The Divine Vindicator

Psalm 35

A psalm of David.

O Lord, oppose those who oppose me.
    Fight those who fight against me.

Put on your armor, and take up your shield.
    Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.

Lift up your spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Let me hear you say,“I will give you victory!”
Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me; turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me.
Blow them away like chaff in the wind—a wind sent by the angel of the Lord.
Make their path dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me. I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me.
So let sudden ruin come upon them! Let them be caught in the trap they set for me! Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me.

Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because He rescues me.
10 With every bone in my body I will praise Him: “Lord, who can compare with you? Who else rescues the helpless from the strong? Who else protects the helpless and poor from those who rob them?”

11 Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair.
13 Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered.
14 I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother.
15 But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don’t even know; they slander me constantly.
16 They mock me and call me names; they snarl at me.

17 How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me from their fierce attacksProtect my life from these lions!
18 Then I will thank you in front of the great assembly. I will praise you before all the people.
19 Don’t let my treacherous enemies rejoice over my defeat. Don’t let those who hate me without cause gloat over my sorrow.
20 They don’t talk of peace; they plot against innocent people who mind their own business.
21 They shout, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we saw him do it!”

22 O Lord, you know all about this. Do not stay silent. Do not abandon me now, O Lord.
23 Wake up! Rise to my defense! Take up my case, my God and my Lord.
24 Declare me not guilty, O Lord my God, for you give justice. Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles.
25 Don’t let them say, “Look, we got what we wanted! Now we will eat him alive!”

26 May those who rejoice at my troubles be humiliated and disgraced. May those who triumph over me be covered with shame and dishonor.
27 But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!”
28 Then I will proclaim your justice, and I will praise you all day long.

Introduction

We don’t know for certain but we think Psalm 34 and 35 are connected in the sense that both come from the same experience of David being pursued or hunted by Saul. The only time David refers to the Angel of the LORD is in Psalm 34-35 [34:7, 35:5-6].

Psalm 35 is what they call and Imprecatory Psalm, a Psalm where David pronounces a curse on his enemies. He certainly prays for bad things to happen to those who have hurt him. In a sense, his soul cries out for justice. You and I know that although God is just, this fallen world dominated by the thinking of fallen man is not just. Injustice takes place every day. You are not going to escape this world unscathed: you will get a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Joe David and I went to DC when President Reagan’s body was lying in State: we stood in the hot sun for over 4 hours. I don’t know how many times the lined stopped to a dead standstill because some senator, congressmen or dignitary broke line. We had to wait like peasants but they had privileges. It isn’t fair but it is the way things are. We can get angry about it and voice our protest but the system is not going to change. It is a bit humiliating but as I told Joe David, I rather be on the unprivileged end because it does in fact teach us to humble ourselves and it relates us to the common man. There is an elite society in the country and a lot of them hang out in Washington D.C. and I have no desire to be one of them. I’d rather be at a Grace Point potluck supper than a Washington Ball.

Transition

So what do we do, how do we respond when someone sins against us. Perhaps it is the exercise of an unfair privilege or something much worse. I have to be honest, I can not recall any great sins against me. Nothing that would compare to David’s experience [he was hunted like an animal] but as Jesus said, “Offenses are going to come,” because we live in a fallen world and everyone sins. I have been slandered more than once and it is a very painful experience: on one occasion, it literally broke my heart. I was devastated. I guess the LORD used that experience to toughen me up because I don’t recall responding that way again but it does hurt. So what are we to do? How are we to respond when someone hurts us?

I. We Need Catharsis

Catharsis is a counseling word, it is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. I happen to believe that this is what David is doing in Psalm 35. Catharsis is a purging or a cleansing that comes only when we are truthful about our inner feelings. People have a tendency to repress anger and repressed anger turns into bitter resentment. Bitter resentment is toxic; it is much more harmful to you than the person you are angry toward. Rattlesnakes were created with a capacity to store toxic venom. They can carry it without it hurting them but human are not rattlesnakes and they have no capacity to carry toxic resentment.

