“Four Friends” -- By: Paul Overland

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 33:0 (NA 2001)
Article: “Four Friends”
Author: Paul Overland

“Four Friends”

Paul Overland

Paul Overland (Ph.D., Brandeis) is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at ATS. This is a slightly edited transcript of an ATS chapel sermon delivered 10/26/01.

Recently I met four friends. They proved remarkably wise. Suggestions they offered were borne out of their experiences in ministry, in the hope that my ministry might be richer. Their advice deeply moved me. Perhaps it will you, as well.

Before proceeding, I must admit that these insights are not my own. They come from someone else’s sermon. By now it must be “public domain”, since it was first preached in approximately 627 B.C. That places us at the opening days of Jeremiah’s ministry, just a bit ahead of the closing days of the Southern kingdom of Israel. Jeremiah will personally witness the demise of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Listen, then, with both mind and imagination to what may have been Jeremiah’s inaugural sermon (Jer. 2:1-9).

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Go proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: ‘I remember the devotion of your youth,

At once as these words open to us it is as if someone were leafing thoughtfully through a cherished album. God is the one opening the album —a very personal album. In fact, albums don’t come with more deeply-cherished memories than these. Picture scenes from the next leaf.

I remember... how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.

3 Israel was holy to the Lord, The first fruits of his harvest; All who devoured her were held guilty, And disaster overtook them, —declares the Lord.

At this point God shuts the album. He has something very, very sobering to say to his people.

4 Hear the word of the Lord, 0 house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel.

5 This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me?

Was there a divine pause after this question? Did God wait for a reply? Perhaps so. The people answered nothing. So he went on.

They followed worthless idols, And became worthless themselves.

Do not these few words convey an enormous truth? What I follow, that I become, for good or ill.

6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’

7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and ri...

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