Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Where Are The Jeremiahs When We Need Them?

This past week, AlistairBegg, a noted preacher from Parkside Church, spoke to nearly 300 pastors at
Western. I had the privilege of having lunch with him on Tuesday. Given that I
was speaking with one of the great contemporary preachers, I couldn’t help but
ask if he had ever preached Jeremiah. His answer was immediate and concise:
“Why would I do that?” After letting him know I was into my third week of this
study, his simple counsel was to get out now!!

I can understand. Jeremiah is
an unnerving book. There are homiletical challenges at every corner. It has
taken me 28 years to finally preach it. But here is what I am discovering early
on. Jeremiah’s words are as centering as any for our times (and I am certain
Begg would agree [I think]). The disturbing scenes out of the turbulent Middle
East, the failure of leadership at the highest levels, the endless empty
rhetoric, as well the continued economic meltdown, all give a sense that this
world is coming apart at the seams. For the first time that I can remember, I
do not feel the optimism that my parents had for me and my peers. I do not have
the confidence that my kids will have it as good as my generation. And much of
the reason for this parallels what was going on in Jeremiah’s time.

Like Jeremiah’s time, we have
come to believe the present is decided by the policies of a nation rather than
the will of a holy and compassionate God. We continue to buy into the myth that
our hope is in Washington or on Wall Street. People track the polls and numbers
on a daily basis, as if it all rides on an election, or falls on what the
Federal Reserve announces, or what the latest employment numbers indicate.

This would be familiar
territory for Jeremiah. His was a world of profound spiritual neglect, one that
relied on people rather than God. 
Israel, just prior to its dismantling, made some disastrous
choices—choices similar to the ones our present culture is making—choices that
were suicidal.  But then, as Plantinga
put it, any time we choose sin it is like pulling the plug on your own

With the passion of a poet,
the grief of a spurned lover, and the trembling of a man who knew the fear of
God, Jeremiah defined his age and explained the impending judgment—

they lived in denial—primping
for a party when they should have been putting on sackcloth and ashes

they lost their senses—which
is what happens when you choose to worship idols and not the living God. You
become what you worship

they went after leaders who
pandered to their wishes
empty chested men who tickled ears. They gave
candy to the diabetic, fast food to those with heart disease, entitlements out
of exhausted reserves, and quantitative easing to please the wealthy

they listened to voices
who gave superficial diagnoses
—the nation was terminally ill, but her
shepherds assured her it was all minor wounds

they took neither God nor
His word with any degree of seriousness
—there was no fear nor awe, no
unsettledness that they stood before a fierce and holy God who will not be

they were consumers
defined by their consuming
—using the system to line their pockets, abusing
and oppressing the weak to get the latest deals

And no one seemed to notice,
take any of this seriously. It was an uncaring, unnoticing culture on its
uncaring way to ruin. It was as if a spirit of deception and delusion had
descended upon the land. Are we on a similar course? Are we allowing the same
spirit to descend upon us? Are we pulling the plug on our own resuscitator?

It will take a prophetic
voice like Jeremiah’s, calling our culture to face reality, asking God to give
us leaders who will lead, and passionately persuading people to fear God.  Walter Brueggemann, one of the most insightful
OT scholars I have read, delivered a sermon in April of 1992, making this very

“We are, I imagine, like old Jerusalem. The very
poetry we dread and want to silence is the poetry we must hear—and utter (we
are after all God’s present day prophets). We must utter it, because the God of
Moses has no other access point in the unglued city, except to haunt with
trembling by poetic lips. Those lips do indeed cause a deep trembling, for the
one who utters and for those who hear.”

  • John Seidlitz
    3:30 PM, 19 September 2012

    Very appropriate in this post modern age. I have read several of Brian McLaren and Rob Bell’s books that make a person feel good but I can’t believe what they are saying. So the Jeremiah series has been helpful in my thinking.

  • Bud
    3:47 PM, 20 September 2012

    What I like about this is the relevance to our times. While I concur that the church must avoid adopting political issues, your approach here is to clearly and strongly address the those very issues while avoiding the “party” politics out there. Keep on going.

  • Stacy Williams
    6:18 PM, 20 September 2012

    Thank you, I have recently been looking for facts about this question for a while and yours is the best I have found so far.

  • SandraSanders
    12:31 AM, 19 December 2012

    Good day! It was such a huge pleasure to visit this blog and to read this post. And there is one thing which I would like to ask you. Do you practice guest blogging?

  • Satomi
    9:56 PM, 23 February 2013

    Pretty interesting place you’ve got here. Thanks for it. I like such tpocis and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon. Joan Benedict

  • Matheus
    12:29 AM, 24 February 2013

    I really apetpciare this video. Yeah our life right now is a lesson in patience it seems more so than other times in our lives. I sure do apetpciare though the comfort He’ll give us when we allow ourselves to feel it.

  • Damaikol
    11:44 AM, 25 February 2013

    VivekanandaSub: A NOT APPLICABLE.. OUT OF CONTEXT .articleHelllo Sir,I have read the article and i dont think the dscsuision done is not taking the Current generation into consideration.What you talked was just like a page from a History book which has no value or meaning or connection to thee current happennings.Re write your article on how the rulers are supporting Muslims or SCs and STs just for Vote banks. This article is just again a Dusty Crooked and OLD Communist way of thoughs which doesnt apply..!

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