As sinners living in this world and especially living in this country we hold up
fairness as one of the chief goals of all people. We decry and lament when injustice is performed on others, so we seek to bring fairness to all. Except I would argue, and I think you would agree, when suce fairness directly affects us individually. A general example might be when we applaud when the rules are kept for others, but we expect mercy to be shown to us when we break such rules. This appears in Christian thinking and Christian theology when we demand God to be fair to us and to all people, that is until we realize such fairness results in what we confess, temporal and eternal punishment.
Inconsistencies among people like these was rampant in Judea in the time of Jeremiah the prophet. Judea's pinnacle city of Jerusalem had earned the reputation of being the place where God's prophets were rejected most openly, very often murdered. So much was this true that Jesus would state hundreds of years later, "for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem" (Luke 13:33b), whose meaning by the way Jerusalem, the city of peace. Today's Old Testament reading places us right in the midst of this hostile environment. Jeremiah had been chosen by God to be his prophet, the public speaker of his Word to the people. Jeremiah faithfully dedicated himself to that task, and his book is filled with stringent words seeking to stir up the Jews, his kin, to humility and repentance over their sins and rejection of Yahweh God. Yahweh's words to Jeremiah that he was to speak before the people are recorded just before our Old Testament text for today, and those words are these, "Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a cursed for all the nations of the Earth" (Jer. 26:4-6).
That such words should be spoken to pagans not to fellow Jews, had to be in their thinking. The priests and the other false prophets gathered around and all the people lay their hands on Jeremiah and said, "You shall die." The Word of God stated that Jerusalem's fair treatment would be that of destruction and curse because of their faithlessness for God. Rather than accept God's word as his people, they unjustly rejected that word, the prophet that God had sent urgently to speak that word, the sad, sad state for the people of Judea.
A similar reception was had by Jesus whenever he would arrive in the city of Jerusalem and preach the good news of the kingdom of God, including repentance for the forgiveness of sins as John the baptizer had taught. This was not the message God's people thought that they should be hearing, it was those outside of Israel that needed to repent of their wickedness, and to turn to Israel and to her God for mercy. Even so Jesus preached and talked among the people, healed their sick, and showed them that he is truly the son of God, and the Messiah promised long ago. They must turn to him for their salvation, Jesus called them to turn away from their love of Moses and the law, turn away from the strick restrictions of the Pharisees and believe in the one whom God had sent, the same Jesus the one standing right before them. But this they could not do, Jerusalem did not listen. The Jews were hardened. Fairness to them and their minds was the restoration of the Jewish people to power and glory once again among the nations. Justice for them was to be elevated as the apple of God's eye, and the benchmark of all humanity.
Fairness for them, according to God, was the same fairness he has for all people. For without repentance and faith in the Son of God Jesus Christ, then you stand in your own sin, you reject unjustly the work of salvation Christ has completed on the cross. In stead the Jews followed the behavior of their ancestors by casting out God's only begotten Son, unjustly rejecting him, and executing him, unfairly on the arms of the torturous cross.
Are we any better? How do we handle the word of God. Do we allow it full power over us in our day to day lives, or do we pick and choose what sounds good to us, do we select the passages that are more fitting for us in our context today, judging others to be outdated, and out of touch in today's society. Do we heed God's prophets today, those who are rightly called to speak the word of God publicly, do we treat his messengers with respect as proclaim the Word of God to us. Is Christ's church throughout the world, his bride any better at faithfulness then was the people of God so long ago.
Such failures of we sinners did not deter Jeremiah or Jesus from bringing the needed word of repentance to the people. Nor did such rejection keep Jeremiah and Jesus from proclaiming the promise of true restoration in the mercies of God. Jeremiah proclaimed to the faithful people of God his word that said, "I will be their God and they will be my people (Jer. 32:38), "for I will forgive their iniquities and I'll remember there sin no more" (Heb. 8:12). Jesus heart of compassion beat longingly for the City of Peace, for Jerusalem, as he lamented, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it, how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not."
Even though the house of Jerusalem stood forsaken by God in its faithlessness Jesus pressed on to Calvary. His work of salvation done by his own blood running down the cross was not because we had asked for it, Jesus gave up his life in our place because by doing that, payment for all sin was made. While we fret over our sin of unjustly rejecting Jesus, when we are grieved when we see ourselves in the place of Jerusalem of old, that rejected the prophets and the Christ, when we are plagued by our own shunning of God's word, and our rejection of it, hear ever more clearly the word of Christ, I forgive you all your sin, while you were yet my enemies I died for you. Repent of your sins and receive my forgiveness, my grace is sufficient for you, it always has been, and it always will be. Amen