Jeremiah: The Fall and Future of Jerusalem
Open your Bibles, if you would, to the book of Jeremiah. If you're a guest with us today, I've been preaching through, book by book, through the Bible. And today is the book of Jeremiah. Let me open up the message in prayer.
Father God, I thank you this morning for just such rich words that we can sing and worship you with. That we need you every hour. Lord, that is so true. Father, we pray that you would forgive our hearts and minds and cleanse us, Lord God, from all of our sin. And pray that you would just, Lord, help us to soak in your Word this morning. Help us to push off everything else in our minds, but just to focus on your Word, Lord, and I just thank you for that. In your precious, Holy Name, Amen.
Yesterday, my wife and I got to have a nice little day trip to Washington, DC. And, you know, I love architecture, and love seeing how things are put together. And DC is quite a marvel in architecture, considering how big some of the stones are. Just the precision at which things are built and put together. The scale of the buildings as you walk up on the Capitol. You see it in pictures or on keychains and you think, “Oh, it's just this little building,” but it's absolutely massive. We walked up to the Capitol building, and, you know, saw the guard there with it was an AK-47 or an M-16, something like that. And so, you realize it's, you know, not all pleasantries.
But we also didn't know that there was a rally going on yesterday. And we could hear the shouts and things from the other side of the Capitol. We didn't venture down there. But I think it was a pro-abortion rally or something like that. It just really tempts me to go down and see what all the hubbub is about. Why these people would be there shouting, desiring so much to spit in the face of God. Why would they call it women's rights and then say no matter the gender? That’s what one of the representatives said on the news yesterday. It's really the right to defy God. And they celebrate it. Make no bones about it. They are opposed to God, opposed to Scripture. In Isaiah 44:2 and in Jeremiah 1:4, both these prophets understood that God formed us, not a fully developing amoeba. But God formed us in the womb. Before we were formed, he knew us. But that's not really the problem. That's not really the issue. It's not really the issue of people wanting to you know, “my body, my right.” That's not really it. The issue is this, that people want to define their own truth. And when they get to define their own truth, then they get to live however they want to live.
God is active, as I said, in forming us in the womb. Yet the world wishes for us to not only have their view, but not only to appreciate their view, or to tolerate their view, but to approve of their view. But dear Christian, our job is to communicate and live by God's truth, not the world's. Our job is to be like Christ and to shine his light to the world, not to ask the world what they would like, and then deliver it. Like some sort of seeker sensitive church. No see, the problem was that they were trying to define truth. And Jeremiah faced this problem to far greater extents than we face. Our society is quite tame, except maybe for the millions that they have slaughtered in abortion. You see, God was no longer allowed to define truth and justice in Jeremiah's time either. That right was taken by the people. Thankfully, though, as is God's pattern, the unchangeable, immutable, if you will, (theological word, immutable), unchangeable God raises up men from time to time to confront the world with truth. And this is where Jeremiah came in.
Look in chapter one, verse four of the book of Jeremiah, if you would. This is God's call to this boy [ Jeremiah 1:4-9], “Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said [this is Jeremiah], ‘Ah, Lord GOD!, Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD,’ Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’”
Notice, the marching orders had been given: “Where I send, you shall go; what I say, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them.” Why? “I am with you.” Dear Christian, this is a principle for us to consider. That God has given us our marching orders, God has told us what to do, and where to go and how to worship. And not to fear man but to fear him who, after death, can throw you into the lake of fire. Dear person in this room, do you know this God? I would challenge the notion that everyone who comes to church is actually saved. I would challenge the notion that every preacher who preaches is actually saved. Do we know the God of Scripture? Do we know this compassionate God who says, “the very foundation of your confidence in life is God, himself?”
Overnight, Jeremiah would have to become a man. To leave his boyish ways behind. He most likely was a teenager. At best, 20, 22 years old, at best. But it was time to speak for God. It was time to rise up, come what may, I speak for God, we say God's Words, we live for him. That's where we stand and here's the line. And God said, “This is my guy. He is going to go before the nations.” And he would need an immense amount of encouragement. Let us not forget that God, himself, is our encouragement.
Look in verse 15 of chapter one, this is God's message, you can see why he would need encouragement. [Jeremiah 1:15] “For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their hands. But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.”
