The Old Testament text for this Sunday is from the Book of Jeremiah. The text is Jeremiah 26:8-15 and provides us with another one of those “warm and fuzzy” Old Testament lessons. Contextually, the prophet Jeremiah has been previously beaten up by Pashhur, the priest. Pashhur did not take kindly to Jeremiah’s prophecy. He was so irritated he had Jeremiah beat up and he placed his bloody, battered body in stocks as an example for the rest of the people. When Jeremiah is finally released he immediately curses the day lights out of the priest: “Your name shall be terror on every side! For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends” (Jeremiah 20:4a). Not exactly a moment of reconciliation… but Jeremiah is not finished! “You will fall by the sword of your enemies. The King of Babylon will kick your… and will conquer Judah and carry you off to a foreign land. This city will be a curse for all the nations of the earth” (Jeremiah 20:4ff – with translational liberties). This causes the priests, the prophets and the people to gather around and take hold of Jeremiah—not for a group hug—they desire to kill him! Thus, Jeremiah in his meek and gentle way says, “Mend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God… or else! As for me, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you” (Jeremiah 26:13-14). Just another warm and fuzzy Old Testament text—heavy on the Gospel.
And, this is the end of the pericope! We could continue on, but things only get worse. There is not much hope until chapter 31. Jeremiah laments how they are all on a slippery slope that ends in Babylon and an unmarked grave. This is our text, but if we stop here in our preaching we will find ourselves and our parishioners just as bruised and bloody as the prophet. In truth, we are bruised and bloodied by this world of ours and the adversaries both within and without the Church.
So, in preaching this text one must move from the text to the context. The context as we consider this reading must be the “covenantal context”. God is still faithful. There are still the covenantal promises. There is still the preservation of the Messianic line because He who promised, He who covenanted, must be faithful. The people of Israel know this, Jeremiah knows this, and we know this. And, like Jeremiah, we find great hope in this truth: grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration are all assured because God is faithful and He who promises cannot lie.
26:8 כְּכַלּוֹת (ke-chal-Lot) root: כלה (kaw-law) Piel participle: “to end; finish; bring to an end”
וַיִּתְפְּשׂוּ (vai-yit-pe-Su) root: תפשׂ (taw-fas) Qal: “to lay hold of; to arrest; to seize; to grab hold of”
מוֹת תָּמוּת (Mot ta-Mut) Qal infinitive construct chain: “you shall die; you must die”
26:9 מַדּוּעַ (mad-du-a) “why?; for what reason?; on what account?”
תֶּחֱרַב, (te-che-Rav) root: חרב (khaw-rab) Qal: “to be waste; to lie in ruins; to be desolate”
וַיִּקָּהֵל: (vai-yik-ka-Hel) root: קהל (kaw-hal) Niphal: “to assemble”
26:10 וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ: (vai-yish-me-U) root: שׁמע (shaw-mah) Qal: “to hear; Literally: and when they heard”
הֶחָדָשׁ (he-cha-Dash) “new; fresh”
26:11 בְּאָזְנֵיכֶם (be-a-ze-nei-Chem) “with your ears”
26:12 לְהִנָּבֵא. (le-hin-na-Ve) root: נבא (naw-baw) Hiphil infinitive: “to prophesy” Causative sense: “caused me to prophesy against”
26:13 הֵיטִיבוּ (hei-Ti-vu) Hiphil imperative: “to make good; to mend”
וּמַעַלְלֵיכֶם (u-Ma-al-lei-Chem) from: מעלל (mah-al-awl) “deed; practice”
26:14-15 נָקִי (na-Ki) “blameless; innocent”
Again, the Gospel of this text is to be found in the context. However, one could also add how the Gospel is summed up in these words, “There is still a prophet!” If there is still a prophet, the Word of the LORD continues to be preached!
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Jeremiah 26:8-15.