Online Text Sermon - The Eternal Faithfulness of God, Jeremiah ch.31 vv.35-37
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Eternal Faithfulness of God|
|Text||Jeremiah ch.31 vv.35-37 |
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"Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name. If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 31, 35-37).
I must introduce you to this passage by saying something about the background to it. The preacher here, as you see, is the great prophet Jeremiah. We often refer to Jeremiah as the 'weeping prophet'. The reason for that is he had so many sad messages to preach to the people of God in his generation. It is not always easy to see the pattern of this book of Jeremiah but I think it would help you if I say that the first twenty-nine chapters of Jeremiah are full of lamentation, woe and denunciations of judgement upon the people of that time. When we come to chapter thirty and thirty-one there is a complete change of mood, and I must say why. Jeremiah had to denounce the sins of the people who were living at that time. They were guilty of idolatry, of turning away from God, of living for vain pleasures. It was a day of backsliding and, indeed, of apostasy from God. Whatever Jeremiah told the people to do in the name of the Lord, they did the exact opposite. Even when they asked for his advice, they refused then to take it. So I say, in these early chapters down to chapter twenty-nine, we have this denunciation of sin. These are sad chapters, dark chapters - chapters, indeed, which are full of judgement and gloom. You mustn't, of course, fail to read them because of that. We need such chapters; we need such words of warning - they apply to us as much today as the day when they were first spoken and written by Jeremiah. We must read the hard passages of Scripture. Some people talk about having their favourite chapters and their favourite books - beware of that. The whole Bible must be our favourite chapter and favourite book. We must eat the bitter as much as the sweet.
By the time we come to chapter twenty-nine in Jeremiah, these judgements were beginning to take effect: the Babylonians had come, destroyed their city and taken away hundreds of these Jewish people into captivity for seventy years. That was their divinely appointed judgement. They were away all these years in a foreign land. Now, that's over, that's happened, the people have gone - there they are in Babylon. At that point, Jeremiah changes his emphasis: in chapters thirty and thirty-one, he begins to speak with great sweetness and astonishing comfort. He soothes the people. He doesn't refer any more to the terrible judgements but rather to what will happen in the future. "God," he says, "will bless you. God will multiply you. God will help you and Israel will be sown and bring forth fruit in the earth." "I will make a new covenant with you," says God.
The reason for this needs to be explained. It is because among the sufferers of the judgements of God, there were true believers - just are there are here today and in many other churches: those who sighed and groaned for the wickedness of the times, those who did not commit the sins which were so commonly committed. Yet, they suffered in many ways alongside those who were guilty. Now it is for these people, and for those who will be coming after them, that the prophet Jeremiah speaks these words of comfort and assurance. They are applicable to us today.
Let me bring this passage before you - verses 35-37. What have we to learn from these words? What is the great message for us today? First of all I point out to you that Jeremiah, in the name of God, is telling us that God will never forsake those who are His true people. He may be angry with the people for a while but He will never cast them off. He will never reject them. He will never turn His back upon them. See how Jeremiah puts this at verses thirty-six and seven: "If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord." God is talking in terms of the greatest and grandest mysteries of the universe. It is as though God were saying, "Supposing any of you could put the sun out so that it could be darkened. Supposing any of you could destroy the moon and the stars and stop them from shining day and night. Or, supposing any of you could measure the expanse of heaven or search out the deep secrets under the earth. If you can do all of that," says God, "then I will admit that I will cast off my people." It is extremely strong, moving language. God is obviously saying here, "You will never lose the ordinances of the sun, moon and stars, the shining of the sun by day and of the moon and stars by night. All these great wonders that I have made," says God, "they are mysteries far beyond the human understanding." That was true in Jeremiah's day and it is still true today. No scientist of any kind would ever claim to know the answers to these questions concerning the sun, moon and stars, the expanse of heaven, the profundity of the depths of the earth. No brilliant mind has begun to fathom these mysteries, even today - nor will they ever do. God says that if you can search out all of that then He will admit that He can cast off His people. It is a strong affirmation of His love for His people. The point here is this: "The people of God," He says, "the true people of God, will never cease. It doesn't matter what they do, be their sins never so great, I will never, never, cease to be their God - looking after them and caring for them."
