Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Today on The Daily Platform, we're continuing a series from Seminary Chapel, and the speaker today is seminary professor, Dr. Brian Hand. If you would please join me in Jeremiah 15 as we continue our series on proclamation of the Word of God in the midst of a cancel culture. And as we've heard over the last many weeks, Jeremiah's entire culture, everyone around him, did everything they could to silence him, to shut him up with a combination of threats, with mistreatment, with simple contradictions, statements that he was not really speaking the Word of God to them, that he was just giving them his own opinions. Rarely does one cross the will of a king and survive.
But Jeremiah stood in the midst of three different kings, or in their presence, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, and urged all three to repent. Instead, he got harrying from their followers. He was disregarded. He was threatened. At best, God's Word, which he was giving them, was completely ignored.
At worst, they threatened his very life. Let's read Jeremiah 15, beginning in verse 15, to see what the Word of the Lord has to say to a cancel culture. O Lord, you know, remember me and visit me and take vengeance from me on my persecutors, and your forbearance take me not away. Know that for your sake I bear reproach. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy in the delight of my heart. For I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice. I sat alone because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail? Therefore, thus says the Lord, if you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you. For I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless." There's always a reason to be disloyal to God. There's never a right reason. There's always a pressure that you're under. There's always some need, some lack.
There's always some unanswered prayer. There's always some apparent silence of the Most High. There's always a reason to be disloyal to the Lord, but there's never a right reason. In the Old Testament, loyalty to God is a theme that the prophets drive at and yet it's incredibly rare. Kings routinely abandoned God out of their own pride, out of a desire for some kind of external military acclaim or an allegiance or alliance with foreign powers so that their own name would become greater. The people of the land themselves fell away so quickly and so often and so repeatedly. There was always a good reason in their own estimation to turn aside to idols. There was always a lack of reign or locust plague or some other reason to betray the Lord, but there was never a right reason. Jeremiah chapter 15 pleads with this urgency that in the midst of a cancel culture you must be loyal to God to endure the kind of emotional contours that you will face in ministry.
It's not all downs, by the way. Some of it is ups, but in some senses the ups are actually a challenge as well because the good times buoy our spirits so much that the bad times seem so further away, so much further down, so much darker in light of the light that we have experienced at times. So the passage begins in verse 15 by reminding us that one of the ways we retain our loyalty to God is by appealing to Him in the midst of our suffering. There are different kinds of complaints made in the Scriptures. One is a complaint of unbelief constantly made by the people of Israel. They would find themselves under pressure.
They would find themselves distressed, and instead of turning to the Lord and pouring out their complaint before Him in faith, they turned away from the Lord and again essentially said, well if that's the way it's going to be, if that's what it's like to follow you, I'll have none of it. We'll return to Egypt. We'll run to idols.
We'll make golden calves. If you won't solve our problem, maybe the gods of Damascus will. If you won't give us everything we want, maybe the idols, Chemosh and Molech and so many others. But there's an appeal of faith that suffers the exact same crises, the exact same problems in the midst of ministry and brings its complaint before the Lord and lays it out and says, Lord you see what I'm enduring. You see what I'm experiencing. You see the trouble that I'm undergoing. Oh Lord, you know!
You know what I'm going through. Remember me. Visit me. Take vengeance from me on my persecutors. In your forbearance, your long suffering, do not take me away. Know that for your sake I bear reproach. What does Jeremiah beg God to know and remember?
Him. Lord, remember your servant. Just look at me and some sign or some indication that you care in the midst of my trouble. Jeremiah needs God to take care of him.
That's what the term visit means. It's not just to show up, to walk in the door, but rather to visit him in a way that is assuring and again ministering to him. Jeremiah needs God to carry out justice against the wicked and to forgive his sin. And he bases his appeal on the very last phrase of that verse.
What does it say? Why? For your sake I bear reproach. For the reason you need to remember me is I'm enduring everything that I'm enduring for you. I could give up and immediately all of this hostility and all this persecution would evaporate.
I could walk away from it all and instantly I'd be accepted by the world, approved by the world, lauded by the world. I suffer everything that I suffer for your sake. So it's difficult when persecution occurs while we are in ministry. That makes persecution a distraction and an obstacle. It's even worse when persecution occurs because we are loyal to God. That makes persecution injustice. And Jeremiah turns to the Lord and essentially says, but aren't you a God of justice?
