Well, today we begin a new series on the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. It's a very long book of 52 chapters. In fact, one of the longest books in the Bible, and you'll be relieved to hear that we're not going to go through it verse by verse. But during the summer months, I thought we would look at it. I've prepared 10 messages.
I shouldn't say I've prepared them. I intend to prepare 10 messages, and we'll look at some of the major themes of this wonderful book. It's a rather strange book, perhaps not familiar to some of you, but the parallels between the land in Jeremiah's time and our own land are very thought-provoking. So I ask you to turn to the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and we'll look at this first chapter. After the death of King Solomon, you remember the first king of Israel was Saul, succeeded by David and then by Solomon. After the death of Solomon, the 12 tribes of Israel were divided between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians in 722 BC, and Jeremiah served and I see we have the slide there.
He served for over 40 years as a prophet from 627 to 585 BC. Now here's a map of the Middle East where you will see that Israel is placed at the very center of the earth. This is the promised land. Israel was promised a land, a promised land. Our Israeli guide said during a recent visit, God gave us a beautiful land, but He gave us very difficult neighbors. That's true now, and it was certainly true in Jeremiah's time. The difficult neighbors of when Jeremiah is prophesying are the Assyrians.
Let's have the map again please. Are the Assyrians to the north, the Babylonians to the east, and the Egyptians to the south. And you can see right in the middle at this very strategic part of the world is the promised land, the land that we call Israel.
There's a famous battle in 605 BC where the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians. And then Babylon, under the reign of that mighty king, King Nebuchadnezzar, became the superpower, as it were. And this is the background and the setting to Jeremiah. God calls Jeremiah at a very difficult time in the life of Israel. Babylon, in fact, is about to destroy Jerusalem.
It's about to destroy the temple. It's hammering at the door, as it were, of Judah. And this man, this remarkable man called Jeremiah, is raised up by God to tell his people that unless they repent, judgment is coming. Now let's read the first three verses of Jeremiah chapter 1. The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. Benjamin in Judah with the southern kingdom, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah, the son of Ammon, the king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
It came also in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. So right at the beginning of this prophecy we know that the Babylonians are going to attack, not only are they going to attack, but they're going to be successful, and Judah, the people of God, are going to enter into 70 years of what we call the Babylonian captivity. And so this is the setting of this book of Jeremiah. Today I want from chapter 1 to consider Jeremiah's call, to consider his task, and then his promise. So let's read first of all verses 4 through 9 where we'll read of the call of this man called Jeremiah.
Crisis is coming, but as we read, notice what God does. He puts His words in the mouth of a reluctant young man. Jeremiah 1 then verse 4, now the word of the Lord came to me, Jeremiah is writing, saying, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And before you were born, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. And I said, Ah Lord God, behold, I don't know how to speak, for I'm only a youth. But the Lord said to me, do not say I'm only a youth, for to all to whom I send you, you shall go. And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord. Then the Lord put out His hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, behold, I've put my words in your mouth.
What a fool words aren't they? The call of Jeremiah. Jeremiah comes from a little town just outside of Jerusalem about three or four miles from it called Anathoth. And the direction you will notice of Jeremiah's life is set by God.
Jeremiah doesn't choose his own path in life, but he submits to the will of God. Did you notice the wonderful words of verse five? Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. We've just been singing about God knowing us. Before you were born, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. God knows Jeremiah before he's born. God consecrates Jeremiah. God appoints Jeremiah as a prophet to the nation. This was not Jeremiah's choice. Jeremiah is set apart by God before he's even born.
He serves God under divine compulsion. Notice again verse five. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. God the giver of life knew Jeremiah before he was born. David the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. He says in that remarkable Psalm, Psalm 139, that God saw my unformed substance. That is, as David is being shaped by God in his mother's womb, God sees that. This verse, among others, tells us then that the unborn child is a person. Yes, the person exists before we are born. There are people who will deny that today, but this is the Word of God.
This is true. And it also means the children who die in the womb are known and loved by God. Not wonderful to know. We have a little granddaughter, McNally Gardens, who died in her mother's womb. When we went to check whether it was a little boy or a little girl, the examination were told the sad news.
I'm sorry. There's no heartbeat. And so a child is born, but is dead. We called her Grace. But God knew that little girl. God loves that little girl, and we will see that little girl again.
