Summary: A look at how we should respond when an uncomfortable word of rebuke comes our way.
[Drama idea: Frame as a cheesy commercial. Three people on a pew, two getting convicted and visibly uncomfortable (squirming, facial agitation), one blithe and unconcerned. After a while, the other two ask him how he’s not bothered. He shows off his steel-toed boots. He got the extra-strength “Baptist preacher special.” “I haven’t felt convicted since 1998!” Go to screen with voiceover like a commercial – “Get your’s. Three easy payments of $29.95!”]
- Prophetic rebuke scenarios:
a. In a morning service in a megachurch in Arizona last Sunday, a man stood up as the pastor began to read the morning Scripture and yelled, “You have all bowed down to the god of the dollar. You’re living your life for things and you’ve forsaken the Giver of all that is good. Turn from your wealth and your abundance and seek the face of God.” He was escorted from the building.
b. In Delaware a month ago, an Episcopal church’s early service was interrupted by a woman who came to the altar at the invitation. After praying during the song, she asked the pastor if she might say something. He happily agreed. She then faced the congregation of 30 and said, “Your church and your empty traditions make God want to vomit.” She then walked down the aisle and out the back door.
c. In North Carolina, a Pentecostal church was an hour and a half into praise and worship when the oldest man in the congregation slowly walked to the front. The congregation was so filled with the joy of their worship up to that point that they were completely taken aback when the man quietly said, “You give what costs you nothing. God wants you to give what hurts.”
d. In Oklahoma, the pastor at the most prominent Baptist church in town had just finished up his sermon that detailed why they were the ones that had things right in proclaiming the Kingdom of God, which was why their church was almost 500 now on Sunday mornings. He called on a deacon to close the service in prayer and the man said, “Before I offer the closing prayer, God spoke to me last night and said, ‘I will not send true revival to your church until you humble yourselves and fast twice a week. It is your fault there is no revival because you refuse to fast and seek Me.’”
e. In Kentucky, a suburban Methodist church’s pastor was sharing how great their food pantry was when a woman stood and said, “Preacher, God told me that it is a sin for us to be living lives of comfort and abundance when there are children going hungry in our county.” The preacher mumbled, “Ok” and then continued with his announcement.
f. In New York, a Lutheran pastor had an honest moment in the sermon as he lamented the lack of growth in their church. A young woman raised her hand. The preacher was surprised but called on her by name. “God says it’s because we play at prayer. We don’t passionately seek Him, doggedly refusing like Jacob to let go until we get our blessing. We ask to ease our burden but we don’t pray with expectation that God is going to pour out His blessings. And He says He will not answer such pathetic prayers.”
- In each of those scenarios, you can see where the prophetic words (even if they were directly from God) would not exactly be welcome news.
- We don’t mind reading prophetic words when they are chastising other people (or in the case of our passage for today – people long gone). When the words are directed at us, though, we quickly get defensive.
AN UNPLEASANT TRUTH: Sometimes the words from God step on our toes.
- Among the sore toe words here:
a. v. 15 – “forgotten me”
b. v. 15 – “worthless idols”
c. v. 15 – “stumble”
d. v. 16 – “land. . . laid waste”
e. v. 16 – “appalled” and “shake heads”
f. v. 17 – “scatter”
g. v. 17 – “show them my back and not my face”
h. v. 17 – “day of disaster”
WHY WE DON'T LIKE WORDS OF REBUKE: We naturally prefer comfort to conviction.
- The response that the people have to Jeremiah’s words shows up in v. 18:
a. They plot against him.
- v. 18a.
b. They hold to their traditions.
- v. 18b.
c. They attack him and ignore him.
- v. 18c.
- These two things seem contradictory. They are. But that’s the way that we are. When the subject comes up, we attack the person more often than we unpack what he’s saying. We use ad hominem arguments.
- At the same time, we also say that he’s not worth talking about. We say we’re just going to ignore him.