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1205. Proclamation Amid Persecution

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
March 11, 2022 7:00 pm

1205. Proclamation Amid Persecution

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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March 11, 2022 7:00 pm

Pastor Ben Fetterolf of Hampton Park Baptist Church concludes a Seminary Chapel series entitled “Jeremiah pt. 1” with a message titled “Proclamation Amid Persecution,” from Jeremiah 37-38.

The post 1205. Proclamation Amid Persecution appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Today, we're finishing a series from Seminary Chapel titled Proclaiming the Invincible Word in a Cancel Culture. Today's speaker is Pastor Ben Federoff.

Do you ever catch yourself dreaming about something that you're looking forward to? Well, you all are in seminary, presumably because you want to be involved in some kind of pastoral ministry or other ministry in the future. And so let me ask you this question. What are your ministry dreams? To preach to hundreds or thousands of people? To have pioneering mission success? To write books, speak at conferences, baptize dozens or hundreds of people?

To serve faithfully for 40 or 50 years at a church and experience the joy of longevity? Gospel-powered, joy-filled, mission-focused, ambitious ministry is good and God-glorifying. So I want to say here from the start that my goal this morning is not to stamp out that kind of vision or ambition. But my text for this morning is Jeremiah 37 and 38.

And my topic is proclamation amid persecution. So I hope that we learn another good and God-glorifying truth about ministry this morning. Because the reality is that while ministry can often be incredibly joy-filled, it can also be really hard. God willing, this text is going to lead us to count the cost before stepping into ministry.

Because while you'll experience incredible joy-filled moments in ministry, there will also be moments of extreme heartache and discouragement. Days of accusations. Lord willing, false accusations.

And days of backstabbing. And the question that this text is going to lead us to answer is this. What are you going to do when those days come? How will you persevere in the midst of the difficult days of ministry or will you give up as many others have done? That's what our topic is about this morning from Jeremiah 37 and 38. Now these chapters are a low point for Jeremiah whose life was generally filled with low points. These chapters lead us up to what we might call Jerusalem's darkest day. We read this at the very end of the text. Jeremiah 38 verse 28.

Listen, this is the very end. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken. These are the days in which Jeremiah was proclaiming God's word to God's people. Now the very beginning of our text gives us what I would call the other dark bookend to this couple of chapters that we're going to be looking at this morning. So let me read the other dark bookend to this text which comes in chapter 37 verses 1 and 2. It says Zedekiah the son of Josiah whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah reigned instead of Kani the son of Jehoiakim. But neither king Zedekiah nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. Can you imagine stepping into this ministry setting?

Any volunteers? This is not generally what our ministry dreams are made of. But let's step into this ministry setting and learn what ministry looks like in the darkest of days. Right here from the start of this text we have an interaction between Zedekiah and Jeremiah. It's the first three interactions in these two chapters and really you could structure these two chapters around these three interactions between Zedekiah and Jeremiah. We'll see them as we go throughout the passage. It's almost like there's this intentional comparison being made between the two and how they respond to the word of the Lord.

Let's look at the first one. It starts in verse 3. It says King Zedekiah he sends two men to Jeremiah with this message.

Please pray for us to the Lord our God. And then we have this contextual note. Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people for he had not yet been put in prison. The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard the news about the Egyptians they withdrew from Jerusalem. So we've got these three nations. The first is the Chaldeans who are besieging Jerusalem. That's the Babylonians. Then we've got Jerusalem and then we've got Egypt who's come up out of Egypt and caused the Babylonians to kind of remove themselves from their attacking stance against Jerusalem. And it's in this context that King Zedekiah sends this word to Jeremiah. Please pray for us to the Lord our God. Now don't be fooled by this seemingly pious message from Jeremiah.

I could see myself and us thinking, well that's good. Jeremiah is seeking the Lord in this moment. That's not what's happening here. Now we know that's not what's happening because given a really helpful context in verse 2 right before we're told this message that Zedekiah sends, notice the stance of King Zedekiah's request. He sends messengers to God's prophet. Now who were prophets?

