Jeremiah 23:16-29: Live in the Truth

Yoke2Still in the insecurity of your childhood, running through the house.  Crash!  A prized piece of your mother’s fine porcelain lay broken on the floor.  A few moments later, words are flying from your mouth on how you didn’t break your mom’s china.

The contrived deception now spins its web around you, in your mind and your bones.  For if you let the truth slip out, you will expose the invented fiction of your making.  Oh, this soon becomes unbearable, living a lie for months on end.  One day, juggling every contrived story in midair will become impossible.

How foolish to try to pass off what is phony as something real, but still, we try.  And we aren’t only deceiving others, for we also are swept up in our deceit.  Like the naked king in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” everyone is caught up in not wanting to be the fool.  So no one admits the king parades, naked in the street.  Later, a child, not understanding the subtleties of this pretense, cries out the king is naked.

Sometimes, the real surprises you more than the lie.  A young king, Josiah, purged the Jerusalem Temple of its idols.  The people are safe, but soon he dies battling against the Egyptians.  So, meet the new boss, but he’s not the same as the old boss.  The Egyptian King deposes Josiah’s son and installs a puppet ruler, more to his liking.  How can this happen to us—we are God’s people?

The people set their trust in what God put in place—but in a confused way!  In the sacred Temple, through the sacrifices God commanded, He forgave the people of their sins.  So far, all is well, but the people veered on to the wrong path.  How?  By taking comfort in the building itself, not in the promises of the Almighty.

Somehow, Israel turned God’s Temple into a good-luck charm.  For they located their trust in the structure—the stone and mortar, not in the forgiveness God delivered at His Holy House.  The House of God itself will save us, they thought!  The elixir of this deluded assurance lulled many to sleep.  Some so-called prophets confirmed the fiction, adding credibility to the misguided propaganda.

So, God announces he didn’t send those bringers of false comfort.  No, He sent Jeremiah, whom the people didn’t like.  The weeping prophet pushed all the lies aside: The Lord’s Temple itself will not save Jerusalem.

Oh, those stupid people, for we aren’t gullible like them.  Well, what about the lie sweeping up so many in our culture?  No one can discern the absolute truth, for everything is relative.  Oh, everyone interprets the Bible, each as he likes.  Do you think God intends us to do as we like with His words?

How appealing to do what we want with God, empowered to manipulate His truth.  So what if my conscience bothers me!  The real problem isn’t failing to walk in some unknowable truth.  No, my guilty feelings are from poor self-esteem!  So, we shrink God to reflect ourselves.  No matter how you spin what you are doing, this is idolatry.

The truth catches up with us, for we can’t forever pass the counterfeit as real.  Listen to Jesus: “The Devil is a murderer from the start and does not stand for truth because no truth is in him” (John 8:44).  The combining of “murderer” and “truth” is no accident.

In everyday life, what is true or not affects you.  For whether a gun is loaded or not matters—to you and the thief in your house.  Did the auto repairman fix the brakes or only say he did?  Hmm, no one wants to drive down Joe Bald with a car you can’t stop!

Long ago, the Lord gave His people a dose of reality therapy, through Jeremiah and what he said and did.  To reveal the ruin soon coming, Jeremiah destroyed a linen belt.  To show how God would smash the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, He shattered a clay jar.  The prophet wore a yoke as he walked around the city, picturing the Southern Kingdom in bondage to Babylon.

So what happened?  The people preferred to believe the lies and chose to hate the truth.  So, they did what people do with the messenger.  Rid yourself of him, which is what they did, putting Jeremiah on trial for his life.

So also, in time’s fullness, Jesus went to trial, also for the same reason.  For we prefer the lie over truth if the lie feeds our desires.  Still, reality will snag us all in the end.  No, we cannot delude everyone in a deception forever.

The solution is Jesus.  For He grants us an incredible truth in which to live, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  Yes, the Son opens the entrance for full access to the heavenly Father.  Not only did Christ come to tell us what is true, but to bring the most important truth of all into the world—Himself, the Truth embodied.

