Lecture 17: Hurting (1)
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"God who Meets the Hurting."
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Hurting - Part 1
I suppose today’s subject of God meeting the hurting is a subject that is at, in so many ways, at the heart of God’s work with the human race and is also at the heart of Christian ministry today.
It is very interesting that in many ways affluent societies often ask more questions about evil and suffering than non-affluent societies.
I think this is so because the more unusual pain becomes the more we think that it is some sort of punishment or something that is out of the ordinary in life.
Also, in cultures that have access to life saving measures, for which we are grateful in many ways, you know, -um- I do not want to die of a heart problem that could be easily fixed by a heart bypass surgery.
I’d rather live. I’m grateful to have access to antibiotics and other sorts of drugs. And to know there is an understanding of why some diseases occur.
At the same time, all those things make is seem odd, if someone gets sick and dies. On the other hand, nations or cultures which don’t have a lot of money, they still ask the questions, don’t they?
They still suffer. In fact, they may take it more in stride like for instance; there may be a host of things such as death by disease and death by war and several other things.
But everybody has the ability to ask the question. And we are going to see in scripture they do.
At the same time the scriptures give us several answers. –Uh- to the question of why evil and suffering. But it doesn’t give us every answer. Nor does it give us the discernment always. And the wisdom and the maturity to know which of the revealed options are operative in our lives right now.
See what I’m saying? I might know, for arguments sake, there are four reasons why I might suffer. But I might not know exactly what’s going on. Which one is operative.
That requires wisdom and perspective. Also, the Bible does not promise us omniscient. Omniscient would include what’s happening to me, certainly and why it’s happening now and how it affects everybody else. I don’t know those things.
Also, because I’m not omniscient, as we said the other day, we don’t have the knowledge of why this timing, so that I might know that a person, all of us rather, who would barring the return of Jesus, we will all die.
But the timing, I don’t know the importance of. The circumstances I don’t know the importance of. So, I guess I’m offering some disclaimers from the start. There are certain things that require omniscient’s to make full sense out of even what God is revealed as to why. So I might know, for instance, I’m suffering for the sins of others.
The timing, the circumstances and the results I cannot know, necessarily, at this point in time.
So, in many respects, this issue is like other issues we’ve discussed. We have things revealed to us that are clear and prominent in scripture. Then we are asked to exercise faith.
This is not a faith that is blind or a leap in the dark or that says you cannot ask questions because if you read the scriptures, if we said it is ungodly to ask questions about evil and suffering or to lament evil and suffering in your life, then we are going to discount, oh let’s see, shall we discount Jeremiah and David and Paul.
Jesus prayed to lament from the cross. Shall we discount all the people who are intelligent enough to know that things are not going well?
So now I am not asking, I- I am not advocating that if you have difficulties you must speak of them in public. I’m not advocating that you spill your guts to people you don’t know. Or that in every sermon you talk about, or every lesson you talk about whatever difficulty you have.
What I am advocating, however, is honesty with God and with people you can trust. This is all over the scripture. I’d also advocate a theological frame work that will help us put these things into perspective.
And at least know that in our most frustrating moments what question would be relative at this point. There is some help in that. To say I know I’m asking the right sort of question.
So when we begin scripture we don’t have much time before people are affected-infected was evil and suffering. We get those first two chapters of Genesis. That’s pretty good.
Then we get to chapters 3 and 4. We know what chapter 3 is about. Chapter 4 and verse 8 is the crux of a Cain and Able- early part of the Cain and Able account.
God has corrected maybe rebuked even Cain for his sacrifice and accepted Able.
Verse 8, “Cain told Able, his brother, and it came about when they were in the field that Cain rose up against Able, his brother, and killed him.”
Point number one, I think that we might derive from this you can suffer for the sins of others. I doubt that was Able’s last thought. As he was going into eternity, but this is a fact. Able suffered because of Cain’s whatever, jealousy murderous intent.
And so that is an early point-same point.
