The Real News
THE REAL NEWS
A pastor is talking to one of his members.
Member: Pastor I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is church attendance grew dramatically the past three weeks!
Pastor: That’s great! What’s the bad news?
Member: The bad news is the church grew when you were on vacation.
Jeremiah was a prophet with some good news and some bad news for his people. There are some beautiful scripture verses in Jeremiah, like today’s verse. From this verse we learned that God formed us and knew us before we were in our mother’s womb. To be known by God before we are born, whatever the circumstances of our birth, is clearly good news.
And yet Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet for a reason. While false prophets told the kings of Judah that Judah would be victorious against its enemies, Jeremiah told them this was not so. He prophesized that Jerusalem would fall to King Neuchadnezzar of Babylon and the people of Israel would go into exile for seventy years. After seventy years the LORD would visit his people and return them to the promised land. This is the context that Jeremiah writes these encouraging words that you have probably heard on Christian radio, “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). This would have been good news for those young enough to wait out the seventy year period. But for those who were older perhaps they would have been disappointed by Jeremiah’s words. Perhaps they wanted God’s deliverance to come on their time and not on God’s time. Jeremiah spoke good news. Jeremiah spoke bad news. Overall Jeremiah was real with people. He spoke real news. And real news is hard for people to hear.
Jeremiah believed in the power of speaking the word of the LORD. He believed in a real God and he believed in the power of being real with people about God’s Word. And even though speaking God’s word resulted in many trials for Jeremiah he did not seek the world’s embrace. He sought the embrace of God. For God was more real to Jeremiah than all the praise the world had to offer him. Jeremiah worshiped a God who was real enough to give his people the good news and the bad news in order that they would embrace the real news. The Real news is the reality of God’s love and power working through history, the reality of God’s love and power working through our everyday lives. And I believe in this real news we shall find good news today.
The Good News: When we embrace The Real News we will take God’s Word to heart.
To understand this we have to understand three things.
- The good news. We are known by God
- The Better News. God is the Potter.
- The Real News. We are the Clay.
First the good news. The good news, as Jeremiah shows us, is that we are known by God. To quote the LORD’s words to Jeremiah,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The bad news about life is that we cannot control the circumstances into which we are born. And perhaps today some of you were born into situations that have deeply wounded you. But the good news is before you were born, God had a plan and a purpose for your life. In the Old Testament often only prophets got to hear such a promise. But in the New Testament we as Christians receive that promise in Christ. In Christ we are called, we are consecrated, we discover our purpose. We believe that when we come to know Jesus he reveals to us our true selves. Who we were meant to be.
That purpose doesn’t have to be anything extravagant like changing the world or even getting to the top job in our place of employment. In fact, the greatest promise that God gives Jeremiah is not that he would be a prophet to the nations but that he was known by God. He didn’t have to try to explain his heart to God, God knew his heart before he had a heart. And God knows each heart here today. For he has searched us and he knows us. He is with us when we sit down and when we rise up. He discerns our thoughts from afar, he knows the details of our plans for the future before we made them, and he is with us when we are too tired to fulfill those plans and all we can do is collapse in our beds in defeat. He knit us together in our mother’s womb, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139).
God spoke to Jeremiah directly to let him know that he was known, because God knew the trials that Jeremiah would face in his calling. One would think, after such a profound experience of God speaking to Him, of God telling Jeremiah personally and profoundly that God knew him and had a plan for him, and even telling Jeremiah what that specific plan was, that Jeremiah would meet every obstacle with joy. That he would be like the Apostle Paul in prison who declared, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret to facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12).
But the bad news is that is not what happened. As Jeremiah suffered in prison for doing what God told him to do he actually cursed the day he was born. To quote Jeremiah, “ Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father. “A Son is born to you making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the LORD overthrew without pity, let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?”