The Christian faith isn’t about something but is something—Jesus isn’t about the truth but is the truth.  The God in human form didn’t only talk about the cross, He suffered and experienced the way of death.  Yes, Jesus liberates us, which means He isn’t about forgiveness but does forgive us.  In Christ, the Father redeems you and calls you by name.

“In Christ, God reconciled the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  This means you!  For when still an enemy, God reunited you to Himself through the death of His Son.  Now, if Jesus’ death can do such deeds, how much more will God rescue you by His life?  So, rejoice!  In God, through your Lord Jesus, you are restored, once more (Romans 5:10-11).

Not about but is.  The information contained in the “about” doesn’t save you, but the “is” of Christ Jesus does.  The “is” brings you Christ and His saving work, here and now.  The “about” only tells you what he did and does.  Mere information doesn’t redeem you.  Only the reality of Jesus does, which is why we can celebrate.  In the realness of Christ, our lying and dishonesty can end.  No longer need we hide from the truth because, in Jesus, the truth is on our side.

A Christian lived long ago, noted for his self-control.  To test him, his friends decided to grill him with humiliating questions.  “Are you an adulterer?”  “Yes,” in my mind.  “Do you gossip and slander?”  Again, “yes.”  “Are you a heretic?”  “No,” his voice now becoming thunderous.  “Why did you put up with our questions?”  “To say what is, of what takes places within me, is only being truthful.  To deny the certainty of what our Father does for us in Christ Jesus, this I can never do.”

The Lord wants us to believe the gracious truth he gives.  The truth of a Savior who loves us and sacrifices Himself for us.  A risen Lord who lives and rules over all.  For as sure as He rose from the dead, our sins, once scarlet red, are now as clean as pure snow.  By the power of the Spirit, we believe this purifying truth.  Not “about” but “is,” for God delivers to us this truth in Christ and the faith to live in Him.

So also did God give to Jeremiah.  In the womb, He chose him as a prophet.  Later, God called him and put words His mouth to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  The call to become a prophet came as a gift from God, as did Jeremiah’s salvation.

To live in God’s truth also comes to us, as a gift.  How so?  The Lord tells us, “If you remain in my Word, you are my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Catch the final word—“free.”  The life God offers in Christ is free, not “easy.”  Consider Jeremiah.  This sinful world hurled many challenges his way, some fearsome and some life threatening.

Much more than we, perhaps, imagine, Jeremiah stood alone against the crowd.  To proclaim the truth, He spoke.  Often, he needed to say what people didn’t want to believe.  Some folks began to despise him.  Though Jeremiah became despondent, he never stopped speaking God’s Word.

So, when others spewed fire at him, he pointed them to the Word bound up in his bones.  Unable to contain God’s proclamation, the mighty Word broke free like a fire and hammer, which can destroy but also build and restore.  To dwell in the Lord’s truth is the only way to thrive, for only in Him do God’s mercy and power come to you.

Are you aware of the 18th-century pioneer who arrived at the Mississippi River in winter?  On the lip of the river, he can tell the ice covers the entire way.  What concerns him is the thickness of the ice.  The river bank is all right, but how stout is the ice in the swell of the deep?  So, he starts across.  Soon, he crouches down on his hand and knees, edging along, spying for the first sign of cracking ice.

Time passes, and his hands are freezing, and his knees begin to bleed.  Perhaps, this will take two or more hours!  The sound of horses now startles him.  The tremoring ice unsettles him, his heart pounding in his ears.  A man is driving a four-horse wagon full of coal, who roars across the river.  The driver crossed this way before, knowing the ice and its depth.  Fatigued and frustrated, he stands up and walks the rest of the way.

Stand on God’s truth in Christ.  Oh, you may think His truth will give way, but what Jesus provides is more substantial than you might think.  Live in God’s Truth.  With Jesus as your forgiveness, God is far more forgiving than your mind can fathom.  Lift your head, for your redemption comes.  Not about, but is.  Take, eat; this is my body.  Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Amen.

 

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