That, that is quite a message! This is not like, “Hey Jeremiah, remember me, it's God. If you're willing, Jeremiah, if you don't mind, I would like you to consider, think this through and (as is common) pray about it for a while (even though it's me telling you this), pray about it – (to me, I'm gonna have the same response). But think about it for a while, Jeremiah. I know the people are quite wicked.” But is that what God did? Did he have this conversation? Did he have an idea to start a dialogue with Jeremiah? “Hey Jeremiah, I'm considering you.” No. Before you were in the womb, I consecrated you. Did Jeremiah have a choice? Well, I guess he could defy God. Or he could fulfill his calling. Do you see that God was not really asking here? He was saying, “You are the man. And you're going to go and tell them that they are worshipping other gods, and the little idols who can't hear, see, speak or do anything. That worshipping them is a bad idea.”
We normally like to be all excited about our charge and our call to God. This is an exciting endeavor. And I can tell you, it is exciting to preach his Word. Because we know that God's plans will come to fruition. The question is, are we with God or not? This morning, are you with God or not? There's no gray area. Coming to church doesn't make you a believer. Agreeing that Scripture is true doesn't make you a believer. That just, you know, puts you in the category of not disagreeing with God's Word. You must follow the Lord your God, you must turn from your sins to the Lord Jesus Christ, to receive forgiveness of sins. And everyone who does has a new nature given to them. You can see the principle of Jeremiah, following God, and [being given] a new direction in life, a new cause in life, a new purpose, a new path, a new message. Such is the case with everyone who believes. That we have a new purpose, a new message.
And it was indeed a message from God. Remember in the Pentateuch, in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28. God lays out before the people, beginning in verse one [Deuteronomy 28:1], if you obey me, I will bless you, and these are all the ways I will bless you. But if you disobey me, much further down in the chapter, these are all the ways I will punish you. This is a fulfillment of those passages. God is keeping his Word, as he promised to them. And he goes over and over, in the book of Jeremiah, how he is about keeping his Word. “Thus says the Lord,” is used 151 times in the book of Jeremiah. There was no mistaking, was this Jeremiah's message or God's message? It was God's, unequivocally.
Well, it was time for action, turn to chapter two. “The word of the LORD [Jeremiah 2:1-2] came to me,” see that phrase, “came to me, saying, ‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” Look in verse three [Jeremiah 2:3], he reminds them, “Israel was holy to the LORD…” God begins reminding the people of his love and affection for them. Holy means to be set apart. Holy means to be called to God's purposes, away from other purposes. I remember how you used to love me. And you used to follow me as a nation in the wilderness. A very, very long time ago; hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. Yet it was they who turned from him. And it is said if God feels distant, guess who moved?
Verse six, now he starts giving them the hard part of the message. [Jeremiah 2:6] “They,” meaning the people, “did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’” They didn't even look for me. They didn't even question in their hearts, Where was I? What was going on? And it was not only the people, look in verse eight, it was the priests. The priests did not say, where is the Lord? As you know, if you're a regular attender here, the L-O-R-D in the Hebrew is the name, the memorial name of God, it's Yahweh, YHWH. It’s L-O-R-D in most of your Bibles. The priests did not say, Where is Yahweh? The people didn't say, he wasn't on anybody's mind. It was the people and their religious leaders together. Look in Jeremiah 2:11, “my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.”
“MY people,” not just some people, not just any people, “MY people.” The ones that God led out of Egypt, the ones who had gone through all of these trials, the ones who had seen God provide manna in the wilderness, the ones who had seen God in a pillar of fire by day and a cloud by night. The ones who had seen God deliver them from Egypt, in the most dramatic and miraculous way God could think of. Those are the people who exchanged the glory of God “for that which does not profit.”
Look in Jeremiah 2:17-18, “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God, when he led you in the way? And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” Not only did the people turn from God, they turned to other gods, they forsook the LORD. They turned away from him. They sought help from everyone but God. If you consider Egypt (where they were), if you're picturing the map, Egypt that is south and to the west, of where they were. They look to Egypt for power and strength. But what gave Jeremiah confidence and strength? Was it not God, himself? And should not the people have turned to God, himself? Yet they turned to Egypt. They turned to Assyria. They turned to whatever the world dominating power was. They were fighting against themselves. Judah was in the south. And Israel and the northern tribes to the north. Even their own people they were fighting against. This is the climate that Jeremiah walked into.