A second point, verses 9 and following. “The Lord said to Cain, ‘where is Able your brother?’ he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which opened its’ mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand when you cultivate the ground it will no longer yield its strength to you. You’ll be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.’ Cain said to the Lord, ‘my punishment is too great to bear.’”
Cain is learning too, what Adam and Eve learned in Genesis 3. You can also suffer for your own sins. I guess we should have put that one first with Genesis 3 and the consequences of sin, but certainly true in chapter 4 as well.
You can suffer for your own sins. Now already we have two options. That would lead us to ask, which is it in this current situation.
So, we see this in Genesis 3 and 4. It is certainly true in other places. I would argue that Noah, if this 1 year in the ark, which in one way is a marvelous redemption in another way- and his family- suffering for the sins of others. If there had not been only evil always and him finding grace in the eyes of the Lord, he would not need to be on this boat.
We could go on down the list. Hagar is mistreated by Sarah. And Hagar, although she does not- her punishment does not fit her crime. She torments Sarah a bit. And certainly we see them suffering because of others.
Let’s look at the life of Joseph in a bit of detail. Find Joseph’s life in Genesis 37- 50. And he is going to make certain points at the end of his life about suffering and its purposes.
You can suffer for the sins of others. Sarah puts her out of the household in effect for an insult with a bottle of water in the desert.
So the first time, both times, God comes to her. First time, God comes to her- well she runs away. She has been driven out, mistreated. God tells her to go back and submit.
The next time – she is pregnant the first time.- The second time she has her son and nothing but a bottle of water. She is sent away. And God comes to her, makes a covenant with her and makes promises to her about her son.
But she has hardly been well treated. It’s my point.
And notice that with out – I want to be able to say this correctly. Without saying it’s alright, the Hagar account kind of indicates not only that God works with people who are caused to suffer that this is a normal part of life.
He doesn’t strike Abraham and Sarah dead for what they do. God has different plans for Isaac than he has for Ishmael -can’t get away from the fact that Hagar is not asked to be bearer of Abraham’s child. And yet that’s the role she plays.
She does treat Sarah with contempt, which isn’t a positive thing. But she is so mistreated she flees. So you can suffer for what others do to you.
I suppose Isaac, Isaac is a peaceful man, isn’t he? It’s hard to treat Isaac as a warring difficult man. How many wells does he have to dig before he is allowed to live in peace? At least that’s kind of minor suffer. Well I’d say there is all kinds of sufferings.
There is also, if we wished to just keep deriving principle, we have this whole list of women Sarah and Rebecca and Rachel. What do they have in common besides they are married to patriarchs?
Audience: They’re barren.
Right. And it’s evident from the text that it is the women, those three women that they are the ones unable to conceive.
Because the husbands have been able to father children, otherwise. So they know they are unable to conceive. And it caused them types of suffering- emotional anguish.
You’re so- just to bring some order here- Starting with causes of suffering. You can suffer for your own sin. You can suffer for the sins of others -types of suffering.
We’ve already seen physical suffering. At least at the very least with women emotional suffering already in the text.
And I guess I’d make an observation at this point. If such is the case, suffering is a part of the fabric of life after Genesis 3. Now, I don’t say that so we will say oh well it doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal in the scriptures.
But Paul spends sometime in the New Testament trying to help people see it’s not an odd thing to suffer, period, but particularly to suffer for Christ. So, the issue is how to live and to overcome not-
I’m not sure if we spent our whole life trying to avoid suffering that we would be successful.
Tell me Abraham and Sarah did they have financial resources, or were they broke?
Tremendous financial resources. He could fund a private army of 318 men out of his own household. That’s not bad.
And God promised and did bless him financially. And yet Sarah has this emotional pain. And Abraham has this constant temptation not to believe because there is no child.
He has a little frustration, doesn’t he? I don’t have anybody to leave this to. I’m going to leave this to Eliezer of Damascus. You are saying, who the heck’s that?
And I think that’s the point.
So if you can suffer for your sins and you will sin, suffering is a part of the fabric. If you can suffer emotional strain that has nothing to do with your financial resources, then it’s part of the fabric of life.
