Not long ago, our family took a small trip to stay in a log cabin near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. We had a lot of fun. The cabin was really accommodating. There were a lot of things for us to do nearby. And on top of it all, the cost to take this trip was extremely cheap. It was quite possibly the most affordable excursion we've ever taken as a family.
On our last day of the trip, the weather outside was very cold and windy, so we spent some time indoors playing board games. Specifically, we played Monopoly. I'd like to tell you that I won, but I didn't. The game was dominated by my son, Daniel who got off to a strong start and never looked back.
At one point, I landed on one of his properties and didn't have enough cash to pay him. I tried to work out a deal with him, but he wasn't interested in what I offered him. So I tried to use psychology to influence him to give me the deal I wanted. I said, "If you turn this deal down, you can see what I'm going to have to do next, right?" He wasn't sure what I was going to do, but he risked it and turned down my offer anyway. Basically, my only option was to make deals with everyone else in order to raise the capital I needed to pay him.
When we look at this portion of Scripture from Jeremiah, God lets us see ahead of time what He's about to do. He has chosen not to keep His plans secret. He prophetically reveals His intentions for His people. Still, it requires faith to be able to trust Him to do what He has said He will do. It requires a God-given ability to look forward and treat the future like it's a foregone conclusion. Do we have that kind of faith? Can we see what the Lord is about to do? Are we willing to trust Him for things that aren't right in front of us at present? This Scripture gives us some great counsel regarding that very concept.
I. Don't hesitate to call out to the Lord
There are many instances in life when it will be much more difficult to tell the truth than it will be to tell a lie. During the course of his ministry, Jeremiah was compelled to tell the truth. He wasn't a lying prophet. He made a point to faithfully and accurately communicate the messages God gave him, regardless of the consequences. Often this meant angering powerful people, including the king. Because Jeremiah continued to announce the fact that the Lord had specifically told him that the city of Jerusalem would be besieged by the Babylonians, and King Zedekiah would be captured, the king responded by imprisoning Jeremiah in the court of the guard.
While Jeremiah was imprisoned, the Lord spoke to him again. The Lord reminded Jeremiah that it was He who made the earth, formed it, and established it. In saying this, the Lord was reminding Jeremiah that He had power that was greater than the power of kings who were working against Him. Even though Jeremiah's situation looked difficult, and his mobility was limited because of his imprisonment, the Lord remained powerful and sovereign over His creation. He who spoke the earth into existence could certainly do something about Jeremiah's challenging circumstances. That's something we would do well to remember as well.
When we look at the message the Lord gave Jeremiah, one of the critically important reminders He shared was the importance of calling out to Him in prayer. But how do we often handle our seasons of discouragement or trial? Unfortunately, a common way mankind responds to our trials is to try to makes sense of them, or even get out of them, through a reliance on our own wisdom or natural talents. Yet that's not the counsel the Lord gave Jeremiah. What did He encourage Jeremiah, and ultimately all people who would read these words, to do?
The Lord invites us to call out to Him because He delights to answer the prayers of His people when they're offered up to Him in faith. As we seek His intervention, and request His wisdom, He tells us that He will make known to us great and hidden things that we would never have figured out ourselves.
Over time, particularly in recent days, as I have taken on additional ministry responsibilities while at the same time, my family is getting older, I have found myself coming before the Lord regularly asking Him for two things that I believe He's going to say "Yes" to. I have been asking Him for wisdom and I have been asking Him for the fortitude to carry through with whatever He tells me to do, even when it would be easier not to. This Scripture reminds us not to hesitate to call out to the Lord.
II. Be wise and observe the lessons earlier generations chose to learn the hard way
The era in which Jeremiah served was a dark season in the history of the people of Judah. The people had become adept at giving off an outward expression of religious conviction, but internally, their faith was paper thin. They cared more about being like the pagan nations that surrounded them than they cared about living as a chosen people that God had set apart from the unbelieving nations of this world as His own possession.
Now the time had come for them to reap what they had sown. They were being invaded by King Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon, just as the Lord revealed would happen to them ahead of time. In desperation, they were tearing down beautiful buildings within the city in an effort to use the materials for the purpose of military defense. Their efforts were futile because God had already declared that this chastisement and invasion was His will for this season. He was going to use this difficult experience, and the seventy years the people of Judah would spend living as captives in Babylon, to strip them of their idolatry and teach them what really mattered, namely, following Him instead of the false gods of this world.