If anyone should have known his worth and why he was put on this Earth it should have been Jeremiah. The LORD at the beginning of the book tells him why he was born, a question most of us don’t get a direct and specific answer to, and yet he curses the day he was born. While this sounds like bad news to us perhaps it can be good news if we look at it from the Lord’s perspective. The good news is that God is real but life is not a math problem. Just because we memorize x and y bible verses and it doesn’t result in Z feelings, doesn’t mean we are doing something wrong. Powerful religious experiences and Bible knowledge does not a mature Christian make. Just because we are not feeling what people say we should be feeling doesn’t make me us failures. It just makes us human. And perhaps today we are not as alone as we think we are. The Good News is that God is more real than we could ever imagine. The bad news is no amount of spiritual experiences or Bible knowledge will give us full control of God or full control of ourselves. And that leads us to the better news
God is the potter
Jeremiah tells us the better news in Jeremiah 18. There the Lord tells Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house where the local potter is doing his daily work in shaping clay jars. To quote Jeremiah, “ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to him.” ( Jeremiah 18:1-4).
The good news is that we are known by God. The even better news is God is capable of doing whatever God pleases. As the old children’s song goes, “my god is so big, so strong and so mighty, there is nothing my God cannot do.” If God wants to change his mind and relent from punishment, if by the prayer of one saint he reshapes hearts, and the very creation itself, according to His Will, who are you to question God? Let us not say there is no hope for change. We are not the potter. His power, His Love, His Kingdom, knows no end. He can reshape our lives and all of creation as He pleases. That is what it means to be the potter.
The Good news is we are known by God. The even better news is that God can do whatever God pleases. But the Real news is the hardest to accept. Though God can do whatever he pleases, though he can answer our prayers in powerful ways, he doesn’t have to. He is under no obligation to do so. We owe God everything he owes us nothing. While God has a wonderful plan for our lives God’s plan is bigger than our lives. The Real news is that while something may seem good to God it may seem bad to us. The Real news is that while a prophet speaking God’s Word may make God’s heart sing it can make our blood boil. The Real news is that while we are fearfully and wonderfully made the world doesn’t revolve around us personally. He is the potter and we are the clay. This is good news. This is bad news. This is the Real news.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” says the LORD. “Cursed be the day I was born!” some of us may cry out in our suffering. To know that God loves us isn’t enough. We must also know his power to shape the clay. And to know these things not just in our heads but in our hearts requires more than powerful spiritual experiences and Bible Knowledge. Jeremiah spoke these words of suffering when he was a teenager. Paul said he learned the secret to contentment as an old man. Some secrets can’t be learned in ecstasy or in study. Some secrets must be learned through obedience. Some secrets must be learned, as the late Christian writer Eugene Peterson put it, by embarking on a long obedience in the same direction.
Though Jeremiah despaired he did not stop walking, though he cursed his own life he did not stop speaking the Words the Lord gave him. Because he believed that God was the writer of his story, and his story wasn’t done yet. Though Jeremiah’s heart condemned him he trusted in a God who was greater than his heart. (1 John 3:20). And we as Christians should be glad that Jeremiah kept going. Because though Jeremiah cursed his own life he never cursed God. He kept on prophesizing. He knew that the LORD loved him with an undying love even when couldn’t muster the will to love himself. So he kept going. In Chapter 31 he prophesized that though God’s people had broken their covenant with God, God would form a new covenant with them. He would not write this covenant on tablets of stone as he had done with Moses bringing down the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. Instead, he would write his law on his people’s hearts.
So when the Lord Jesus, at the last supper, took the cup and said, “this is cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,” his disciples would have remembered a young man that was spit on and reviled as their Lord would be spit on and reviled after that supper. Though generations might have been tempted to lose hope that God’s covenant with his people would be restored, the disciples thousands of years later saw the fulfillment of promises in a way Jeremiah never could have imagined. So today Lord as we partake of this feast may we get out of your way that you may write your law on our hearts and we may take to heart the bread of your word and your table for it is good food and the feast is ready. For you are the potter and we are the clay. You know who we are. Let us receive who you are even when your will clashes with our own. Reveal to us the good news, reveal to us the bad news, that we may embrace the real news that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we are the clay and we are fearfully and wonderfully made by you oh Lord, by you oh Lord, by you the potter.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.