broad but at the same time high and deep as well (Eph 3:18-19). God’s love represents this completely. He desires our love for Him, and others, to do so as well.
So, what does it say that Judah and the people of God were doing in their worship and love for God in this passage? Well God opens by saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’” What God is coming down on His people for is that they had an arrogant trust and love in the things of God, not God Himself. God said to the people “Do not trust these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’” The people had a false security in the temple of the Lord. They thought, “We are safe!” God surely wouldn’t destroy His temple, or come against the people He loves. Their hope & security was set on the things of God, not in God Himself. They put their trust in things to the detriment of themselves and to their faith and relationship with God. Ask yourself this question… Do you love God, or do you just love the things He gives you, or the things you have in this world? There is a difference. What would you lament more; losing God in your life, or losing the things he gives, or has given, you in your life?
The people in Jeremiah’s day had succumbed to a comfortable and consumer-driven worship. They weren’t willing to go the whole nine yards for full worship. They only sought to get by with enough and still wanted the comforts of life. They had been hurt and suffered in life so they sought to guard and protect themselves and their hearts, not willing to give of themselves fully to anyone or thing, even God, out of fear of experiencing pain. They did this to the detriment of themselves and others as our passage indicates, they went after other gods to their own hurt. We do this in America today too. We surround ourselves with the comforts of the Gospel and of life. In many ways church and life has become a marketplace where we are only concerned about our comforts and felt needs. We are scared to allow ourselves to enter into a full love relationship with God. We fear what that might mean, what we might experience, what we might have to give up, while God hangs in the balance waiting, wanting our whole hearts and selves, and for us to trust that He is enough in everything and circumstance. You see, a full love, a worshipful love, is what God is calling the people back to. He says stop being so consumer & comfort driven, settling for lukewarm Christianity; Amend your ways and your doings. Stop stealing, murdering, committing adultery, swearing falsely, worshipping other gods. Act justly, do not oppress, walk humbly with Me; turn to Me, love Me with your whole heart and selves, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Let me read an exert for you out of a book I read over my vacation in August called Crazy Love. You’ll hear me refer to this book throughout this series. The author, Francis Chan, says this about loving God; “After my oldest daughter was born, I began to see how wrong I was in my thinking about God…(Pg 55)… Nothing compares to being truly, exuberantly wanted/[loved] by your children.” This is what God desires of His people! A true, exuberant, worshipful, exhaustive love of Him, for this is how He has loved us!
I’ll share another reference with you that also affected me quite a bit while we were on vacation in August. You see, for those of you who don’t know, just before our vacation was to take place a part of my wife’s extended family got shaken up a bit; the wife of her brother suddenly announced that she wanted a separation. As a result my wife’s brother joined us on vacation with their two kids without her. Throughout the week she would call the cell phone and want to talk to the kids. She would tell them she loved them and missed them and would try to spend at least a short while with them. My wife’s brother was amazing about this. I couldn’t believe how civil, cordial he was with her. I, on the other hand, had a severe problem with this! Each time she called I fumed inside as if to say how dare you do this! How can you mean what you say and do what you do, and still do this! Then, almost out of nowhere the Holy Spirit whispered to me out of what I had been reading in this book, “How do you think I feel, Mike?” This was as if to say, “you/my people separate, divorce themselves from me all the time. They fear giving, loving me with their whole selves when I so desire their full worship; worship of their whole heart & selves. Worship as deep emotion and embodied in how they live towards Me and others.” That hurt… But it also inspired me to have a more worshipful love with God.