They were those who would hear from God and speak that word that they had heard from God to God's people. Well what does Zedekiah come with? He comes with a word for God.

Why did he come? He wanted Jeremiah to appeal to God to get what Zedekiah wanted in the first place. Jeremiah you go to God for us so that we can get rid of these Babylonians. Zedekiah saw Jeremiah like a little magic wand in his hand to get what he wanted.

Now I don't think we should pass this point without asking this question, what's your view of God? Do you view God in a small way like Zedekiah who's powerful but exists to do your good pleasure? Or do you say with Paul, who has known the mind of the Lord and who has been his counselor?

Your greatest joy in ministry or as a student prepared ministry will come when you can wake up every day and say with joy, you are God and I am not, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now I want you to think about the pressure that Jeremiah would have felt in this moment. He knew what Zedekiah wanted to hear.

Was he gonna soften the blow a little bit? Ease, ease into the word of the Lord to Zedekiah knowing what could be the consequences since he knew that Zedekiah and his advisors would not like his word. Well let's see what he says in verses 6 through 10. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet.

Thus says the Lord God of Israel, thus shall you say to the king of Judah who sent you to me to inquire of me. Behold, Pharaoh's army that came to help you is about to return to Egypt to its own land. And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire. Thus says the Lord, do not deceive yourselves saying the Chaldeans will surely go away from us for they will not go away. For even if you should defeat the whole army of the Chaldeans who are fighting against you and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.

Wow. We have our answer. In the midst of this pressure packed moment, Jeremiah with clarity and authority speaks the very words of God to Zedekiah. And it's here at the start of this text that we learn that the center of our proclamation as ministers of God must be the very word of God. If we're going to be faithful in the darkest days of ministry then the center of our proclamation must be the very word of God. The contrast between Zedekiah and Jeremiah at this point couldn't be more clear.

Zedekiah came wanting an affirmation of his own words. Jeremiah on the other hand proclaimed the word of the Lord even though he knew it was not going to be well received by the king and his advisors. God's word must be the center of our proclamation. So let me ask you to whose words are you most committed? We minister in a much different setting from Jeremiah but the cultural pressures and the temptations to care more about the words of those around us than we do about the words of God, those pressures and temptations are no different.

So when your close friend turns agnostic and through personal interactions or through his social media posts makes you feel like an idiot for continuing to believe what you believe, whose words are going to be most important to you in that moment? When you're in a church helping lead a church to a more biblical position in a given area of church life and the wealthiest member of your church comes to you and explains his concerns and conspicuously includes, I don't know if I can even continue in a church like this that would change in this way, whose words are going to be most important to you in that moment? The work of ministry is filled with these kinds of pressures and there's only one word that does not change and it's the word of God. So God's word, his invincible and an alterable word must be the center of our proclamation. So if you want to be a faithful pastor, a faithful minister of God then preach God's word alone.

Not your preferences, not your pet peeves, not your preferred political policies, not your personal conscience on secondary issues that scripture does not directly address. Preach God's word. Let that, let his word fill your preaching and teaching. God's word must be the center of our proclamation as pastors and ministers. Now as you might imagine if you preach God's word alone it can come with a cost and we learn this in the life of Jeremiah and we're going to see this now as we turn to look at the substance of our persecution.

Now for the sake of time our text is fairly large this morning. I'm going to summarize some of what happens next. In verses 11 to 15 of chapter 37 Jeremiah tries to leave Jerusalem to go receive a plot of land. This is during the time when the Babylonians have kind of removed themselves from their attacking stance. Now he's going to receive this and when he gets to the gate someone stops him and falsely accuses him of deserting to the Babylonians. They had heard his message that the Babylonians were going to defeat Jerusalem and so there he falsely accuses Jeremiah of deserting to them since he knows they're going to win or since that's his message. Well Jeremiah says that's not true, that's not what I'm doing but here's the result of this in verse 15. And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary for it had been made a prison. So here we learn proclamation of God's word is not always going to be met with joyful acceptance.