It's not wonderful to know. What an incredible thought that Jeremiah's life did not begin with Jeremiah, but with God. And your life did not begin with you, but by God. The God, the omniscient God, the eternal God has this personal knowledge of us even before we were born. As you sit there, God knows everything about you.
He knows your social security number. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He knows every single thing about you. He knows what you had for breakfast. He knows what you'll have for lunch.
You say, I haven't decided what I have for lunch. I know that, but God knows it. He knows everything about you. And He knew that before you were even born. As Jeremiah himself, who quotes the Lord in Jeremiah 31 and tells us that we are loved with an everlasting love, that I have been loved with an everlasting love, with a love that will never go, a love that will never, ever end. Human love comes to an end. Human love can be fickle.
Human love sometimes ends rather abruptly and with great difficulty, but never God's love for you. What can I say perhaps to a young man or a young woman sitting here today or perhaps an older person and you think your life is worthless? You're comparing yourself with others, perhaps someone else's achievements.
Someone else had a much better grade point average than you have. Perhaps you think someone else is more handsome or more beautiful than you are. I want to remind you that God knows you, and God loves you, and God created you for a purpose that God has a plan for each of our lives. Like Jeremiah, each of us is known by God, loved by God, and created by God for a purpose.
Jesus said to His disciples in John chapter 15, you didn't choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit. Your life, can I remind all of us, your life is not for you to live any way you want. You want to take charge of your life. You want to set your own path, to form your own agenda, to be a kind of self-determined self-achiever, self-starter.
Can I tell you to stop? Do you ever think what God has planned for you? If we are wise, men and women and boys and girls, we bow to God's sovereign purposes for our lives, that our life is given to us by God, that even before we were born, God knows us. God loves us. God has purposes for us, and it is true that while we are not saved by our works, we're saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Paul writes, for we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God — listen to this — which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. You're saved by God's grace. It's all of God's grace. But God has a purpose for you.
It's a purpose that He prepared beforehand, that you should walk in that, that God's path for us is planned beforehand. As I saw these boys and girls standing here and praise God for each one of them, I thought of my own life. I thought of how God in His purposes placed me in a particular home.
I didn't choose that. I remember when I was 12, my dad suggested I go to a Christian youth camp that was of God because it was there that Jesus Christ found me and saved me. It was God who guided me, as I thought as I was graduating from high school what I was going to do with my life, that God guided me into a legal profession. Yes, it was God in His providence as a young man as I prayed for a wife that God dropped her right in front of me as she came from Scandinavia, this beautiful young lady that I saw, and I thought, yeah, I'm going to marry her.
God has placed her in my path. That was God's plan for my life, including being led by God to come here as a pastor. If you told me as a teenager that I was going to be a pastor, I would have laughed at you. I had no desire to be a pastor. I wanted to be an attorney. I wanted to be the best attorney in Scotland.
That was my goal. Isn't it amazing how God can redirect her path? You've experienced this, haven't you, in your life? That life, if it's submitted to the Lordship of Christ, that God will guide us. And this call is on their lives, not just for those of us in full-time vocational ministry. So, God has purposes for each one of us that God knows you. Remember what He says? Moses says to Joshua, as Joshua's fearful about going to the land, He says to him, God goes before you.
I find that tremendously reassuring, isn't it? That God is ahead of us. Our theme at Calvary Church is to be and make authentic followers of Jesus Christ. That means I follow Him. That means He goes ahead.
That means He makes the decisions that He plans. And in His grace, He calls us to follow Him. Students, we have our recognition of our students this time next week, our graduates. Our youth pastor Cameron Engel will be preaching. I'm not sure what he's going to say to them, but I know he'll say this, that they are to follow Christ.
They may have exciting plans, starting new careers, going to new places of study, entering into exciting life, all of that. May each of them follow Jesus Christ. To obey Him, to trust Him with all of His hearts, and to believe this, that God always, always has His, has your best interests at heart. Do you believe that? What's your view of God? Do you think God is some kind of cosmic killjoy, stopping you from having a joyful, fulfilling life?
Quite the opposite. God made you. He knows you. He knows your abilities. He knows your frailties. He knows your strengths. He knows your weaknesses. He knows the future.
He knows about every single person that you'll come into contact with. Therefore, do His will. Remember that wonderful line, Eric Little, the Olympic champion, who says, God made me for a purpose, and God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.
