The Expository Files

 

 Preaching In Jeremiah 7

Jeremiah 7



Someone said: "It was Jeremiah's lot to prophesy at a time when all things in Judah were rushing down to the final and mournful catastrophe; when political excitement was at its height; when the worst passions swayed the various parities, and the most fatal counsels prevailed . . . to see his own people, whom he loved, plunge over the precipice into the wide weltering ruin of sin..."

Here's part of his message, Jeremiah 7:1-11.

1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 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 of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!'" 3Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: "Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4Do not trust in these lying words, saying, 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.'
5"For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
8"Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'? 11Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the Lord.


This passage can supply good instruction concerning what kind of preaching God desires. We could inquire, what is the preaching men want. And we could easily supply all the popular answers. But here is our interests: What Is The Preaching God Wants?

1. Telling People To Listen To God.

Verse 2: "Stand at the gate of the Lord's house, and there proclaim this message: 'Hear the word of the Lord...'." Good preaching calls upon people to listen to God. In Biblical preaching, the preacher is not the center of attention. The idea is not to get people to listen to a man, and believe what a man says, because of their regard for the man.

The point of biblical preaching is about listening the God; hearing His Word. In the charge God gave to Jeremiah back in 1:17 - God said, "speak to them all that I command you!"

Likewise, when you learn what preaching is from the New Testament - same thing; telling people to listen to God. Peter stood up one time and said: "We ought to obey God rather than man," (Acts 5:29). Philip the evangelist, preached from the text of Scripture, according to Acts 8:26-30. Apollos was a man with a great mind and eloquent speech, but the power of his message was he reasoned from the Scriptures (Acts 18:28). And I'm sure you know what Paul said to Timothy, in 2 Tim. 4:2 - these three words define biblical preaching: "Preach the Word."

The preaching God desires means telling people to listen to God. The man delivering the message must be willing to be secondary to the whole process; to find his place in the background. Preaching that doesn't call upon people to listen to God may be entertaining; may be eloquent; may compete with professional public speakers, and you may enjoy it. But it is weak and empty if it doesn't call upon people to listen to God, and present the truth from the text of Scripture. Jeremiah was to say, "Hear the word of the Lord."

2. He Was To Tell People To Change.

Verse 3: "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions..."

A preacher may give people the right information but his work is incomplete if he doesn't call for the people to change; to give up their wrong ways, and commit to righteousness (repentance). You tell people what God has said. Then, you charge people to accept it and act on it! Reform your ways and your actions!

Preachers must master some technique of challenging their listeners - to apply what God's Word says. There is nothing as boring as a cold, academic, information machine. You must feel the importance of the message, convey that to the audience, and do your best to awaken in them, the desire, the motivation to act on the message. Dee Bowman said: "Information is good. Acting on good information is better."

3. God Expects Preachers To Tell People, There Are False Teachers.

4Do not trust in these lying words, saying, 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.'
5"For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
8"Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know...," (Jer. 7:4-8).

Jeremiah's duty was to tell people the truth, and that meant, telling them the truth about liars, about false prophets. This was a huge problem in Judah. There were men who claimed to be men of God . . . who posed as spiritual leaders - but they were telling lies. And their message was popular; they were, in many cases, telling people just what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah's duty was to tell the truth, and that meant, telling the truth about men who were not telling the truth.

There is a spirit of indifference to truth, causing some people to say to preachers: Just preach Christ, and leave other religions alone. Yes, there are preacher and churches and whole systems of religious error. Just ignore it and don't stir anything up. That sounds sweet and accommodative, but it is compromise.

Let me illustrate the fallacy of this. Parents - do you want your children in a math class, where the teacher doesn't correct mistakes? Sick people - do you want a Dr. who will talk to you about good health, but never identify the dangers and diseases that threaten good health? Investors - do you want a financial consultant who will not identify the wrong investments that threaten to drain you of your resources?

Likewise, we need preaching and teaching that will identify the fact of error and it may be necessary to identify specific systems of error and the advocates. When Jesus came, the principal religion of Palestine was a human religion, a false religion - Judaism, as enforced by the traditions of men, and advanced by the corrupt Scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus spoke directly against that system - exposed the error point by point, and denounced the men who advanced it ~ you can read about this in Matthew 23. Why didn't Jesus just leave them alone . . . why was He so bold to expose the error? Because people were being deceived by liars. You can be lost by deception and error.

Jesus told His disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount - and this applies to us today: Beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15). Jesus said, in Matt. 15, false teachers were transgressing God's law, to uphold their own agenda. The truth should be proclaimed in such a way - the light of truth exposes the darkness. And when people are being deceived, it is for their eternal good, to tell them they are being deceived.

R. L. Whiteside wrote this, in one of the first books I read as a young preacher:

"If you become a little squeamish about
denouncing false teachers, READ JEREMIAH.
If you begin to wonder if it is necessary to
teach the Word of God, as it is written, READ
JEREMIAH. If you think people are so
hardened in sin that they hate you for preaching
the Word, READ JEREMIAH."

In preaching the truth, there should be no effort to tone down the difference between truth and error. (See 2 Tim. 4:1-5).

4. God Wants Preachers Of The Gospel To Tell People How To Live.

5"For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
8"Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'? 11Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the Lord.

The whole point, in presenting the Word of God is - to change lives as indicated earlier. The work is, to give people the instruction, the motivation, the information from the highest source, about how to live right! Now once we use the Word to lead people to see their sin, and their need to change - what then?

I tell young preachers - stop from time to time and reflect on the people in your audience. Husbands and fathers, trying to work out how to earn a living, and spend good time with their family - without conflict. Mothers, who encounter the daily hard work of caring for and raising children. Single people who are contemplating marriage. It could be - married people who are tempted to divorce. Teenagers who need help resisting the pressures they face daily. Then, School teachers, business men, retired people . . . every age group; people undergoing a variety of trials and pressures.

Now, what do all these people need? They need to know what the Word of God says about how to live in this world!! And they need to know it urgently. . . simply put . . . with appropriate motivation and balance. People need the simple truth from God's Word. Do not oppress. Stealing, murder and adultery will hurt you. You cannot walk after other gods. You have to treat people right. God is worthy of our reverence, and Christ should be honored by our daily behavior. (See Titus 2:1-3:2).

Preaching that doesn't show people what the Word of God says about daily living misses the mark and leaves people cold, and perhaps - lost.

So Jeremiah had this great work to do, under very depressing conditions; an unpleasant task. But in the end, he was able to take confidence that he did what was right. Preachers today should be held to these standards, and part of the responsibility lies with elders and people in the pew - - to be certain the Word is being delivered.
 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 14.10; October 2007

 

 

 

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