Sometimes it's going to be met with stubborn resistance. Well we're told in verse 16 that Jeremiah stayed locked up for many days. And then in 16 to 21 King Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah again. So this is now the second interaction between Zedekiah and Jeremiah. And it says that he calls to talk to Jeremiah in private and I'll come back to that point in a minute. But look at what he says to Jeremiah in verse 17. You can almost see him leaning in to ask Jeremiah this. Is there any word from the Lord?

Now hold on a second. Is Zedekiah serious? Haven't we been through this already? Maybe Zedekiah assumes that some time spent in the dungeon will have softened Jeremiah up a little bit. Either way Jeremiah is once again clear and authoritative in his answer. I love the way this is written. You can almost see him leaning in back to answer Zedekiah.

There is. You're going to be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. Same answer as he gave before.

I don't think we should breeze past this and lose the impact of this. Jeremiah had been falsely accused and then put into the dungeon for what we are told is many days. And yet his message does not change. Throughout ministry you may be tempted to think that there is safety for yourself. In softening or adjusting a little bit God's word especially in private conversations. Notice that King Zedekiah calls to talk to him in private. Is it worth it to soften what God's word says or to adjust it ever so slightly so that the person that I'm sitting in front of isn't going to take it too hard?

Is it worth it to in order to make them not be quite as frustrated with me? The evil one would try to make you think it is. But it's never safe to sacrifice truth on the altar of pragmatism. As Jeremiah's life beautifully displays if you go on to read in chapter 39 I'd encourage you to do that after. We're not going to take the time to look there but his life beautifully displays this truth. But this is not the end of the mistreatment that Jeremiah suffers in verses 1 to 6 of chapter 38 some of the king's officials they've had enough. They've had enough of Jeremiah and his message. So they come to the king and they say listen we've got to get rid of Jeremiah. He needs to be killed for what he's saying. He's making everybody fearful by saying that the Babylonians are going to defeat us. He's weakening everybody's knees by his message. We've got to get rid of him and Zedekiah displaying more of his character says to them well I can't stop you. You guys do what you need to do.

I can't do anything to stop you. So they take Jeremiah and they throw him into a cistern in order to kill him. It says that he sinks down into the mud when they throw him in. This is probably Jeremiah's lowest point. Now I want to point out something here about the persecution and mistreatment that we've been seeing.

Maybe you noticed it. I haven't said it yet but I think it's there and I think it's an important point to notice as we look at this mistreatment that Jeremiah is experiencing in these chapters. Where is this persecution coming from? It's coming from the Babylonians?

Nope. In this text the persecution and mistreatment that Jeremiah is experiencing is coming from God's people. We maybe most often think of persecution and mistreatment as coming from the world around us.

Who rejects our message and tries to steal away our religious freedoms and that is true. There is persecution that comes externally but this text points us to another reality. That the substance of our mistreatment and persecution often comes from the visible people of God.

And again while we live in a different culture it can be the same for us. It comes in the form of a previously faithful member of your church who turns on you because of something and ends up spreading lies and gossip about you among the other members of the church. You could be accused in your ministry of not doing enough for people even though you know that you're sacrificing your time and energy and trying to faithfully minister where God has placed you.

Now let me pause and make just one qualifying statement here. There are many people in ministry who have been and who will be justly accused of wrongdoing. That's a reality and when that happens then it should be handled according to what God has clearly revealed in his word in 1 Timothy 5 19 and 20.

That happens but this text is addressing false accusations. Because persecution and mistreatment are a reality both externally and sometimes what might even be more difficult internally in the church. And so the question is that this passage is leaving us with is what are you going to do? What's going to keep you persevering in the midst of those dark moments? What helps you persevere? And so let's look at this next the source of our perseverance.

First of all let's keep working through this text. Let me summarize again in verses 7 to 13 of chapter 38 somewhat surprisingly and yet I think intentionally God uses the compassion of a foreigner. An Ethiopian named Ebed-Melech to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern. Risking his life Ebed-Melech goes to the king and he calls out the other men for what they did wrong.

Think about what he must have feared doing that what might happen to him when the advisors find out that he's calling them out. He goes to the king he calls out the other men for what they did wrong and he asks permission to help Jeremiah. And somewhat amazingly the king tells him that he can help out Jeremiah.

