Sermon March 16, 2014 Jeremiah 19 “Shattered Beyond Repair, Yet Restored!” Parables that Pack a Punch Sermon # 5

                         “Parables That Pack a Punch” Sermon Series #5                                                                        

Jeremiah 19:1-15      “Shattered beyond Repair, yet Restored!”    March 16, 2014

Pastor Louis Prontnicki           Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

                                                                                                                                                                                  

I. Introduction and Overview

Last Sunday we saw that Jeremiah18, where the potter’s vessel is still in the making, is an appeal for the conversion of Israel, but here in chapter 19 we see that the same vessel, hardened beyond changing, is fit only to be smashed to pieces.

We might think of Jeremiah 19 as the acted-out sequel to Jeremiah’s visit to the potter in chapter 18. God’s message to Israel, through the parable of the potter and the clay, has been rejected by the people, and therefore God’s judgment will fall upon them.

Think of it this way: while a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel is very malleable and workable, once the clay is finished and fired, it becomes brittle and unalterable, right? There is no re-working of it at that point. Judah has remained stiff-necked, after many warnings from God through the prophets, and therefore would now be destroyed.

  Prov. 29:1 “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”   Here is a warning to all of us, not to hardened our hearts against the Lord.

 

II. The Text: Jeremiah 19

This is what the LORD says: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. [see 18:2] Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests 2 and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you, 3 and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem.   [Here is the follow-up to Jer. 18:11-12]

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 4 For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. 6 So beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.

7 “ ‘In this place I will ruin the plans [see 18:8, 11] of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who seek their lives, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. 8 I will devastate this city and make it an object of scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. 9 I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives.’

10 “Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching 11 and say to them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 12 This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares the LORD. I will make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth—all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’ ”

14 Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the LORD’S temple and said to all the people, 15 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’ ” (see 18:12)

 

III. The Three Components of the Story:

A. The Seven Commands of the LORD to Jeremiah:

1. Buy a clay jar (v. 1) (Imagine Jeremiah telling the store owner what he wanted it for!)

2. Take along some of the leaders of the elders and of the priests. (v. 2) (Imagine persuading

them to come along with him!) “Those people most likely to influence others should be

especially addressed.” “This symbolic action was best performed before the responsible few.”

3. Go out together to the Valley of Ben Hinnom (v. 2) (a smelly, trashy place)

“We see how carefully God arranges the circumstances in which His truth is to be proclaimed.”

“We should avail ourselves of any localities likely to lend force to what is said.” Examples:

Places of great wickedness, such as abortion chambers and adult book stores, but also places

such as cemeteries, malls (?), schools, seats of government and centers of media.

      I did this very same thing one evening in front of a center-city abortion chamber.

4. Proclaim God’s Word to the kings of Judah (vv. 2-9) (Jeremiah’s ministry overlapped with the

last 4-5 kings of Judah) and to the people of Jerusalem.

5. Break the jar while the others are watching. (v. 10)

6. Speak God’s message (vv. 11-13) (give God’s interpretation of your actions) “Our message

must be God’s message.”   Note the need for God’s Word to interpret and explain what his

audience sees with their eyes. It is not enough to see something; we need to have God interpret

what we see, and make His sense out of it. Yet the two go together: The visual captures our

attention and our imagination, while the spoken or written defines its meaning and application.

7. Stand in the court of the Lord’s temple and speak God’s Word to the people. (vv. 14-15)

 

B. The Seven Sins of Judah and Jerusalem [Kings, Priests, Elders, People] against the LORD: They have…

1. Forsaken the Lord. (v. 4)

2. Made Jerusalem a place of foreign gods (v. 4)

3. Burned sacrifices/ incense to strange and unknown gods (v. 4)

4. Filled this place with the blood of innocent people (v. 4) {Murder}

5. Built the high places to Baal. (v. 5)

6. Burned their sons in the fire, as offerings to Baal. (v. 5) {Like abortion today}

7. Became stiff-necked and refused to listen to God’s Word. (v. 15)

This is very similar to Stephen’s denunciation to the rebellious Jewish leaders who were stoning him for the gospel: Acts 7:51: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”

 

C. The Ten Judgments of the LORD upon Judah and Jerusalem:

1. Ruin their plans (v. 7)

2. Make them fall by the sword of their enemies (v. 7)

3. Cause birds and beasts to feed upon their carcasses (v. 7) {Imagine turkey vultures feasting on dead bodies in the church yard!}

4. Devastate Jerusalem and make it an object of scorn (v. 8)

5. Make the people resort to cannibalism, even among their own children (v. 9)

See Lamentations 4:10 “The hands of compassionate women have cooked their own children;

they became their food during the destruction of my dear people.”