I think the only way to get a realistic answer to suffering is to actually have a realistic view of it. We would hope for realism that doesn’t lead to negativism or cynicism. A balance being we are walking in a way.
Chapter 37 of Genesis, you have some of the same suffering going. Genesis 37:1, “Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned in the land of Canaan.” It’s the land of promise, you know.
“These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph when 17 years of age was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was a youth along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wife. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.”
Now a little bit of a flashback, retrospect. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons. This does have an effect on the brothers because he was a son of his old age. And he made him…” - a translation problem- a very colored tunic- sleeved garment- full length robe, there are only a couple of usages of this word in the Bible.
We are so used to the interpretation of it was a multicolored garment- coat of many colors- what a phrase. I believe its Tyndale’s coat of many colors.
What did the coat signify?
And its importance that, growing up I heard well you know you’d be jealous too if your brother got the better clothes.
I thought I’d have to get over it. As third brother, I was really kind of hoping- since I knew I’d get it later, anyway, I was really kind of hoping they would get nice stuff. But I understood jealousy.
However, the coat signified leadership. The person with the coat was the overseer. Joseph is not the oldest, but because he is the oldest son of the most loved wife, Rachel, as well as the son of Jacob’s old age, Jacob puts him in charge.
Not Ruben, the oldest, but Joseph. And that’s why he was the one in the position to bring a report. So, his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers and they made a choice. They hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms -could not speak to him peacefully.
Well, one of the things I always try to note in this chapter is the brothers allowed what their father did to get to them. It was not alright what their father did necessarily. But they allowed what he did to dominate their emotions, their attitude and their decisions.
That’s a choice we make. Maybe a hard choice, but they regret this later. Don’t they? Have you read the story? They spend all these years regretting what they had done.
Joseph had a dream. And when he tells it they hate him all the more. He has these dreams where they are going to bow down to him. Right?
Some visions are best kept to yourself. Treasured in your heart as the New Testament talks about. Mary kept it to herself, treasured it in her heart, or whatever else.
“You are going to rule over us?” They ask in verse 8. “Father says to your mother and your brothers to actually come bow down?” We- his father kept it in mind. He is sent as the overseer to find out about the welfare of the brothers and the flock and bring back word.
He has to ask for directions in verse 15. They see him coming from a distance in verse 18 and they say to one another “here comes the dreamer.”
And the plot is hatched. First to kill him, which I think Ruben forestalled. “Let’s not take his life,” verse 21. But they decide to inflict physical emotional suffering on their brother.
And they sell him into slavery oppression –pure and simple.
Now you say well, you know he may have brought this on himself through telling those dreams. Let me remind you the punishment does not fit the crime. Bringing a bad report, telling your dreams does not equal you deserve to be kidnapped and sold into slavery.
That would be a rather stern punishment for a child for an immature action. So, though what he did may not have been the wisest course of action, he did not deserve what happened to him.
So, we find that this is but the first of episodes where Joseph does not deserve what happens to him. He acquits himself well as the kind of care taker of his master’s household in Egypt, chapter 39.
Everything he does the Lord blesses, according to 39:03. So God is with him, according to 39:03, though in Egypt not in Canaan. God is with him- though in this sort of trouble God is with him.
So in the Joseph account you can certainly say because we begin to ask the question what’s God doing? We see what the brothers did. What’s God doing?
God is with Joseph in his troubles, 39:03, He’s with him. And right now, at this point in the story, you might ask what good is that?
Well, we will continue to follow that question.
But God is with him. And God prospers him in the thing he is doing at that time.
Then as we see it is his convictions for the Lord that land him in further trouble. Why can he suffer? He could suffer for his own sins. He could suffer for the sins of others. He could suffer, third, and maybe it is a subset of the first two they are related, third he suffers for doing the right thing.
He will not give in to the woman’s wishes. So her plan having failed she causes him to suffer for doing the right thing. This is a specific example of number two, but I still think its specific enough and different enough to list we can suffer for the sins of others, we can suffer for our own sin and we can suffer directly as a result of doing the right thing.
And that might be the point in which you are saying, well, then why do the right thing?
