Monday, November 3, 2008

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord

Jeremiah 30 -33

Is anything too hard for the Lord? That is the question Jeremiah posed to his people in the midst of incredible destruction and devastation. That question is a good one because the first time it was presented was when God had just told Abraham, 100 years young that his wife, Sarah, a mere 90 years old would give birth to a son. Genesis 18:14

Is there a situation in your life that you feel is too hard for you to bear or impossible to solve? Is there something that has caused a great deal of pain for you that clouds your vision of hope? It is so hard at times not to get fixated on the here and now, but Jeremiah had the presence of mind to look beyond what was visible to what was invisible, the future presence of the righteous Branch!

Jeremiah had been through five different reigns from the time of Josiah to Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and finally Zedekiah. He is 57 years old and has been a prophet for 35 years. He has worn yokes, broken clay pots, worn a linen belt and let it rot out among the rocks, seen the significance of bad and very good figs. He watched his fellow prophet killed with a sword for preaching the same message of judgment, heard that his messages were torched with fire and he was left for dead in an empty well! Thanks for coming out Jeremiah.

Zedekiah did not listen to Jeremiah and compromised himself by entering negotiations with Pharaoh Hophra in 589 BC. At one point in the battle between the nations, the Egyptians were succeeding against the Babylonians and they withdrew but only temporarily and the siege immediately resumed. We walked with Jeremiah through his lowest point in his ministry as he was left for dead in the disused cistern

He didn’t have anything really to show for all his faithfulness and effort. He was looking to God for a miracle and so too was Zedekiah. We read in 21:2, “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”

21v3,4 give the answer that there would be no miracle on this day, there would be no deliverance. The section closes with no mercy, no pity or compassion. If only he could deliver a different message and then - his reward for faithfulness, he gets thrown into the hole and then brought up mercifully to be placed in another prison, the court of the guard.

Jeremiah 30:12-17; 31:3,9 The Lord doesn’t justify the past, He redeems it! He doesn’t justify the tragedies nor does He need to orchestrate them in order to accomplish his purposes.

It was a huge act of faith for Jeremiah and it is at this time around 587BC that he gives his greatest prophecy of a time of restoration.

v12 your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing

There is no way out of the hole that you have dug for yourself. There is no human way possible to escape the consequences of this disease called sin. We have walked away from the Redeemer and tried to medicate our own souls. We stumble in the darkness of trying to satisfy our own insatiable desires. The wear and tear on our souls has left us spiritually exhausted.

v17 but I will restore you to health and heal your wounds

In spite of ourselves, He is the one who is faithful when we are not. He is the one who awaits us with open arms at the end of a long road called, ‘the way home’. Get a right vision of God.

One writer shares how often we think of Jesus as the forgiving and grace filled One and God as the stern One, the judge and yet Jesus was sent to show us the very heart and touch of God.

31v3 the Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved your with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness. I will build you up again.

Jeremiah found God’s irresistible grace. I have loved you with an everlasting love

v9 They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble.

The promises of redemption. Jeremiah 32:1,2,6

Now, we find Jeremiah doing something unthinkable during the last stages of the siege on Jerusalem. He buys land belonging to his cousin Anathoth. It would be likened to some one today buying stocks in a company going bankrupt. What was the method in his madness. Well he envisioned a time when the fields would be purchased again. God is far from done here. The promise of redemption was not just wishful thinking, it was a reality for Jeremiah. When others when selling out on hope, Jeremiah was full of hope! Just when we think it can’t get any worse for Jeremiah and we expect the worst of his feelings and bitterness to flow, He delivers His greatest inspiration!

In spite of the invasion that was in full flight, Jeremiah could imagine a day when the temple would be destroyed. He could anticipate a time when the ark of the covenant would be dispensed with and God would write those laws on our heart instead of tablets of stone. The prophecies of Jeremiah closed with hope! It is hope in the Lord that doesn’t disappoint.

Jeremiah could foresee a new covenant:

What will make it stand apart? 31v33,34

  1. It will be on His people’s minds and written on their hearts
  2. It will be personal
  3. It will be memorable
  4. It will be complete and total forgiveness

Qualities of the new covenant continued in 32:39-41

  1. It will be focused and clear v39
  2. It will be an everlasting covenant
  3. It will inspire godly fear v40a
  4. It will bring wholehearted devotion v40b
  5. It will bring rejoicing and firmly plant His people in the land

v44 This is why Jeremiah purchased land. It was his last object lesson and act of faith. He knew the day was coming when the land and more importantly the people would be redeemed.

Jeremiah didn’t have the NT but he had all the elements of it. He knew it would be no more about ‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Thou shalt not’. He knew it was impossible for people to live up to that. It would be based on God’s ‘I will’s’ It was going to be written on their hearts, not their hands or merely just rote memorized in their heads. He finally realized it was always something that would come about internally and not conformed to by mere externals. It was always at the heart of God…sacrifices and offerings you did not desire, but a broken and contrite heart… Some commentators have called this passage the Gospel before the Gospel!! The revelation came to Jeremiah in the midst of the incredible destruction he witnessed firsthand. He saw everything he ever treasured apart from His relationship with God completely wiped out.

As far as redemption goes…

Jesus doesn’t ask you to live up to it, He expects you to live in it

Jeremiah 33:3,6-8,15-17; 23:5,6

The beginning of a new covenant which would ultimately be fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord! Turn all those statements around and place Jesus there.

We will be motivated by love not by expectations. The new covenant is something that is placed within us. We respond out of what He has already done for us! No longer is it, “I am trying to do something for God” but look what God is creating in me, what He is doing through me…its ridiculously great!

Many of the prophets understood and knew the holiness of God. Isaiah knew it. Many of the prophets knew of the power of God, Daniel knew it. Many of them knew the justice of God, Amos knew it. But also revealed to Jeremiah was the love of God.

In His holiness, God hates sin and in His justice, He must punish it. However it that is all we knew of God, where would be the hope, the grace, the mercy? God cannot violate His character. So with the strength of justice and His power, He must be true His character. He is a God of holiness and justice, but you now bring His love. His love is made manifest in His Son Jesus who takes upon Himself our sin, He who knew no sin. He becomes our righteousness and brings life and light to our utter hopeless situation.

As His children, we not only receive God’s righteousness applied to our lives, but we have a new heart and God’s promises engraved on them. The Holy Spirit takes residence and makes it a living reality in us.

Jeremiah is still in prison, but gone is the prison of the soul. No situation could hold him back now. He held on to the hope of His Redeemer, a new day is dawning, a New Covenant will come!

The takeaway is for the believer is this -

Circumstances are often hard to justify, but God always redeems the situation. It doesn’t stop there. He has called us to a ministry of restoration.

This is where we must rest our confidence and hope. He is the God who heals, brings restoration and delivers hope.

Questions For Discussion and Small Groups

  1. Is there a situation in your life that you have to remind yourself of the truth, “is anything too hard for the Lord’?
  2. Have you experienced His ‘irresistible grace’? If so, how?
  3. What truth about the new covenant gives you the greatest amount of hope in your life?

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