Yes. When you're running according to God's will, you have the wonderful assurance that God's hand is on you. You feel His pleasure. Even when, as in Jeremiah's case, the surrounding culture is hostile. Jeremiah has given an almost impossible task, a very difficult task. This man's going to be persecuted. He's going to be beaten. He's going to be put in a dungeon. He's going to be put in mud. He's going to be rejected by just about everyone. Ah, but he has heard God's call, and he obeys. That's his call. Secondly, the task.
What's his task? Verse 10. Jeremiah 1, verse 10, see, I have put you this day over nations and over kingdoms to pluck up and break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. And the word of the Lord came to me saying, Jeremiah, what do you see?
And I said, I see an almond branch. Then the Lord said to me, you've seen well, for I'm watching over my word to perform it. The word of the Lord came to me a second time saying, what do you see?
And I said, I see a boiling pot facing away from the north. Then the Lord said to me, out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all of the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I'm calling all of the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come and everyone shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem against all of its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgment against them for all their evil in forsaking me.
They've made offerings to other gods and worship the works of their own hands. But you dress yourself for work, rise and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land." Verse 19, they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you for I am with you, declares the Lord to deliver you. The task, Jeremiah is given a specific task. He's called to be a prophet, speaking the words of God, verse 9.
The Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And when Jeremiah hears this, understandably, he's reluctant to accept this assignment. He gives two reasons. First, he says, I don't know how to speak. You're calling me to be a prophet. I'm not a good orator.
I don't know how to speak. Secondly, he's only a youth. From the chronology, he's probably about 16, 17, or 18. Here's a young graduate. Here's a young man who's about to graduate from high school, and God is calling him. That would be wonderful to know that some of our graduates, that the real excitement isn't the sport they're going to play at college, isn't the academic career they're about to go into, or the military, or some career, but first and foremost, that God is going to call them, yes, to that college, to that career, to that sport, but to glorify His name and to tell them that Jesus is King. See, the wonderful truth is this, that when God calls you, He empowers you and He equips you.
Praise God for this humble man, Jeremiah. I can't speak. I'm young. Get someone older.
Get someone who is better with words than me. God says, no, I've chosen you, Jeremiah, and I'm asking you to speak my word. Here's a response. Lord, here I am. What do you want me to do? As you walk with God, as you read His Word, as you pray, circumstances around you, God is well able to set the path for your life. Humbly surrender to the Lord's assignment for you. Be humble.
Look to God every day for His direction. Now notice verse 10, that Jeremiah is called to speak the word to nations and kingdoms, calling them to repentance. He's a boy from a small town. He's a young man, and he's going to speak to nations and kingdoms. The nation is going to be in national crisis. Babylon, the mighty Babylon, is knocking at their door, and Jeremiah is told to speak a message of judgment.
That takes great courage, doesn't it? He is, verse 10, to pluck up nations and turn them over. He's also to break down, which probably refers to the demolishing of idols. They will be destroyed and overthrown, verse 10. So there's a message of destruction, as it were, but also a message of restoration and renewal, and Jeremiah is going to tell both in this remarkable book. He is, verse 10, to build and to plant.
Demolition and restoration. You know, that's what happens. That's always what happens when the Spirit of God works in your heart.
You know what He does? Sin is uprooted and exposed, and obedience is planted. There's a demolition. There is, as it were, a repentance.
That's hard, isn't it? Our ego, our sins, strongholds of sin in us, broken down, demolished, and a humble, obedient heart is planted. Now, the Lord uses three metaphors to explain to Jeremiah what his task is. First, verse 11, he sees an almond branch. In Anathoth, Jeremiah's home time, the first sign of spring was the budding of the almond tree. It's a beautiful tree. Spring has come when you see the budding of the almond tree, and the word for almond and the word for watching in Hebrew are very similar.
So there's a pun here, which is lost obviously in the English translation. So we could say that the almond tree is the waking tree. It's the first tree to wake up, to bud after winter. God is giving Jeremiah a very difficult task, but He's reminding Jeremiah, Jeremiah, when you do what I'm telling you, I'm watching you. Verse 12, you have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it. God watching, often silently, isn't it? Yet He reminds us He is always faithful to perform His promises, the bud and the flower and then the fruit. It takes time, doesn't it? We want things instantly.
We're impatient people. And no, Jeremiah, I want you to do what I tell you, and I'm watching over my word to perform it. So the first metaphor is the almond tree. The second metaphor, verses 13 and 14, is a boiling pot facing away from the north. Who's to the north? Babylon. Babylon is coming down.
