The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
18th Sunday after Trinity 2013
September 29, 2010
St. Barnabas Anglican Church
18th Sunday after Trinity 2013
September 29, 2010
Jer 32:15 “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”
Our O.T. Lesson ends with a very promising note, as the Lord speaks through the Prophet Jeremiah. He tells him that there will be a repossession of the land that is now threatened to go into the hands of the Babylonians, perhaps forever. It is all the more amazing for that, since in the previous verses, we heard of all the misfortunes that are about to befall the city of Jerusalem and her king. We are told that the city is to be taken by the Chaldeans (Babylonians} under Nebuchadnezzar. We are told also that Zedekiah also would not escape his hand, but would meet him personally. One could safely assume this meeting would not be very pleasant.
We know from our history, and from the 52nd chapter of Jeremiah, that all these things came to pass. Zedekiah did rebel against the Babylonians, which meant he stopped paying tribute and tried to regain his independence. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for a little over two years, at which point the whole city was starving. At this point Zedekiah and his chief men of war escaped the city through a break in the wall and tried to make a run for it. Of course, they were pursued and captured, then sent to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah for judgment. As you might guess, it was harsh. First, Zedekiah’s sons were executed in front of him, and then he himself had his eyes put out. Next, he was put in chains and carried off to prison in Babylon, which we know was not a model of hygiene or cleanliness, even for captive kings. Soon after this, Nebuchadnezzar would have his chief captain, Nebuzaradan, return to Jerusalem to sack the Temple, then to burn it and most of Jerusalem. In short, Jerusalem was pillaged and trashed.
How then, does this reading end on a positive note? How could anything positive come out of all this? What a question, indeed.
It comes towards the end of the reading for today. The Lord tells Jeremiah that his uncle will come visit him, and will ask him to buy a field that he has a right to redeem, if he wants it. This word of the Lord comes to pass as his uncle does indeed come and the deal is done.
How curious this is, seemingly, under the current state of circumstances! Here we have Jeremiah on one hand prophesying about the end of Jerusalem, and on the other, seeking to buy land in a country that may be longer theirs. What could be the meaning of this?
Our clue comes in the last verse of the reading, where the Lord says, “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land. “The Lord promises something very special here. For further information on what the Lord may be giving, let us refer to our Epistle for today. In it, we read of the great cosmic battle between the Archangel Michael, and Satan. Evidently, Satan had seduced a large number of angels to join him in his quest for power, for he led a revolt in Heaven against God, as sought to become the “most high.” This battle is referenced in the books of Daniel and Isaiah. Daniel speaks of Satan’s thirst to be like God, and Isaiah tells us of his (Satan’s) fall from Heaven. Both are powerful accounts, helping us to understand how and why evil is so prevalent in this world our reading from Revelations tells us: “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.”
“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” 
How could these two pieces of scripture have any connection? Jeremiah tells us that the land will be re-possessed by the children of Israel. He shows his faith in this by redeeming the land he has a right to buy, even though it may no longer be considered Judah, but Babylonian. Revelations tells us that there was a war in heaven, and Michael and his angels defeated the evil host.
The connection is this: in both cases, there is a restoration, or a redemption, or, if you will, a cancelling out of evil and its power. Although in Jeremiah, the Chaldeans are about to take Jerusalem, she will be restored. In Revelations, although there was a war in Heaven, and although evil was cast down to earth, it will not be forever. Jeremiah is told to buy land, because someday, all will be restored. St. John in Revelations tells us the devil is vanquished, although his defeat is not complete yet. Yet, it is done, as referenced here: ” And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” 
Thus, the stage is set for something that God does very well: restoration. In the case of Jeremiah, God is intending to restore the Kingdom of Judah, although not immediately. In fact, it will be 70 years before the exiles will return to their historic homelands. They will return, however. Note here an amazing similarity to the first such exile that the Jews suffered, because they failed to follow God’s plan. What was the first exile? It occurred in the book of Deuteronomy, when the Lord commanded the people to take possession of the good land before them. Instead of obeying Him, the people, with the exception of Joshua, Caleb, and a few others, shrank back.
They did not have the faith to possess what God had given them. As a result, God caused them to wander in Sinai and the surrounding areas for 40 years or until mortality consumed that faithless generation.
The Babylonian Captivity worked in the same manner, except that God increased the time away from Judea. Instead of 40 years, this time it was 70 years. Evidently, God wanted that entire generation of idolaters, and then some, dead. He did not want them to pollute the restoration of Judah, when it happened.
The point for us today is that God does indeed restore and repair. He takes us in our brokenness, when we repent, and heals us. He restores us to our former position of favor in His eyes. All of this, of course, occurs because we have grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
This may be the greatest gift of all. All of us have had or will have an opportunity to forgive someone for something they have done to us. Normally, it is important to note that we are instructed to forgive a sin against us when the offending party repents. Then, we fall into that category of “70 times 7” that Our Lord spoke about. Recall that the original question asked of Christ by his disciples was, “How many times do I forgive my brother, if he repents after sinning against me? Seven times?” Christ’s amazing answer was “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words, if there is repentance, we are to forgive an innumerable number of times, like our Father in Heaven does.
Yes, but how about those times where no repentance is evident? Do we forgive then? This is much more challenging….Unfortunately, even though we may not like the answer, it too is “yes.” There are at least two reasons for this.
First, we are told to do this in the Lord’s Prayer. It says, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our own forgiveness is conditional on our forgiving others.
This is tough, but necessary. It is necessary for our own positive spiritual condition. If we forgive, as painful as it may be, we will become spiritually whole, rather than harboring hatred, or bitterness or negativity. As some of you know, we recently suffered the loss of our household weapons, including some very old and valued pieces by a person to whom we gave a place to stay for a while. He repaid us by theft. Personally, I have struggled with this, but, through the grace of God, have forgiven him. The hurt of loss is still there, however. That can only be made better by restoration, which will not happen in this case….
Yet, this highlights in stark relief the difference between God and Man. Man may forgive, but he rarely forgets. Man may forgive, but the relationship is rarely the same, especially for adults. Yet, with God, because of the precious blood of Christ, we are forgiven and restored. God even said to us, “And their sins will I remember no more….” How amazing is this!
Yet, beloved, this is our God…He forgives, and He restores us to place of favor with Him, although we certainly do not deserve it. Our good deeds, especially when weighed with our sinfulness, will never be enough for our justification. Thus, away with works righteousness and self-righteousness! They cannot attain forgiveness or salvation for us.
But, there is a way, which we all know….It is the way of peace and joy and quiet; even though it was acquired with the opposite of all of those things…it was acquired through battle, through pain and suffering on a large wooden Cross some two millennia ago. Because of that, we have forgiveness and restoration. Because of that, we have a special relationship to Almighty God… Because of that we are indeed most blessed.
Glory be to God!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.