Friday, July 22, 2011

Sermon Prep - 'America: The Modern-Day Valley of Slaughter'

I'm not accustomed to sharing a sermon text before it is preached, let alone before I've finished writing it. But there's something about this sermon that compels me to share what I've written thus far so I can solicit the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I will preach this sermon for the first time at Granada Hills Community Church on Sunday, August 7, 2011. If you're in the area, you're welcome to come.

Here's what I've written thus far:

Sermon Title: "America: The Modern-Day Valley of Slaughter"

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Introduction


For those of you unfamiliar with the prophet Jeremiah: Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned some forty years, from 627-587 B.C. He served as God’s herald to the people of Judah from the reign of Judah’s last good king (Josiah) to sometime after the fall of Jerusalem and the start of the Babylonian Exile.

Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet,” for he loved his people and his heart was grieved over their rebellion and unrepentant sin against God. But don’t be fooled into thinking that because Jeremiah wept that he was in any way weak. Jeremiah knew the Lord was with him. He knew he was called by God to serve as one of His prophets. And although Jeremiah’s was a lonely existence, filled with trials and tribulations, he was courageous, patient, and showed great physical endurance and spiritual faithfulness.

The overall theme of the Book of Jeremiah is one of judgment against infidelity. Quite literally, Jeremiah was called by God to call His people to account for their sin of spiritual adultery. The nation of Israel was an idolatrous whore in the eyes of God. But while Israel broke covenant with God, God would never break covenant with them. Oh yes, they would be punished for their sin; but God is faithful, even when His people are faithless.

By today’s man-centered evangelistic standards, Jeremiah was an utter failure in ministry. For forty years, Jeremiah cried out like a lone voice in the wilderness, like a trumpet to deaf ears, only seeing two of his brethren repent and return to God—his scribe, Baruch and an Ethiopian eunuch named Ebed-melech who served King Zedekiah. Jeremiah saw only two converts in forty years.

But Jeremiah’s prophetic, open-air ministry was anything but a failure, for he was faithful to the call of God in his life. God gave him his marching orders and he stepped out in faith. He didn’t do it to please man, but to please his great God and King. He loved God and he loved people. And he preached as though lives depended on it, because the lives of his countrymen were weighing in the balance.

So, the next time someone asks you for results—the next time someone asks you how effective you are when you hand out gospel tracts, or when you engage strangers in spiritual conversation, or when (if this applies to you) you herald the gospel on the streets—simply tell them that you are as successful as Jeremiah. For salvation is of the Lord and not a result of the efforts of man. And any effort to proclaim the gospel to the lost, so long as it is done biblically, is a successful effort, regardless of the response of the hearer.

Jeremiah 1 contains all of the book’s major settings, themes, and characters. It also chronicles God’s direct call on Jeremiah’s life, as well as God’s promise to protect Jeremiah through his storied and difficult ministry.

Jeremiah 2-6 five messages from Jeremiah, with a common theme—the adultery of Israel. In Jeremiah 2:1-3:5, Israel is depicted as a faithless spouse. In Jeremiah 3:6-4:4, Jeremiah calls Israel to repent for its spiritual adultery. In Jeremiah 4:5-31, Jeremiah warns his people that devastation looms on the horizon in the form of an invasion. In Jeremiah 5:1-31, Jeremiah spells out the future consequences of Judah and Jerusalem’s refusal to repent. And in the saddest and most tragic message of the five, which is found in Jeremiah 6:1-30, Jeremiah prophesies of God’s rejection of the people who rejected Him.

And that brings us to our text this morning—Jeremiah 7:1-8:3.

Textual Survey and Major Sermon Points

Let’s take a brief survey of our passage, before we study its various parts. The passage, although it extends through all of Chapter 7 to just the first few verses of Chapter 8, is one prophecy. Remember, the chapter and verse system of the Bible is not inspired. It was determined by men to make the Bible more readable and easier to study. While the Word of God is inerrant and infallible, the chapter delineations and verse numbering system are not. Sometimes a Bible writer’s thoughts and intentions carry over from one verse to the next, one paragraph to the next, one chapter to the next.

Our passage for this morning is the first prophecy in a larger group of prophecies spanning from Jeremiah 7:1 to 10:25. And the prophecy to which we will give our attention today gives evidence to one of the most tragic forms of hypocrisy ever committed by Israel—they habitually and wantonly violated God’s commands while, at the same time, believed they had refuge from God’s wrath and their enemies in the Temple of God.

In Jeremiah 7:1-7, we see that the people do, in fact, trust in the security the Temple provides. In Jeremiah 7:8-11, the nation profanes the Temple and blasphemes God with false worship. In Jeremiah 7:12-15, Jeremiah warns the people that their behavior will lead to the Temple’s ultimate destruction. In Jeremiah 7:16-20, Jeremiah warns the people of one of the consequences of their sins—God will no longer answer the intercessory prayers of the people of Judah. Jeremiah explains why this is the case in Jeremiah 7:21-26. God will not be mocked, fooled, or impressed with man-made, man-centered religious practices. And lastly, Jeremiah 7:27-8:3 declares that God will judge Judah by way of desecration and destruction.

For the purpose of this message, we will consider not only three major areas of sin on the part of the people of Israel, but the striking similarities between the Israel of 2,600 years ago and the America of today. Before we do that, however, it is important that I make something very clear. The passage of Scripture we are studying today was not written about the United States. In fact, you will find no mention of the United States anywhere in Scripture. Again, we will focus on a tragic period in the history of Israel and how modern-day America resembles it.

My friends, history does repeat itself. Tragically, America has learned nothing from her Judeo-Christian ancestry. For those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it. And it appears that America relishes in the opportunity to repeated Israel’s history, going so far as to surpass the ancient nation’s level of debauchery, idolatry, and murderous ways.

You see, my friends: like Israel, America has committed adultery with other gods. America has refused to obey the voice of the Lord and repent. And America has blasphemed the one, true God by sacrificing her children to false gods. Oh, yes, unbelievers in the United States—those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—are doing all of this. But those who now profess to be His people through faith in Jesus Christ are also committing these awful sins in the House of the Lord, in the Church. And as Jeremiah prophesied about Israel, so it is true about the United States. America, my friends, has become the modern-day Valley of Slaughter.