Friday, April 11, 2008
Jeremiah 14-16 The Praying Prophet or Profitless Praying.
Jeremiah 14:7 Though our guilt testifies against us, Lord, act for Your name’s sake. Indeed, our rebellions are many; we have sinned against You. 8 Hope of Israel, its Saviour in time of distress, why are You like an alien in the land, like a traveller stopping only for the night? 9 Why are You like a helpless man, like a warrior unable to save? Yet You are among us, Lord, and we are called by Your name. Don’t leave us! 10 This is what the Lord says concerning these people: Truly they love to wander; they never rest their feet. So the Lord does not accept them. Now He will remember their guilt and punish their sins.11 Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of these people. 12 If they fast, I will not hear their cry of despair. If they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. Rather, I will finish them off by sword, famine, and plague.”
19 Have You completely rejected Judah? Do You detest Zion? Why do You strike us with no hope of healing for us? We hoped for peace, but there was nothing good; for a time of healing, but there was only terror.20 We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, the guilt of our fathers; indeed, we have sinned against You. 21 Because of Your name, don’t despise [us]. Don’t disdain Your glorious throne. Remember Your covenant with us; do not break it. 22 Can any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the skies alone give showers? Are You not the Lord our God? We therefore put our hope in You, for You have done all these things
Jeremiah 15:1 Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel should stand before Me, My compassions would not [reach out]to these people. Send them from My presence, and let them go.
4 I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.
6 You have left Me. [This is] the Lord’s declaration. You have turned your back, so I have stretched out My hand against you and destroyed you. I am tired of showing compassion.
15 You know, Lord; remember me and take note of me. Avenge me against my persecutors. In Your patience, don’t take me away. Know that I suffer disgrace for Your honor. 16 Your words were found, and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart, for I am called by Your name, Lord God of Hosts. 17 I never sat with the band of revelers, and I did not celebrate [with them]. Because Your hand was [on me], I sat alone, for You filled me with indignation. 18 Why has my pain become unending, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You truly have become like a mirage to me— water that is not reliable. 19 Therefore, this is what the Lord says: If you return, I will restore you; you will stand in My presence. And if you speak noble [words], rather than worthless ones, you will be My spokesman. It is they who must return to you; you must not return to them.
Jer 16: 5 “For this is what the Lord says: Don’t enter a house where a mourning feast is taking place. Don’t go to lament or sympathize with them, for I have removed My peace from these people”—[this is]the Lord’s declaration—“[as well as My]faithful love and compassion.
10 “When you tell these people all these things, they will say to you: Why has the Lord declared all this great disaster against us? What is our guilt? What is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God? 11 Then you will answer them: Because your fathers abandoned Me”—the Lord’s declaration—“and followed other gods, served them, and worshiped them. Indeed, they abandoned Me and did not keep My law.
F.W. Robertson, a noted scholar and bible teacher, died at the age of thirty-seven. In 1851, twelve years before his death, he was visiting Geneva, hoping to restore both his faith and his broken health. He visited the celebrated Swiss leader Henri Caesar Malan, who, looked at Robertson shook his head and declared, " You will have a sad life and a sad ministry."
That word was fulfilled as far as F.W. Robertson was concerned. You see depression and discouragement are enemies of the soul. What then is a preacher to do when he faces exhaustion in this rat race ? What is the best way to face this insane age and make our way through this madhouse without going crazy in it ? What is a servant of God to do when, as Woodrow Wilson former President of the USA once put it, he has worn out his constitution and is living on his by-laws ? As Vance Havner put it, " how is he to carry on when he is a back number if he does not have to his credit or discredit one ulcer, one heart attack or one nervous breakdown ?"
1. Jeremiah Broke Down under Pressure
A man, asleep in the trash bin, was awakened with a jolt. He had been scooped up along with the trash by a 21-ton Indianapolis garbage truck. Knocked unconscious, he came too upside-down and squeezed into an area where as the driver later put it, "a human being shouldn't fit." The truck continued down the street and picked up two more loads of trash. When the driver stopped for a third load, he heard some hollering. Getting out, he looked around. The voice sounded far away, and he could see no one. So he started the compactor. That's when he heard a banging inside the truck. Thinking something mechanical was wrong, he stopped the cylinders. Then, he later reported, he "heard a voice saying he sure would like to get out of wherever he was." Fortunately, the driver saw to it that he did.
Did you ever feel caught in a compactor? Feel that you had too much responsibility, too many concerns, too much to do and not enough time? Too many engagements and not enough strength--so much so that you sure would like to have gotten out of wherever you were?