Won't you do something? And you can see how that in the heart of an individual, if allowed to fester, instead of it being expressed with faith, leads a person to disloyalty or could lead him into a fixed and immutable loyalty to the Lord that he will not give up. Jeremiah experienced mockery, abuse, false imprisonment, slander, contradiction, threats of execution and dismissal. What do you think it feels like? What does it feel like to be telling people the truth and be called a liar? What does it feel like to love someone and address the sin in his life and have him say you're a hater, a bigot, an intolerant?
I'm exactly the opposite. Lord, you know. I'm not doing this out of my own glory or for some kind of acclaim. I actually care for the souls of somebody else and we're just brushed aside. What does it feel like to speak God's word but be treated like you're just giving your own opinion? What does it feel like to give an urgent saving message but be ignored and waved off as irrelevant and worthless?
Sorry to say, but you're about to find out if you haven't already. You cannot remain loyal to the Lord. You can't do it in the midst of a cancel culture and fail to experience this kind of hostility and opposition.
But the solution to that and the way that our loyalty persists is not to do it on our own, not to just try harder, but rather to appeal to the Lord in the midst of our suffering. I've always felt a little bit of sympathy for the out-of-towner at a football game. You know the guy that you see hunker down in the stands pulling the blanket up sometimes over his team's colors because he's in an absolute ocean or sea of the other team's colors. He tries to hide his loyalties so that no one will even notice what's going on. Contrast that skulking friend to the out-of-towner who proudly wears his hat, shirt, pants of his team. He's waving the team flag even in the face of everybody else around him.
What's going to happen? The cheering gets a little more aggressive, a little louder. People stop cheering at the field and for their team and more against him right there around him. He arouses the ire and the hostility, but he keeps going. You can always tell a true loyalist, can't you? Tell somebody who's a fanatic, dare we be fanatics in our loyalty to the Lord? And I don't mean that in a cruel or unbridled sense, but in a sense of just not giving up and continuing to wave his flag.
It's not ours, wave his flag, his word in the midst of a cancel culture. The passage tells us in the very next verse that we are to seek our joy in the word. That is the only way that we can remain loyal is if we look to his word for joy.
Look, we're not going to get joy from that cancel culture. They're doing everything to do the opposite from affirmation. The only place you're going to get affirmation from is looking to the Lord himself. In verse 16, Jeremiah says, Your words were found and I ate them, your words became a joy and the delight of my heart. The kings oppose me, the priests oppose me, the common people of the land oppose me, the officers of the court oppose me, but your word gives me joy. And once again, he follows all of this up with a statement of the basis on which that joy arises at the end of the verse, for I am called by your name. How does he get joy out of the word of God? Because it's a word written to children like we are, to people like we are, the very people of God himself. So the grief of suffering is not the only emotion that we experience in a ministry of loyalty.
There are heights of joy as well. Jeremiah felt and indicates the source of joy in the sustaining power of the word and in his relationship with the God of that word. We are called by God's own name. By the way, in Jeremiah's case, that's a quite literal statement. Jeremiah appointed by Yahweh. He's called by God's name, not just in the sense that obviously he is a prophet of the Lord, but he's also called by God's name in that his parents pointed to their faith apparently and Jehovah by giving Jeremiah a name. You are appointed by Yah. We bear names like Christian or Little Christ. Pastor Shepherd called after our Chief Shepherd.
Our bearing God's name should instill in us an incredibly deep loyalty that encourages us in difficult times. The summer before my wife and I were engaged, she was over 800 miles away in Wisconsin while I was working every conceivable job I could pick up. Sometimes 16 hours a day because I had plans. We weren't engaged yet, but it was coming and I had plans. Well, it was also a summer in which just because of some chronic troubles that I'd had in science, I had sinus surgery. That's something I wouldn't want to repeat.
They actually carve into the bones that are in your head and there's no way to really salve stuff that's going on deep in your head when they damage bones in there. My only joy at that time came from letters that I would get. How do you think I treated letters from my then girlfriend from 800 miles away?
Oh yeah, got another one. No, you pull it out and you reread it in the midst of pain when everything's, even your eyes are watering from, you know, if you get punched in the nose or something like that. It just hurts right in there. Your eyes are watering. You're rereading the letter. You're scrutinizing it. What did she say?
