Lamentation and Mediation (Jeremiah 15:1–21)

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!’ ” —Jeremiah 15:1

In Jeremiah 14 Judah laments twice and she laments well, insofar as the words themselves go. That her cries are duplicitous, with YHWH being near her lips, but far from her heart, is made plain by Yahweh’s replies, the most stinging of which comes chapter 15. In chapter 14 God says he will not hear Judah’s cries and Jeremiah is commanded not to pray for them. Now, he says that even should Moses or Samuel intercede, He would not turn toward his people.

When the people sinned by worshipping the golden calf, Moses pled for them so that YHWH relented of the disaster that he had spoken (Exodus 32:14). Also, when Israel balks at taking the promised land, expressing her desire to return to Egypt, YHWH tells Moses he will strike them and make a nation out of Moses. Moses pleads that God have mercy for the sake of his name and covenant. Yahweh pardons.

Regarding Samuel, when Israel is in the land but harassed by the Philistines, the people confess their sin and ask that Samuel intercede for them they they might be delivered. Samuel prayed. The Philistines were defeated. When the people sin by asking for a king, again they ask Samuel to act as mediator. He prays and they are promised grace.

Psalm 99:6 says, “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them.” But now, Judah’s sin is so great and God’s long-suffering has been so extended, it matters not what they say, nor Jeremiah. No, even should Moses or Samuel intercede for them, His heart would not turn toward this people.

Following this, Jeremiah laments two times himself and each time he receives a rebuke mixed with grace. In v. 19 the prophet who has so often declared “return” is told to return himself, and promised that should he do so, he will be restored.

In these two chapters we have two laments. The first is met with a reply that there is no hope for redemption; the second, holds out hope for restoration. And the irony is this, if you only listen to the laments, Judah’s, which sounds good, is rejected, while Jeremiah’s, which sounds bad at times, is heard. What makes the difference? We might say that whereas Judah’s prayers sounded good, her heart was false, and though Jeremiah’s prayers sounded bad at times, his heart was true. Or, we could demonstrate how Judah had continually hardened her heart to the word of the Lord, whereas Jeremiah, though sinful, consistently showed a tenderness toward it. Further, we might reflect how this book shows that judgment was determined for this generation of Judah just as grace was determined for Jeremiah. But behind all this, we might say that whereas Judah didn’t have a prayer, Jeremiah did.

For the elect, a mediating High Priest and Sacrifice is given. As their Priest He bears their names on His heart and as their Sacrifice He bore their wounds in His body. You cannot pray well enough. Foremost, it matters not how you pay, but Who prays for you. If Christ is not your mediator, you do not have a prayer. If matters not who you are or who you might have in your corner if you have not Jesus. The mediation of Moses and Samuel were only a shadow. The Son who cast them has risen. “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Asking for Directions (Psalm 28)

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Because they do not regard the works of the LORD
or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.

The LORD is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed. —Psalm 28:4, 8

In examining the 27th psalm one discovers that the steering wheel can be on the right side of the car. Though it may feel awkward, right isn’t wrong. The saint’s faith can drive from confidence to lament without the car being in reverse or turning around and going back over ground we though we’d gained.

But now, in the 28th Psalm, the wheel is back on the left. In the 27th Psalm we drive from confidence to lament then back to a brief conclusion of confidence.  Now, in the 28th, we drive from lament to confidence then back to a brief conclusion of lament. Overall, in the 27th we drive from confidence to lament; in the 28th, from lament to confidence.

Though we “feel” more comfortable driving this direction, we often don’t know how to get there. How does one get from lament to confidence? Often lament takes a hard right into despair or a sharp left into self-reliance. If we fail to reach the proper destination, the reason is as simple as our failure to use the map. This psalm is both a map and it points to the map. It both is the Word of God and it points to the Word of God.

There are two declarations of truth the psalm that serve as transition points: the first from petition to praise, the second from praise to petition. In the first (v. 5), David declares with confidence the destruction of the wicked; in the second (v. 8), he declares the salvation of God’s people and His anointed. How is it that David is confident of these things? Because God has spoken.