My dearly beloved friends, that must be good news for all who love God and Jesus Christ. You have possibly heard me say this before, but it does bear repetition: not everybody believes that God protects, cares for and preserves His people to that extent. Some professing Christians have the idea that God can convert you one day and then let you drift into unbelief the next day. There are people who believe that - like the Salvation Army girl I once met. "We believe," she said, "you can be saved on a Monday, lost on a Tuesday, restored on a Wednesday, backslidden on a Thursday and up and down, up and down, like that." Thank God that that is not the teaching of the Bible. God will never cast off His people in any situation. If you are a true Christian, if you truly do have Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then God will never divorce you as it were. It may happen to human beings that husbands sometimes divorce their wives unjustly, and wives their husbands unjustly, but God will never do so: He will never cast off those who are His. His people shall go on and on all through history. This is the very best of news for all who love Jesus Christ. It is the message which the Bible writes down for us repeatedly. Take for instance the book of Daniel. You will remember in the book of Daniel we have these various kingdoms which arise and fall. Do you remember the great image or colossus which was in the dream of vision of Nebuchadnezzar? He saw this head of gold with arms and shoulders of silver, the belly of brass and the legs of iron, the feet part iron and part clay. You recall that Nebuchadnezzar did not understand this but Daniel, being inspired of God, interpreted it for him. Daniel said, "This, O king, is the meaning. You are that head of gold (the Babylonian Empire at that time) but you will be superseded by another kingdom: another kingdom will come after them - like silver - and another like brass and another like iron and another. We know the interpretation of all of this. It is plain in simple history. Any encyclopaedia will tell you the first of these kingdoms was the Babylonian kingdom in the Old Testament; they rose to tremendous power then they declined when the Medo-Persian Empire conquered it. In its place came Cyrus and Darius - their names are in the Bible. They became mighty and conquered great empires, then they declined too. After them came another empire, Alexander the Great - that mighty, terrible prince of the Greek nation. The Greeks conquered that nation becoming mighty and going as far as India and the Himalayas - all the way to the east and partly to the west. They rose to tremendous influence then they withered and died like an autumn tree. Then yet another empire came up - the Romans under Julius Caesar, Pompeii the Great, Augustus and such mighty names, which are still terrible to listen to today; conquerors of Gaul and France and colonizing Britain which we call Great Britain today. They came here - all the way to Asia in the east - a vast empire, the Roman Empire, which lasted about a thousand years from beginning to end. Then they too withered and died. At 10AD Rome was conquered and collapsed. However, says Daniel, there will be a stone cut out of the mountain, not by any human hand, which will smite this colossus in the feet and destroy it. It will be swept away like chaff from the summer threshing floor. This kingdom, the size of a man's hand, will grow and grow, says Daniel, until it fills up the whole earth. What is he referring to? What is this little kingdom? It is the Kingdom, of course, of Jesus Christ our Lord that began with just twelve disciples in Palestine - such an insignificant country in the eyes of the nations before it. It has grown and grown and grown; the church today is all over the world - you and I know that. As we worship God in our English language, they are worshipping God in their language all over the earth. There is no kingdom so mighty today as the Christian church; it is the greatest of all religions numerically. It is swallowing up other religions and bringing them to dust and to nothing. It is the Kingdom of God, and that is how it will be until the end. Jesus said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16, 18). Here it is - God will look after His kingdom, His cause, His people. That is one way in which we see this proved.