And it's like a boiling pot facing away from the north. Verse 14, and the Lord said to me, out of the north, disaster shall be let loose among all the inhabitants of the land. A seething pot, a scalding stream of havoc is about to burst on Jerusalem is the point. Chaos and disaster are coming.
There are still some Assyrians to the north, but the main source of concern is Babylon. They're not far away from Jerusalem. And these invaders, the Lord is telling Jeremiah, will set up their throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem for everyone to see. Jerusalem is going to be defeated.
A foreign king is going to rule. Judgment is coming. Notice verse 15. I'm calling all of the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come and everyone shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. Not just Jerusalem, but all the cities of Judah. And I'm in branch, a boiling pot, third metaphor is an iron pillar, verse 18.
And I behold I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. Jeremiah is going into a tough situation. He's going to be persecuted. The prophets are going to tell him, you're not speaking the truth, Jeremiah. He's going to be mocked.
He's going to be ridiculed. Ah, but says God, you're going to be like an iron pillar. You're going to be strong.
You will have the protection of being a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls. That is a time of national crisis. Jeremiah is going to stand strong against all of the kings, all of the priests, all of the officials. They're going to be opposed to him, but he's going to stand strong.
Calvin writes that God will supply his servants with strength and courage invincible. Are you courageous? As you serve God, there's some opposition. There's someone in your office giving you a tough time.
There's someone in the bank ridiculing you. You share Christ with a fellow student at high school and they reject it. You feel a bit persecuted. Stand strong. Stand strong with courage invincible. Remember what Paul says in Romans 8? If God is for us, is God on our side? If God be for us, who can be against us? Yes, verse 19, the enemies will fight against you.
There will be opposition. It's going to be difficult, but judgment is coming, but you, Jeremiah, are going to stand strong like an iron pillar. What's our task as a church? Jeremiah is called to be the voice of God. He's a prophet. When Jeremiah speaks, God speaks because God's Word is given to Jeremiah.
We are called, if we follow Jesus, to be the voice of God, to display and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. Did you notice in verses one and two of Jeremiah 1 that the Word of the Lord are the words of Jeremiah? Jeremiah has not given his own idea. He's not giving a personal prophecy as it were.
He's declaring the Word of God. God's message is His message. What about our message? Have you just given your own ideas? Your own philosophy of life?
Surely not. The message is not ours, and we are commanded by a risen Christ to go into all of the world with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God gives us, entrusts us with the good news. We don't write it. We don't tamper it. We don't modify it. We don't change it. We declare it.
We display it. And with the message, there is a warning that those who do not repent, that those who do not believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ will experience the eternal judgment of God. See, the people of Judah thought that they were exempt from the judgment of God.
They should have known better. Their history told them that Israel to the north, the ten tribes were decimated by the Assyrians, but they, Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 7, they think we're different and they say we've got the temple of God, the temple of God, the temple of God, the temple of God three times and Jeremiah says, you're deceived. You think you're exempt from the judgment of God. You refuse to hear the Word of God.
And what's going to happen? In the book of Jeremiah, judgment is coming. The Babylonians come in and take the people of God into captivity for 70 long years. Jerusalem is overthrown. The temple, the magnificent temple of Solomon built according to the instructions of God is broken down, is demolished. The holy vessels are taken by Nebuchadnezzar, never to be seen again. When we were in Jerusalem just a few days ago, we went up to the Temple Mount.
It's a tense place to be because of all the political situation. We go up and we walk on it. There is the Dome of the Rock built by the Muslims in the seventh century standing there with its golden dome.
We're not so much interested in that. We're interested that there, as we walked, was the site of Solomon's temple, the site of Herod's temple, which was there when our Lord walked, when He taught the Gospels. The Syrians come and the tenth tribes are taken captive. The Babylonians come and the southern kingdom is taken into captivity. The Romans in AD 70 come, sweep into Israel. The Jews oppose them. They're defeated. And in AD 70, the temple is destroyed so that when we are walking on the Temple Mount 2,000 years later, there is no temple. Israel is very accomplished, but there is no temple there.
God is not mocked. What we sow, we reap. Do you think we as a country, this wonderful United States that we've been singing about, do you think that we are exempt from judgment? We have been blessed, arguably, as no other country in the world.
Think of the wonderful history of this country and the many blessings that we enjoy. And what have we done with it? We've done with it as Judah did with it. We have forgotten God. We not only practice evil, we applaud it.