Here is a servant of God under severe strain. Indeed he has broken down under the burden of his responsibility. What caused this breakdown ?
Consider the sadness Jeremiah experienced.
8 Hope of Israel, its Saviour in time of distress, why are You like an alien in the land, like a traveller stopping only for the night? 9 Why are You like a helpless man, like a warrior unable to save?19 Have You completely rejected Judah? Do You detest Zion? Why do You strike us with no hope of healing for us? We hoped for peace, but there was nothing good; for a time of healing, but there was only terror.
There was: UNCEASING OPPOSITION:
Look at his prayer in ( 15:15 ) My .... this persecution was fanned into flame by his own townspeople. The people of Anathoth, Jeremiah's hometown attempted to assassinate him. ( 11:18-12:6 ) Everyone's hand was against the prophet. The princes, prophets, priests and people of his land were against him. (26:8 Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
Jeremiah was hated and despised. Sensitive to his people's response, Jeremiah felt keenly the attitude of his people. The fact of his rejection weighed heavily on his heart. Gradually he succumbed under the pressure of his people's opposition and vented his dismay to God. He realised that he was being persecuted because of his message and ministry. " Know," he reminds the Lord, " that for Thy sake I have suffered rebuke." ( Jer 15:15 )
Unceasing opposition ! Could this be the cause of your spiritual breakdown ? Are you experiencing the pressure of unceasing opposition in the home: office: firm: university ? Is it not right here that some of us are failing today ? We expect success, we meet with rejection. We continue to witness, hearts become harder, and soon the servant is accusing His Master of having broke His promise. While we are in this world we suffer with it and from its action upon us, even though we may be living very near to God. Christ was a man of sorrows; He sighed and wept and groaned in spirit. It is not sinful to grieve. It is not a proof of unbelief. Faith should engender patience, resignation, peace, and hope; but it cannot destroy natural sorrow. It would not be pious but simply unnatural for the Christian mother not to be wrung with grief at the death of her child.
Consider The Solitude That Jeremiah experienced:
For as he recounts his past experience Jeremiah says, Jer 15:15 You know, Lord; remember me and take note of me. Avenge me against my persecutors. In Your patience, don’t take me away. Know that I suffer disgrace for Your honour.
17 I never sat with the band of revelers, and I did not celebrate [with them]. Because Your hand was [on me], I sat alone, for You filled me with indignation.
Sometimes our faith causes us to walk alone. Sometimes we have to be different as Christians.
“It will cause a perpetual separation from the spirit of the world as far as that is earthly and sensual, and at times a complete withdrawal to solitude. The Christian is to live in the world as its salt, its light, its leaven of righteousness, and not to flee to the wilderness, selfishly cultivating his own soul for heaven, while he leaves his task undone and his fellow-men in hopeless sin and ruin. But he will meet with occasions for solitude and scenes from which he must withdraw himself, and sometimes feel an inner sense of loneliness as he moves among the gay crowds, since he is a pilgrim and stranger, a citizen of another country, possessed by thoughts and swayed by motives quite outside those of worldly life. Thus Christ, in character and outward habit the most social of men, was in inner life and in secret thought the most lonely”. Pulpit Commentary
Are you called to walk alone ? Are you experiencing this pressure? Beware in case you break down under the pressure that arises because of your separation from the world. Oh, it's so easy to imagine that like Elijah you're the only standing for the truth: its so easy to award your self medals for your noble stand. What you need is to be inwardly fortified, by communion with God and by fellowship with other believers. Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart, for I am called by Your name, Lord God of Hosts.
Consider The Stress That Jeremiah Immersed himself in
Jeremiah permitted himself to indulge in thoughts which led to the volcanic eruption of (Jer 15:18 ) 18 Why has my pain become unending, my wound incurable,refusing to be healed? You truly have become like a mirage to me— water that is not reliable.
What is Jeremiah saying ? He's laying the blame for his circumstances at God's door. He is openly accusing God of having failed him in the hour of his need. He charges God with being a liar and compares Him to a mirage of the desert. Isn't it remarkable that the man who had just breathed the words of ( 15:18 ) had just made the statement of (Jer 15:16 ) ? One moment most orthodox a few seconds later accusing God of deception and failure to help.
