Faithlife Sermons

Like Father, (Un)Like Son

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Opening

Growing up in Colorado, I love spending time exploring the majestic Rocky Mountains. One of my favourite activities is to hike what we call “14ers”. “14ers” are peaks that rise above 14,000 feet, 4,200 meters, in elevation. To date, I have summited over 20 of them. On one particular trip, I was hiking two peaks connected by a long saddle. Mt. Redcloud and Sunshine Peak. The trail ascended Redcloud first, crossed the saddle, ascended Sunshine, and then returned back across the saddle, up Redcloud a second time, and then back down to the bottom.
As I said, I grew up exploring the mountains and feel quite at home in them. My experience has allowed me to go places and do things that others might chose not to, to take on greater risks than others might. And it was this experience that led me to make the this decision. As I was returning through the saddle the second time having now summited both peaks, I saw a trail head off downhill instead of back up Redcloud. This piqued my interest as I love making “round trips” if possible. However, a sign laying in the rocks said, “Return by Redcloud, dangerous scree ahead”. Scree is loose rock.
After I read that sign, I said to myself, “That sign is for inexperienced people, I have been crossing scree slopes my whole life” and off I went down the side path. Ten minutes later I was rueing my pride. With each step, the whole slope above and below, for 50 meters, started sliding. Much of the scree was the size of a football and could easily trap my foot. And once I started going down, there was no going back the way I had come. I could only try to survive the next 1,000 meters of elevation drop without getting caught in a landslide. And as I discovered later, there was only a narrow section that didn’t end in a cliff. By God’s grace, I made it down that slope unharmed, but it was a terrific lesson in destructive pride and heeding wise council.

Transition

Have you ever had a similar experience? A time when you ignored a warning and ended up in a precarious situation? Maybe you were swimming at the beach and decided to swim outside the flags and found yourself struggling in a rip. Or maybe you thought, I’ll just fill up at the next petrol station despite the glowing red light on the dash, and end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe you stopped short from taking the whole course of antibiotics because you were feeling better, but the infection returned soon after?
Words have meaning and certain groups of words carry significant meaning. And often, even more important than the words themselves, is the person or entity behind the words. In my case on the mountain, the words were important but the fact that they came from a heavy wood sign hauled up a big mountain and installed by people who care about mountain sport and fellow enthusiasts carried even more weight.

Thesis

Over the past several months I have been working my way through the book of Jeremiah and was really struck by two parallel stories about fathers and sons. The first story is from 2 Kings and the second from Jeremiah. So with today being Fathers Day, I thought we might look at these two sets of fathers and sons and explore the parallels in how they heard specific words from God and how they responded to those divine words. We’ll start with the passage and then move to Jeremiah.

Josiah Hears and Obeys

The Story

For 65 years, God’s people had disregarded God and had lived “according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before [them]” (). With the bulk of that time led by one of the most wicked kings, or any person for that matter, in the Bible. Things are looking bleak for God’s great promises of rescue from sin, the defeat of evil, and forever blessings.
But one day something happens that breathed life into all the death. The new king decides that 65 years worth of spring cleaning is needed in the Temple and so he hires Temple Restorers Inc. to freshen things up. And someone finds a lost book. Let’s pick up the story in :
But one day something happens that breathed life into all the death. The new king decides that 65 years worth of spring cleaning is needed in the Temple and so he hires Temple Restorers Inc. to freshen things up. And someone finds a lost book. Let’s pick up the story in
Read ,
The story goes on throughout much of the remaining chapter describing the spring cleaning Josiah brought to the whole kingdom. Note that after each of the myriad idols Josiah dismantles, he burns everything associated with it.

The Fathers

As promised, in this passage we meet our first two fathers - Josiah and Shapan - the one is king of Judah and the other, the king’s secretary. Both men grew up through a period when the worship of God was haphazard. The Temple was in disarray, with bits of it falling off all over the place and, worse, altars to idol gods set right along side Yahweh God’s.
And both these fathers, upon hearing God’s Word - most likely Deuteronomy based on the allusions in the passage - know that God is speaking. Shapan, the first to read the lost book of God’s Law, immediately understands that what he just read is no ordinary book and that its message cannot be ignored and that it must be heard. Shapan immediately rushes off to the king and reads God’s words to him. When Josiah finishes listening, he tears his clothes in grief at Judah’s sin, immediately seeks the Lord in repentance, sends for a prophet of God to find out what he and God’s people need to do, and then responds through burning stuff - anti-God stuff. Finally, Josiah reintroduces the Passover celebration and on a grand scale.
And both these fathers, upon hearing God’s Word - most likely Deuteronomy based on the allusions in the passagge - know that God is speaking. Shapan, the first to read the lost book of God’s Law, immediately understands that what he just read is no ordinary book and that its message cannot be ignored and that it must be heard. Shapan immediately rushes off to the king and reads God’s words to him. When Josiah finishes listening, he tears his clothes in grief at Judah’s sin, immediately seeks the Lord in repentance, sends for a prophet of God to find out what he and God’s people need to do, and then responds through burning stuff - anti-God stuff. Finally, Josiah reintroduces the Passover celebration and on a grand scale.
Both of these men, these fathers, reveal tender hearts to the Spirit of God and the Words of God. They both showed a readiness to heed and obey the words of God. In fact, in it says that:
Both of these men, these fathers, reveal tender hearts to the Spirit of God and the Words of God. They both showed a readiness to heed and obey the words of God. In fact, in it says that:

