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Notes & Transcripts

Sermon on Jeremiah 31

Outline

Intro:  Modus Operandi: Holiness and Chesed

1.      Safety in the wilderness

2.     Virgin Rebirth of the Prostitute

3.     Two Pictures of New Life

4.     We have Personal New Life due to God’s MO

Conclusion:  Do.  Live.  Love.

Congregation,

          Every once and a while I catch one of the cop shows on TV.  I like the one called criminal minds which shows the Federal agents trying to find a killer by getting inside their head.  They talk about the killers MO.  The modus operandi.  The mode of operation to discover how the killer is feeling, what they might do next and how they should react to get the killer. 

          MO’s are not always bad.  Companies and people have certain MO’s.  It really means that Mode of Operation.  What is this person going to do.  How are they going to behave.  That’s the MO.

          God has an MO.  He has a modus operandi  (SLIDE)

This evening we are going to look from another one of the prophets that might serve us as a kind of counter-balance to the message we heard this morning about the wild nature of God’s holinesses.   His Pure holiness is part of his modus operandi. (slide)

          God is wild and untamed, but even in the Old Testament he showed that loving kindness (slide) is modus operandi of this God.  The MO.  The way our God operates is that he is pure holiness that shows pure and holy loving kindness to his people.

          Hosea 5 warned that God would punish Israel for their unfaithfulness and unholiness, but not simply because of his raw holiness.  The punishment for Israel is to purify them.  Their time in exile purifies them for a return to God and a return to the land.  As Hosea 5 emphasizes the holiness of God, Jeremiah 31 reminds us of the persistent loving kindness and faithfulness of God. 

          The first section of Jeremiah 31 is in verses 1-6.The Lord will replant Israel. It says, Jeremiah 31:1-6 (NIV)
1 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people.” 2 This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel.” 3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. 4 I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful. 5 Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. 6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’”

[1]

          Jeremiah 31 is the prophecy that will reassure the people of Israel.  The need reassurance because they see the lion is ready to pounce.  God is using the enemy nations to punish them.  And this offers great hope for them.  They may be taken from their homeland, but not for long.  They will be replanted in the promised land. 

          To start off this chapter we hear about the way the people of Israel will be given Safety in the Wilderness (slide)  Particularly in verse 2 (slide) we have the line that says the ones who survive the sword will be kept safe in the wilderness.

          That was true during the time of the exodus SLIDE.  The Israelites were spared from the  sword of the Egyptians and were given safety in the wilderness. 

          But again in Revelation 12 John writes his vision of the woman who is about to give birth.  But as she is in the midst of the birth pangs, the dragon, the devil comes and is ready to eat up the little child.  The child is caught up to heaven and the women is given protection in the wilderness. Revelation 12:5-6 (NIV)
5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
[2]

          Throughout scripture this wilderness has been a place of safety and preparation for God’s people.  I think also of Elijah as well(SLIDE) when Jezebel was trying to have him killed after he killed hundreds of the prophets of Baal when they had the show down of the gods on the mountain and God won.  Elijah goes off to the wilderness is fed by an angel and given a new commissioning in the wilderness. 

          The wilderness is dry and desolate compared to the promised land.  But when the promised land doesn’t look so promising, the wilderness becomes the places to preparation and advancement.

          So true in our lives as well.  God sends the desolate times.  He sends the challenges.  We might live in the promised land for a good long time and thrive and prosper.  But when he sends us into the wildernesses of life, it is so he can sustain us in a new way.  Its so he can prepare us for new routes of life and ministry that perhaps we never dreamed of.

          And I say this is a counterbalance to what we heard from Hosea 5 this morning.  Remember the accusation that God lays against the people of Israel is that their hearts have been prostituting with other gods. (SLIDE)  Well, look back at verse Jeremiah prophesies that it will be Virgin Israel that returns. (SLIDE) He says it in verse 4 Jeremiah 31:4 (NIV)
4 I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.
[3] 

  (SLIDE)  And verse 21 Jeremiah 31:21 (NIV)
21 “Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, O Virgin Israel, return to your towns.
[4]

          Well that is completely impossible isn’t it.  Israel goes into exile a prostitute and returns as a virgin.  How exactly is that possible?  You can’t become a virgin a second time.  That is completely impossible.  Either you have had sex or you have not. And once you have there is no going back to being a person that has never had sex before.  And it doesn’t make any sense for a prostitute, a sex trade worker, to say that they have become a virgin again.  It is impossible.  Well the only way that would be possible would be if you could somehow start your whole life over again.  Starting from scratch.  Go back into your mothers womb and be born again.  The only way to go from prostitute to virgin is by being born again.

          Hmmm.  Now that question sounds a lot like the same sort of issue that had Nicodemus mystified when talked with Jesus like we hear in John chapter 3.   (SLIDE) Born again is an issue of the heart.  Being a virgin or a prostitute before God is matter of the heart as well.  Israel is destroyed because they have lost there way.  They don’t look after their poor.  They give their offerings, but not with any heartfelt sincerity.  They need to be born again through their time in exile. 

          We also take on new life through Christ and rebirth.

          Two interesting terms for new life are used in the first part of this passage as well.  (SLIDE)  The first  word is Build in verse 4. (SLIDE) 4 I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.   

Israel is told they will be built.  That word is more than just for structures and cities being put up.  It is a term that means family prosperity.  Back in the story of Ruth, part of the blessing that was given upon Boaz is that she would be built up in the same way Leah and Rachel were built up in bearing many sons. 

(SLIDE)  Ruth 4:11  11 Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.

 

Being built up is less about structures and more about the life within them.  New life is coming to Israel.

          The other term comes over and over in verse 5.  Plant.  (SLIDE)  That is what the promised land was supposed to be all about.  Planting of the vineyards.  Life in the promised land was supposed to be fruitful, but not just with grapes and the barely harvest but with the fruit of obedience to God.  Completely that way.

          And why does God give this second chance?  All of this is showing us how we can experience the loving kindess part of the nature of God.  (SLIDE) New life for us is completely due to God’s MO.  His modus operandi is chesed, loving kindness

Remember what it says in verse 3. (SLIDE)  “Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
[5]  Everlasting love.  Chesed.  Maybe you remember me spitting out that word a couple of weeks ago. Chesed.  God is full of loving kindness and he did all this for Israel because he will not give up on them.  He does give second chances.

          Israel experienced this only in a communal way.  But like we hear in the last part of Jeremiah 31 we live in the time of the new covenant where we will not bear on ourselves the curse of our fathers.  And in the New covenant this love is for you!(SLIDE)  Sour grapes will not set the childrens teeth on edge.  We don’t have to wait for generations to experience the loving kindness of God.  We experience the loving kindness of new birth, or new virginity, of new planting immediately in ourselves as we commit our lives to God in this new covenant. 

          This has implications for the whole community of faith.  It has implications for whole generations who follow you if you have given yourself over to God for rebirth.  But in the new covenant it is much more about the new life that you are given now in Jesus Christ.

          Congregation, we are new creations.  The old has gone.  The new has come.  Take up this new life confident that God is full of loving kindness through Jesus Christ.


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[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[3]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[5]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

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