Let me take another way in which we see the same thing: kingdoms come and go, nations rise and fall but God's cause will never fall nor will it perish. There will always be a church in the world and God will bless it. You see this now, if I may give you another example of the Bible's teaching, in the book of Revelation. How do we see it there? Like this - we see in the book of Revelation pictures of terrible, demonic, hellish, evil powers and they are represented by symbols - beasts coming up out of the earth and sea, terrible to behold, ferocious, merciless, tyrannical. These beasts are all set up to devour the church. They persecute and kill while many of the true people of God are martyred and put to death. Then they are joined by other wicked powers: not only the beast but also the false prophet and the harlot who seduces, and all these great evils. They are against the people of God, trying to bring them down, to destroy them. Behind them all we see Satan; they are doing his work. Here he is, trying to destroy the Kingdom of God. At the end of the book of Revelation, what do we see? Do we see the church annihilated, destroyed and completely corrupted? No! We see the church is married to Jesus Christ and that "we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8, 37). We see in the book of Revelation that not one of God's children is lost. That is very remarkable, isn't it? In any war or in any battle, you expect some of the soldiers on the right side to be lost. Take for example what happened just now in Afghanistan. The Americans had aeroplanes and many terrible weapons of war. They far exceeded in power, these enemies of theirs in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, for all that, some of the American soldiers were lost in action - some of them died. So it is in all wars - WWI, WWII. Those who are fighting in battle don't all survive but, here is the point, in the battle the people of God have against Satan and the powers of darkness and hell, the people of God are all saved. There is not going to be one single soldier lost. In the end of the war, every one of those who truly has Christ as his Saviour, will be standing on their feet in the end of time. That is why they are "more than conquerors."
You know what is meant by a Pyrrhic victory, it is a phrase given for a victory that is only just won by the skin of your teeth - you loose so many soldiers that you can hardly call it a victory at all. My friends, God's people are not going to have any Pyrrhic victory; they are going to be "more than conquerors", super-conquerors, hyper-conquerors, conquerors on the highest possible scale. One hundred per cent of all the armies of God will be standing when the end of the battle comes -"There shall not an hoof be left behind" (Exodus 10, 26). "All of that," says God, "is because they are My people and I am their God. I will never cast them off nor suffer any harm to come upon them."
My dear friends, this is what Jeremiah is telling the Lord's true people at that time, as they watched the long lines of exiles leaving home to go into Babylon, most of them never to return. As they wept their eyes out to see the Temple destroyed, the cause so low and their enemies victorious, Jeremiah lifts up his voice like a trumpet and says, "I tell you in the name of God that He will never be against His own true people." "Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done" (text). It is the same today: God will never cast off His people whom He has foreknown. To put it in the words of the apostle Paul: "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans 11, 29), which means that God never changes His mind about His people. They may change their minds about Him sometimes but He will never change His mind about them. He cannot deny Himself. When He has chosen a people, He has chosen them for ever. When He has saved a people, He has saved them also, for ever.
This is not how the people of God view themselves here in this life. It is very far from being the way the people of God think of themselves. God's people find many reasons why God might cast them off. Let me look at some of these reasons. The first one is because of all the evil we have done against God. We see this, for instance, in verse 37: " I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done" (text). Look at these words, " for all that they have done." God here is referring to the sins of those who profess to be His people. We can understand that. Which one among us has not done many wrong things against God? You know you have and I know I have. I have not lived one single day of my life but I did ten thousand things wrong against God - either in action, word or thought. Every day we live we sin against God, even though we love Him and desire to please Him yet, we are frail, foolish and unwise. Yet, God says He will never cast us off for all that we have done wrong. We must digest that great and glorious fact and bring it to our attention many times. My friends, it must be sweet comfort for the people of God, for all the evils we do, He assures us He will never, ever cast us off. The line of a hymn reads -
Those that to Jehovah belongHe will never, no never, no never forsake!
"He would by no means cast them out," says Christ - not for all the evils you and I have done.
I give you another reason why God's people, at times, are afraid and think that He will cast them out. Common thinking among true Christians causes us to think when we look at other Christians that they are so much better than we are. Why doesn't God simply cast us off and choose more people like that who are so good: people who are brilliant and clever, handsome and intelligent, capable and efficient? We say to ourselves, "Here am little I, getting it all wrong all the time. Why doesn't God choose all these people who are so much better than I am. Why does He bother with a wretched worm like me?" We can think that surely God may well cast us off because we are so unprofitable and fruitless. "No. No," says God, "I will never do that. As the ordinances of heaven and earth are perpetual until the end of time, so My faithfulness to My people is perpetual to all ages. I will never cast them off." The Christian may say he is very, very poor and worthless but the Lord will never cast him off my dear friends. No matter how much you think of yourself as being worthless - and we are very often worthless in our own sight - He will never cast us away. God, my friends, will never abandon us.
