Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Sunday August 21, 2016
Pastor Paul L. Davis
Key Goals: (Know) Understand faithfulness and perseverance. (Feel) Feel empowered to persevere. (Do) Follow hard after the Lord.
Introduction: God’s Powerful Prophets. We are in the midst of exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind; they were all prophets. Our first two prophets were Elijah and Elisha, and today we are going to meet Jeremiah. A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin. They were to clearly reveal sins that needed to be repented of and truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can become forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin and towards God. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and described the hollow part of a flute. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world.
The Story of Jeremiah
The man wakes up suddenly as his cheek touches the cold mud. Goosebumps make his whiskers stand on end. It’s dark, and just for a moment the man wonders where he is. He shivers as the cold mud has sapped the warmth from his body. As he looks up, he sees the mouth of the well some 30 feet above him. The brightness of the daylight causes his eyes to hurt. “What day is it?” he wonders. “How long have I been down here?” As he asks himself these questions, his weight shifts in the mud. His legs have fallen asleep again and the painful tingling forces him to fight the mud that holds him captive. He thought when they were lowering him down that he would land in water but the well was almost dry and there was only a thick layer of mud to break his fall. Alone at the bottom of a well, imprisoned and shivering in the mud—how did a powerful prophet of God end up here?
Jeremiah was born to be a prophet. The morning he first heard the Lord’s voice, God said to him, “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.” (Jeremiah 1:5) From his youngest days Jeremiah struggled with his assignment. He had told the Lord that he was not a strong speaker. (Jer. 1:6) But God had said, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer. 1:9) And even when Jeremiah thought in his heart that he was not going to tell the people what God had revealed to him, God’s words became like a fire in his bones, burning so strongly he didn’t have the strength to hold them in (Jer. 20:9). So Jeremiah preached, and spoke the truth to kings and princes and anyone who might listen.
When he began, he was only 17 years old. The cold mud is much harder on his now 50-year-old body. For 40 years Jeremiah only spoke truth. Five kings had come and gone and through them all he had faithfully brought the messages God had given him.
At first God told him to preach repentance. “Root out, pull down, destroy and throw down, Then build and plant,” God had said (Jer. 1:10). His nation had forgotten their God, even though godly King Josiah wanted the people to turn back to the Lord. People are not easy to turn. They had actually lost the Bible and when King Josiah found it, Jeremiah read it to the people over and over, pleading with them to repent of their sin and turn to God. God let Jeremiah see the grave consequences on the horizon if the people ignored him. But no one listened. Not one. So God told Jeremiah to warn the people of coming destruction, that invaders were coming from the north (Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6), that they would bring famine, disease and war.
God’s people had broken covenant with God (Jer. 11:10). They had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods called Baals (Jer. 2:8; 11:13) and they even built altars to Baal so they could burn their children as offerings (Jer. 19:4-5). So Jeremiah warned the people and exposed their sins; he pointed out their idolatry (Jer. 44:1-10), their adultery (Jer. 5:7-9), how they oppressed the refugees, orphans and widows (Jer. 7:5-6). He begged them to turn from their lies and how they spoke evil of each other (Jer. 9:4-6). Jeremiah told them that God had withdrawn his blessings (Jer. 16:5-10), that famine and starvation were on their way (Jer.15:1-4), that the Babylonians would plunder them and take them captive to a far away land (Jer. 14:12; 25:8-9).
That is when the beatings began (Jer. 20:1-10). Pashhur the priest (chief officer of the house of the Lord) ordered the first one. Jeremiah flinched as he remembered the rod striking him over and over and over. All Jeremiah had done was warn the people of the coming destruction (Jer. 19:15) but they called him a traitor and a false prophet. When the Babylonians finally arrived at the gates of the city and the people began starving as the siege went longer and longer, did the people listen then? Not one.
A cloud passes across the tiny bit of sky Jeremiah can see from the bottom of the well. The little water that remains has a rancid musty smell. Jeremiah begins to think of people who might come to his rescue. He has no wife or children. God specifically forbid him from marrying anyone (Jer. 16:1-2). God had said the diseases and the destruction would be too horrible for family. Who would come to rescue a prophet who only gives bad news?
It was the leaders of the city and the king himself that had thrown Jeremiah in the well. “How can it be treason,” Jeremiah thought, “when all I am doing is telling the people how to survive the coming massacre?” “Leave the city,” he told anyone who would listen. “Surrender to the Babylonians and God will protect you and your family.” (Jer. 38:2-3). But when the men came for him they all shouted, “Treason!” and tied him up with ropes. Before he knew it, Jeremiah was at the bottom of a well—alone, cold, and desperately hungry (Jer. 38:9).
For 40 years Jeremiah had preached. He had no wife, no children, no retirement account, no success to show for his sacrifices. Just the constant drip coming from the stone walls of the well. As Jeremiah began drifting off to sleep, he remembered, “It’s not been all gloom and doom. I’ve always proclaimed the good things that are coming too.” From memory Jeremiah began quoting one of his favorite messages:
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor… saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:33–34
As his words echoed in the well, Jeremiah drifted into a deep sleep, dreaming once again of the righteous and soon coming King who would set all the world right (Jer.23:5; 33:15).
Jeremiah would eventually be rescued from the well.
What do we learn from the life of Jeremiah?
1. Every believer, even “Powerful Prophets of God,” experiences rejection, failure, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually. We live in a fallen, sin-filled world and until Christ returns every believer will face hardship. This is why discipling one another is so important; this is why we train ourselves in godliness, so that we are prepared when we find ourselves at the bottom of a well. When the apostle Paul was discipling young Timothy he exhorted him, “You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3–4 (NKJV) The Greek word for “hardship” literally means “evil, suffering and even condemnation.” The idea is that there comes a time in a battle where a soldier knows that to be faithful in their duties means they might die. To endure in that moment is faithfulness.
2. As a church, we measure success by faithfulness to God and his word. How should we be measuring the successfulness of Calvary or the Church @ Hamilton? Number of baptisms? If we like the sermon or worship package? If the church serves coffee or not? You can take a look at all of those things, but let us not kid ourselves, God measures success in terms of obedience and faithfulness—obedience to the mission and faithfulness to endure hardship.
3. Families and spouses are important, but the number one relationship in your life must be God. Jeremiah never married, he never had children and he was 100% in the will of God. If you are single, do not compromise your relationship with God in order to be married. Follow God with all of your heart, and if someone comes along and can keep up with you? Marry them. I hear someone thinking, “But what about love? Isn’t love what matters most?” Why, yes it is. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 Finding a good wife is important and having a strong family is important. But children grow up and leave, and marriage is only until death. Your relationship with God is eternal. Put him first.
 Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.