Adam Hince

The musings of Syndal Baptist Church's Gen Y and Beyond Pastor

One of my heroes…

Posted on | February 23, 2011 | No Comments

Last Sunday at Syndal Baptist Church – I shared with the people there some amazing promises and big challenges from the book of Jeremiah. To really grasp the power of what it means for us today, we need to understand a bit about the person who said it… Jeremiah. An Old Testament Character who is really one of my heroes! Here’s my notes from Sunday about him…

WHO :: Jeremiah – a prophet, specifically Gods spokesperson to the people of Judah. In many ways – an enormous failure. He was a speaker who nobody listened to – God spoke through prophets to cause change in the lives of people, and unfortunately the people to whom Jeremiah spoke didn’t change.

The truth is that God didn’t measure the success of Jeremiah by how much change took place, but by how faithful he was to what God has specifically asked him to do. This is one of the riddles of our faith… and something that is often true for us – through the faithfulness of people, God can do extraordinary things.  Jeremiah was put in prison, dropped in a well, ridiculed and vilified. But at the end – he was proved right. And if people had listened to him – their lives would have been very different.

HOW :: Jeremiah spoke with passion – many say that his words and the way he delivered them embodied not just the words of God, but the heart of God. He wept for them, he spoke with vigour and urgency, he said hard things that needed to be said. He was reluctant – not a gifted communicator whom God used, but someone whom God gifted to communicate. I like reluctant leaders – in the bible, they seem to be prevalent amongst those God chooses to use most.

Jeremiah the book is long – split into different sections, with the first 20 chapters being a summary of various prophecies given about Judah and specifically the fall of Jerusalem, and the final 32 chapters mixing prophetic words with the story of those words being fulfilled. When God keeps his word it brings great comfort – we need to know that He keeps his promise. Jeremiah presents us with that truth in a different way – God keeps his word, and with that comes a healthy kind of fear and respect that is essential for a follower of Jesus.

WHEN :: The people Jeremiah is talking too are relatively happy. He’s speaking about 627 and 585 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. There is a lot going on around the people of Judah – specifically Egypt and Babylon are vying for the position of being the strongest nation in the world. Judah is a small nation – and relies on its relationships with others to survive. It is the relationship they have with God that has been most influential.

It was a small army from Judah that defeated a large army under the leadership of King David – and that season of time has become legendary and created a lot of confidence. The problem is that like most “deals” that God makes with his people, they are conditional on them having a kind of “exclusive” reliance on him. Judah have made a mistake – they’ve kept trusting God, BUT have also aligned themselves with other nations. This alignment has had implications on the way they live, but more importantly it has said something to God. From His perspective – they have turned away from Him. Early in the book – an obscure word tells us a lot about it…

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV) “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,  the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

 God represented the “spring” … an effervescent, reliable – but daily provision of everything they needed. In “digging their own cisterns” … poetically and figuratively the people have said “we don’t want to just depend on what God will bring day to day – we need something else” as a cistern was a hole in the ground in which water was stored. There was no moment where they decided to do this… it’s a bit like us – it’s the adding up of a series of small decisions that ends up making a profound statement to God.

More specifically – Judah sought protection, leadership, provision and salvation from either of the two superpowers (depending who was winning). Those four things were exactly what God had offered and promised to them – if they stayed faithful to Him.

WHY ::  The result of this is that their lives are now on a path of judgement. That will involve them being taken off into exile in Babylon – which is not what they would choose. They will be like prisoners, or at best seekers of Asylum – having few rights, very little power, and a high reliance upon the goodwill and generosity of others. You would think this is not what God had in mind. The trouble was – it was exactly what was on his mind. God is angry, God is frustrated, God has judged.

BUT… there is still a chance to change. We make a mistake when we think Gods Grace only exists in the New Testament. It exists right here. Jeremiah 6:17 fits into this context. It is the only articulation of response given in this section of the book – its simple, clear and demanding. This verse represents what might turn things around for the people. If they will do this, then the future that Jeremiah has seen will not happen.

Into the hands of the people is placed the power and tools for changing direction.

This is beauty of a God who judges, but does not condemn.

The problem is…that the people don’t do what it says. They choose to continue the way they are going, not realising the power and importance of this warning! The passage itself says “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.” They end up in captivity, choosing it by virtue of them not choosing to stand, look, ask, walk and rest.

Today – in this series… we aren’t thinking that a pathway of doom lies ahead, and we’re pretty sure that slavery does not await. BUT – these words of challenge and rebuke offer a hopeful and life changing pathway that we are foolish to ignore.

The book of Jeremiah, and perhaps specifically this verse teach us about the word “repentance”. It is critical to our faith. In fact – it differentiates the Christian faith from other  faiths. It’s a word that houses the greatest challenge of our faith, but also its greatest invitation. Even this community of people spoken to in Jeremiah can still turn around – to future is inevitable, no habit is unbreakable, no wound is un-healable – if we will turn towards the God who can do all things.

Its true that God loves us no matter what – He deeply loved the people to whom this prophecy was given. But that love fuelled a vision for their lives, and demanded a response that was strong and meaningful.

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