And when we look at historical events like this, we can learn something valuable. We have the privilege to gain wisdom by observing the mistakes of those who came before us so we don't repeat these same mistakes in our own lives.
My son Daniel that I mentioned earlier is 14-years-old and was just hired by Chick-fil-A. It's his first job and after each shift, he's typically had a funny story to tell us about how things went and the things he's learning by making some mistakes along the way. Recently, he was taking the trash out and didn't notice that the bag he was hauling was ripped. Unfortunately, it split and dumped trash all over the entrance while people were trying to walk in. He learned the hard way to check the bags for tears before lifting them. He also told us that he had the privilege of serving ice cream from the soft-serve machine for the first time. Let's just say it wasn't the prettiest cone ever served at that establishment. Afterward, he was coached in the fine art of serving a proper ice cream cone.
Sometimes in life we have to learn things the hard way, but isn't it nice when we can avoid having to learn that way? When possible, learn from the mistakes of those who came before you so you don't end up repeating their errors and experiencing the same consequences.
III. Remain hopeful toward the future
I'm grateful that, even in the midst of a book like Jeremiah where the Lord spends considerable time confronting sin, He also gives us glimpses of the ultimate work He intends to accomplish. This portion of Scripture teaches us that we can remain hopeful toward the future because, in spite of the errors of humanity, the Lord has a great future in store.
The Lord revealed that He was going to bring health and healing to His people who suffered under the weight and the consequences of going their own way. They were currently living in poverty and insecurity, but in His time, He would bring His people an abundance of prosperity and ultimate security. The nation would be rebuilt and the people would be cleansed and forgiven of their sin.
These are verses that speak, yet again, of the future reign of Christ. Through faith in Jesus, our sin is forgiven. We are cleansed of our unrighteousness. We are welcomed into His eternal kingdom where we're granted genuine prosperity and security. The Lord knows that we seek these things here and now, and He isn't ignorant of our present needs, but He also knows that the treasures of this present age are like rubbish compared with the treasure of Jesus Christ and His presence in our lives.
Even if our present circumstances aren't what we would prefer, remain hopeful toward the kind of future that all who trust in Jesus Christ are assured of.
IV. Walk before the Lord with reverence and respect
As we wind down our look at this passage, we're shown even more about what the Lord has in store for the city of Jerusalem, the people of Judah, and all who will eventually trust in Him. When Christ returns to rule and reign upon this earth, the city of Jerusalem will serve as a visible testimony to the goodness of God. This passage was written during a time of judgement when neighboring nations would have thought of the city as being cursed, but the day will come when all the world will hear of the good God has done for His people and they will respect Him for it. If your faith is in Jesus Christ, you will personally see and experience that day.
Right now, it's obvious that the world isn't in a place of reverence and respect toward the Lord. Humanity is too wrapped up with itself at present to truly value the work the Lord is doing or to care about what He intends to do in coming years. But even though the world we live in and the culture that surrounds us clearly struggles to revere or respect the Lord, we who have come to faith in Jesus Christ should be the first to demonstrate our reverence and respect toward Him.
Speaking of respect... Every morning at 8:30, President Harry Truman would have a staff meeting. One day the mail clerk brought in a lavender envelope with a regal wax seal and flowing purple ribbons. Opening it, the President found a letter from King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, whose salutation began, “Your Magnificence.”
“Your Magnificence,” Truman repeated, laughing. “I like that. I don’t know what you guys call me when I’m not here, but it’s okay if you refer to me from now on as ‘His Magnificence.’”
Truman subsequently sent a message to the United Nations supporting the admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. Soon afterward he received a second letter from King Ibn Saud. This one began: “Dear Mr. President.” -Clark Clifford
Can we see what the Lord is about to do? He shows us a glimpse of the future in this passage of Scripture. It's a future of forgiveness and restoration for the people of Judah, Israel, and all who will truly believe in Jesus Christ who is the "righteous Branch" of David that this chapter later reveals will come to this earth.
Is that a future you're confident will also be yours? If you've trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can be confident that that's a future that you will be part of.
© John Stange, 2018