Sunday, May 29, 2016

St Stephens Bible Church

Sun, Sep 14, 2014

The Weeping Prophet

The Sovereign God calls Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations and promises his presence with him

Well I thought we’d start with a pop quiz this morning…our quiz evening is coming up soon, (it is a great family evening for a good cause) so let’s get into training…

 

An easy one to start with…

  1. What is the longest book in the Bible?

Psalms.

 

  1. What is the second longest?

Jeremiah

 

  1. The names Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah are the names of
  2. Race horses,
  3. Political leaders,
  4. Books of the Bible.
  5. d.      Kings of Judah

 

Here is another easy one

  1. You could summarise the whole Bible story in 6 words.
  • Creation;
  • Sin;
  • Exodus;
  • Exile;
  • Jesus;
  • 2nd Coming.

Which of these is preached on the least?

 

Well I can’t speak for every preacher in the world but for me it is certainly the Exile…it is a major event in the Bible and yet because it is largely outlined in the prophets we don’t hear much about it. The prophets scare us. They are weird and gloomy and they do odd things – like cook their food on dung and lie on their side for years. I have been in ministry nearly 18 years and I can’t ever remember preaching a sermon on the exile…so I thought that I would try and address that deficiency over the next few weeks with a series in the second longest book of the Bible the book of Jeremiah.

Now I doubt that you have ever heard a sermon on Jeremiah. If you have it was probably on Jer 29:11…

I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.

It is a beautiful verse…sadly it is also one of the most misquoted and misapplied verses in the Bible…so if you have  heard a sermon what you heard was probably wrong…so let’s address that…

 

Now one of the reasons that we steer away from the book of Jeremiah is that Jeremiah’s life was pretty miserable. He was not David Beckham. He didn’t live happily-ever-after in a Camps Bay mansion.  He isn’t the poster boy for a successful, happy life. Jeremiah is called ‘The Weeping Prophet’…because his life was full of tears….tears for Jerusalem, tears for God, tears for his people…

So the book can feel a little miserable. That is probably an understatement. The book is miserable…but in the middle of it, is a little section which theologians call the Book of Consolation. In the middle of 52 chapters of misery are 4 remarkable chapters (chapters 30-33) that contain the most extraordinary message. It is as if you have been walking all day in the desert, all around you is sand and heat and dryness…when all of a sudden you come upon an oasis of lush greenery, water and life…and it is all the more stark because it is in the middle of the misery. As so as we struggle through the chapters of weeping we will soon come across a message of hope for our hearts…it is a message about a new way that God will act with his world. It is a message of hope in a sea of misery. It is a message about our hearts being transformed. It’s a message about a new covenant…a new promise…and a new way…

 

On the eve of his death…as Jesus sat with his mates…he passed them a cup and as he did that he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…”

The next day as Jesus went to the cross it happened…God kept his promise…the promise he made 600 years earlier through the prophet Jeremiah…the promise that is at the centre of the Book of Consolation. We will do well to listen to this book because it will teach us what God has done in Christ, it will teach us what God is doing in our own hearts and it will teach us what God is doing with our world…

Well, all of that is to come over the next few weeks…as we walk with the Weeping Prophet…  

Now as we turn to the book of Jeremiah today we find that it is… 

 

1.               A Time of Political Uncertainty

 

1v1-3

 

These seemingly innocuous words, with which the book begins, mask that the days are extremely turbulent.

 

Let’s have a map to help us…

 

Josiah is king in Jerusalem. The year is 626BC. In that year Josiah began to seek the Lord. He began to purify Judah by destroying the pagan shrines that populated the land. So they were days of hope within the country. But outside the borders of Judah significant dark clouds were gathering. Significant political happenings were unfolding on the horizon. Nabopolasser, a Chaldean tribal chief (that is Iraq - grey) chief began a revolt against the world super-power Assyria (modern day Syria – pink). This revolt was to come to its finality in 612BC when a coalition of  Medes and Persians (Iranians) defeated the Assyrian capital of Ninevah. But Assyria would not go down without a fight. In 609BC Pharaoh Neco of Egypt led an army northwards to bolster his political ally Assyria. And the kingdom of Judah under Josiah was trapped right in the middle of these political forces. Josiah didn’t want a strong Assyria to his north so he mustered his army to ambush Neco at the pass near Megiddo and prevent the Egyptians from joining up with the Assyrians. Everything went terribly wrong, Judah was thrashed and Josiah was killed. Egypt marched straight through Judah but were themselves defeated at Carchemish and forced to retreat. As they did this they meddled in the politics of Judah setting up Jehoiakim on the throne. That did not last long. The Babylonian/Iraqi army now led by Nebuchanezzar exerted their power over Judah. Jehoiakim rebelled against Babylon refusing to pay tribute…thus was to begin the final destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of God when the Babylonian armies finally destroyed God’s people and took them into exile…

 

As I retell it, it could almost be the news today couldn’t it? eNews live form the Middle East - Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Egypt all in ongoing political turmoil…waves of nationalism, wars about wealth and power, terrorism, coups, uprisings – chaos everywhere…sounds deeply familiar if you are following international events.