We take pride in it. But judgment is coming for those who do not repent and believe the Gospel. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1, talks about Jesus being revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, I quote, in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might. You say, John, that's a bit tough. You may think it's tough, but you think you're different from the Israelites?
Do you think you're different from the southern kingdom? Have God judged the people in the past? Do you think that He will not judge those who continue to oppose His Word?
Recall the task. Finally, very quickly, the promise. God makes unbreakable promises to Jeremiah. He promises to give Jeremiah the words to speak. Verse 9, I have put my words in your mouth. And repeatedly in Jeremiah we hear, and the word of the Lord came to me saying. We have in verse 4, verse 11, verse 13, chapter 2, verse 1, the word of the Lord came to me saying. Jeremiah is not giving his own answers. He's not giving his own ideas. He is, as he's going to say in chapter 23, let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. And today we're to do exactly the same.
God gives us His Word. You think you're going to change it? You don't like it? You want to make it more palatable?
You want to make it more cool? You want to make the church more like the world? Is that the way we're going to do things?
So then we can get more people. We're going to tamper with the message so that people will think, well, these Christians are a little different, but they're really quite nice people. In an age of tolerance and evil, God calls us, and this is difficult as it was for Jeremiah, to speak the truth in love, but speak truth.
You say, what truth? The truth of Scripture, that God promises to bless His Word. Paul says to Timothy, you are to preach the Word in season and out of season. As a preacher, I want to be faithful. If all of you left and only my wife and a couple of friends are left, I'm going to continue to preach the same message.
In season and out of season. We don't change the message to make it more palatable, to have a bigger crowd. And you, in your circle of friends and family and colleagues, wherever you work, you are there to display Christ and to speak the truth of the Gospel. Not your own ideas, not some political ideology, but the truth of the Gospel. That God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. What a glorious message to preach of God's love and of one who sends His Son into the world to save us. Rises from the dead. Yesterday we celebrated the life of Steve McGibbon here, this man who gave his life to helping people worship God and we rejoice.
Why? Because his trust is in the risen Christ and because Christ lives, He will live also. This is the truth of the Gospel.
And Jeremiah is promised the presence of the Lord, verse 8. Don't be afraid of them. Can I say that to you? Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Verse 19, they will fight against you.
Again, opposition. But they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord. And all of the experience of Jeremiah, he knows this, that God is with him. As we communicate the Gospel, it's wonderful that Jesus says in the Great Commission, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. As you go home, the Lord is with you. As you go to your place of work, the Lord is with you. As you meet with your family, the Lord is with you. Jesus says, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Yes, there is opposition, but we take the Word of God, we take the promise of God that He is with us. There is also the promise of the Lord's care and strength. Verse 12, you've seen me, for I'm watching over my word to perform it.
Verse 19, they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you. Wherever Jeremiah goes, the Lord is watching him. Wherever Jeremiah goes, God gives him all the strength he needs.
Wherever you go, the Lord is with you. He cares for you. He protects you. He loves you. He strengthens you. Therefore, be strong and courageous. God is watching over you, and God is always faithful to His promises.
He's with you. He'll protect you. He'll guide you.
He'll give you the right words to speak at the right time as you look to Him. This is the call. This is the task. This is the promises given to Jeremiah, and God has a call on your life. Will you afresh today surrender your life to Jesus Christ?
If you've never done that, will you do that? Turn from your sin and trust our magnificent Savior, God incarnate, and to follow Him and obey Him. To be strong, there will be increasing opposition in our culture, I'm sure of that.
Claim these unassailable promises. Let's stand steadfast on the Word of God. God is on our side, and sometimes like the almond tree, you may just see the bud, but soon the flower will come, and soon the beautiful fruit will be a blossom, a flower, and a fruit, because everything God promises comes to pass. Father and our God, we think of this example of Jeremiah and the strength that you gave him. We feel often weak, even as we think about taking Your Word in some situations. We're nervous. We're sometimes fearful.
May we hear Your Word afresh. Fear not. Be not dismayed for I am with You. There are those here, Father, who are fearful.
There are those here who are struggling with life, wondering what life has for them. Encourage them, Father, through Your Spirit and Word this morning, I pray. And for those who don't know Christ, open their eyes to see Christ. Open their eyes to see Your love. Open their eyes to see the Savior who says, come unto me, and I will give you rest. Bless us, we ask in Christ's name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-02 10:35:14 / 2023-06-02 10:48:39 / 13