Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
6th Sunday in Trinity 2020
July 19, 2020
Jeremiah 31:8 8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
Today we hear amazing words of prophecy from Jeremiah, the “suffering prophet.” It was he that was given the most unpleasant task of prophesying doom and destruction to a prosperous and sinful nation. In the midst of their richness and luxury, Jeremiah told them to repent, or else suffer the judgment of God. Those of you familiar with the Book of Jeremiah know that he was ridiculed, accused, jailed, and almost killed for these words.
Nevertheless, he prevailed. After many years of preaching, Jerusalem was attacked, besieged and eventually taken by her enemies. Jeremiah himself survived the siege and the sack of the city. He was eventually taken to Egypt, where he died, an unsung hero for God.
During his prophecy, mixed among the words of dire consequences, were scattered some words of hope. As is common among prophets, their vision encompasses both the near view and the long view. For example, Jeremiah told the people to repent now and perhaps escape God’s wrath; this they ignored and were punished. He also foresaw a time of restoration and renewal, which would happen a long time after his death.
This selection from his prophecy deals with such a restoration. After all, life and growth is what God is all about. He is not about death, or destruction, although these occur due to the sinfulness of men. He does not desire that any should die, or suffer pain, yet he gives Man free will to do what he does. Usually, this involves selfishness, greed, and ambition of some, to the detriment of many.
Yet, this is not what God wants. He wants us to love Him, worship Him, and live under His covenant for our own good. He wants this, despite knowing our true nature without Him, which always tends to the worse.
Here in this selection of prophecy, we see God’s promise coming true. It did not take shape in Jeremiah’s lifetime, but it occurred some time after, and it occurred again in full force in the 20th century.
We know that Jerusalem was rebuilt, starting with the decree of Cyrus the Mede, culminating with the building of the Second Temple under Darius. This rebuilding continued under Artaxerxes, presided over by Ezra and Nehemiah.
Jerusalem would again be destroyed and desecrated by the Greeks, after the death of Alexander the Great. The Greek Ptolemies would attempt to erase Jewish culture until the Maccabean Revolt, which would remove Greek rule. The Romans ultimately conquered Palestine, which brought prosperity and uneasy peace. The Temple was restored again, beginning in 20 B.C. Relative peace continued up and through the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, until once again, Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 a.d.
Then, in 1945, we see the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Jews from all over the world streamed into Israel. The state of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, at least the Jewish part, gained new life according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. God’s promise of restoration to Israel literally came true.
You may be thinking, “Thanks for the history lesson, Fr. Stults, but what has this got to do with us?” Good question. Simply this: since our God is all about life and not death, about restoration and not destruction, what message can we glean from the circumstances of today? It is this. God can and will restore our country and nation’s peace. He can make it happen. Only His calming Hand can quiet the madness of the peoples.
True, we face threats like we have not seen for many years, even ever in our history. The radical Left is energized by the sheepishness and moral weakness of our local leaders. No one is willing to denounce this violent denunciation of peace, except for a few courageous national figures. Many local mayors simply wring their hands while their cities burn. Worse yet, many have willingly surrendered parts of their settlements to the socialist Left.
Yet, even this can be turned around by the most non-violent of weapons. As in the days of ancient Israel, after they had suffered a while, they turned their cries up to God. In his ultimate mercy, God heard their distress and sent them deliverers in the form of judges. Note however, that the first step for ancient Israel, and for us, is repentance. We must acknowledge our own sinfulness before God before He will turn and heal us.
This begs a question: what if no one has a desire to repent? Or, they are unable to see their sin, having their consciences seared by sin? What can we do? Again, we turn to history. Even in Israel’s darkest days, there was a faithful remnant. This faithful bit of leaven (yeast) managed to enliven the whole lump of dough that was Israel. Their prayers were heard by God.
So it is with us. We are the faithful remnant. We, and millions of other praying Americans are holding this country up in prayer.[RS1] We must continue to do so. If you are not praying daily for this country, please start today… It is critical to our survival.
That being said, for what do we pray? First, pray for our leaders. If you use the Morning and Evening Prayer forms in the Book of Common prayer, there are already prayers for this purpose. Use them, and add your own prayers for peace, for confusion to America’s enemies, and for God’s Almighty Hand to cover this nation.
Next, pray for our people. Diverse and divergent we are, true, but pray that we may recover our common sense of being Americans. Pray for a spirit of repentance and a release of the Satanic pride and selfishness gripping our nation.
Pray for another Great Awakening to sweep across our great land.
Do not forget, we are still great, the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, thanks to God’s Providence to us. Pray that God continue His mercy to us, even if for the remnant’s sake. Our voices are loud and persistent to God.
Finally, always give thanks and praise to Him who doeth all things well.
It is by His grace that we live, and move, and have our being.