 

Now I don’t know about you but when I hear of events like this, I am tempted to think it all sounds so unordered, so chaotic, so random…it all seems like no one is in charge and that there is no plan…

 

A bit like your Kreepy Krauly…what an invention! The world owes us a massive debt. All across the world men have extra hours on a weekend to watch rugby because of the invention of the Kreepy Krauly. We invented it. In fact it was invented in Springs where I come from…so don’t ever be rude about Springs again…or you can clean your pool by hand. Now the amazing thing about a Kreepy Krauly is that it cleans your pool completely at random. And many a man has watched the completely random activity of his pool cleaner. It follows no pattern yet somehow if it runs long enough it cleans the whole thing. When you look at the mess of our world you are tempted to think it is completely at random…

We can’t see what God is doing…in fact it looks like he is doing nothing. It seems all such a chaotic mess of political infighting…that has no end or purpose…

 

But it is not like that…we are going to see as the book of Jeremiah unfolds that this chaos is in fact being used by God himself to bring about his purposes for our world. God is so sovereign, so in control that he even uses the selfish, corrupt, infighting of politicians to achieve his purposes. Political events are used by God to bring about his plan. We don’t need to despair when…politicians accuse others of being CIA agents. We don’t need to get angry or irritated when events look uncertain, when war is imminent and the future looks bleak. It is part of the South African phsyci to imagine the worst for our country…and perhaps everything will fall apart…but it will only do so under the hand and control of God as he works his eternal purposes in our world.

 

We must trust the hand of God. We must look for the hand of God in the events of history. God will bring about his purposes. He is gathering a people and amongst that people will be Iraqi’s and Syrians and Iranians and Palestinians…despite what those political and religious leaders want…

 

And when it comes to your life and you can’t see what God is doing with you…perhaps he seems to be absent and uncaring…well you just need to trust him. He has got you in his hand and he is working his purposes for your life too…even when you can’t see it…

 

 

Now as we are introduced to Jeremiah…we are given a glimpse of God at work…

 

2.               (Jeremiah the man/prophet)

 

V4-12

 

A young man is called from a priestly family. The word of God comes to him. It is a word that speaks of a plan. God has a plan for the nation and a plan for Jeremiah. Before he was born God started to put this plan into place. V5 God has set him apart to be a prophet to the nations…

 

That call, to Jeremiah echoes God’s word to us about us. In Psalm 139 we are reminded that before we were born God ordained the amount of days we would each get to live. Ephesians tells us that before the world was made…God chose Christians to be his. Imagine that; before anything happened God was thinking about you and me and our lives now.

Never forget that behind the scenes…behind the chaos of our world…God is at work…both in the activity of nations and in the life of the individual…

 

But Jeremiah doesn’t feel up to God’s call…Jerry doesn’t like the plan of God. Jerry has got excuses,

V6

 

It is amazing how often that is the way we respond to God. God calls you to do something and the excuses that come back are better than the dog ate my homework.

“I could never do that.”

“I am not worthy.”

“I am not clever enough.”

“I can’t read well enough.”

“I am not trained enough.”

“I am not good enough…”

“I am too busy baking…”

“My children need all my time…”

“My job is really busy…”

Jeremiah has got excuses too. “I am too young…”

Now look at what God offers Jeremiah in the midst of his excuses…

 

V7,8

 

Wow!!! Isn’t that remarkable!! Isn’t that precious! God says to him, “Jeremiah…don’t be afraid because I am with you.”

 

It is the most extraordinary promise that is ours…it is a promise we so easily forget.

 

“I am with you!”

 

It was the last thing Jesus said to us as he left this world. Remember these words

 

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

God will be with us. By ourselves we can do so little…but when God is with us…we are an unstoppable force.

 

So let’s have another quiz question. What country’s capital is called Hagatna. It is the Pacific Island nation of Guam. Smaller in size than Cape Town…with a population about the same as Fish Hoek and Muizenberg. The national stadium seats 1000 people. It is a tiny miniscule island nation. Invaded in 1941 by the Japanese. On their own they could do nothing…but in 1944 the US recaptured the Island and freed the people. Guam is a part of the American family…whenever they are threated all they have to do is remember that the US is with them…

 

Jeremiah is given a task and the truth is so are you. And when you feel inferior or inadequate or just downright weak…remember the promise…he is with you.

 

Jeremiah is called to be the mouthpiece of God…to speak the word of God to a wicked and rebellious people; a violent people who will oppose him and hurt him for his efforts. He speaks a word that does one of two things. It tears down. It overthrows or it builds up and plants. The word of God always does that to us, it draws us or it repels us. It will do the same in you. It will not leave you neutral. You will go away today saying yes that is right and I need to listen or you will harden your heart and move away from God

 

But whatever the task God gives you…attached to that task is the promise. I am with you.

 

So there are two thoughts that I want you to take away with you today.

 

  1. God is in control of history…he is working his plan
  2. He has got a task for you to do…and he will be with you as you perform it.

 

Don’t run away from what God has gifted you to do…and it calling you to do.  Jonah tried that…it didn’t turn out so well. Much better to revel in the truth of God’s presence and then do what he has made you to do. Use your gifts for his glory and his kingdom that is coming about…

 

If you can paint find a way to use that for the kingdom of God.

If you have leadership gifts or hospitality gifts use your home for God’s glory.

If you have organisational gifts, God is calling you to use them not just for yourself but for him.

If you have a listening ear use it for his honour.

If you have praying gifts…pray for God’s name to be hallowed.

If you have business gifts or gifts of making money use them for God’s kingdom

If you have teaching gifts don’t bury them. He is calling you to use and he will be with you…

 

Pray

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