So we’re beginning to find out that there is something more important than either I suffer. But God is with him. And, here’s the interesting thing, verse 23, after Joseph is sent to yet another prison, for doing the right thing.
Verse 23, “the chief jailor did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him.” The Lord is with him in his new prison.
Now it so happens that this is the career break he’s been waiting for because while in prison chapters 40 and 41. He meets a couple of fellows. Chapter 40 in verse 5, the cup-bearer and a baker of the King of Egypt, so they both have dreams. Remember this part?
And the cup-bearer, 40 and verse 9, tells his dream there is a vine in front of me. The vine of three branches, Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand. Anyway, the gist of his dream, as Joseph interprets it to him is that you will be back in favor with Pharaoh and you’ll put the cup in his hand.
And, as you know, cup-bearer had to be fairly trusted because he would be the one tasting poison. I don’t know how they did their job. I doubt they gulped the line down before-
When the baker sees that it is favorable he offers his dream, too. And Joseph tells him, well your dream means you’re going to lift your head off your shoulders and the birds of the air they are gonna hang- the birds are going to pick around at your body.
So at least we find out that Joseph has maintained a sense of integrity and honesty. He is not just interpreting dreams to suit people.
He asks the cup-bearer, please do remember me. But he forgets him.
Verse 23 of chapter 40 “at the chief cup-bearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot.” It is not until Pharaoh has his dreams that Joseph is remembered by the cup-bearer.
He is brought in. He interrupts the dreams. You know the story. And he is made, basically, prime minister of Egypt.
Pharaoh recognizes that God has told him the dreams and that he is wise and deserving.
Chapter 41 in verse 46, Joseph was 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh. It may well be he has endured the 13 years, or a decade or more of suffering. At 17, remember when he was- in Chapter 37, he is 30 in chapter 41, so those are markers for us.
Joseph settles down in Egypt. And in 41:51 he is having children. 51 he names his first born Manasseh for he said God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.
Ephraim is the second name because, fruitfulness because God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. See what he says? In the land of my affliction God has made me fruitful.
So that he neither says I haven’t been afflicted, he understands he has been afflicted, but he sees that God has been with him and caused him to prosper in his land of affliction.
And he thinks that he emotional pain of memory has been eased and erased. The Lord has made me to forget the troubles and my father’s household. And that sounds so sweet and so permanent and so restful.
Then you get chapter 42. And everything he had forgot is going to come back to see him. This too is an interesting tendency in life. That just about the time you have forgotten or think you have, something will cause to remember to see if you truly, truly have dealt with this situation or if you are willing to operate in a godly fashion.
Jacob has lost none of his energy. We know there is going to be a famine, 42:01. “Why are you staring at one another?” He says to the boy to his grown sons. Why are you standing around looking at each other? Why don’t you do something? We need food.
In 41 and 42, we have now found another source of suffering- natural disasters, famine. So you can say they’ve suffered. You can suffer for your own sins. You can suffer for sins and the oppressions of others. You can suffer because you did the right thing. You can suffer because of what we call natural disasters famine, earthquake, flood, but it’s a famine here.
And here is Jacob needing grain, and he didn’t do anything, did he? He’s just an old man who wants to make sure the clan is fed. But famine brings it on.
So, this becomes.- Some other things haven’t changed. He sends the ten brothers, who are basically heads of many clans of their own, you guys are suppose to be leaders. You go down and figure out how to get us some food.
He won’t send Benjamin. The only other son of the most loved wife. When Joseph meets the brothers he is faced with what is probably his toughest ethical dilemma. This is about his character, right?
What will he do to the people who caused him to suffer?
He doesn’t immediately say you guys are family, oh, good to see you. He tells them they must bring this brother, Benjamin. Find out that there is one brother they’ve held back. It’s the one he is most interested in. It is his full brother.
But they have to leave one behind, right? So they leave Simeon behind as a hostage. Joseph does not trust them to come back with Benjamin intact. That’s pretty clear.