6. Smash Judah and Jerusalem so that they cannot be repaired (v. 11)

7. Give them insufficient place to bury their dead (Topheth will be full) (v. 11)

8. Make Jerusalem like Topheth, a garbage dump that is always burning. (v. 12)

Now this drama takes place at a spot chosen for its significance: “the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate.” It is the gate of Broken Pottery, the rubbish gate, which led to the wicked valley of Hinnom. The name of the valley of the son of Hinnom, ge’ ben-hinnom, would become gehenna, the NT word for hell.

9.  Defile the houses in Jerusalem and of the kings of Judah like a garbage dump. (v. 13)

10. Bring upon them every disaster He pronounced against them. (v. 15)

So here is a vivid description of God’s righteous wrath against those who stubbornly hardened their hearts against the Lord, despite His centuries of warnings and patience.

    By the way, this judgment is not just an Old Testament theme. For we read in Psalm 2:9 “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

   Here is a prophecy of the Messiah, and what does He do? He dashes the nations to pieces, like pottery… just as Jeremiah did. (This is also quoted in Rev. 2:27, referring to Jesus.)

   Summary: The Lord’s Commands; The People’s Sins; and the Lord’s Judgment

 

IV. The Explanation and Application:    

  1. A.    God’s Higher Purpose

Jeremiah bought this clay jar for a particular and deliberate purpose: to smash it! Now this was far from the purpose for which the potter had carefully made it, right? Furthermore, once the jar was shattered, it could be of no more use – ever!

However, in its destruction it served a far nobler purpose than if it had been carefully kept to carry water for many long years. How so? Because the Lord ordained that this jar be used in a prophetic message, to symbolize the judgment of the Lord. So in one sense we could say that the jar was not destroyed, but rather that its service, its use, was divinely and wisely changed to suit God’s higher purpose.

In the same way, the capture and conquest of Jerusalem would serve the purposes of God (though they seemed so radically different than what its people thought its purpose should be!). For the destruction of Jerusalem would not only demonstrate the righteous justice and judgment of the Lord; it would also clear the path for One who would enter the city, be greater than the city, and give His life as an atonement for sin, in the city.

Likewise, for us, God’s purpose for something, someone, or for our own lives, may be much different – and higher- than what we had in mind. That could include your health, your marriage, your children, your house, car, or retirement savings!

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

  1. B.     Why this Jar was Shattered
  2. God wanted to demonstrate the ease with which He can shatter any construction of man (for example, the Tower of Babel)

God had already used a clay jar to demonstrate the plasticity of the raw material (chapter 18)

Now God draws another lesson from the fragility of the finished product. (chapter 19).

In v. 10 Jeremiah makes his prophecy unforgettable – and irreversible – by taking this clay jar and smashing it to pieces, and making it something beyond remaking, as a picture of what God will do to the nation of Israel: 10 “Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, 11 and say to them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.”

[Note: at this point, Pastor Lou took a clay jar in his hands and threw it on the floor, shattering it into pieces, causing a sharp sound, followed by silence from the congregation.]

So the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah will be smashed and broken beyond re-making. The jar, like Jerusalem, is marred beyond remaking; it has no further use as a noble vessel; it is good only to be broken

“A potter’s clay jar may be preserved for millenniums if it is sufficiently guarded, but it has no strength in itself.” Likewise, the city and people of Jerusalem had no strength in themselves; it was only as God protected them that they were kept from being shattered.

“Bear in mind that however great our natural advantages, our prudence and our planning, we, as our natural life is concerned, are but as this fragile clay pot in the prophet’s hand.

 

2. To show the impossibility of man salvaging or recovering from the disaster. The clay jar was not merely cracked; it was dashed to small pieces, never to be put back together again. So likewise, the people of Israel, once scattered, could not gather themselves together again. God could do it, but only God.

God destroys the old and the fragile, that He may put in its place the new and the indestructible.

See 2 Cor. 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

2 Cor. 5:1 “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

 

V. The Good News

So is there any good news here for us, in this message of doom and destruction?

Yes, there is. Look at Amos 9:11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be”

This prophecy affirms two truths: The first is that God promises to restore David’s fallen tent and rebuild its ruins (Which we see as a prophecy of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, the seed of David, and the establishment of his people), so that

Secondly, a Gentile remnant will seek the Lord; that is, through the Davidic Christ, Gentiles will be included in his new community.

Now look at the gospel fulfillment of that amazing prophecy, in Acts 15:14-17, as James speaks to the whole assembly: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord…”

So God restores and rebuilds the broken pottery of Israel (Jer. 19) by extending His grace and salvation to Jews and to Gentiles, in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And Christ was slaughtered and broken and scorned and so forth….and suffered the punishment of hell, in our place.  We are all broken people, but Christ was broken, to make us whole. We were shattered beyond repair, but through Christ’s atonement, we were restored!