The Prophet Jeremiah—Mixing Politics and Religion
Sermon preached by
The Reverend Sam Cappleman
Jeremiah—came 150 years after Amos. Samaria in the Northern Kingdom of Israel has fallen 100 years ago to Syria Syria has fallen to the Assyrians Assyria has fallen to Babylon who are now battling with Egypt for control over the land of Judah As we know Babylon, through Nebuchadnezzer, won—but… …It's a mess… (Not least of which is because Babylon would ultimately fall to Persia!)
Jeremiah had warned the people about all of these disasters and appealed to people to turn back to God. He said they had turned their back on their God as no other nation had turned its back on their gods, who weren't even real gods at all! Jeremiah, could have led a quiet, civilised life in the court of Nebuchadnezzer—instead he chose to stay in Judah with the Jews. He was very unpopular which is why we get the impression that Jeremiah is a depresing character and book. But if we think this we miss part of the point of what Jeremiah is about. There's a real thread of hope which runs through this book.
Jeremiah advocated submission to Babylon (which is why he was unpopular). To Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzer was God's servant, His agent of His purpose (and judgement). To rebel against His agent (Nebuchadnezzer) was to rebel against God Himself. But the thread of hope, which is picked up in today's reading is that after judgement, after exile, God would restore prosperity. Its like no-one had told Jeremiah it was not correct to mix politics and religion.
Jeremiah (in today's reading) berates the political leaders (the shepherds) of his time who had been set over Judah. They will be punished for the way they have led and scattered the people of Judah—but God will gather his remnant from where they have been driven and put a new shepherd over them. This shepherd is the Lord our Righteousness. The shepherd's, those who were the law had a responsibility for the political and religious life of Judah. And just as Amos reminded us of our responsibility in our society, Jeremiah reminds us of our responsibility in the politics of the day.
But there's another message for us too. We have our hope in the same person as Jeremiah—Jesus is the Lord our Righteousness—he came not only for the lost sheep of Israel but for all. So that even when things look desperate, politically or otherwise we know that as Christians we have our hope in Jesus, just as did Jeremiah, without perhaps even knowing it! The Lord our Righteousness did come to give hope, not only for the Jews but for all. And, just as Amos' prophecies came true—so did Jeremiah's. And because they did —we have hope, for ourselves, and for our political situation.