What's she's meaning here? And there's joy produced by something as simple as human communication. How much more when your God has given you a word that is designed to maintain your loyalty to Him and give you joy in the midst of ministry. The passage continues in verse 17. How do we maintain loyalty?
By steadying our heart against loneliness. Jeremiah says, I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice. He's not saying there that joy is a bad thing, but rather that the people that were around him were all reveling in the wrong thing. So he couldn't take pleasure in that. They were all throwing out the equivalent in their day of our four letter words and use in sprinkling their conversation constantly with them. And they were constantly dwelling on topics that were unclean and impure.
They were constantly chasing after the idolatry and the wickedness of their own world appropriate to their own day. And he watched them and he says, I can't participate in that. I sat by myself.
I sat alone. Once again, he gives the reason. Because your hand was upon me. You had filled me with indignation. And that's an indignation or a being stirred up in his own heart against the wickedness of the land.
When he sees evil being done, he's like, I can't participate in that. It's wrong. And Lord, it makes me upset that they're doing that with your name. And it makes me irritated, not in a petulant, petty human sense, but a genuine, holy irritation. I'm indignant that truth is being trampled. That righteousness is treated with such scorn.
I'm indignant. Without loyalty to God, the loneliness that you face in ministry will be overpowering. There are times you just don't have that many friends. By the way, it's a good time to build friends right now with allies around you in seminary. Men that you can call on, ladies that you can call on in the future.
People that you know, trust in the Lord. And when you're down, Lord willing, some others are up, you know, Galatians. All of you are capable of restoring each other because we're not all in the doldrums at the same time. So we can raise each other up.
And the next time he falls, we raise him up at that point. So build those kinds of alliances now. But you must recognize that a lot of places that you go in this world, and even in this country, you're essentially alone. And even within your church, to some extent, you can be alone.
Why? Because a pastor has to carry certain burdens that he just can't lay on other people. There's privileged information that you carry about things going on in your congregation you can't share. Sometimes even with your deacons. And there are troubles and burdens that you are enduring that make the loneliness crowd in on you. And you will use that as an excuse to abandon God. Lord, look at the world. If I just compromised in these few ways, I could immediately be surrounded by friends.
I could enter right into what they are doing and have a great... Looks like they're having a good time. But Jeremiah sat alone and continued to pursue loyalty to the Lord. The list of his friends were short. His allies were few. All because he did what was right.
But he had the greatest ally of all and he focused his attention on that. Confront your confusion and your perplexity. Verse 18, Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable? God is not afraid of our questions or the confusion that we feel at times. And he doesn't even rebuke them as long as it once again they are asked in faith and submissive to him.
But Jeremiah is confused at this point. Why am I suffering? Why is my wound incurable? Refusing to be healed. Why do you do this Lord? Why would you make C. H. Spurgeon and William Cooper go through depression? Why? Why allow that kind of pressure and mental disturbance to plague some of your choice servants?
All you have to do is alter their body chemistry just a little bit. And it goes away. And instead you bring this to bear on them. Why would you allow the Taliban to overrun Christian schools and mission works and kill your servants? Why? There's nothing good coming of it Lord.
Why? Why would you allow false and malicious accusations to persist against pastors, schools and counselors who love you and love your people? Why do you allow wicked rulers to come to power who do everything they can to overthrow your church? Why are they governors? Why are they senators? Why are they presidents and premiers?
Why do we get debilitating diseases of mind and body? Jeremiah does not call God a liar in this passage, but he does come close in the statement, will you be to me like a deceitful brook like waters that fail? The imagery that he brings to mind is something that we're not super familiar with. It's that of a wadi or a ravine. You can't even see the rain, but all of a sudden there's a torrent of water rushing towards you.
It can be incredibly destructive, but at least there's water there. But, you know, a half an hour, hour, couple hours later, it's empty. You're a deceitful brook, Lord. Or will you be to me like a deceitful brook?
Where I turn to you because I'm parched and I'm in desperate need and I find you're empty. No answer to the prayer, no response. While we are busy proclaiming a message of God's eternal righteousness and justice, He allows evil to run unchecked in this world. In fact, this world system is so geared towards wickedness that many of those who do the most evil prosper the most. Why, Lord?