Jeremiah came at a time, right after King Josiah, you remember him? He was the boy who became king at age eight. If we just put the eight-year-olds in charge right now the rest of the service, what do you think would happen? So, there was an eight year old leading the entire nation. And he was a good king. Yet after he died in 627 BC, the people went right back to their sin. This is Judah. The northern ten tribes, they kind of just had bad king after bad king and they were just bad. The southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin. They kind of went back and forth. They were mostly bad but at times they had these bright lights. The shining light of follow God, follow God. But after he died, they would not have any more good kings.
Jeremiah would minister to the people for forty years, at least four decades, until the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Imagine. I've been preaching only nine years, my entire life. Forty years of judgment, that's chapters 1 through 45, in the book of Jeremiah. It's a little bit of the call, and then here's the message, and then judgment. Jeremiah is in the setting of around Jerusalem. It's about 100 years after the prophet Isaiah. Assyria is fading away as a world power. That makes room for two other powers: Babylon, who is rising quickly. And Egypt, who is like the on again, off again, relationship person. They're trying to rise again to power and they come against Babylon, and a few times they look like they're going to be victorious. But eventually, Babylon annihilates them, and they run and they flee back, and they don't come back. So Babylon, crushes Assyria, takes Nineveh, their capital. The Nineveh, takes their capital. And now Babylon has put off any hope of other nations helping. They are greater in strength and number than any other power in the world at this point. And they set their eyes on Jerusalem. One thing that you need to remember is that God had called them to set their eyes on Jerusalem. God will specifically call Babylon to come and punish his people. And the Babylonian threat is now imminent. And that's the scenario by which Jeremiah gets to work and to speak for God.
The structure, as you can see in your outline journal, if you have one. Chapter One is the Call. Through chapter 45 is the Future of Judah, that's a series of judgments. Chapters 46 to 51, is the future of the Gentiles, that's nation after nation after nation, which will also be punished for their sins outside of Jerusalem. And then chapter 52 is a detailed version of the Fall of Jerusalem. Which actually also occurs in chapters 37 to 39. How does an entire nation wear out the patience of Almighty God? Did we not just hear this morning, how God, how his love is steadfast and it endures forever? How do you wear out God's patience? How does the nation who is called and set apart for the work of God, do that? They're called to be a light to the nations. To contain and promote the Word of God, to worship God, to not be like the other nations. How do they get to the point where they finally and unequivocally bring on the full judgment of God, here and now?
Well, it's not like they just held rallies for sin. It's not just like, the pro-abortion movement. It's not just that they considered homosexuality to be normal, or celebrated. What were they like? Turn, if you would, to chapter seven. Verse nine. This is the spiritual state that brings on the full judgment of God. And know that this is centuries of disobedience. Not just a brief moment in time, but centuries of disobedience. They didn't want to hear the truth. They simply wanted to be told everything will be fine. Don't worry about it. God gave them a prophet and they didn't want to listen. You just kind of paraphrase what is found here in some of these verses in starting in chapter seven, verse nine and following. They would steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal. And then they would come into the house of God like everything's just fine.
Jeremiah 7:11, the house of God was basically filled with hypocrites. Jeremiah 7:18, the whole family worshipped other gods, not just the mom or dad, everybody participated. Jeremiah 7:24, they walked in their own counsel, with stubborn evil hearts. Just listen for a quick second, beloved. We need to be approachable. If no one can ever correct you, you have a stubborn, evil heart. If you can't be told you have sin, that's the main message Jesus Christ brought. He came to seek and to save sinners. So, if you're above that, then you are the one who does not need a physician, whose leg is broken but says you're just fine. We need to be approachable, because we sin, and we do make mistakes. We do willfully at times, sin against other people with our words and our actions. We manipulate people at times. Let us not be like the people of Judah with stubborn, evil hearts. Jeremiah 7:28, they were continually rejecting God, his discipline and truth. Continually. Are you the kind of person that just makes their own plan and expects everybody else to follow? They continually rejected God. To top it all off, Jeremiah 7:31, they were literally sacrificing their children. Literally sacrificing their children to other gods.
