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God Changed a Name: Pashhur December 14, 2011

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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I preached this sermon this afternoon.  I wanted to upload the audio file, but WordPress isn’t that cool, they wanted my money.  So, here is the text at least.  Read it with a slight Arabic or even Middle-eastern accent.  It is a dramatic monologue, rather than a typical sermon, my first of the kind.  Enjoy!

Jeremiah 19:14-20:6
Advent Midweek 3
December 14, 2011

Focus: God restores His people.
Function: That the hearers fear Yahweh.
Structure: Monologue.

God Changed a Name: Pashhur

I am here gentle people of God to offer you a warning. What, you do not recognize me? How can you pretend that you don’t know who I am? Oh, how far have I fallen. I am Pashhur, or at least I was Pashhur once. You must hear my tale; you must mark my words. These are desperate times.
I was once a great leader of my people. I, Pashhur son of Immer, held the office of priest in God’s temple. No, more than that, I was the lead overseer of the temple. The people respected me. When I spoke, they listened to my every word. I had status. I had wealth. I had power. Now, now I would give all of that up for a scrap of dignity. I have lost everything I once held dear.
Curse you Jeremiah! Curse the day you stepped foot into my temple. If only I had listened…if only…
Most of you probably do not know the day of which I speak, so let me tell the story of this young man. I had heard of his rabble before. I had heard whisperings amongst the people. He spoke to the people in Topheth and told them that they would be killed with the sword. He broke a clay pot and told them that like that pot could not be fixed, neither could they. He spoke to others too. He was spreading these rumors that a powerful nation would come and lay our holy city under siege. That they would bind up our towns and starve us out. That they would tear down the very temple of God! How dare he utter such blasphemy! No one could destroy God’s temple! Or at least, that’s what I used to think.
I will never forget that awful day. That cursed day when Jeremiah walked into the temple. He was an absolute nut, completely mad. He raved like a lunatic. He started shouting these prophecies, these wretched blasphemies. He claimed to be a messenger of God. He claimed that our temple would crumble. I was the overseer of that temple. How could I allow him to get away with speaking such blasphemy?
I did what any sane man would have done. I beat him. I punched him, whipped him, and swore at him. He must know that his false words must come to an end. I left him out in the stocks overnight. That was supposed to give him the chance to think about what he’d said and done. But did he? No!
Instead of repenting of his treachery, the scum came out preaching at me. He spoke to me the final words I would ever hear him say. He prophesied about my demise; He claimed that Yahweh changed my name. “No longer will you be called Pashhur,” he told me, “but Magor-Missaviv.”
Maybe you don’t understand the ramifications of this. To you, names mean nothing. But to us Hebrews, names matter. You could even say we are superstitious when it comes to the meaning of our name. A name matters. Your name has an impact on your life and who you will become. My name was good enough. Pashhur is “one who tears the linen in pieces.” Sure, it may not sound like the greatest name, but it sufficed. People who worked with linen things were honorable folk. But Magor-Missaviv?! Could Jeremiah have cursed me anymore that day?!
Magor-Missaviv means terror from every side. At first, I shrugged off this concern, this prophecy. I ignored the words of this man for some time. After all, he was nothing more than a babbling fool, a false prophet. Sure, Babylon was strong, but no way could they take the temple, the holy city. We were a proud people. And that arrogance ended up being part of our downfall.
As time passed, I remember hearing of the growing power of the king of Babylon. He was claiming land after land and inching his way closer to us. That’s when I started to remember the words Jeremiah had spoken that day. That’s when I started to fear the name he called me that awful day.
There was nothing I could do. Nothing. I mean, if God had truly decided to turn against us, what could I do, just one pathetic little man. My fear grew…and then they came.
The army of Babylon marched upon our city. Nebuchadnezzar marched on us. No allies came to our aid during that time. The Babylonians scared our farmers and drove them into the city walls. And then, when they had us pinned down, trapped like prey, the sat. They just waited us out. In our pride, we wouldn’t go down so easily.
We starved. We exhausted our food supply. Sickness and death dwindled away at our population. It was as Jeremiah had told me. I was cursed. I had to sit and watch as my loved ones died horrible deaths. Why didn’t I listen?!
The curse didn’t end either. Those of us unfortunate enough to survive were dragged off; taken away from our homes and our land, taken to that God-forsaken land of Babylon. We were less than slaves to them. They worked us day and night. If we died in labor, what did they care? We weren’t slaves, slaves have value. We were vermin. We are vermin. And I am still cursed.
I work alongside what few are left of my brothers here in Babylon. I have lost all for whom I cared. All of my loved ones, those close to me, dead. Either killed by starvation, or mercifully by the sword so that it would be painless. Our number grows smaller by the day.
There are rumors among us. Some of us who listened more closely to the prophet’s words, to Jeremiah’s words, some of us heard him tell of freedom, of redemption. He foretold of a day when our mourning would turn to joy; a day when our people would return home and rebuild; a day when our children would no longer know this suffering. And they say that he even spoke of a new covenant. A new agreement between God and men in which Yahweh Himself will put His law upon our hearts; a day when He will be our God and we shall live as His people. It will be an age when all mankind will know Yahweh as their God. No one will have to teach another about Him, for they will all know Him. He foretold of forgiveness. That somehow our sins and iniquity would be forgiven. I know of no such sacrifice. But the people are starting to believe. They are starting to hope for this new covenant, a new day, and a God who forgives.
Whatever that may entail, I know that I will not taste it. Everything else the prophet said from God has come true. And he foretold my end that blasted day. I will not escape this grave. I will die. I will be buried among these foreigners who care nothing of my existence. I will die in this shame and dishonor.
But this, this is why I have come to you this day. I fear I must warn you before it’s too late. You must know what Jeremiah said. You must know that his words, words that were truly given to him by God, these words came true. Yahweh is a righteous God who wants nothing of sin. That much I know. In His holiness, He has surely struck us down for sinful and prideful living. He is definitely a jealous God who pours out wrath on those who turn away to worship false deities.
Fear the Lord. But more than that. Believe in Him. If these words of the prophet Jeremiah continue to hold true, there is hope yet. The God I knew, was not who God really was. I knew a God of wrath that even our sacrifices failed to appease. But this Jeremiah, and other prophets too, speak of a God of love and forgiveness. I do not know if I will ever know this God or if I will die here where I stand.
But you, you must listen to me now! If you remember anything that I have said to you this day, remember this. There have long been whisperings, rumblings, of an heir. An heir, a son of David. These speak of One who will come in glory and triumph. They speak of a coming King, a Messiah if you will. He must be tied somehow with this new covenant, with this loving God who forgives the sins of His people. The prophets say He is coming. I say look for Him! And blessed are you if you see Him or believe in Him. For apart from that hope, there is nothing.
Now I must go, before the taskmasters beat me for my sloth and for speaking to you outsiders. But it is with this, I will leave you. I have lived the nothing, you must live in the hope of this Messiah and His covenant!

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