October 8, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
There are several ways in which to phrase the words “Sit down.”
E.g., friendship: Come on in out of the heat and sit down and cool off.
Or, concern: Please sit down… I have something I need to tell you.
And then there is the sense in which these words were spoken by the Prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament lesson before us this morning… Disgust: Humble yourselves… sit down!
The end of the line of kings had sadly come to God’s people… and Jeremiah witnessed those tragic days!
Jehoiachin was probably the king referred to. He began his reign at the age of 18, and held it for only three months! Of him it was written: And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD… To a teenager? “Isn’t that a little drastic?” the world might ask! God does not tell us what we want to hear. He always tells us the way things really are — and that is always a blessing!
Dear old Jeremiah did his best to turn God’s people back to Him – that they might be saved at the eleventh hour. But they would not! Nobody ever really wants to think they are at the eleventh hour! Not people… not nations… As the Titanic sank, we might remind ourselves, the band kept playing music!
Give glory to God, Jeremiah said, before He sends you into darkness and before you stumble on dark surfaces, unable to find your way into the light.
If you do not return to God, he lamented, then I will weep in secret for your pride. My tears will flow because you – God’s beloved flock –will be carried away as captives from your homeland.
Speaking of borders (which continue to be in the news)… their northern border was wide open to the advance of the world power of their day, the Babylonians… And their southern cities were totally unguarded against the advance of Babylon’s allies from the south. God’s people were in the jaws of a great military “vice” that would soon squeeze the life out of them!
And as Babylon and her allies would tighten their coil on God’s proud people, their pride would be found to be totally hollow – symbolic of their personal hollowness… hollowness of character, hollowness of faith, hollowness of manners… hollowness of morality… hollowness of spirit!
And we are immediately reminded of the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s famous 1925 poem, The Hollow Men.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us — if at all — not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
Dear ones, it is entirely possible for a nation and for individuals – for you and me – to become “hollow”… empty, void of any worthy content and occupied with sham… while retaining the outward image of character and wisdom and virtue.
And then God, as though in great disgust while observing the unfolding disaster, tells Jeremiah to address the culpability of the king and queen with the simple words: Humble yourselves, sit down.
Why would he say such a thing? Because He has entrusted civil leaders with the responsibility and with the authority to follow His commands and thereby protect His people.
The Ten Commandments were removed from public schools when I was in grade school. One year they were there. The next year they were not! And I often wonder who the Almighty will hold accountable not just for their removal, but for the great swath of destruction which has followed – a tsunami of murder, adultery, theft, false witness, and envy from those who were denied hearing God’s simple instructions for the safety of societies.
Many articles have come out following Hugh Hefner’s death – most, it would seem, attempting to tout him as the great liberator from restrictive Puritan ethics. But not all are so rosy! There are others written by men who followed Hefner ardently, intentionally avoiding God’s one-husband-one-wife path to fulfillment… until they realized, horror of horrors – after it was too late — the grim, banal, consumerist outlook they had adopted… and the painful trail of slain “objects” they had left in ruins behind them!
God’s word of condemnation to the royal ones of Jeremiah’s day – and to all leaders in all spectra of life – is the same! Humble yourselves, sit down.
Was it not King Jeroboam that He struck so that his arm withered when he reached it out to arrest God’s unnamed prophet who had delivered His word of judgment against the proud king! Humble yourselves, sit down.
And when King Uzziah was upset with the priests and as the Scriptures say his heart was lifted up to his destruction, and he usurped the prerogative God gave only to His priests to burn incense upon the altar, God struck him with leprosy before His priests and they saw it appear on his forehead. And the priests had to escort him out… and he remained a leper until the day he died. Humble yourselves, sit down.
Then when King Ahaziah fell and seriously injured himself, he sent messengers to Philistia to inquire of their god, Baal-zebub, whether or not he would recover. God immediately sent Elijah to him with the words, You will not recover but shall surely die! And he died according to the word of the LORD. Humble yourselves, sit down.
And was it not in the New Testament (Acts chapter 12), that we find Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the so-called Great) giving an oration while arrayed in his royal apparel to the leaders of the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon? Afterward when they wildly shouted, “This is the voice of a god and not of a man,” the angel of the Lord smote him because he did not give God the glory and he was “eaten by words” and he died. Humble yourselves, sit down.
God changes not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever — still speaking His same word to the proud… Humble yourselves, sit down.
This is why the Bible reminds us (Psalm 118:9): It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. The basic form of government under God is self-government. And upon self-government is built family government. And upon family government is built local government!
This is why our founding fathers in the words of Thomas Paine believed: That government is best which governs least.
Humble yourselves, sit down. These words are no longer applicable just to “other nations” – for America has also distinguished herself before the Almighty by her sins! America has become disreputable! And it is a fearful thing to realize His words are now aimed at us as a nation as well!
For the last 40-years, we have become imperial – like Rome of old – and have intentionally (even in bipartisan fashion) cast aside the chains of the Constitution to “have our way!” And a foolish way it has proven to be!
And so God is not pleased with America – with its leaders or with its citizens in their rebellious and disgusting behavior! Humble yourselves, sit down, He says! Let each one of us therefore return to Him personally. Let us not be “hollow” men and women… “stuffed” men and women!
Let us be fervent in our profession of Christian Faith and morality and practice of reverent worship. Humble yourselves, sit down.
So it was in the beginning. So has it always been. And so shall it ever be, world without end. Amen.