Don’t Shoot the Messenger! (Jeremiah)

Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “It is the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.  Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will change His mind about the disaster that He has pronounced against you.  But as for me, here I am in your hands.  Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent Blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” Jeremiah 26:12-15

There is a saying that you hear frequently, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”  What it means is that whatever the messenger is delivering, it’s not his fault, it’s not his message.  If you don’t like the message, then go to its source and take it out on that source.

That was the way it was with Jeremiah.  Countless times he was treated as if HE were the author of his message and the reaction was usually anger, hostility, and even threats on his life.  Once he was beaten and put into stocks [20:2].  Although in the verses following today’s Old Testament Lesson Jeremiah does escape death, at the end of the chapter another prophet of the Lord, carrying the same message, was put to death by the king.  Later the king destroyed Jeremiah’s manuscript of prophecies [36:23] so that he had to start all over again.  Another time, he was thrown down into a cistern that fortunately was not filled with water, and was left there for some days [38:6].

It was enough to make Jeremiah want to get out of the business.  Even HE hated the message that he had to bring because it was one of such terrible destruction [20:14-15].  In fact, he pleaded with the Lord to release him.  Like Job, he despised the day that he was born [15:10; 20:17-18], yet He had the message to tell, and he had no other option.  He found himself unable to hold back the Word of the Lord [20:9].

With Jesus it was no different [Luke 13:31-35].  It’s difficult to believe that the Pharisees whom Jesus had already called “white-washed sepulchers” [Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44] would really be all that concerned about His safety.  Probably they were just trying to get Jesus out of circulation.

His reply was directly to the point.  He had His work to do and would not be side-tracked from it.  Does the idea of the third day have any significance in regard to His death and resurrection?  I’m not sure.  But you certainly find that the third day is really being accented here, and that Jesus would do profound work during that time.

Then He identifies the major problem that has faced God’s chosen People right from the beginning.  They continually have rebelled and would not listen to their God, in fact going so far as literally “shooting the messenger” – “killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to it!” is how Jesus put it.

It’s a dangerous game, both Jeremiah and Jesus remind their hearers.  Sure, you can do me in, Jeremiah says, “I am in your hands – do with me as seems good and right to you.”  But then he continues with the real issue that they must confront: “Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you bring innocent Blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Jesus comes from a slightly different angle, because He’s not just the messenger, He is God the Son – He carries His own message to this chosen and privileged People.  The Revised Standard Version puts it most starkly, “How often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, AND YOU WOULD NOT!“   Can you possibly understand the frustration and pit of sadness out of which that sentence erupts?  Later, in chapter 19, Jesus weeps as He crests the hill approaching Jerusalem.

But the tears come not simply because Jesus has been rejected, but because of what His People, so dearly beloved, will have to endure because they had spurned God’s Message. Jeremiah warns that “innocent Blood would be upon” upon God’s People – that’s the Old Testament way of saying that they would be guilty of murder and they would stand judged as murderers.  Jesus speaks of what that judgment would be: utter desolation.

In chapter 19, He becomes more specific: they would be crushed – “not one stone would be left upon another.”  The things they worked so hard to build would lay in utter shambles; the things they had trusted in to preserve their lives would fail them; the things they thought were obviously so solid and sure would abandon them.

Boy, talk about a heavy message!!  Spending time with these passages sure doesn’t put you into mood to go have a party this afternoon.  In fact, they are a bit frightening.  At the same time, they are necessary, because they speak of a reality which we must face, just as much as Israel and the Jews had to face.

The Psoriasis-Ltd III disk is ‘gently glided ‘ across the closed wet eyelid to melt a small amount of Psoriasis-Ltd III onto generic cialis the eyelid. A pill to be valuable to protect against free radical causing oxidative stress. levitra 40 mg They play the roles of New York City police detectives and there are many fun plots and situations in the story line which helps them to outshine themselves. After this comes the task of analyzing your tracking reports and understanding the most active members of your permission list. The point throughout all this is that what we do with God’s Word is not merely some game which we play, but that there is accountability which is demanded of us.  It won’t do to get sidetracked by the messenger, whether he be a Jeremiah or even Jesus Himself – the Word of God will command your attention, either right now as the warnings and promises are pronounced, or later, when you are called to account with what you have done with the message.