Does he ask early on about his father? Yeah, he says in 42:13 the father is still alive. I don’t know if Joseph believes that or not. But it seems like his first plan is to get Benjamin with him where he will be safe. That’s my theory.
They come back with Benjamin. This is an emotional moment for Joseph. And then he tries to get rid of the brothers, right?
He imprisons Benjamin on a false charge. And he plants stuff on him.
It seems like what he wants the brothers to do is just leave. But they won’t. Will they? They won’t go. Finely they say if you do this you are going to bring- chapter 44, he just can’t get this done.
It’s Judah talking, chapter 33, at the end of the speech, “now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad enslaved to my Lord and let the lad go with his brothers for how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me? For fear I see the evil that will over take my father.” Then Joseph could not control himself.
The brothers have changed a bit. They won’t leave Benjamin there. They are no longer satisfied to let the favorite son go. Or send him away or leave him in slavery.
But notice what he says in 45:3, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” His brothers could not answer him as they were dismayed in his presence. Talk about your worst nightmare coming true.
In the story it even says that at one time they say in Joseph’s presence I told you we shouldn’t have sold the boy into slavery. We’re being punished for it. It’s coming back to haunt us. See they never forgot this.
Another way you can suffer is –is- is constant regret brought on by your own sin. See they never forgot. And they weren’t fully trustful until the end. Were they?
Here is the thing they knew. They wouldn’t trust them. They knew they weren’t fully trust worthy people and that’s a problem. When Joseph said to his brothers please come closer to me they came closer to me. And they said I’m your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. In other words, he is not saying what you did was alright or wasn’t right. That is important to see.
Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean being oblivious to what happened. Verse 5, “now do not be greed or angry with yourself because you sold me or for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
He understands what’s happened now. He says we’ve got 5 more years of famine.
Verse 7, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Or by literally a great escaped company.
“Now, therefore, it was not you that sent me here, but God.” Its quiet the confession. And he has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler of all the land of Egypt.”
He says to go get the father, come back. We will take care- I will take care of you. And so they –its interesting verse 15, “he kissed all his brothers, wept on them and after words his brothers talked with him.”
Now, Joseph’s confession is God sent me here to preserve life. His argument is, and we’ll have to see if it is going to be a universal Biblical principle.
There was a purpose for my suffering. There was a purpose for it.
And there was a divine purpose in it. And there was a good purpose in it. An operating theory I have from this point on in the scripture is God makes suffering purposeful, gives it purpose by making it redemptive.
By redemptive, I mean, not you are saved through suffering, in other words, or that you redeem other people by your suffering. But you help others through your witness or through your activity. This is what makes suffering redemptive.
Suffering has a potential to build your faith, serve the witness to others, help others. I say potential because I continue to wrestle with the issue of human responsibility.
There is a sense in which you can treat suffering as nothing more than a bad idea. Nothing more than a terrible event. Nothing more than an empty era in your life or you can understand that God has made suffering with the potential to build your faith, to be a witness to others or to actually help someone in the midst of your suffering.
His testimony is to the brothers that made him suffer, you meant it, you sent me here, you sold me here, but really it was God who sent me here to preserve life.
This is the interesting tension you get in this story and in all of Biblical suffering accounts. It wasn’t alright what they did. They sinned, but this was part of God’s plan for preserving life.
Let us understand that this is not all that God could have done. But it is what God did. And there is much about this story that I don’t know. For instance, I don’t know what that famine was doing in [38:00] the lives of all the Egyptians.
Again, when I say I’m not omniscient, I’m not even omniscient when I read the revelation. God transcends his own revelation. He’s greater than what he tells us. But the fact is I don’t know a whole lot. I don’t know how else this famine and these circumstances were punishing others, blessing others I don’t know. I just don’t know.
But in this case, this is what it says, God tells Jacob, in chapter 46, to go on down to see his son, that God will go with him. This also fulfills what God said in Genesis 15, doesn’t it? They will go down. Eventually they will be oppressed. And they will be brought out.
In Genesis 50, when Jacob dies and they burry him; the brothers concoct a story that says, “our father said to forgive us.” Verse 19, chapter 50 and verse 20 and 21, very important. Joseph said “do not be afraid for am I in God’s place?”
