26 Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: 2 “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’”Jeremiah 26:1-6
This past week we had family visiting and they were watching a new show called “The Masked Singer.” The basic premise is a panel of judges trying to figure out what celebrity is singing covers of songs, and the catch is that they are wearing a full costume with a mask covering their face. It was an interesting twist on a concept that has taken many different forms and it was entertaining, but what was most entertaining was watching my sister-in-law yell at the tv when they would not reveal who the celebrity was that was singing. Shows with people displaying their talents before judges have become very popular, but there is a downside to all of these shows in that there is only one winner and the others are judged off of the show. Today we continue in the season of End Time and the focus for today is Last Judgment. Judgment Day or the Last Day is the day when Jesus will return to judge all people sending them to either heaven or hell. In our reading from Jeremiah 26, God gave the prophet Jeremiah a message for the people regarding God’s judgment and his words still are true for us today: turn to the Lord and you will have no fear of judgment.
When it comes to judgment, there is a big difference between reality tv and real life. A contestant on a reality tv show that gets eliminated may be sad but will go on to live their life. In real life though, if you are standing trial before a judge and are found guilty, there are real consequences. There are real consequences when you break the law whether it is a fine for breaking the speed limit all the way up to an impeachment trial, which I have no comment on. The point is that real life judgments have the power to strike real fear in our hearts. And, even when it is not before a judge and there is no trial, the judgment that comes from bullying, cyberbullying, gossiping, spreading rumors, etc. all carry real fear because they cause real damage to someone.
Jeremiah was called by God to share his judgment on the nation of Judah. Before Jeremiah’s time, the twelve tribes of Israel had split into two kingdoms; Israel to the North and Judah to the South. By the time Jeremiah had been called as a prophet to Judah, Northern Israel had already been overtaken by Assyria. So then, a major theme of God’s message for Jeremiah to share with Judah was to not end up like their brothers and sisters to the North. God’s message for Jeremiah to give to the people was, 4 Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’” God said that Judah would become like Shiloh if they did not listen to Jeremiah. Shiloh was the place where the Northern Kingdom of Israel had met to worship God, but it was destroyed over one hundred years earlier by the Assyrians. The message God gave Jeremiah to share was do not end up like that cursed city.
God’s message for his people was not of final judgment, but rather like the judges on the reality shows telling a contestant what to work on so that they are not eliminated. There was still time for Judah to save themselves from judgment, but only if they listened. In our reading from Luke 19, Jesus used a parable to make the same point about the need to turn from unbelief to trust in God. Jesus pictured a king who gave ten of his servants a large sum of money. Then, he left for a while, and when he returned, he called his servants to him to see what they had done with his gift. One servant doubled his money, and another gained another half of what he had been given, but then another servant came who had done nothing with the gift. The servant gave the excuse that he believed his master to be a hard man, so he was afraid to do anything. The king was so angry that he took the large sum of money from that servant and gave it to the first servant. Then Jesus said, Luke 19:26 … “‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Jesus used the sum of money as a picture of the gospel. In other words, he has given all of us the Word and he wants us to put it to use. He wants it used as our hope for forgiveness and eternal life, to battle against temptation, sin and the devil, and he wants us to share it with our fellow believers to encourage them and to share it with those who have not heard so that they can be saved.
The message God gave Jeremiah and the message of Jesus are still true today. Jeremiah was called to share the good news with God’s people that they would not by destroyed if they turned back to faith in him, but if they did not turn back, they would face judgment. You and I are called to turn to the Lord and we will have no fear of judgment. Judgment Day does hold the fear of eternal punishment in hell, but only for those who do not listen to the Lord. Judgment Day is not frightening if you hate what is evil and love what is good. You and I are able to do that by faith in Jesus using his Word. We begin each service with a confession of sins and assurance of forgiveness to remind us who we are gathered together here. We are sinners who have been saved by Jesus. We are weak, burdened, tired, overwhelmed, stubborn, prideful, etc. We are here because it is Jesus alone who allows us to look forward to Judgment Day. We read how God is able to look at us as his good, faithful and righteous people on Judgment Day in Romans 3:25-26, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” The sins of Israel and Judah, your sins and mine, were paid for by Jesus. God was a just judge in that he carried out the judgment of death on Jesus for our sins making sure all sins were punished and he justified us by calling us not guilty for the sake of Jesus. We also have the sure hope of life through Jesus because he came back from the dead as we read in John 14:19 … Because I live, you also will live.
Hearing the true situation all of us are in is the only way to be ready for Judgment Day. In our reading from 2 Thessalonians 1, we hear what will happen on Judgment Day, 8 “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” God called Paul to share with the Thessalonians that on Judgment Day, all those who did not believe will go to hell forever, while those who believe will be with God in all his glory.
Our calling as believers is to turn to the Lord. Like the people of Judah, we live as sinners in a sinful world that is more than happy for us to turn away from God and think nothing about Judgment Day. We face the temptation not to be ready for Judgment Day, but God wants us to always be ready. He gave us Jesus to save us. He gave us his Word for the Holy Spirit to give us faith. He gave us his Word to turn to every day to remind us of what is coming, to keep us free from evil and to share his Word with every single person we have any contact with ever. God told Jeremiah to stand in the temple and he said, 2… “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways.” You have heard what God has done for you. And, you know what comes after Judgment Day. Later on in Jeremiah 29, God gave him one of the most popular verses quoted from the Bible, 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This was meant first for those who were carried off from Judah into exile into Babylon, but these words also are true for us. God shows us our sins and reveals that Judgment Day is coming, so that we would put our hope in Jesus and know that heaven is waiting for us. By God’s grace, those words from Jeremiah 29 are a fitting connection to what God said in John 3, 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
When it comes to judgment, there is a big difference between reality tv and real life. A contestant on a reality tv show that gets eliminated may be sad but will go on to live their life. In real life though, Judgment Day is coming. Jesus will return to judge all people sending them to either heaven or hell. The good news is, the gospel is that Judgment Day holds no fear for you because Jesus has saved you. Let the message you hold on to and the message you share with other be this: turn to the Lord and you will have no fear of judgment. Amen.