September 16, 2019

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“The World’s Falling Apart”                                      Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

A Doctor says: Do you want the bad news or the good news first? Patient: OK, well, give me the good news first. Doctor: You have 24-Hours to live. Patient: How is that good news?? So what’s the bad news?? Doctor: I’ve been trying to call you since yesterday.

So you know I’m going with the bad news first this morning. The earth is like a World War I no man’s land or like Hiroshima on August 7, 1945. The world is formless and void, says Jeremiah. Is it a dream? Well, partially. It’s Jeremiah’s prophetic vision of the world falling apart. For him that disintegration would come soon. He was one of the prophets who continually warned the southern kingdom of Judah that if the people didn’t treat one another with justice and their lives remained far from God, they would be destroyed.

He was right. History tells us that destruction came at the hands of the Babylonians in 587 BC. In his prophetic vision he says, “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and [void]” (v. 23). In English it sounds exactly like the opening verses of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and [void]” (v. 2).

Jeremiah goes on to describe the de-creation of the world, “I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger” (vss. 24-26). In Genesis creation continues: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Genesis pictures God creating the world out of a mess. God’s first creative act was to bring order out of chaos, something more substantial where before there was only liquid.

In Jeremiah’s prophecy, creation sinks back into disorder. Genesis 1 is reversed: humans, animals, vegetation vanish. The dry land itself totters. The skies no longer give light and the chaos that waited in eternity for God’s original, creative touch returns. This is Jeremiah’s frightening way of saying that everything that used to be stable, familiar or loving; everything that was productive, predicable or promising; everything that was comfortable, abundant or hopeful, is gone. Jeremiah sees it before it happens. He gazes upon universal disorder—the silence of all human coming and going, not even a bird left to chirp. It’s over. Only nothingness and void remain. Remember, this is what Jeremiah sees. We hear about it from him, but he sees it.

Jeremiah tells us, along with the citizens of Judah shortly before 587 BC, that our world is very unstable. In fact, Will and Ariel Durant wrote in The Lessons of History, “to the geologic eye all the surface of the earth is a fluid form, and mankind moves upon it as insecurely as Peter walking on the [water] to Christ,” (pp. 14-15).

Moving from the physical world to the social, we realize that civilization is merely a thin veneer overlaying cruelty and savagery, and such cruelty and savagery bursts out often enough, whether in the lunacy of wars or in fired workers showing up to shoot their former bosses. We are only one generation separated from barbarity. And if you don’t believe that, you’ve never raised children.