>From time to time in newspapers, you read of how a baby has been abandoned by its mother. Some mother has been too desperate in her mind to know what to do - possibly with feelings of guilt or similar - so she wraps her child in a blanket and leaves it on somebody's doorstep or in some prominent place where it will be found. That does happen; not often, thank God, but occasionally little children are abandoned by their mothers. My friends, God could never abandon His children. He doesn't leave His children on a doorstep anywhere; He protects them, looks after them and cares for them. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me" (Isaiah 49, 15). This is a reassurance: He will never cast off those who are His!
I didn't get to read the article but I saw a headline in the newspaper when flying back from Hungary, which spoke of a girl having been eaten by a crocodile - a strange story. I didn't get to read it so I don't know what it was about. It does, however, remind me of the Christian in an ocean of trouble in this world. You think of the crocodile - the devil - going after him to devour him. But that never happens. God will never leave us in the devil's hands. That 'crocodile' will never devour you - God will look after you, He will care for His own people.
We must wind our thoughts to a conclusion and say one or two things which give the reason why. Our assurance of being protected by God rests on a good foundation. First of all, because God is the God He is. What a God we have. I don't understand the mad, frantic rush in this country to get some other religion or god. I don't understand why people are so dissatisfied with God. What is wrong with the God of the Bible that people want to rush here and there looking for something better? The God of the Bible is faithful, solid, reliable, true, unwavering in His attachment to those who are attached to Him. That is why it is God doesn't build, only to abandon the building.
Boys and girls, do you know what I mean by a 'folly'? You will see one at Oban if ever you go there on holiday. If you look to the top of the hill behind Oban you will see a big circular building which was never finished. That is what we mean by a 'folly': a building which someone began but didn't have money to finish. It is a monument to someone's foolishness, imprudence and lack of forethought. He started a building that he hadn't got money to finish and what is left is therefore a 'folly'. I am here to tell you that God never built a folly. Not in all history did He begin to build something that He did not intend to finish. He will bring forth the headstone of the church with shoutings of grace unto Him - His work will be complete. All the stones will be in the temple at last, the roof will be on, everything will be perfect and all His children will be secure. You see, God loves His own people with an everlasting love. They are His jewels (Malachi 3, 17).
I don't know of many of you know the story but it is a touching one. It comes from ancient Rome. There were two brothers who became very famous in their day and generation. When they were little boys at their mother's knee, their mother had in the house a very rich lady. This lady was showing off her jewels to the mother of the brothers. The lady was fingering her pearls and her diamonds while the mother was watching and listening. Then the lady said to the mother, "Where are your jewels?" The mother beckoned to her two little boys and they came to her feet. "Here are my jewels," she said. "These boys are my jewels." The lady was astonished. That is the way God is. He doesn't care about the sun and the moon and the stars; these things are only there to be candles to help His people. His people are His jewels and He will preserve them and make them up (Malachi 3, 17) and in the end of history all His jewels will be in His crown. That is what this passage is all about. "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord" (text) - which means He never will.
He will not cast you off in living or in dying, not after death, or in the Judgement Day, or in any situation. If that is the case, then two things must be said. First of all dear Christians, those of you who have this God as your God - be of good cheer and fear no man and fear nothing; be like Jeremiah, strong in the grace of God. Speak out boldly for God and be witnesses for Him because God is with you, now in this generation, as He was with His people in Jeremiah's day. We have lived to see terrible changes for the worse in this country - and for worse in the church in this country - yet, God is with His people still. We are to believe it and to take cheer and comfort from it.
If these things are so, ought not all of you to be professing this God yourselves. Is there a god anywhere like this God: faithful, true, loving, kind, good? Why do not all of you embrace this God for yourselves? Why this very day, don't you make sure that God is your God and proclaim Him to all the world. Tell the world that He is yours.
Our life is brief. Our time in this life will soon be over and done. But those who have the Lord as their God will enjoy life which the Bible tells us of again and again - it is life everlasting.
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