March 17, 2019
Pastor John Hering
8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the Lord and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”
12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
You’re just sitting around the table at Bible on Tap in the front yard of Intrinsic Smokehouse in downtown Garland and can’t believe your eyes! The guy ran out of the bank and flipped the pillowcase of money over his shoulder and took off running down the street. His black clothes let him blend into the shadows as he made his way East toward the warehouses and auto businesses along 1st Street. Once in between the buildings the young man quickly wove his way to his carefully chosen getaway spot—an old abandon basement or den under a shed. There he could lay low for a while. Once inside the basement he pulled out a small light and was startled to see that he wasn’t alone! There was another person in the den! “Oh no!” he thought, “I’m going to be discovered!” But, then he did a double take looking at the other person in the basement and turns out he was a robber, too, with black clothes, his own sake of money and looking just as surprised as he was. And since the two of them were both robbers trying to hide, the two introduced themselves, got to know each other and became friends. And you know what I’ve just described to you…. A den of thieves!!
The phrase “den of thieves” is a biblical term. It is first used in Jeremiah 7
“9‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.”
A den of robbers is not a jail cell, but just the opposite. A den of robbers is a safe place, a home, for thieves. Like sitting in a basement looking across to the other side and seeing a robber just like you and thinking, “This other guy’s a thief too, so I’m safe!”
Jeremiah was given the job of walking into such a den with a message of judgment from God. What might surprise you is that this den of sinners wasn’t a small group of thieves—it was the whole City of Jerusalem! And his message wasn’t just about stealing, but also about oppression of the poor, the fatherless, the widows, the disobedient, murderers, adulterers, the lying and the highly offensive worship of Baal! And just like Jeremiah entered that city, he could enter into our lives and mention any commandment and nail us with the judgment of God! Yes, our sinful nature must hear God’s threat of punishment so our hearts will rejoice of his promise that all who trust in the Lord will
Rest In God’s Strong Hands
Strengthening Us For Sentencing
Now, let’s see if we’ve got this right. God knows about a city full of criminals and is looking for someone to face them. There is such a long list of dens in our society today it would be easy to find one. There’s the den of drunkenness, the den for sexual immorality, the den for unwanted children, a den for #me-first greed and #me-too aggression. For you young people—has your dating become a den? Or alcohol abuse? Or a den of verbal abuse? A den of anger? A den for spiritual laziness? There are even dens at church! The den of gossip. The den of jealousy. The den of unkind words. How do I know all these dens are there? Because I’ve sat in those dens and you’ve sat across from me! Holding up God’s law as a mirror exposes our sinful thoughts, words and deeds. While we don’t like to be reminded of how sinful we really are, it is necessary to face God’s holiness in order that he might strengthen us for sentencing in his courtroom. Or you might be tempted to react as they did to Jeremiah:
“8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?”
Ironic! To enter into the den of sinners like Jeremiah may mean sharing his sentence. It’s not the robbers who are sentenced in this lesson. The den had the majority and they wanted Jeremiah dead for what he said. Therefore the focus of this Word of God is on how God strengthened Jeremiah to deal with the dens around him! Think about what Jeremiah is representing when he tells the people,
“12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard.”
Jeremiah was not there of his own volition, but he was there representing God. He merely told them what God’s Word said. Those in the den acted as if they could get rid of their problem by getting rid of Jeremiah. But it wasn’t true. Their problem was not with Jeremiah, but with God. Jeremiah knew that he was resting in the strong hands of God and either the people would repent and there would be peace, or they would kill him, and he would be perfect….. in heaven.
Now, imagine if Jeremiah went into the den with his own words! What would it sound like? What would you say in a den of robbers if you didn’t know what God said about sin? Would you give them the world’s advice? Such as……
- Karma? “You know, you really shouldn’t steal, because what goes around comes around.”
- Fix it? “You better clean up your act if you want to get somewhere in life” or
- Make it right? “You better return what you stole and apologize in order to make this right!”
- Excuse them? “If I were in your shoes, I would’ve done the same thing. Who can blame you?”
These all sound good, but they are human solutions that neither fix it, or help the person in the long run. Here is God’s Word to people—and it’s so different! “I the Lord your God am a serious God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the 3rd and 4th generation of those who hate me, but promising grace and every blessing to those who love me and keep my commandments.” God announces his judgment over unrepentant people and he also announces his grace to those who repent and trust in Jesus for their forgiveness. So, Jeremiah said,
“Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you.”
That’s it. Jeremiah was Resting In God’s Strong Hands because he knew the Word he was proclaiming gave him the strength he needed, both for himself and the people to whom he was preaching. He knew God’s Word of law and gospel, of repentance and forgiveness would be the strength he needed for all who stand before God for sentencing. And with this confidence, he was
Prepared for Life’s Dens
In our Gospel for today, Jesus looks out upon Jerusalem, not eager to destroy it as it deserved, but expressing his longing to do what? “
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,”
Why? Because they were lost chicks. And. Jesus is the true Hen! (There’s a name for God we don’t often use!). Jesus looked at a City that he knew was about to turn on him to the point of nailing him to the cross. However, he was not to be intimidated because he was prepared to walk into that den of sinners with the mission of saving them from the punishment of all their sins. Jesus is the true Hen with Wings of true forgiveness, love, safety and peace for a den of sinners. The robbers in our illustration were surprised upon seeing each other in their den. Can you wrap your heads around the love Jesus had to walk into the den of the world full of sinners—of us! To take upon himself our punishment, our suffering, our eternal death in hell by having his “wings” no, his arms and hands nailed to the cross! Jesus has prepared us to live eternally in the den’s, no the mansions, of our Father in heaven with his precious word—forgiven!
Let us never forget this as we think about the “dens” of our life! Let us never forget how important it is for us to be here in this den of God’s people to hear his Word and receive his holy Sacrament. Let us make our homes a den of God’s people where God gives us strength to share life’s hardships, struggles, temptations, and forgive and deal with the consequences with God’s Word and forgiveness. This is the strength in Jesus God have given to you so we can deal with our dens of life.
Be aware that Satan doesn’t want peace your dens of life! Just like in Jeremiah’s day, the people we see and meet will often reject God’s Word.
“11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”
Sounds so modern, doesn’t it? They tell Jeremiah it’s his own interpretation, when it says it so clearly in Scripture! Paul explains it,
“many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things”
Their motto for life was not to listen and believe God’s Word, but sadly to listen to and believe their own words.
Two robbers sitting in a basement might shake hands, support each other, and have a moment of friendship, but it doesn’t mean they’re not in trouble. A den of robbers is certainly in trouble and they’ll find out how much trouble they’re in when someone finds them. God used Jeremiah to find his lost people in their den. They were greatly blessed to have the Lord God and Jeremiah love them enough to seek and to save them.
“As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
Death brought no worry or fear to Jeremiah. He was safe as he rested in God’s strong hands. The people of Jerusalem were the ones in danger of murdering an innocent prophet.
We know there has been a long line of prophets that entered the den of sinners and never made it out alive. Today there are Christians being persecuted, yes, even put to death for proclaiming the love of Jesus. Our Strength is in the hands of our gracious God. And that makes us all drawn to other people and their eternal well-being. God’s Word strengthens us for sentencing and prepare us to deal with the dens around us. Amen.