Jeremiah 16:1-18, Revelation 5, and John 15:18-21 July 9th 2023

Jeremiah 16:1-18, Revelation 5, and John 15:18-21 July 9th 2023

We are preaching through Jeremiah – selected portions until the end of October.

Want to talk a bit about the book. Not only to help us as listen but also to equip you, help you as you read it.

‘Then the word of Yahweh came to me.’’ Who is Jeremiah?

And the word of Yahweh’ – these words are recorded for the Jewish people, and which Paul years later would declare –All scripture – including Jeremiah – is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’.

What is the Book of Jeremiah? God breathed but what else?

-it is a compilation of messages from Yahweh. As we heard ‘the word came to me.’

– it includes stories about Jeremiah – his life. You get to know quite a lot about him.

– it includes exchanges, conversations, between Jeremiah and Yahweh.

We normally say ‘the Book of Jeremiah’ but perhaps that gives us an unhelpful image – we think book and then we come to Jeremiah and find out it is nothing at all like a book…

But what is the Book of Jeremiah like:

  • Majority of the messages are in poetry  – and so Jeremiah resembles Isaiah.
  • However, many passages are in prose – description – ordinary language, story, description etc. – in prose, and so Jeremiah resembles Ezekiel.
  • It is the longest! The story, the exchanges, the messages, the poetry, the prose, make it the longest in the prophetic books.
  • And it is hard! I mean, a few months ago at TTE we asked people over food, what one book of the bible would you have with you on a desert island ,.. psalms, acts, john or mark were mentioned. Was Jeremiah mentioned. No. It is a hard book. 
  • You see Isaiah and Ezekiel books incorporate many messages of a hopeful kind.  Jeremiah – yes there are hopeful messages but the book is dominated by threats, warnings, which make it more like the shorter prophetic books like Hosea and Amos.  A theologian shared that ‘the book of Jeremiah holds the record for the variety of verbal phrases used to describe exile.’’ For some, ‘they feel that the same argument is repeated over and over again’. Perhaps it is example of the preacher  who was asked why he kept repeating the same sermon – he replied ‘when they listen to that one, I’ll preach another.’

‘Then the word of Yahweh came to me.’’ Who is Jeremiah?

Jeremiah himself. How could we describe him?

5 images in the book:

Poet, Preacher, Crusader, Persuader, Prayer

Poet.

He is a poet. First half of the book is dominated by messages in poetic form. Poetry is figurative, there are allegories, it makes you scratch your head, makes you work to understand it.

Preacher.

He is a preacher. Jeremiah 1 declares he is a priest.

So he could be a teacher and preacher.

He uses prose – prose is literal, clear, direct, hits between the eyes.

He speaks directly and not just in poetry…

Crusader.

Little longer on this one.

We can assume that prophets like Jeremiah have 1 of 2 functions.

  1. They are either to pronounce the coming of the Messiah
  2. To challenge people to put things right – do this, stop doing that etc.

Jeremiah does a little of both – though it might surprise you that is only 5% of his messages.

Jeremiah’s main focus – lies on challenging people to be faithful to the Lord God, and not to serve other gods. He declares what will happen if they don’t do what he says. As someone wrote: ‘the constant thread throughout the book is the apostasy of Judah.’ His focus – your relationship with God.

An example, people could engage in worship and prayer – that recognizes Yhwh – BUT they could be living out their national or how they live among others, in a way that clashes not only with who Yhwh is, but also with how he expects them to live.

So worship needs to have the proper place in their spirituality is what Jeremiah is speaking about. The people he speaks to can go to church, say the prayers, sing the songs, but outside worship, they live with false attitudes towards property, sex, truthfulness etc.

Jeremiah is a crusader for the people to turn from their failures to live an authentic life with Yahweh.

Persuader

Jeremiah declares ‘you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers’, he says God will ‘send for many hunters and they will hunt you down.’  He is direct. He says they are locked in their rebellion and judgement is coming. BUT Jeremiah wants them to prove him wrong – Jeremiah wants to persuade them.

Jeremiah is sure that God is committed to his people – restoration can come – and he follows in the convictions of Paul – in Romans 9-11, that all Israel will be saved… he has not rejected the people of his first covenant.  The purpose of all Jeremiah’s words is rhetoric – not in a bad way to manipulate, but in order to move them. Jeremiah’s rhetoric is not a way of getting people to avoid thinking, but a way of getting them to think. To persuade.

Prayer.

Jeremiah the prayer. Not intercessor but prayer – for in 6 places from 11-20, he lays bare the struggles of his soul, sometimes making very honest statements to God. He prays about his enemies who plot against him; he talks to God about justice – God is just he says yet why do the wicked in the land prosper?  He struggles with his calling, how everyone curses him, how he has been faithful and yet feels God has not been the spring he claims to be… We also hear God’s response to such honesty and lament. He expresses his hope in Yahweh, the hope of Israel, he calls on people to sing to the LORD, and yet also prays ‘the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ and even says to God, he wishes he had never been born.