Jeremiah 7:23-28, let me read this, this is a summary. God summarizes their spiritual condition, “But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” That sounds like a good deal to me. “And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.” If they just would have done that. They would have gotten the blessings of God, “But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”
There is in Christianity, a great movement of just telling people who are living in constant sin that everything's going to be okay because they prayed some prayer when they were eight. That theology does not work with Scripture. It never has, and it never will. In the New Testament, if you love me, you will obey me. If you're not obeying me, the antithesis, you do not love me.
Jeremiah 7:25, “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.” God pursued them. Jeremiah 7:26-28, “Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.” There is a strong movement to move away from the truth of God because people think they can't fill their churches with the actual Word of God. They think the people can't handle it. Well, this is what happens when churches and movements and people move away from the Word of God. They eventually don't listen to the truth at all.
This goes on for 45 chapters. It's intense. But listen, it's not just that they were stubborn. They had an insatiable lust for sin. They had an insatiable drive for sin. It's compared in Jeremiah 2:24, like a donkey in heat which sniffs the wind to satisfy their desires. That's not my word, that's the Word of God. That's not my illustration, that's God's illustration. It's like they were uncontrollable. You say, “Well, every generation has pockets of people, right? The Remnant, there's always a remnant. Right?” Isn’t that what Isaiah said, ‘there's no remnant, it's just me.’”
Well, let's look in chapter nine, verse one. There must be some who followed God. [Jeremiah 9:1] “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” Notice he says, these are my people, and yet he weeps over them. That's why Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. Jeremiah 9:2-5, “Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them!” Now listen, “For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD. Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.”
Friends, that's just a few verses. Was it everyone? Yes. From the young to the old. They all had an insatiable desire to fulfill their sins. And instead of just looking at what should be an obvious slap in God's face, of the movements, and the parades, and all of the things that are going on in our country? We have to ask ourselves, have we ever been there? Or are we there, now? Have we ever gone continually back to our sin time and time again? Like a pig to the mud or a dog to its vomit. Or the many other phrases that Scripture uses. The blind follow the blind and they both fall into a pit. Words without knowledge, pride comes before the before the fall. We could go on and on. But see, there's a reason why Scripture says, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Sin is infectious and it spreads. And in the church, we need to remember that we too have our issues at times.
Can you think of any of the acceptable sins that are acceptable in the church today? I'll give you a couple. You're welcome. Complacency, is huge. It's a big acceptable sin in our culture of Christianity. You say, “That's a sin?” Scripture calls it laziness, laziness. It's loving what God gives us and spending it all on ourselves. He has given us the bountiful, wonderful Word of God. And we don't give it to others. We don't apply it to ourselves. We talk about it, but we don't know it. Or maybe one of the biggest, refusing to consider that we ourselves need to change. That we need to change. It's very easy to come and preach and to declare the Words of God. But to internalize those and to say, “Where do I need to change?” That is difficult. It's incredibly difficult to think that, “Wow, this message is actually for me, not just everyone else.” And that's subtle pride. And subtle pride slides us into being complacent with where we’re at. We can always find somebody who's worse. Or, “Hey, I'm not like I used to be 20 years ago.” Right?
But we ourselves, need to understand that we need to make progress in our lives. Because holiness is not close to us, it is very far from us. And yet that is the very goal that God points us towards is, “Be holy because I myself am holy.” And friend, do not be satisfied with your current state of holiness. Like it says in Jeremiah 2:23, “How can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done – ….” How do I know if I'm wallowing in acceptable sins? Well, a couple of ways we can think about this is that if we spend time feeling really guilty about our life, but don't ever change anything. You're probably wallowing in some type of acceptable sin. Or another way is that you spend much time justifying your spiritual immaturity comparing yourself to others. Right, Jesus Christ is our example. You're supposed to be able to emulate the elders and the leaders and the pastors. But we don't present ourselves, we present Christ. You need to set the bar high, not just at your leaders. You need to set the bar at the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another way to know if you're wallowing in acceptable sins is that an excuse is never far away. Church, we have an amazing opportunity to be a bright light in this world, not just a dim one; a huge, bright light. But we need to look at our own selves and see where do I need to grow? Where do I need to grow? We need to heed the example of the people in Jeremiah's day. They were not godless. They knew God. They knew his ways. They just didn't care. They even knew Jeremiah spoke for God. And at times even asked Jeremiah, “Hey, I know we're kind of frolicking over here in our sin. But is there a word from the Lord?” Right, the kings would do that to Jeremiah from time to time.