25 sBefore him there was no king like him, who turned to the YahwehLORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the YahwehLORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the YahwehLORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

25 sBefore him there was no king like him, who turned to the YahwehLORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

Josiah Application

Josiah Application

But what about us? What do we do when we hear the Word of God? Are our hearts tender to the things of the Spirit like Josiah and Shaplan’s were? Does the Word of God convict our hearts of our sin? Does it lead us to repent of our idolatries? Does it set us on a crusade to clean out all sin temples secreted away within us? Josiah’s example both convicts and encourages us.
But what is more, Josiah’s story calls us into proper and genuine worship of God. Conviction, repentance, and house-cleaning are only preludes to the main event - worship of God. For Josiah, this meant restoring the Temple to full operations and re-instituting the central worship event of the Jewish calendar - the Passover. The 2 Chronicles account of these events () really fleshes this out in detail. even makes the claim that this Passover was unlike any other in over 400 years. Josiah understood that the hearing of God’s Word should lead to the worship of God.
But what is more, Josiah’s story calls us into proper and genuine worship of God. Conviction, repentance, and house-cleaning are only preludes to the main event - worship of God. For Josiah, this meant restoring the Temple to full operations and re-instituting the central worship event of the Jewish calendar - the Passover. The 2 Chronicles account of these events () really fleshes this out in detail. even makes the claim that this Passover was unlike any other in over 400 years.
Let’s turn our attention now to the sons of these fathers.
Now let’s to turn our attention to the sons in the parallel passage in Jeremiah.
Let’s turn our attention now to the sons of these fathers.

Jehoiakim Hears and Mocks

The Story

Five years after Josiah’s sudden and tragic death in battle against Egypt, tensions are running hot in Judah with Egypt still pressing hard from one side and the new kids in town, Babylon, pressing hard from the other. With this at play, the people of Judah proclaim a great day of fasting and worship at the Temple. A year earlier, in preparation for just such an event, Jeremiah, God’s faithful mouthpiece, wrote a sermon warning of God’s anger and wrath at Judah’s unfaithfulness and calling for repentance and humble pleas of mercy. The problem, however, is that Jeremiah has a restraining order against him issued by the Temple priests and officials - probably for just such sermons in the past. So Jeremiah sends his scribe to read the sermon, without any mention of its author.
Let’s pick up the story in :
Let’s pick up the story in :
Read ,
In summary, Baruch the scribe reads out Jeremiah’s sermon, some court officials hear the words and immediately recognize that what they just heard is no ordinary sermon and that its message cannot be ignored and that it must be heard. So the officials rush off to the King and read Jeremiah's sermon to him. While he is listening, the King hardens his heart in prideful mockery, tears the scroll to pieces and burns the words of God in contempt, and sends for the prophet to abuse him.
Sound familiar? But inverted, right? This is absolutely deliberate by Jeremiah. Jeremiah has intentionally contrasted this event with the events we read in the 2 Kings a few moments ago. Note some of the key parallels:
Sound familiar? But inverted, right? This is absolutely deliberate by Jeremiah. Jeremiah has intentionally contrasted this event with the events in the 2 Kings passage. Note the parallels:
the words of God are heard by court officials,
the officials recognize their importance,
the officials read the words to the king,
the officials recognize their importance,
the king’s heart is moved/unmoved, repents/mocks
the officials read the words to the king,
and the king responds by tearing, burning, and sending for prophets
the king’s heart is moved/unmoved, repents/mocks
and the king responds by tearing, burning, and sending for prophets
Jeremiah has drawn us into a comparison between these two stories which serves to heighten the impact of this second story. In 2 Kings, the king hears and repents, and we are called to follow suit. In Jeremiah, the kings hears and mocks, and we are called to do the opposite.

