THE NEW RELIGION
Gracious God, it amazes me that no mess is too big for you to fix, no life too shattered for you to restore.
Read JEREMIAH 6
Jerusalem Under Siege
6 “Flee for safety, people of Benjamin!
Flee from Jerusalem!
Sound the trumpet in Tekoa!
Raise the signal over Beth Hakkerem!
For disaster looms out of the north,
even terrible destruction.
2 I will destroy Daughter Zion,
so beautiful and delicate.
3 Shepherds with their flocks will come against her;
they will pitch their tents around her,
each tending his own portion.”
4 “Prepare for battle against her!
Arise, let us attack at noon!
But, alas, the daylight is fading,
and the shadows of evening grow long.
5 So arise, let us attack at night
and destroy her fortresses!”
6 This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Cut down the trees
and build siege ramps against Jerusalem.
This city must be punished;
it is filled with oppression.
7 As a well pours out its water,
so she pours out her wickedness.
Violence and destruction resound in her;
her sickness and wounds are ever before me.
8 Take warning, Jerusalem,
or I will turn away from you
and make your land desolate
so no one can live in it.”
9 This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Let them glean the remnant of Israel
as thoroughly as a vine;
pass your hand over the branches again,
like one gathering grapes.”
10 To whom can I speak and give warning?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed[a]
so they cannot hear.
The word of the Lord is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it.
11 But I am full of the wrath of the Lord,
and I cannot hold it in.
“Pour it out on the children in the street
and on the young men gathered together;
both husband and wife will be caught in it,
and the old, those weighed down with years.
12 Their houses will be turned over to others,
together with their fields and their wives,
when I stretch out my hand
against those who live in the land,”
declares the Lord.
13 “From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
14 They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
15 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord.
16 This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
17 I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
18 Therefore hear, you nations;
you who are witnesses,
observe what will happen to them.
19 Hear, you earth:
I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words
and have rejected my law.
20 What do I care about incense from Sheba
or sweet calamus from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable;
your sacrifices do not please me.”
21 Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“I will put obstacles before this people.
Parents and children alike will stumble over them;
neighbors and friends will perish.”
22 This is what the Lord says:
“Look, an army is coming
from the land of the north;
a great nation is being stirred up
from the ends of the earth.
23 They are armed with bow and spear;
they are cruel and show no mercy.
They sound like the roaring sea
as they ride on their horses;
they come like men in battle formation
to attack you, Daughter Zion.”
24 We have heard reports about them,
and our hands hang limp.
Anguish has gripped us,
pain like that of a woman in labor.
25 Do not go out to the fields
or walk on the roads,
for the enemy has a sword,
and there is terror on every side.
26 Put on sackcloth, my people,
and roll in ashes;
mourn with bitter wailing
as for an only son,
for suddenly the destroyer
will come upon us.
27 “I have made you a tester of metals
and my people the ore,
that you may observe
and test their ways.
28 They are all hardened rebels,
going about to slander.
They are bronze and iron;
they all act corruptly.
29 The bellows blow fiercely
to burn away the lead with fire,
but the refining goes on in vain;
the wicked are not purged out.
30 They are called rejected silver,
because the Lord has rejected them.”
- Jeremiah 6:10 Hebrew uncircumcised
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Thank God for those who lead worship and preach within your local church.
There is nothing cheap about the religious practices in the city of Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time. There is an abundance of frankincense, sweet spices, burnt offerings, and sacrifices (v 20). Religious ritual is in fashion. Yet what is the result? ‘They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious’ (v 14). The effect of these rituals is superficial. Even the prophets and priests are on the make, complicit in the corruption of society (v 13). There is no depth, no sincerity, no moral change. They don’t even blush (v 15)! It is ritual for show, ritual as routine.
The writer Robert Macfarlane has a book entitled The Old Ways in which he explores trusted traditional routes around the British Isles: those that follow the wooded valleys, the accessible mountain passes and the safe river crossings.
So God implores his people to return to the Mosaic tradition, to live by the essence of the Law (v 16). He even promises his satnav: prophetic voices that warn of the dangers ahead (v 17). Yet all God receives in response is rejection.
I take great stimulus from creative initiatives in worship and teaching. I like my worship music to mirror my Spotify choices. I find that visual images enhance written words. I enjoy drama and interviews. I value all of these, but not for their own sake. They have no value unless they draw me closer to God and challenge me. They are to refine me (vs 27–30), to highlight my imperfections, my unhelpful traits and my errors, and to turn me to repentance and to receiving God’s forgiveness and peace. This is the deep healing God sent his Jesus to bring to his wounded creation and wounded people.
Take an old (and battered?) prayer book or liturgy. Relish the words from a past generation and use them to enhance your personal prayer time.
Lord, I need balance regarding worship. May I treasure the old where it is helpful and embrace the new where it points to Jesus.
Book and Author Intros
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