While they were frolicking in their sin, and being lazy, Satan was moving in. Babylon descended on Jerusalem. The forces must have been huge. Because when they finally sieged Jerusalem, when they finally started tearing down the wall; and the king (Zedekiah, at the time), broke through the wall, and he had his forces fled out through the valley. Right around through the southern part of the Kidron Valley. There was this open section that they had to make it across. All they had to do was get about 10 miles, that's it. And of course, they had the fastest horses at the time. Everything was ready. Right? They couldn't even make it 10 miles. So, if the Babylonian army was surrounding Jerusalem 10 miles at least on every side, imagine how many forces that would take. Because if they just escaped across the valley, the lush valley there – you can even look it up and see what it looks like now – they could get to the arid places, where it's just millions of sand hills everywhere. And there they could escape. They could see where they wanted to go, but they could not get there. He descended on them in their complacency. That happens to us all the time. But yet God still had his man.
You say what's in all this? This sounds like a really depressing message so far, Pastor Dave. Where's the good news in all of this? Well, remember Jeremiah did not fear man and he spoke the words of God. So, what happens to Jeremiah? As Babylon took up a one-and-a-half-year siege around the city, and he conquers it, and he comes in. Jeremiah had this to say to the people, Jeremiah 26:8, “And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die!’”
So, his reward for speaking the Word of God, was that the people rose up and they said, “We're going to kill you.” Blessed benefits of preaching. The priests, the prophets, and the people all agreed, Jeremiah should die. So, what did Jeremiah say? Did he back down? Look in Jeremiah 26:12-13, “Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’”
They agreed. And eventually, they threw him in a pit, a big hole in the ground, where everything from the city would flow into, including rainwater, and they would have this process of making the water drinkable, I guess, somehow, but this one was dry. And Jeremiah was sinking in the mud. And as Jeremiah is sinking in the mud, a foreign official takes thirty men, and comes and pulls him out. God saves him using foreigners, not his own people. An Ethiopian, to come and get him and to take him out and put them in the court of the kings guard. And there he was, as the city is getting ransacked. And Nebuchadnezzar was an evil king. He was incredibly evil. Remember the king who fled and tried to get across the valley? You know what happened to them when they caught him?
Look in Jeremiah 39:6, this is the siege of Jerusalem. Zedekiah was the king. “The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah.” Now listen, this was his family and his friends. And then, in verse seven [Jeremiah 39:7-8], “He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. The Chaldeans burned the king's house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.” The last thing the king of Jerusalem saw before they put his eyes out, was the death of his children and family and friends. They wanted him to keep that memory so they kept him alive. Does that sound like a nice guy, Nebuchadnezzar? And there's some other really terrible stuff that would make you squirm if we read it. No, he's not a nice guy, but God was on the throne.
I mean, it's easy for us to sit here and go, “Yeah, boy, I hope I had the courage of Jeremiah, because we're sitting here and, you know, in this place, and there's really no pressure.” I mean, we might get emails from the government at the worst at this point, or fines or something like that. Right? But comparatively, we have no way to understand exactly what he's going through. And yet, who does God use to save Jeremiah but King Nebuchadnezzar? The king, who just did this awful, unspeakable thing to King Zedekiah, is going to be the one God uses to save Jeremiah.
Look in Jeremiah 39:11-12, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, ‘Take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.’” Have you ever been in a situation where the person who you thought was your worst enemy comes to bless you? I hope you have. Because it's a clear way to see that God is at work in this world, even when we cannot see it. And I want to encourage you, no matter how much of the news (the filth that you fill your minds with, and hearts with) – and then come here for a bright spot on Sunday and we're talking about, you know, the slaughter of kings – and you can't find any place for joy. God has his people and God has his ways. You say, “Yeah, but how could he use…” What, like an evil leader? How could he use an evil congressman or councilman, let alone the good ones, and there are good ones.