Another song comes to my mind here is by another Christian band called Sanctus Real (you can tell I listen to a lot of music) and their song Lead me. This song was written by the lead singer, Matt, in response to his heart cry toward his wife and children as both a husband and a dad. He asks for guidance from God so that he can be the loving husband and father he is called to be for them. He asks… “Lead me…, for I don’t want to leave them hungry for love chasing things, dreams, things I could give up! I want to show them I am willing to fight, that they are the love of my life! ” This song hits me hard in terms of being a husband and a father alone, however it also hits me hard in reference to God and how I might also be leaving Him hungry for my love as He desperately desires it from me, and has done so much for me. What am I chasing, what am I loving that takes away from His dwelling with me, from us dwelling together in love? Am I willing to fight, is He the love of my life? Another quote from this book (Crazy Love), one that the author references says, “It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism (nature & God are one in the same), not agnosticism (complete/true truth is unknowable, or of a higher understanding that I cannot attain to. It’s not that there isn’t a God, but that we need a higher understanding to only attainable by a certain few to know him), that in our day and in this land that is likely to quench the Gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.” That quote is from a man named Frederic D. Huntington in 1890. It’s almost scary how true that quote seems to me today! This describes a more instant gratification and comfort and consumer-driven value system. That is what is being described of Judah/God’s people in Jeremiah’s day. I’d say this type/level of worship, because of our sinful nature and brokenness of this world, is what we are more drawn to go after.
Love as Raya, Ahava, & Dod: (Nooma video, Flame, by Rob Bell)
Who here has read the book Song of Songs (or Solomon) in the Bible before? Now there’s a scandalous book about full love between two people if I’ve ever seen one. Many have even described it as a picture of full love between God and mankind. There are 3-loves described and used in this book that in Hebrew are raya, ahava, & dod. Each of these words describe a different level of love between two people. Raya is more a friendship, companionship level of love. It’s a best friend or someone or thing you feel uniquely connected to, love. Ahava, this is more deep, affectionate, passionate love; “it’s a desire to be with someone so much that your heart aches; it’s when your mind and your heart are bent towards your lover with passion and intensity that you can think of little else.” Song of Songs says specifically about ahava love that it is as stronger than death, that many rivers cannot quench ahava. Ahava is much more than fleeting romantic feelings or temporary loves. It’s more a love of the will, of committing, desiring to join your life/love to another. Ahava is lasting, fuller love. Now dod is yet another level of love. This word is translated into English as to carouse, to rock, or fondle; it’s the physical, sexual, pleasureful level of love; the deepest, fullest love yet. And what it is is the culmination of raya & ahava; it’s all the loves culminating together as one. This is what the Bible is talking about when two become one. And this is where we mess things up. You see, we want the dod without the raya & ahava. That is the essence of instant gratification. We chase, worship other things, seeking dod, but are only left with fleeting, incomplete love. We come to church wanting the dod considering the week we just faced or are about to face, but we haven’t sought the raya or ahava with God to go with it. For whatever reason, whether we’re scared, busy, or guarding or protecting our hearts, or just haven’t known there’s a love like this out there, we only cultivate an incomplete love. To have dod there must be both raya & ahava; both intimate friendship and deep, affectionate, devoted love. This is the love, the oneness, God desires with us, and what we were made to have with Him. This is why all other loves or things will only be found fleeting or wanting in comparison to the love of God and the love we can have with Him. Full love/oneness with God is the only thing that offers a true fulfillment of love on all these levels. This is what God wants for us, and with us!
So the temple was meant to be a place for God to dwell. Where the people could come and meet with Him, experience Him. Our call to worship this morning gives the picture of those who take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings (God’s temple) feasting on the abundance of His house and He in return giving them drink from the river of His delights (Psalm 36:5-9). That’s the type of give and take offered in worship to God in His temple. King David before the temple was first built was moved to build a place for God to reside for he desired to give the thing he loved the most, and that loved him the most, a place where they could meet together as one. He felt convicted that he had a home; a place to live and meet with friends and family, and so did many others with great riches in them, yet God didn’t have a home or not nearly as much dedicated to Him. Who/what has a home in your heart that prevents God from dwelling with you in that place in your heart? God desires a worshipful love with you! We, in the deepest realms of our hearts desire a worshipful love with God. Will you choose to more fully turn your heart over to God today and seek to love Him more with all that you are and everything you have? Will you turn and choose to cultivate that love, that oneness with God? Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” Open your hearts more fully to God this day. Let Him come in and dwell within you, eat with you, in your whole self. As you grow with God in raya; and give to, and receive from Him ahava; may you drink deep of dod with Him, your Fountain of life!