His attitude was this has been part of God’s plan. My suffering, which was a result of your sin, had a redemptive purpose and by faith Joseph choices to accept it that way.
Verse 20, “and that it is God’s place to determine these things-“ Added for you- you meant evil, but if you ask me, God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive. Therefore, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones.”
So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Now then, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result. So, that they are all safe, that they are alive and that God would preserve the family and make it grow, so that in Exodus 1, the very next chapter, they have multiplied a great deal.
By Exodus 1, Abraham certainly has descendents. But the suffering he endured was real was brought upon him by someone else, but was used for God and by God for redemptive purpose and Joseph accepted it as such.
And his response is very, very important. We could argue in the abstract and say was this the only way God could have preserved them? No. Was this the only way God could have built up Joseph’s faith? No. But it is the way He choice to do so.
And this is what happened.
So I’d like to think the test question I’ve set for you is to pick three examples, one from the law, one from the prophets and one from the writings of suffering and Joseph might be one you choose. You could also in the plenitude the people of God themselves.
Exodus 2:23, “it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died and the sons of Israel sighed because of their bondage. And they cried out and they cried for help because their bondage rose up to God, so God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel and God took notice of them.”
Which is our sign that what God said in Genesis 15 is also coming true? That after the 400 years they will be brought out. We must read Exodus 1 and 2 in light of Genesis 15. What has been said and what God has been doing for these 400 years.
And I would argue part of what Israel was doing was suffering outside of the land that was their own because of the sins of the Amorites were not yet complete.
Here’s on odd fact of life. Sometimes you will not receive a ministry or a promotion or whatever we are talking about now because, let’s be positive for a moment; the good ministry is not complete yet. Let’s also be negative, the sins of the Amorites are not yet complete.
So, I end at that point. Since you’re not omniscient you know its one possibility, however, that you are currently suffering and not receiving the next step because somebody else is not yet done sinning.
God is giving them a chance. I don’t know how much comfort that gives you. It’s one of the options. And it’s important for us to be right with God so that we sin. And I say okay if you are currently in a rough situation, say, okay, well, am I suffering because of my own sins?
Well, you check that out and you really without any arrogant you pray the same read through the scriptures, you do whatever you do and you realize, well, no I can’t tell what I’m suffering because I sinned.
Am I suffering for a misjudgment, maybe? Either misjudgment or a lack of knowing what question to ask or a need. Well, I entered into a ministry and I- now I know to ask them, but because of other needs and because, maybe, you hadn’t been through it before you didn’t ask that question, but that’s not a sin.
Let me be clear. That’s not a sin. There is a difference between a mistake or a lack of experience or just assuming the best about people, which is also a mistake, that’s not a sin, maybe that’s what caused it.
But once you’re done with that and you say am I suffering for the sins of others? Yes, I can see that. Or am I suffering so that somebody else might have a chance to repent?
I don’t know that, but that’s an option. And you may find out later that’s exactly what happened. If so, just know, not as a point of pride, but as a point of purpose, that your suffering was in effect on behave of others, so that they might have a chance.
And that your attitude towards your suffering now, what should your attitude be? Or what did Joseph do? He did what the Lord called him to do at that point in time. Right?
If it was be the head guy in prison, fine. If it was to interpret a dream, fine. But it amounted to 13 years of doing the right thing. And that’s sobering. And for most of us it would not result in 3,700 years of renown.
But what was Joseph’s attitude when Potiphar’s wife tempted him? I can’t do this. And sin against my master and against my God.
There is some higher purpose than suffering and the avoidance of it. So that tells me there is dignity in suffering.
There is purpose in it. So Joseph’s case is not the most extreme nor the most negative in the scriptures. For instance, in the prophets, let us at least begin the discussion of our friend Jeremiah.
We have a couple of others I’ll mention, but we’ll start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1, let’s start with his call.