Study Nebuchadnezzar, he was awful. The king of Assyria before him, awful. But God is a God of mercy. God is a God of hope. He's a God of light and offers a way of blessing. He offers a way of salvation. He offers freedom from sin, through salvation in Jesus Christ. He offers his love. He offers his companionship, as he calls us to draw nearer to him. He says, “to come boldly to me.” Why? Because we are seen as though we have the righteousness of Christ, though we are yet sinful. It's like there's nothing on our account, at all. There's no sin. It's like you and I have never done a single thing wrong. That's the relationship that Jesus Christ invites us to. God uses Nebuchadnezzar and says, deal with Jeremiah just how he tells you to deal with him? The captain of the guard, the proud of the most pride? The strongest, mightiest, dominant, you know, type A personality guy? “Hey, that guy over there in rags that served the last king. We just put his eyes out. Yeah, just do whatever he tells you.” And he did. And Jeremiah got to go to Babylon with his eyes. And he got to live in relative peace with good food and the protection of the most powerful king on the planet. Even though that king did not love God. God has plans and ways for us that bring just deep encouragement if we would only see them.
So where is the ray of hope in Jeremiah? Where do we see that? It's all sprinkled through. Jeremiah 23:4-6, “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” The LORD is our righteousness. That sounds familiar. Harking back to the promises given to King David that Israel will always have someone to sit on the throne.
Look in Jeremiah 31:31. And this is the only place in the Old Testament that describes what God is planning for these people. Jeremiah 31:31-32, this is the hope of their future, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.” Verse 33 [Jeremiah 31:33-34], “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall [how many?] all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
A new covenant of permanent forgiveness? With who? Israel and Judah? What does that sound like? This is the full inclusion and restoration of Israel. Romans 11:25-26, speaks of it this way, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel...” So, in our day, in our timeframe right now, today, we're in the church age. Where Israel has been set aside, for a time. It says, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, [when?] until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Not forever. Verse 26, “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’”
There is a future hope, laid out in Jeremiah and described in the New Testament, of the salvation of Israel. Whereas right now we know they are not following the Lord God, they have rejected the Messiah, but there will come a day when they will be saved. It's not up for debate, that they will be saved. It's in black and white. The details are debated, but no one with any kind of serious academic integrity would say that there is not a salvation promised for them. That's not in dispute. So, in the middle of judgment, they needed to remember their hope in God.
Friends, how quickly do we forget the hope of God when life kind of presses in? How quickly do we set aside, “Well, just looks like doom and gloom for the next year. Might as well just buckle up and enjoy it.” As if God, himself, wasn't our joy. No one at any time can steal God, himself, from you. And you have to fight to make God, himself, your greatest joy. Jeremiah 25:11 says that this time of captivity in Babylon is going to last for just 70 years. And he tells them while they're there, pray for those in Babylon. Pray like it's your own city and your own people. And, you know, try and enjoy your time there. That's what he tells them, pray for their benefit and their blessing. Why? Because God, through them, is going to bless what? Other nations. God keeps his Word.
This promise will last forever, it did not go away. Look in Jeremiah 31:35-36. Notice what he compares this promise of future restoration to, “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of hosts is his name: If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Verse 37 [Jeremiah 31:37], “…If the heavens can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.”
They were in the full judgment of God, and yet God promises them, “I will keep my Word.” This ray of hope of course, 100 years before, was spelled out through Isaiah 53, and the one who would die for their sin. Let me ask you, friend, have you put your hope and your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? Not just, “Yeah, I follow God.” But is God, the joy of your life? Is the everlasting covenant of God, your source of hope? That though you fail, at times, God will keep his Word and he will see you through. That if you've ever been saved, you've been saved and sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption and that God will bring you complete to the day of redemption. Have you lost that hope? Are you just might in the mire of sin, or complacency? I want to encourage you to remember the hope of God. To not just go through this life to try and pay your bills. There's so much more than that. And it's not just getting rid of your bills, right? It's not that either. It's God, himself. You have the opportunity through his Word to know him.
In Jeremiah 32:41-42, it says that “I [God] will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise…” His promises for his people will not go away. And I don't know if we'll see that restoration anytime soon. But I do know his plan for you and for me, and it's to be a worshipper of God. No matter what. So, I want to ask you: Is God your mission in life, no matter what? I pray that it is. Let's pray.
Father God, you have told us and shown us what happens when nations rebel, your chosen people, when they rebel. And yet, Lord God, you also show us what happens when people turn to you. Father, help us to be all in. To take a stand for God, come what may. Help us not to live in complacency or fear of man but to live holy for you.
Friends, let's just take a moment right now and pray and ask God for the courage to live for him, no matter what.
Lord God, we thank you for the example of Jeremiah. We thank you for the promise of future restoration. Give us courage, Lord God, to live for you. No matter what. Amen.
other sermons in this series