His prayer life is there to see in the midst of the messages.

Now as you think  of him as a man of prayer, consider this.

When Jeremiah begins his message:  he is probably 18-25.

He ministers for over 40 years.

He never marries. He is a single person.

He never has children.

He remains faithful through years of challenge and difficulty.

And there is only, two recorded clear converts to his work, though we see a few others who are moved to support him, help him.

Some further thoughts on the passage in person.

The man and the call.

He is told not to marry and not to have children.

God asks him, in this chapter, to stay single and unmarried, not to take part in feasting and not to take part in mourning when people die.

 A symbolic act. God required the marriage of another prophet – Hosea – to demonstrate how Israel had drifted and yet could be restored; God married no one at all and had no children to show the severity of disaster.

In a traditional society and culture, people marry young – so perhaps these words come not too long after his commissioning.  In a traditional society – people do not remain single – so Yahweh;s words to Jeremiah as countercultural.  People may have asked if he had some secret sin or even question his sexuality.  The OT makes a close link between marriage and children and so God’s next statement is even more radical and countercultural.  Do not have children.

To have children was part of God’s original commands when the world was created before the Fall.  It was also integral to the purpose of commissioning and blessing Abraham – so that there could be a nation  which would be a blessing to the world. So to have no children would imperil that future. 

So to Jeremiah God’s command could have seemed, very hard to understand in his culture and also unscriptural…The reason – we see – these were not ordinary times.  Children are not to be born, they will not exist – just like the coming future judgement of those who will die in the city.  They will not  be mourned or buried – not because they were not loved by parents – but because there will be no one to mourn them.

The cost of the call on Jeremiah.

 Joys, delights, of marriage and children, he is denied but not medically or due to a personal choice or even, he did not meet the person he wanted to grow old with. God says, no.

Application.

Has God asked us to do something, which has been costly?

I remember when I went to OM, in our youth group I was asked on one of my first meetings, what was the sacrifices I had made to be there. Now, I remember at the time, I felt ‘no’ – though I was cross cultural, by myself during the day doing language study, away from family friends loved ones. I felt that where God calls I go. Believed that then and still do.

BUT. You know, there are times, it is costly. We know it is.

Jesus points to this doesn’t he – he says, it is like taking up a cross. You look at the costs, the pain and you are willing to take it, to follow the Lord, to walk in his footsteps.

That cost can be simple obedience in that situation.

It can be a lifestyle choice where you have lost friends.

And those costs can hurt. Still.

We see the example of Jeremiah in his prayers – he brings all that frustration, pain to the Lord. He does not keep it in, he brings it out…

Is that something that would be helpful for you to pray over with someone.

Or perhaps you have been hurt by the call of others. Maybe a young person, child, whose parents were called – they responded to God’s voice – and you have struggled…

Again, is this something you would find helpful to bring to the Lord.

And that takes us to Jesus.

Revelation 5. They describe him as ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, he has triumphed and he can overcome. That is what John hears. Then he looks and what he sees ‘I saw a Lamb looking as if it had been slain.’’

Slain. The image of the One who had the great call upon him – a call that cost him all he had – and he was faithful. As  Hebrews says : ‘’let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him – the joy of salvation, the reign and rule of God coming – who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful people, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’’ (Hebrews 12).

Jesus said in John 15, ‘if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’ He was persecuted – yet was faithful.

John, in his vision, sees in Jesus – he sees not the victorious one of rev 1, with face shining like the sun and the voice like rushing waters, but he sees a lamb looking as it had been slain. John who due to his faithful following of Christ, his obedience to be an apostle, is in exile, on an island. He sees not only the example of Jesus – the one to imitate. But he sees Jesus – the lamb – who understands the costs that John and every believer has gone through. He has suffered at the call of God his Father.

 For the joy set before him, yes. But he has suffered and the wounds John see reminds him, he knows, he understands, as John as a persecuted Christian writes to churches who have or are suffering, the lamb standing in the centre of the throne, suffered for them, Jesus understands the cost.

So in our callings, when they become costly – maybe they are unexpected – Jeremiah was young, called to be a prophet.

Maybe very hard what the Lord asks of us – Jeremiah asks never to marry or have children, his name would die with him.

When there does not seem to be much fruit out of what God has asked us to do, like Jeremiah with only a few respondents; and many do not respond or others even cause trouble for us;

We like Jeremiah bring in prayer – note in that throne room. The prayers of the saints. Incense. The saints who thought God did not hear. Yet there prayers are right before him, and none are lost.

We bring all the prayers to our Father.

When it is costly, we look to Jesus – who for the joy set before him, endured – his example we seek to imitate.  We seek to follow in his footsteps.

When it is costly we look to Jesus – the lamb who was slain – not only a model but one who understands the costs of the calling, to be obedience.

Pray.