Now do you see the emphasis here? The sin of God's people is highlighted by their persecuting of God's prophet. And yet the steadfast love the glories of God's steadfast love are displayed by rescuing his prophet at the hands of a foreigner. Isn't this the way God works? God loves to pour out his love his steadfast love and his grace at times that we least expect it and in ways that we least expect it. Like a foreigner rescuing his prophet from a cistern that he was thrown into by his own people.

Or a savior who is crucified for those that he's coming to save. Well after he's brought out of the cistern Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah a third time. Now as you might imagine by this point we know the message that Jeremiah has for King Zedekiah. In this portion of the text you can feel Jeremiah pleading with the king to listen to the words that God has spoken. There's one glaring omission in all of Zedekiah's actions. We heard about it in verse 2 it prepared us for what was to come he does not listen to God's word. The contrast between King Zedekiah and Jeremiah could not be clearer. Jeremiah amid persecution and mistreatment holds fast to God's word. While King Zedekiah in the comfort of his palace fails to listen to God's word.

And so it leaves us with this question that we're still waiting to answer. What keeps us persevering in the midst of this? What kept Jeremiah persevering in the midst of this? What kept him from giving up? There were many days in these chapters where Jeremiah was in a dungeon or knee-deep in the muck of a cistern.

What kept him persevering? Now while I don't think we're given a clear answer in this text. I do believe we're given a clear answer in another text that Jeremiah wrote around this time. That's the book of Lamentations. In Lamentations Jeremiah laments over this period of time leading up to and during the destruction of Jerusalem.

Which is the same time period of our text. And in Lamentations 3 Jeremiah gets personal. He says some things that when he says them we recall some of the things that we just heard in Jeremiah 37 and 38.

Listen to Lamentations 3 verses 1 and 2. Jeremiah says, listen I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath. He is driven and brought me into darkness without any light.

Surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. Verse 14 he says this, I have become the laughing stock of all people, the object of their taunts all day long. He has filled me with bitterness and he's sated me with wormwood. Sound like Jeremiah 37 and 38? But there's a turn a couple of verses later.

Just six verses later in Lamentations 3 we read this in verse 21. But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I will hope in Him. Jeremiah persevered not just because he knew he was speaking the word of the Lord. But because he knew the Lord of the word that he was speaking. Jeremiah persevered not just because he knew that he was speaking the word of the Lord. But because he knew the Lord of the word that he was speaking. was speaking, he persevered and he didn't give up because he had a living relationship with God. You can see him in these verses and lamentations in the moments of deep darkness, reminding himself calling to mind what he knew to be true about his God.

Verse 24, his soul is speaking to himself and reminding himself of what he knows to be true. So in the midst of persecution and mistreatment, the source of our perseverance is our living and active relationship with God. If you try to minister now or in the future, apart from a living and active relationship with God, you will give up.

So that's my final exhortation to you this morning. Let God's presence and promises and provisions for you in the gospel, revealed in his word, ground you in hope and fill you with joy and perseverance in the midst of your darkest days. Now you might hear what I just said and think, okay, perseverance I get, but joy?

Joy in the darkest of days? The reason I'm saying that is because of something Jesus says in the New Testament, in a text that I think is intentionally linked to this one. You remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5, 11 and 12? Listen to this, blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and do all manner of evil against you falsely on my account.

Hear this, rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Jeremiah is now experiencing the joy of his reward in heaven and one day by God's grace, so too will we. Let's pray. Father, we thank you for your invincible and inalterable word. May my brothers and sisters here be fully and completely committed to this word and in the midst of the darkest days that will come along with days of joy in the midst of their darkest days, let them turn to their relationship with you and remind themselves of what they know to be true because of what you have revealed to us in your word. Let it be a rock for them and anchor for their souls in the darkest of days, in Jesus' name, amen. You've been listening to a message preached by Pastor Ben Federoff of Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. And this concludes the seminary series from Jeremiah. Join us again next time for another sermon from the Bob Jones University Chapel Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-23 17:57:00 / 2023-05-23 18:06:43 / 10

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