Encourage the Disheartened, Help the Weak, Be Patient With Everyone

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JEREMIAH 19:1-21:14 | 1 THESSALONIANS 5:4-28 | PSALM 82:1-8 | PROVERBS 25:9-10

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Jeremiah has the most unenviable job: to be a prophet of doom to his own people. 

He says to them:  15 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’” 

The people are not amused, and especially not the priest Passhur, who has Jeremiah arrested, beaten up, and thrown into prison. 

Well, that wasn’t a very good move, because the moment Jeremiah is out, he has more of that unsavory talk where that last batch came from!

He says to Passhur, these words that he claims are from the Lord himself:  I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’”

Is that sufficiently clear, Passhur?

But Jeremiah is weary of himself, and is tired of being looked down upon.  He complains to God in this way:

I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
8 Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the LORD has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.

He goes on to ask:

18 Why did I ever come out of the womb
to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?

But the die has been cast, and what has been uttered in prophecy will surely come to pass.  The kings of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzer, in particular, sweep through Jerusalem to pillage and plunder, and to take the people back as prisoners of war.  To the ones who are left remaining, this is what God tells them to do:

“‘Administer justice every morning;
rescue from the hand of the oppressor
the one who has been robbed,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done—
burn with no one to quench it.
13 I am against you, Jerusalem,
you who live above this valley
on the rocky plateau, declares the LORD—
you who say, “Who can come against us?
Who can enter our refuge?”
14 I will punish you as your deeds deserve,
declares the LORD.
I will kindle a fire in your forests
that will consume everything around you.’”

Turning next to our reading of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, we see Paul getting quite detailed in his exhortations on living the new Christian life. 

He tells them:   4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Paul is careful not to rush his final instructions.  He says to them:  acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

And as old-fashioned as this advice may seem, it is worthy of our attention.  Paul says:  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

Turning now to our Psalm of the day, we find another one by Asaph, the Psalmist, who is beseeching the Lord God Almighty to do the following:

3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Finally, a few words of advice from Solomon, the great king of Israel, who cautions against bringing false charges to your neighbor:

9 If you take your neighbor to court,
do not betray another’s confidence,
10 or the one who hears it may shame you
and the charge against you will stand.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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