Jeremiah was a man with a mission. And what a mission. God appointed him a prophet and messenger to Israel and promised him that everyone would reject his words. He wasn’t too happy about it at the beginning (surprise), “Ah, Lord, I don’t know how to speak, I am too young, etc”. In the same way Moses tried to dodge God's calling when he asked him to go talk to Pharaoh, Jeremiah was basically asking, "Pick someone else, please." Then, just like Moses, he got over it. 

Jeremiah was talking to a wall. A big, hard, bullet-proof wall. Israel had been livin' la vida loca and ignoring God's commands for a while now. No wonder they would reject Jeremiah who would be speaking the very words they could not stand. They’d also want him dead a few times. God's personal message to Jeremiah that though he'd be attacked, he wouldn't be overcome, that God would always be with him and protect his life – how long it took him to believe and trust that word I don’t know, but surely it was enough to keep him going (for 52 chapters +5) even in times of utter despair, fear and heartbreak. 

Jeremiah was a sensitive man. He loved his God and his people; it must have been really hard for him to tell folk those harsh truths God commanded him to. Imagine God asking you to stand outside your unbelieving family's or friend's house. As they come home after a long day at the office you welcome them at the door, shout all sorts of mean things right to their faces (words like "sinner", "idolater", might be overheard). That’s pretty much what Jeremiah was commanded to do on a daily basis. More or less.

As I said, it must’ve been hard and heart-breaking for this man of God, perhaps even more so as his message was not just rejected - it was misunderstood. His purpose was not to guilt-trip people but rather to call people to repent, change their ways, go back to a God who cares about them. Basically “he meant well” but people didn’t give a fluff. 

This may all sound crazy. God can sometimes call us to do crazy things, and that’s OK. But for me, what strikes me most as I read Jeremiah is not so much the stuff he did for God but the relationship between him and God and the things they had in common. I believe God and Jeremiah were on the same wave-length. Both had love in their hearts, and both their hearts got broken.

After taking the trouble to deliver his people from slavery, including splitting of the Red Sea and other special effects, God had to put up with this very annoying bunch of people who were constantly forgetting what he had done for them and who kept returning to their old gods and idols. They did it for centuries, and are still doing it to this day.

I read chapter 7 this morning and was struck by a few things.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:

            Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place… (v. 1-3)

Nice, friendly introduction. God calls his people to repent and promises he will forgive and bless them. Notice what follows though:

          If you do not [-do this and that-] and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place… (v. 4 -7)

I stopped there for a moment. “To your own harm”. What is that? Is that a threat? Is “to your own harm” the ancient, big voice-of-God-thundering-from-heaven version of “OR ELSE”? I thought about it for a minute, read on and realised one thing. It seems to me as if God isn’t just saying to the people that it's "bad "to not worship him and to do all those disgusting idolatrous things, he is warning them: “You are harming yourself more than anything else”. Worshipping anything or anyone other than God will lead to harm, a lot of pain, and ultimately, I suppose, death. ‘Cos no God, no life. (Bob Marley totally got it wrong)

I believe the Israelites were fully responsible for their sinful conduct and knew they were not walking in accordance with God's commands.  In case they thought their behaviour were being unnoticed, God FYI’s them: But I have been watching! (read: I've seen and am disapproving of all of it) v. 11)...

… but perhaps they weren’t fully aware of how much harm they were doing to themselves. I’ve seen that in my own life. I know when I do something sinful and forsake one of God’s commands, but I don’t always realise the consequence of my actions in the long term. It doesn’t always sink in that those little sins aren’t just sins of now, but if I am not careful they will lead to other ones (often bigger ones), to sins of later. When I sin, I’m doing it to God, but I’m also doing it to me and, to a certain extent, to others around me.

When God repeats himself, it’s always worth listening. Again:

They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the LORD. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame? (v. 18-19)

Their idolatrous worship is not only "to their own harm", it is now and also "to their own shame".

Ah, shame. I seriously hate shame. Shame is one of the most destructive things. Shame makes people feel embarrassed and insecure. Shame makes people feel worthless, ugly, stupid and commit suicide/become anorexic/hide in a room and watch porn/turn to drugs/sleep around/leave church/feel depressed/name it.

The gospel hates shame. Jesus hates shame. Jesus draws a line in the sand and says to Shame she can get lost. Shame is what sin brings upon us. And I believe the people of Israel had lost sight of that.

God reminds them through Jeremiah:

          …when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. (v 22-23)

My heart breaks every time I read those words.

Can you hear God’s heart? “You didn’t get it, my love. It wasn’t all about the to-do’s list. Of course you’d get bored of it if it was all about that. It was about us. I was showing you my heart. I promised I’d be YOUR God and you MY people. I promised I’d remove all the shame and all the past hurt, and take care of your future, of everything. We’d belong together.”

[deep breath]

So. Next time you and I feel like sinning deliberately, let us try and remember how much God wants us to live a shame-free life. Let us remember that one little sin will lead to a bigger one, and it will break us (in a bad way) and harm us more than we know. Above all, let us remember God’s love and his assured forgiveness for those who repent. And when we do repent, let us repent and be made strong in the same power that God used to raise Christ from the dead. Let us tell shame, sin and Satan to go and get lost.

Have you drawn a line in the sand today?

Lord, give us and show us your heart. Amen.

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