John T. Willis

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Teacher on the Ice and the Migration of Birds--Jeremiah 7:27-8:17

After Jeremiah's sermon at the temple about the temple in Jeremiah 7:1-26, Yahweh turns to Jeremiah and tells Jeremiah to announce to the people of God in Judah that Yahweh is about to punish his sinful people in Jeremiah 7:27-8:17. This falls into four pericopes or paragraphs.

I. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to announce to the people of Yahweh that Yahweh is about to punish them because of their sins. Jeremiah 7:27-8:3.
a. "YOU" in Jeremiah 7:27 and 28 is singular [thus Jeremiah] and "them" is the people of God in Judah. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to speak to the people of God, but they will not listen. So, Yahweh tells Jeremiah to tell these people that they are to cut off their hair and lament, because Yahweh is about to punish them. 7:27-29.
b. Jeremiah proclaims Yahweh's message in Jeremiah 7:30-8:3. Yahweh explains to his people that they have committed serious evils or sins: they worship foreign gods on the high places in Judah, and they burn their sons and daughters by fire as sacrifices. Therefore, Yahweh will punish such sinful people. 7:30-34.
c. Yahweh will spread the bones of the princes [kings, officials], priests, prophets, and people of Judah before the sun as punishment. 8:1-3.

II. The primary sin of the people of Judah is "unnatural response to God's love." Jeremiah 8:4-7. Yahweh through Jeremiah uses two illustrations or figures to communicate this truth.
a. In West Texas, we often have ice storms during the winter. I can remember a time when I was trying to get to my office walking on the ice, and I fell. Immediately I looked around to see if anyone saw what happened. Then I felt around to see if I broke any bones. Then I gingerly got up. Then I gathered up my scattered books. Then I tried to move on to my office without falling. WHY did I do this? ANYONE WOULD DO THE SAME THING--except God's people. Jeremiah 8:4-6. "When people fall, do they not get up again?" [Of course they do]. "WHY THEN has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?"
b. In the spring and in the fall, many birds migrate through West Texas. We enjoy watching the geese, the yellow-headed blackbirds, and many others to migrate. All migratory birds "instinctly" or "naturally" migrate. "BUT MY PEOPLE do not know the ordinance of the Lord." Jeremiah 8:7.

III. Yahweh condemns the wise, the priest, and the prophet in God's people because they are FALSE. Jeremiah 8:8-13.
a. Yahweh now specifically turns to rebuke "the wise"--scribes whose responsibility to teach and explain God's law, God's word. But they are "false." Therefore, Yahweh will punish them. 8:8-10a.
b. The problem is a heart problem--GREED. The wise, the priest, and the prophet "is greedy of unjust gain." MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Wealth--this is a basic human problem--including the people of God. Yahweh will punish everyone who is greedy. 8:10b-12.
c. Yahweh wanted to gather his faithful people, but he finds no grapes or figs, so he will punish them. [Recall the same metaphor in Jeremiah 5:1; 6:9]. 8:13.

IV. God's people respond to Yahweh's message and confess their sins, and Yahweh declares he will indeed punish them. Jeremiah 8:14-17.
a. The plural words "we" and "our" and "us" indicate that NOW the speakers are the people of Judah to whom Yahweh had previously been addressing them in 7:27-8:13. They themselves admit: "We have sinned against the Lord." 8:14-15.
b. Yahweh vividly describes the invading enemies, the Babylonians. The Judeans can hear the snorting of the horses in the north at Dan, the neighing of their stallions. Yahweh is about to let snakes loose among the people to destroy them. 8:16-17.

When God's people gradually develop into a sinful habit of life, God's only option is to punish his people in the hope of saving a remnant eventually. This is essentially the message of this text.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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