In the first three verses you are given the historical summary. And what it tells you is that Jeremiah prophet from 627 B.C. to 587 B.C. Because it’s the 13th year of Josiah which was about 627 down to the exile of Jerusalem which is 587, you’ve got 40 year ministry and a little bit beyond that.
You have in his ministry Josiah’s reform, Josiah’s death, Jehoiakim, two smaller exiles and then the final one. Let us suggest that these are difficult times to work.
Historically politically if –your- he was going to minister for the Lord during this era, I don’t think he could avoid suffering. He is told to preach God’s word in verses 4 through 10. That he’s a prophet to Israel and to the kingdoms Judah and to the kingdoms.
God is making him a prophet of plucking up and breaking down and destroying, overthrowing, but also building and planting.
Basically he is preaching judgment. According to verses 11 to 16, so you have Jeremiah’s times in the first 3 verses. You have Jeremiah’s message in verses 4 to 16. Now verses 17 to 19, “now gird up your loins and arise or get ready for –er- work and arise. Speak to them all that I commend you. Do not be dismayed before them or I will dismay you before them.”
You have a choice. You’re going to be dismayed. Don’t be dismayed or you won’t be protected. You can’t be afraid of these people or your fear- don’t be afraid of them or they will make you afraid.
Now behold I’ve made you today is a fortified city and a pillar of iron and walls of bronze against the whole land. To the kings of Judah to its’ princes to its’ priests and to the people of the land.
That’s quiet the audience, isn’t it? Whose that leave? If you need to be fortified against the kings, the officials, the priests and the people, what’s that leave, small animals?
They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you for I am with you to deliver you. But from his call, praise God this is not everybody’s call, but his call is that he will minister in very difficult times, the first 3 verses, because those are difficult times. In 4 through 16 he will give a difficult message. And verses 17 to 19 he’s going to have a difficult life.
This is his call. Isaiah was told they wouldn’t believe his message. That he would only have a remnant, but he wasn’t promised constant opposition.
Ezekiel was promised that he was going to preach to a stubborn people, but he wasn’t promised this kind of threats and opposition.
Jeremiah was and that’s from the start. That’s the call. I’ll remind you of a New Testament verse that this reminds me of. Acts 9:16, “God tells Ananias, who is just a little reluctant to go help Saul of Tarsus to become a Christian. He’s basically saying, God are you sure? Are you sure this guy has been redeemed? God says yes, you go and verse 16 of chapter 9, “I have shown him how much he must suffer for my sake.”
Suffering is a part of the call of the Apostle Paul from the start. And he has caused others to suffer so he understands the kind of suffering that’s going to be put upon him. God has shown him how much he must now suffer for God’s sake.
Jeremiah’s gotten this call. In chapters 11 to 20, Jeremiah offers 5 confessions to God. 5 Laments and complaints to God. Over what? Well, chapter 11 and 12 the people of his home town threaten to kill him.
I would count that as suffering- persecution. He’s imprisoned, isn’t he? By chapter 20, he is put in stocks. And he complains to the Lord that he didn’t want to be a prophet, but God made him and everyone is against him.
Here we are chapter 20 verse 8, “for each time I speak I cry out, I proclaim violence and destruction because for me the word of the Lord is resulted in reproach and derision all day long. But if I say I will not remember him or speak anymore his name.”
In other words, he says I can put a stop to this. I can just shut my name. “Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire. Shut up in my bones, I am weary of holding it in. I can’t endure it. For I’ve heard the whispering of many terror on every side. Denounce him, yes, let’s denounce him. All my trusted friends watching for my fail say perhaps you’ll be deceived so they may prevail against him. And take our revenge upon him.”
Now he says the Lord has protected me. But again, protection has meant this “my trusted friends, the people of my hometown have tried to kill me. People are waiting to see me fall, they are whispering against me. They are plotting against me.” When I try to stop speaking, God makes me speak. This is my life.
God has protected me, but I’ve needed it. The good news is God is protecting me. The bad news is, man, I’ve needed it.
So, to say that God is with me as he was with Joseph, as we saw with Joseph, does not mean that there was no trouble. Both of them were promised God’s presence, I’ll be with you, or God was with him. And it’s true. But my- it’s needed.
