Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas

Lectionary Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas

Jeremiah 31:7-14 Remnant

What happens when many of those who say they follow the Lord start living more for the world than for God? What happens when human selfish willfulness becomes more common than a willingness to depend upon God? What happens evil is called good and good is called evil? I believe this current world is going to find out soon.

Jeremiah writes these words to a people who are in the most desperate and desolate of conditions. The nation is about to be defeated and sent into exile. The leadership and the people of the nation were listening to false prophets who preached a message of nationalism and false prosperity, a message that was turning the hearts of the people away from dependence on God. Jeremiah writes to a people who are about to discover what happens when trust and faith in God is abandoned. Does God give up on them? No, God does not. Instead, God waits and maintains God’s promise to those who are called a remnant.

This passage of Scripture is both encouraging and disturbing. It is encouraging because it is a story of how God will bring God’s people back to their land after a time of exile and dispersion. It is a story of the joy and happiness they will experience at that time. What is disturbing is that it will only be a remnant.

A remnant is a word meaning a small part, member, or trace remaining. It is a small surviving group often used in a plural context. The concept of a remnant is a theological staple of the Old Testament. There are 65 references using the word remnant in the NIV translation of the Bible.

What this indicates is that there are more who have rejected God’s promises, God’s love and guidance, than those who accept it. I know this must hurt the heart of the divine Trinity very much. However, true love has no regrets and so God celebrates those who make up the remnant and promises them blessings.

Because I love the Lord, I am disturbed by what hurts God. Because I have learned to love people through the influence of the Holy Spirit, I am grieved by those who will not experience the joy, comfort, and hope God has promised to me and others who have a relationship of faith with the Lord. I believe it is important to be disturbed. To be disturbed is to care. To care is to seek to do what is right and thus be an instrument through which God might add to the remnant by being a faithful witness to the love of God.

Yes, I understand that evangelism, being a witness for Jesus, has been abused by individuals who would use religion for their own selfish purposes. I am aware that “cheap grace” has been promoted by “evangelists” and preachers who have treated evangelism as an event rather than a process. I am aware that fear, guilt, and shame have been used to get individuals to “make a decision” for God. This is not how the remnant survives. God’s remnant exists and continues for only one reason, they have a faith and trust that preservers out of love for the Lord and the blessed hope God gives to those who truly are the chosen.

This is where Jeremiah’s message is so hopeful. It is a message to the remnant. It is a message that tells them their faithfulness will be rewarded.

Many of those who would not be part of the remnant believed they were fine with their beliefs and practices. They did not love God. They did not accept the prophet’s words but sought out other so-called prophets who would tell them what they wanted to hear.

We have been told to watch out for the behavior, “For false messiah and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt. 24:24 NRS)

So how can we be sure we have not been deceived? We must seek to live as God has called us to live. We are to love the Lord with all our being and love our neighbors. We are “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8 NRS) What is not implicitly stated is that we are to depend on God to guide us.

Micah 5:7 states, “Then the remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples, shall be like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which do not depend upon people or wait for any mortal.” (Mic. 5:7 NRS) My question for myself is, “Am I depending on God.” Self-reflection in the light of God’s word is a powerful tool in seeking to be faithful and willing rather than willful.

Why is this the best path? God promises a gathering. A gathering of our spiritual family from all over the earth. It matters not our condition, our situation, or our struggles, God will gather. Jeremiah tells the people of all the good that God has planned and promised. There will be no needs, no sorrows, no suffering. They will walk straight paths and not have to fear stumbling.

When we are young, we don’t fear stumbling because we bounce but as we get older stumbling becomes a concern because we break. Stumble in the context of the passage has to do with our human failures. Stumbling has become something I dread. I want to do what God wants but it is still easy, in the moment of things, to stumble. If I try to get up on my own, without turning my stumble over to God for forgiveness and help I usually end up worse than when I do depend on God’s help. I look forward to the day when the road will be straight and smooth.

I love what Jeremiah says next, “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,” declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:13-14 NIV)

What a wonderful promise to hear, dancing, comfort, joy, and abundance. Even though the people are currently not in a position to even imagine this to be true, those who are part of the remnant would likely find hope in these words because of their faithfulness. When we are dependent on God, God’s word does give us hope. Even though this passage was written a long time ago it still speaks a word of hope to us. Our world has changed a lot since the days of Jeremiah, but God has not changed. Our God is still a Lord of hope and promise. Also, the tactics of the enemy of humanity have not changed. The enemy still uses our own arrogance and ignorance against us. We are still prone to the enemy’s work of deception and lies. The enemy is still trying to shrink the size of the remnant.

Some may ask, why are you so concerned about the remnant? Why do you believe it is so important to be in those numbers?

When I was at the threshold of eternity due to my own stumbling, I was in the presence of others, others that were taken away by the darkness. Had it not been for God’s grace and mercy, I could have been one of those. I know some will believe I imagined what I experience or that it was because of the medications and a brain bleed and a concussion. I can understand why some would think this. However, I do not doubt what I saw and heard. I was dead. God decided it was not time. I was allowed to come back to be a witness and that is what I must do. It is my prayer that of the one expressed by God, the nine should perish but turn back to depending on God. The future is coming. Where will it find you?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.