Fortunately, there are lots of other passages that answer that, aren't there? Asaph asked the same question in the Psalms and the Lord reminds him, go up to the house of the Lord, just take a look at the end of the wicked. Their joy, their pleasure, their prosperity is gone in a moment.
Yours will last forever. Stay loyal to me in the midst of a difficult age and a nation that hates you. But we have to renounce our self-focus and self-pity or we get nowhere. Verse 19, Therefore says the Lord, if you return... And it is important for us to realize this is not the Lord now turning and addressing the nation of Israel or Judah. God is not saying, if you all return to me, then I'm going to do something. He's actually turning to Jeremiah the prophet who's just been crying out to him and he says, if you return to me.
These are singular. I will restore you. Wait a minute, Lord, I'm the one that's doing what's right. I haven't, you know, a whole ministry thing persecuted for your name's sake. And God actually puts his finger on something that's going on in Jeremiah's life that is very dangerous because it puts us on that knife edge of making a decision to betray the Lord and walk away and that is self-pity and self-focus. Would you please look back very quickly at the text and notice the eyes in the first portion, the eyes, the me's and the my's. Lord, remember me, visit me, take vengeance for me, my persecutors, take me not away for I bear reproach. I ate them, me a joy, my heart, I am called.
I did not sit nor did I rejoice. I sat upon me, me with indignation, my pain and ceasing, my wound incurable. Will you be to me? Now check the first person in the second portion of this passage. I will restore you.
My mouth. I will make you. And it's now God speaking. You see, the problem with some of the difficulties, even when we bring them to the Lord at times, is we bring them to the Lord but instead of being willing to listen to him, really what we're interested in is airing our grievances.
You can only do that for so long before it takes over and runs your life. And then all of a sudden you can justify any kind of betrayal or disloyalty because look how bad I've got it. And the Lord's saying to Jeremiah, you need to turn to me.
It's not a strong, stern rebuke but it is nonetheless a firm rebuke. Get your eyes off of yourself or you will betray me. You cannot remain loyal to the Lord while you're looking at your problems and what you're suffering.
So go ahead, pour them out to the Lord in a legitimate complaint of faith but you must return to the Lord then. Renounce your self-focus and self-pity. Take courage for the long endurance.
Why? Because what is God going to do when you stay transfixed on him and when your heart is steadfast? I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze. Oh, you're not weak, Jeremiah. They will fight against you.
They will not prevail. I am with you to save you and I will deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. You know, we'll see Jeremiah going, that's exactly what I needed to hear or I would fail. The threat that we could betray the Lord in our ministry in the midst of a cancel culture is real.
I have former students that I taught and care about that have walked away from the Lord and I look out here and I beg that none of you will be in that position again. That as you go out and experience this kind of pressure, instead of caving into it, you'll look back to a passage like this and say, Jeremiah had every reason to walk away, humanly speaking, and none of them were the right reason. Late in the war, Benedict Arnold actually spoke with a captured American soldier, at least the apocryphal tale goes, and he asked the soldier, What will the Americans do with me if they catch me? To which the captured soldier replied, Sir, they will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty and bury it with the honors of war. It will hang the rest of your body on a gibbet. There's actually a boot monument at Saratoga. It was paid for.
The boot monument says specifically, in memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot, a monument to the bottom portion of one leg. It was the only portion of him that was loyal. At the end of our lives, wouldn't it be great if we meet in God's presence and we find out, loyal, loyal, loyal, loyal.
It's good to see you. You stayed with it. You remain committed, and it was worth it. Father, we're thankful for this testimony of your word. We don't place any confidence in our flesh, Lord.
It doesn't matter how long we have walked with you so far. Each one of us is always on the knife edge of betrayal because of the sinfulness of our flesh. Spirit, keep us loyal to you by your great power. Constrain even the aberrant and wayward thinking of our mind and the straying emotions of our heart, lest we turn away from you. Do not allow the troubles that we face to fester or loom so large in our mind's eye that we betray you and walk away. But instead, may we be fixed upon the God who is and upon the so great ministry that He's given. We pray for Christ's sake. You've been listening to a message preached by Dr. Brian Han, a seminary professor at Bob Jones University. Join us again tomorrow as we continue the series proclaiming the invincible word in a cancel culture here on The Daily Platform.
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