Summary: How God shows mercy even when he does decide to judge.
November 11, 2001 Jeremiah 26:1-6
1 Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 "This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, `This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.’"
A few years ago I attended a pastor’s get together in Grand Island. It came time to put Tristan in his pajamas before we left to go home. As I was attempting to do so, he was able to squirm away from me and run around with just a diaper on. When a fellow pastor saw what had happened, he grabbed my son and held onto him, telling me to put his pajamas on. Even though he hadn’t said anything, I knew by his actions what he thought - I shouldn’t allow my son to run away from me while I change him.. I didn’t take offense at it, but it made me think about how many times I have criticized others in the way they raise their children. It sure is amazing how we think we can do a better job than someone else at raising their kids. If you’re a parent - maybe you’ve been under the same scrutiny.
In a similar way, doesn’t God under go the same kind of scrutiny? As people look at the way God runs the world, they are always coming up with what they think are better ways to run the world, better ways to treat His children than what God says. Today, people are especially critical of how God judges the world. They don’t like a God who is so judgmental! “I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell,” they say.
Today is Last Judgment Sunday. This text of Jeremiah is very fitting for today, because it talks about a similar kind of Judgment Day. God was about to send judgment on His people. It was about 608 B.C., just about 20 years before the final destruction of Jerusalem - when God would send the Babylonians into the land to destroy it. Women would end up so hungry that they would decide to eat their children - young men would be dashed to the ground and made slaves, women would be ravaged.
When you read what happened to these Israelites, it’s easy to feel pity for them. You feel sorry for the children who were eaten by their own parents. You feel sorry for the young men who were taken captive and the old men who were put to death - and you wonder “why”. It’s easy for us to ridicule God for allowing this to happen to them. And it’s easy for people to question why God would send thousands to hell on Judgment Day. But before we do this, let’s look at God’s attitude toward Judgment Day. As we do this, we will see that He isn’t as evil as people judge Him to be.
Even in Judgment, God is Merciful
I. He sends His Prophets Among the People
There was a reason for this judgment on the Israelites. Jehoiakim had just taken over as ruler of the southern Kingdom. Although he was the son of good King Josiah, he sure didn’t act like it. Anything that God wanted, he was against. Earlier, a different prophet by the name of Uriah had prophesied against Jerusalem. He knew that the king would try to murder him, so he fled to Egypt. Jehoiakim sent a party out after him, brought him back, and put him to death. Throughout all of the reformations that his father Josiah enacted, he and the people rebelled - they didn’t want anything to do with God. When Jeremiah later on wrote against Jerusalem - Jehoiakim took the scroll which Jeremiah had his scribe write and burned it. In justice, God could not allow such a society to exist without punishment. So He sent the Babylonians.
Instead of judging the Lord for sending judgment, let’s be fair and look at the whole situation. He didn’t tell Jeremiah just to sit at home and complain about the way his world was going. What did he do? In mercy, "This is what the LORD (said): Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Even though they deserved this judgment, the LORD wanted as many people as possible to know what was happening. There were thousands of Israelites who had to know the end was near! He showed his compassion by sending Jeremiah to where the people were at - in the temple.