Remember that both of these passages are not addressed to those outside the People of God.  God isn’t dealing with unbelievers – these are the People who know Him, who profess that He is their God, who say that their worship revolves around Him as the Lord and Creator of the universe.  So the Lord stops us short of treating this subject as merely “for someone else, since it obviously doesn’t apply to us.”

No, the Lord comes back with unmistakable power: just what are WE doing with the message that He has sent us?  Paul [Philippians 3:17-4:1] makes us uncomfortable, because again, he describes people in the Church who are “enemies of the Cross of Christ; …  Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things” – their end is shambles, their god is their self-interest, their glory is what they should be ashamed of, and their minds play games based on empty worldly values – you know: one-upmanship, advantage, power, money, prestige, beauty and all the rest.

Okay.  We understand what Paul is saying.  So let’s see who he’s talking about.  Oh, this person is a good candidate – or how about that person!  Funny, though – the Lord doesn’t make us responsible for weeding out all the other people who should stand condemned by God.  Instead, the lessons ask YOU how YOU fit into this picture.

Just what do you do with the message of God – even the uncomfortable messages, the uncomfortable ones that God feels are necessary in order to warn and correct us?  Shooting the messenger – whether he be our neighbor, our spouse, our child, someone else in the church, or sometimes even a stranger – shooting the messenger will not change the message and will not relieve you of your responsibility to the Word of God.  And as the texts for today show, God regards this as a solemn and far-reaching responsibility.  The question that He unavoidably poses is “Are you listening – are you really listening to His message.”

Well, we can “shoot the messenger” – or we can come in humility before the Lord, hearing His warnings, His judgments, His concern, even His anger.  Jeremiah identified the pivot for all this: “Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you.”

It probably is true that we aren’t as far off the deep end as Israel was – after all, it’s been a long time since we’ve stoned someone to death – at least, I don’t recall any in my lifetime.  But that’s really not what Jeremiah and Jesus are most concerned about – they confront us with how we react to God’s Word even when it promises to be unpleasant for us.  And we discover that we share the same heritage of rebellion and rejection that Israel had.

And then we “shoot the messenger” – the “silent treatment” for the spouse, or the anger when in innocence your child points out something uncomfortable but valid about you.  How about the little games we can play in terms of gossip when someone identifies something that you don’t want to hear?  Really, when you think about it, it is quite easy to “shoot the messenger” in a large variety of ways.

True, sometimes the messenger doesn’t speak the Word of God – we’re not talking about those instances, although I’m not sure that the Lord would approve of “shooting” him anyway…. Yet there are also times when the messenger isn’t very eloquent and the message may be bit garbled, sometimes he’s the quiet chap in the back seat or the person you never liked anyway – but the Word IS from the Lord.  It means that sometimes we have to listen more carefully than we might at first assume, and consult the Lord until we discover what HE is saying.

However it is good to also have Paul’s Epistle [Philippians 3:17-4:1] as part of the picture. He reminds us of a few essential points: first of all, we ARE members of God’s People.  It means that all the forgiveness and help of God are right at our fingertips.  It’s not something foreign to us, but rather we have experienced it and rejoice in it.  It is the reminder that although God must warn and even discipline us, HE has not rejected US, and as even Jeremiah pointed out, He is ready to reverse His whole course of action as we repent and seek His way.

This is where the Cross of Lent comes in, because there we see the heart of God and His intentions for us clearly displayed. This is how far HE will go in reversing the judgment that we deserve.  And then in Holy Communion the message is without mistake: despite how hard a time we have given Him and even His messengers, He will never miss the opportunity to be here in Person and give of Himself totally to you and me.  And really when you think of it, isn’t this attitude of God always what surrounds every message He gives to us?  There is His forgiveness, His help, His presence, His love, His very being wrapped up in His every approach to us.

Still, it’s not always easy to hear the Word of the Lord.  It’s very easy to “shoot the messenger.”  Yet, nevertheless it is the Lord speaking to us, the same Lord Who we find on the Cross and in Holy Communion, the same Lord Who backs up His message with His forgiveness and help and presence.  So, as we approach the Cross this Lent, let’s listen a little more closely to the message and discover the Lord Who stands behind it.

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