The Sons

And to draw the parallels deeper, it is time to meet the promised sons of the fathers we met earlier. In 2 Kings, the fathers were King Josiah and court secretary Shapan. Now the sons. First, we have Josiah’s second son, Jehoiakim, King of Judah like his father. Second, we have Shapan’s son Gemariah, a court official also like his father.
Like his father, when Gemariah heard the words that Baruch the scribe read, he recognized the voice of God. And he acted accordingly. Like his father, Gemariah took the words of God to the king because they were of deep importance to the nation. Like father, like son. Clearly, Shapan passed on to his son his legacy of faith, his tenderness towards the Word of God, and his readiness to obey. Evidence of this heritage of faith is seen even in his grandson, Micaiah, who, in , is the first to hear these fresh words from God and immediately goes and tells his father, Gemariah, the important news.
Jehoiakim, however, is a case of “like father, UNLIKE son”.
Unlike his father, Jehoiakim heard the Word of God and scoffed.
Unlike the his father who heard, repented, and obeyed, Jehoiakim treated the Word of God as a joke, wantonly disregarding it, and hardened his heart.
Unlike his father who tore his garments in grief and fear of God, his son is expressly did not fear or tear his garments.
Unlike his father who called on a prophet of God so that he could hear more from God, Jehoiakim sought to abuse and mistreat God’s prophet.
Unlike his father who burned all the false gods, idols, and false alters, the insolent son burned the very Word of God, strip by strip.
Like father, UNLIKE son indeed. And the evidence of this new family heritage is seen in the actions of Jehoiakim son, Jerahmeel, verse , who has evidently been there the whole time, joining in the “sport, and is now commissioned to find Jeremiah and deal with him.
Like his father, when Gemariah heard the words that Baruch the scribe read, he recognised the voice of God. And he acted accrodingly. Like his father, Gemariah took the words of God to the king becasue they were of deep importance to the nation. Like father, like son. Clearly, Shapan passed on
This is a classic case of “like father, UNLIKE son”
says,

29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’ ”

There is a serous cost for not heeding the Word of God.

Jehoiakim Application

Jehoiakim and Gemariah, Josiah and Shapan, they ask us a question? What is the heritage that we are leaving to our children, to our communities, and ultimately to the wider world? Shapan and his family hear the Word of God and respond in kind. They are “doers of the word and not merely hearers” as James says. And they pass down this faithfulness from generation to generation. They teach the next generation to recongize the voice of God - and this is against a backdrop much like ours today - a decadent, decaying society which was rapidly loosing the ability to heed or even recognize, the words of God. Shapan’s family lived sensitive to the Spirit at a time when it was anything but the fashion. And at key times, as is seen throughout the books of Jeremiah, Kings, and Chronicles, God used Shapan’s family to further his great purposes in special ways.
How are we doing cultivating this sensitivity to the Spirit in our own lives and how are we going passing this on to future generations? Are we like Josiah, who responded personally to God, but seems to have missed the boat with his sons; three of whom served as kings after him, as well as one grandson, and all lived in opposition to God, rebelling against his words. Josiah’s faithfulness died with him on the Egyptian battlefield. Let us pray that our spiritual legacy will outlive us and not die in the local cemetary.

Jehoiakim Redux

One further parallel between the two stories needs to be seen, and this is the most serious of all. For Josiah, hearing God’s Word and heeding it led to spiritual renewal, worship - to life, as was evidenced by the focus on the Passover celebration. But for Jehoiakim, hearing God’s Word and disregarding it led to destruction, - to death - in the Babylonian invasion. Later in the chapter, in , God says,

29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’ ”

There is a serous cost for not heeding the Word of God.
And this same opportunity to hear the Word of God is before us all today. Let’s turn now to a final father and son to explore more about what all this means for us today.

The Son and the Father

The Son and the Father

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” ().
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), .
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), .
Jesus, the perfect son, the very Word of God incarnate, is our opportunity. Today, Jesus is saying this to us all,

“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Jesus, the perfect son, the very Word of God incarnate.
()
These words from the eternal, all-creating, perfectly loving Father spoken through his glorious and perfectly obedient Son are the same as the words heard by Josiah from Deuteronomy, they are the same as the words Jehoiakim heard from Jeremiah. They are the same ones that God is speaking to us today.
How will we respond to the Word of God? Will we hear them, and subtly disregard them? Will we say to ourselves, God is not really that serious about what he says? It is so easy for me to listen what God’s Word says and not really hear them and to think that I can continue doing whatever it is that I want. What about you?
Will we follow Jehoiakim’s example and scoff, mock, and destroy God’s word and think that all will turn out all right? Do we want to remain in darkness facing judgment on the last day?
Or will we hear like Josiah, like Shapan’s family, like Jeremiah? Will we come into Jesus’ light? Will we hear Jesus’ words, God’s words through Jesus, and keep them? Will we choose life?
The glorious thing is that this is not a choice we make alone. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus promises to send his Holy Spirit to help us along the way. To convict us and to instruct us in the things of God. And Jesus has organised his people into a community, his church - the very people here in this room - to sharpen one-another and to encourage one-another to keep running the race.
So let us all choose Christ, let us respond in worship to his Words. Let us repent and seek life in Christ alone. And let us do it together as his people.
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