Is this not so true to our own experience ? One moment we are expressing our confidence in God: the next our unbelieving hearts are laying charges against him. Oh, to have our thoughts disciplined that we may not speak evil with our tongues. Do you feel that Providence has dealt you a hard blow ? Have you hard thoughts of God this? Listen:
" In spite of what thine eyes behold: In spite of what thy fears have told
Still to His gracious promise hold Believe good things of God."
You may be under pressure. It may not be the pressures of worldly strife. It may be the same pressures that Jeremiah experienced.
He saw the drought as a Judgement of God.
He saw the drought and the devastations that would follow as a picture of his people.
Sure they would pray when things got tough. But they weren’t repenting. They weren’t truly returning to the Lord.
After 911 in 2001 churches in the USA filled up for a period of 6 months, then they waned again. Why? The crisis they experienced made folks to pray. But they weren’t’ returning the Lord. They were returning to their sins! They had a touch of religion when the going got tough, but not enough to keep them devout for a year!
The same was true in Jeremiah’s life. We prayed for rain when the drought was most serious here some months back. Lots of people pray for rain. But the true devastation is not the physical drought on the land, but the spiritual drought! The lack of true repentance. The lack of truly returning to the Lord.
I spoke with a pastor this week who is thoroughly despairing of the situation on our Baptist union., and feels that many of our Baptist union Leadership are similarly despairing. He said our only hope is revival. I believe he is right. He is giving himself to pray for revival.
So often we come to God with our plans on how we expect Him to fix things. We go about our work with our plans in place, when we should really be calling upon the Lord. If we saw the nature of our problems as Jeremiah saw them, we would have only the same recourse that he did. We must pray!
2. Jeremiah passionately prayed.
PRAYER IS AN INDICATOR OF THE SPIRITUAL STATE. Here we have the oscillation between fear and hope, doubt and faith, vividly portrayed. There is a flitting to and fro of the soul between the extremes of dejection and of confidence. All real prayer ought thus faithfully to represent the mind of the petitioner. It is a laying bare of secret thoughts and moral convictions; an unconscious as well as a conscious confession.
That was his secret life, and it was also the foundational strength of his public life. For twenty years, Jeremiah has been deprived of any human relationship. He's got no one else to talk to except God, so he talks to God very directly, and then he listens to God.
Jeremiah prayed To A Real Person.
That's an important part. It's really a conversation with the Lord. This is what prayer is, even for us today. It's the act in which we approach God, a living person. He's the person we speak to. God is not an "it" that we talk about to other people. Prayer is the attention we give to the one, in Jeremiah's words, who attends to us, who knows us, who remembers us, who actively gets involved in our lives. Prayer is very personal language; it's focused exclusively on God.
Jeremiah Prayed About Personal issues
Jeremiah prays with great intensity. In this prayer there is nothing casual or superficial. He's struggling in his relationship with God. In prayer he is struggling with personal feelings of anxiety, fear, loneliness, and emotional pain. We're even going to find that he's wrestling with anger toward God. His prayer is a cry of despondency, an accusation against God. And God listens and then responds to him in love. Beginning in verse 10, he opens with a cry of anxiety and depression. He's despairing of life itself.
Jeremiah Prayed As though Prayer Mattered
Alexander McLaren said “Suppose I were to ask for volunteers for some new form of Christian work, I believe I should get twenty for one that I should get if I simply said, ‘Brethren, let us go together and confess our sins before God, and ask Him not to leave us.’ We are always tempted to originate some new kind of work, to manufacture a revival, to begin by bringing together the outcasts into the fold, instead of to begin by trying to deepen our own Christian character, and purifying our own hearts, and getting more and more of the life of God into our own spirits, and then to let the increase from without come as it may. The true law for us to follow is to begin with lowly abasement at His footstool, and when we have purged ourselves from faults and sins in the very act of confessing them, and of shaking them from us, then when we are fit for growth, external growth, we shall get it. But the revival of the Church is not what people fancy it to be so often nowadays, the gathering in of the unconverted into its fold — that is the consequence of the revival. The revival comes by the path of recognition of sin, and confession of sin, and forsaking of sin, and waiting before Him for His blessing and His Spirit.
3. The Lord said No! To Jeremiah’s Intercessions.
15:1 Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel should stand before Me, My compassions would not [reach out]to these people. Send them from My presence, and let them go.
INTERCESSIONS OF GODLY MEN ARE POWERFUL.
Many times in the wilderness Moses forestalled the impending wrath of God because of the people’s murmuring and disobedience. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;” James 5
We are to be praying for the salvation of the world and the coming of the kingdom of God.