Both David’s lament and His laud are guided by the Word; the Word by which God gives faith. We often don’t make the transition from lament to laud because our conscience rightly testifies against us that we cannot. When our lament is an expression of “Your kingdom come!” laud will follow. I’m afraid our prayers are not concerned with God’s kingdom come, but our comfort and fun. When we cry out in prayer, it isn’t so much in longing  for God’s kingdom to come as sobbing that our kingdom has gone.

The answer to this is repentance, and that means humbly asking for directions. You don’t naturally know how to steer your prayers. Yes, you need the Spirit, but the Spirit speaks through the Word. You’re not a prophet. Pull over and talk to one. David is a good one to start with.

Mediated is Superior to Immediate (Exodus 32:12–23)

Moses’ prayer to behold God’s glory is oft bandied about in a individualistic way. Indeed, Moses’ longing is the longing of every true saint, and Paul makes this application alluding to Moses’ experience in 2 Corinthians 3:15–18.

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Yet, note that Paul refers to this as something “we all” behold. This is the corporate experience of the church.

When you read Exodus 32–34 who do you identify with? “Show me Your glory,” we pray, but do you ever think of this as being prayed by another for your benefit? This chapter is the apex of Moses’ mediation, which runs like a mountain range through Exodus. Moses’ mediation is no small theme in this book. The theme of mediation isn’t comprised of a few foothills with a couple of snowcapped heights. Exodus contains the Old Testament Himalayas of mediation, and here stands Everest. Moses as mediator clearly is a foreshadowing of Jesus, yet, when Moses makes his boldest request, we want to insert ourselves. We’re not Moses. We’re golden-calf worshipping Israel. We need a mediator. To behold the face of God we need a Mediator who has beheld the face of God.

When Moses cries out to see God’s glory, that request cannot be separated from His pleading for His people. Moses’ beholding God’s glory speaks to the favor He has found with God, and if the Mediator has found favor, the people can take hope of God’s presence with them (Exodus 32:16).

The glory of God that the saints will forever behold is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). This is no mere reflected glory as with Moses for Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). Our great confidence of seeing God’s glory is our Mediator’s prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).”

Mediated Judgment and Mercy (Exodus 32:15–35)

“You break it, you remake it.” Is this the connection between Moses’ breaking the first set of tablets, which were completely the work of God, and the second set, which God required Moses to cut? Is Moses being punished for a temper tantrum? I doubt it. When Moses makes the second set, it doesn’t speak against, but for Moses.

Just before Moses comes down we have the fullest description of the tablets (Exodus 32:15–16). This sets you up to be devastated at their being broken; but who really has broken these tablets? The tablets say, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The tablets say, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” Who has broken the tablets? If Moses’ breaking the tablets was wrong, far better to break these tablets the way Moses did than the way Israel did. Still, I don’t believe Moses is sinfully throwing a hissy fit, and thus, neither was his making new tablets like being required to rewrite a sloppily composed essay.

Consider the following things that speak for Moses’ action. First, the very words are used to describe God’s anger (32:10), and now used for Moses’ (32:19). Second, unlike the instance in Numbers 20 where Moses does disobey God, there is no rebuke here. Third, Moses breaks the tablets at the foot of the mountain, the place where the true altar was built and their covenant with the true God was ratified. Finally, the tablets are a visible sign of the covenant. Israel has broken covenant, and now Moses throws them down as a sign of what has happened. Moses throws down the tablets of the covenant to show them what they’ve done.

Following this, further judgments are then mediated through Moses, yet, following this, he pleads with God for the people. When the people enter back into covenant through Moses’ mediation, the second set of tablets is carved by the mediator. This isn’t punishment, rather, it speaks to the necessity and blessing of mediation before God.

What we have broken, Jesus makes new. We have received something better than the sign of tablets for our covenant breaking. We have received the cup of the new covenant. Yet all the same, we should not take this sign lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27–32). Both judgment and mercy were mediated through Moses. We should not then be dumfounded that such things can be joined together in Jesus if they were united in Moses. Jesus will both save His church and purify her. All of His mediation is good and all of it is for the good of the church.