Skip to comments.Dr. Os Guinness: "The Confrontations of Jeremiah"
Posted on 02/14/2007 9:57:20 PM PST by sionnsar
Continuing with the series of sermons on the Book of Jeremiah from the Falls Church in Virginia, we have the great sermon The Confrontations of Jeremiah by Dr. Os Guinness. In this sermon Dr. Guinness looks at the 28th chapter of that book, in which Jeremiah confronts the false prophet Hananiah, who had assured Judah that the yoke of the Babylonians would be broken within two years. Dr. Guinness goes into this history in depth, and then he gives "points to ponder" for us that are most relevant to our day:
Now what does this striking account mean to us in our day? Let me give you three things to think over or to discuss with your friends and family.Indeed, this last paragraph says it all, does it not? May we be people without lies, hype or spin!
First, many of our dangers in thinking today -- in our society generally, and also in the church -- come from a false and distorted view of the future. There are not a great many people cavorting around America prophesying explicitly in the name of the Lord. There is a certain gentleman elsewhere in Virginia who does that, and even the Richmond Times-Dispatch has used the Deuteronomy criteria to judge his prophesies false by biblical standards. Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, that is not our main danger.
The main danger is that in America today we have a distorted, exaggerated view of the future. Most human beings understood time in terms of its three faces: the past, the present, and the future. But they also believed that the only one we humans know much about is the past. After all, it has happened; its in the can. In contrast, we do not know all that much about the present, and next to nothing about the future.
Yet in our modern folly we have reversed this view. We tend to ignore the past history is bunk, as Henry Ford said notoriously. We pretend we know everything about the present with our instant, total information. And now we even know all about the future, with our futurists confidently telling us all that is going to happen in fifty years time.
Futurism is nothing but a quack science, and the best of the futurists admit they are really nowists all they do is project current trends into the future and speculate. But the net effect is a distorted view of time that inflates the future and leaves us desperate to be relevant, in touch, and up-to-date. The real fear of being left behind for the modern person comes from technology, not Tim la Hayes theology. With such a distorted view of time, the latest is always the greatest and the newer must be the truer. You can see many of the resulting follies in the church and in the culture, and they all come from a false view of the future. Winston Churchill was closer to the Scripture in his constant insistence that the further back you look in the past, the further ahead you can see in the future. Under God, the past is our main source of wisdom and understanding. If you think about it, the truth is that the church, which is essentially a progressive force in the world, always best goes forward by first going back. That, after all, is what revival and reformation are. At the same time, such change is not change for changes sake, which is another name for nihilism. This point is vital because certain church leaders tell us today that a new thing is possible in belief or behavior, when in fact it totally contradicts what God has told us and what the church has always believed.
Second, consider what Jeremiahs precedent means to us in terms of a prophetic stance in culture, when our society rejects God. Sadly the word prophetic has been devalued and distorted today until it has become a code word for left-wing or for radical assaults on the establishment. But by prophetic stance, I mean the stance that we see in the prophets. Far too many Christians make stands today in ways that are tiresome to the point of being counterproductive; and the more they are rejected, the more strident and extreme they become, until they create a backlash against them. There are, of course, some issues, such as abortion and slavery, on which we should never give up, whatever the cost. But there are other issues about which we should follow the prophets precedent. The prophets spoke clearly so that the people were quite without excuse, but they also respected the choice of the people, however sorry the consequences.
You hear the same challenge in the logic of Joshuas famous words: Choose today whom you would like to serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Or again in Samuel, his response to the people when they chose Saul as king and removed him as judge: You may choose Saul and reject me as judge, he says in effect, but God forbid that I should cease to pray for you. You can never take away what I am supposed to do as prophet. In sum, the prophetic stance is to declare the word of the Lord in their words and to demonstrate the ways of the Lord in their lives, but then to challenge the people to face their choices and the consequences. At a certain point, they stop, and allow the people to choose and to reap the consequences of their choice al the while remaining faithful in their own lives.
All too often today, we Christians are doing the opposite. We are not demonstrating the way of the Lord, and we are endlessly declaring the words of the Lord as if we could settle the outcome by verbal persistence alone. Not surprisingly, we end up being viewed as hypocrites because of our deeds and as tiresome because of our words.
Third, consider how this passage underscores a great danger for America. It is often pointed out that false prophets were part of the undoing of Israel, in the sense that as they multiplied, a false prophet could always be found to justify any position, however misguided or wrong. In other words, when there are too many authorities, there is no authority. The famous verse in Proverbs 29:18, When there is no vision, the people perish, can be translated, When there is no authority, the people lose all restraint. It has even been translated, When there is no prophecy, the people run amok.
The United States is approaching that dangerous place today. There is such a chaos of pundits and commentators, from The New York Times and the networks to the blogs, that there is little real authority, even from the President. This is part of Americas gathering crisis of cultural authority. There are so many authorities in America today that there is a mounting chaos of authorities, and therefore no authority at all.
Think and pray over these things. In Jeremiahs great clash with the false prophets, you can see things that were not only fundamental to his times but to ours too. Alexander Solzhenitsyn captured the importance of truth this in his celebrated line in the Nobel Address: One word of truth outweighs the entire world. Earlier, Martin Luther declared the same truth, speaking of the Evil One in his hymn, A Mighty Fortress: One little word will fell him.
As followers of Jesus, we are people of truth because we are people under the authority of truth. All our contributions in the wider church and the wider world echo that authority of truth. Let us ask God to make us truly people of truth, people who so declare the word of God by our lips and demonstrate the way of God in our lives that lies, hype, and spin can be shown up for what they are.
Dr. Os Guinness ping!
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