BUT SOMETIMES GOD’S ANSWER TO PRAYER IS A FIRM “NO.”
(1) It was not for spiritual blessings that. Jeremiah was interceding. His prayers were “concerning the drought” (Jeremiah 14:1), that that might be removed. Strictly it was a prayer for temporal mercies and deliverances.
(2) The utmost limits of intercession had been reached. Jeremiah’s prayers were passionate and sincere petitions. There are times when no human intervention is of any avail. Even the pleading of Moses and Samuel could not have averted the threatened judgments.
4. The Lord Made Promises That brought Jeremiah Peace.
(Jeremiah 15:20-21) Did you notice the three-fold promise ? (1) " I will make thee .... " (2) " I am with thee .... " (3) " I will deliver thee .... "
Jeremiah 15:20 Then I will make you a fortified wall of bronze to this people. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you.[This is] the Lord’s declaration.
21 I will deliver you from the power of evil people and redeem you from the control of the ruthless.
THE PROMISE OF THE LORD'S POWER:
" I will make thee." ( 15:20 ) A wall of brass to withstand the attacks and antagonisms of his people. Now when Jeremiah was initially commissioned, the word of the Lord to Jeremiah was, " Behold I have made this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar and brasen walls against the whole land." ( 1:18 ) You see what had happened was this. Through his lack of faith in the Lord, Jeremiah had allowed himself to be broken down under the pressure of his people's opposition. But now the Lord offers him another opportunity of standing fast in the evil day. " I will make thee." We are to stand against error and evil of every kind in this age. A great preacher of a former day was discouraged, and thought about resigning when he received this impression from the Lord. " What you need is not to resign your commission, but to have your commission re-signed."
One thing is certain: a minister may have his study walls lined with diplomas: a sheaf of recommendations from the mighty of the land, but if the stamp of heaven on his commission is faint and fading, he had better take time out until he can return to his pulpit with a brand-new autograph from God. And when he is thus re-signed, he will be reassigned, like Elijah, like Jonah, like Peter. a.
THE PROMISE OF THE LORD'S PRESENCE:
" I am with thee." ( 15:20 ) Jeremiah had permitted circumstances to obscure this great truth. Later he was enabled to say, " The Lord is with me as a Mighty Terrible One." ( 20:11 ) " Jeremiah don't be afraid of YOUR FOES .... why ? ' I am with thee.' Jeremiah don't be afraid of THEIR FACES .... why ? ' I am with thee.'" Was it not to a group of timid, fearful disciples that the Lord said, " Lo I am with you always to the end of the age." ( Matt 28:20 ) in that adverse climate in the office: in the shop: in the university: in the hospital you are not alone, God is with you !
THE PROMISE OF THE LORD'S PROTECTION:
" I will deliver thee." ( 15:21 ) And was this particular promise fulfilled ? Indeed it was. Jeremiah was persecuted: assaulted: imprisoned: treated despicably but he was brought through opposition, siege, famine and pestilence. God delivered him according to his promise. Was it not George Whitefield who said, " I am immortal until my life's work is done."
In August 1932, Gospel singer Thomas A. Dorsey was scheduled to be the feature soloist at religious services in St. Louis. Because his wife Nettie was pregnant, Dorsey had reservations about leaving her behind. "Something was strongly telling me to stay," he recalls. Yet, commitments had been made and he knew people in St. Louis would be disappointed if he cancelled. So Tom Dorsey left for the revival service. During the performance the next night in the steaming St. Louis heat, a messenger from Western Union approached Dorsey on the stage with a telegram. Puzzled, Dorsey opened the envelope and read the four devastating words: "Your wife just died." He rushed to a phone and called home, only to hear it confirmed: "Nettie is dead."
Dorsey quickly returned to Chicago. There he learned that just before his wife died she had given birth to a boy. Later that night, the baby died. Dorsey now had to deal with two losses, two funerals. "I buried Nettie and our boy in the same casket," he says. "Then I fell apart."
During this painful time, one of Dorsey's friends made arrangements for him to use a local music school's piano. One week after his wife and son's deaths, alone with his thoughts and a piano, Dorsey describes what happened: "I sat down at the piano and my hands began to browse over the keys.
Then something happened. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody, one I'd never heard or played before, and words came into my head -- they just seemed to
fall into place:
'Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light, Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.'"
Dorsey would go on to write and compose more than 400 songs, but it was "Precious Lord" that became the best-loved gospel song of all time. Because it is about finding God's presence even in the worst of times.