This is Jeremiah’s life. How does his life end? Well, he, again, more persecution -more imprisonment. You’d think as an old man whose word had always come true, he would be left alone, but no.
After the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, some of the ones left think it to be a good idea to kill the military governor. Why they think this is a good idea, I’m not sure. Maybe they think they’ll start a guerilla action that will eventually lead to their freedom. It’s hard to say.
But when they kill the governor- as you- in oh- I often ask you to be specific on your exams- chapter 41 the military governors murdered. Chapter 42, the people come to Jeremiah to give sort to the Lord. Should we flee to Egypt or not? We’ve done this stupid thing, should we flee or not?
He says not. They say we’re going to flee not only that, we’re going to take you with us. Now apparently thought he was some kind of magic charm. I don’t know why they thought this. As long as we’ve got Jeremiah around, God won’t do any harm to us.
That hasn’t been borne out by history so far. God has delivered him, he hadn’t delivered all them. So where does Jeremiah end up? But Egypt. He is displaced. He is, in fact, kidnapped and dragged off made to go. I doubt he puts up a huge fight. He is an old man by this time.
An older man, anyway, so he goes. He preaches God’s word in Egypt, but this is not where he would like to be. He just purchased land in Judah, didn’t he? Remember that one? Buys land when the Babylonians are about to conquer, I know he got a good deal, but –
He was investing in Israel’s future. This is his life. Preaches one more sermon in Egypt, chapter 44. Is there any sense in which they believe him? No. He has been right all along, but he’s not ever been listened to.
How many converts does he have? In the text we are told of 2. An Ethiopian named Ebed-melech, who helps get him out of the pit and his friend Baruch who means blessed. He doesn’t feel too blessed. And what does God say in Jeremiah 45 because God has a message for Baruch he has been groaning and the Lord has been adding pain.
45:04, “thus you’re to say to him behold thus says the Lord what I’ve built I’m about to tear down what I’ve planted I’m about to uproot. That’s the whole land. But you are you seeking great things for yourself?”
“Don’t seek them. Behold I’m going to bring disaster on all flesh, but I’ll give you your life as your booty in all the places where you may go. Seeking great things for yourself? Don’t seek them. I the Lord have been forced to tear down all I’ve built up.” You think you feel bad? I think the creator feels as deeply.
As I’ve said before, only God has the guts to do what has to be done. And He just says I have built this up and now I’ve got to tear it down. You’re seeking great things for yourself? Don’t seek them.
He has been a faithful man and that’s enough. So, notice that Baruch got to be involved in the sufferings of Jeremiah as well. He thought he hitched himself to a prophetic star, maybe.
Is God with Jeremiah? Yes. Does he deliver Jeremiah? Yes. Is Jeremiah faithful in his suffering? Yes. Does he preach the word of God? Yes, even with reluctance. He does it. Even knowing it will bring further suffering to him he does it.
Is it redemptive for Baruch and Ebed-melech? Yes. For you and me? Yes. For the people of his day, however, it was condemnation. The same word that brought grace to Ebed-melech and to Baruch and to us brought condemnation to those who refused it.
So understand that those are somewhat important, I think. Oh well. This is a bit about Jeremiah. And his call to suffering and we will pick it up with the writings with Job.
I mean I don’t even know if we have time to do laments and Ruth. And I want to get to Lamentations a bit because it is the most graphic description of severe suffering you have in the Bible. And it has all types of the suffering involved.
Jeremiah suffered physically emotionally spiritually he suffered loss of friendship loss of family. There is no indication he wanted to be single all his life. God called him to it.
This is to say nothing of Hoshea. The very fabric of his ministry had suffering written into it. [Inaudible word] To expound God’s grace. To live it out and make an object lesson of it. And there are some of these people that if we ever met them in heaven we ought to stick out our hand and say you know you endured a lot and we appreciate it.
But these things are not unusual. We’ve already talked about David, we’ve talked about –oh well. You have suffered enough.
If you have questions, we will start with them next time.
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