David did not repress his anger: he went straight to his counselor, the LORD and He is a Wonderful Counselor. He is understanding, truthful and He never breaks a confidence.

You may be reluctant to do this, thinking, the LORD does not want to hear your problems. Actually He does. Go to Him, get alone with Him and pour out your heart. This is exactly what David does…Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me; turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me. 5 Blow them away like chaff in the wind—a wind sent by the angel of the Lord. Make their path dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me. I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me. So let sudden ruin come upon them! Let them be caught in the trap they set for me! Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me.

There is nothing wrong with going to a human counselor: if you can, go to a Christian and a professional. If you can’t afford that go to a trusted friend. Confession is good so long as you confess to the right people: never confess to the devil. Judas confessed but to the wrong people, they laughed at him and said, “What do we care, that is your problem.” The one thing you cannot do is repress the hurt and anger: you have to get it out of your system.

II. We Need Freedom

When we suffer an injustice and repress it, it becomes a burden, an oppressive burden. The reason for this is that we are assuming God’s responsibility. Vengence is Mine, says the LORD, I will pay back.” This calls for an act of faith on our part, we must TRANFER THE BURDEN. As the old song says, “Take your burdens to the LORD and leave them there.” Part one is to confess–taking your burden to the LORD {which David did} and part two is leaving it with HIM; trusting Him to handle the problem.

In my opinion, Step One is much easier than Step Two. Sometimes it takes me a few hours or perhaps days to confess but letting go of the offense is much more difficult.

LEARN A LESSON FROM SAUL: Anything that we allow to become an obsession will eventually derail our intended purpose. Saul was set aside to be the king of Israel but his insecurity, jealously and paranoia caused him to be obsessed with David demise. It got to the point that all Saul thought about was David’s elimination. He spent every waking moment hunting David. Meanwhile, the kingdom suffered because the king was not being the king.

I know what a struggle it is to let go but God has made it vividly clear to me that I have a choice: I can give the offense to HIM or I can find another line of work. I cannot vindicate myself and pastor at the same time and I want to be a pastor.

Conclusion

Corrie Tin Boon was a Dutch woman who suffered through the astrocities of one of the Nazi concentration camps. Her sister Betsy, who was her mentor, had taught Corrie to be forgiving but when Corrie met one the brutal prison guards after the war, she struggled to forgive him. To help her in this area; Corrie imagined her hurt as a rose and forgiveness as an offering to Jesus. She would simply see the hurt as a rose and then take the rose and lay it at Jesus feet.

The LORD Is Near

Psalm 34

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol {praise enthusiastically} the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Quoted in I Peter 3

12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    He delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Introduction

Psalm 34 is a classic: if you ever experience a broken heart, this is the Psalm to turn to. This Psalm is an acrostic and has 22 verses, one verse for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is a rich Psalm that contains a lot of consoling promises.

I want to share this Psalm by following this simple format: [1] The Testimony [2] The Principle [3] The Promises.

I. The Testimony That Inspired

The background for this Psalm in found in I Samuel 21. Saul has threatened David’s life and David fleas. As a fugitive on the run he is desperate for provisions so he goes to the Priest at Nob, you get in a fix and you do see the pastor: it is not uncommon. The priest gives David bread and a sword. He can tell something is wrong and so he asks David what’s going on and David lied. Perhaps he was afraid that if he told the truth, Ahimelech the priest would not help him. David gets these provisions and heads directly to Gath seeking asylum from Achish one of the Philisitine kings. But David reputation proceeded him and before he could be admitted into the presence of the king, he over head the Philistines talking about his military exploits: Suddenly David changes his mind. He realizes he has made a mistake by turning to his enemies so he pretends to be a madman, forming at the mouth, and scratching on the door. He was a good actor–it worked and David escaped unharmed to the cave in Adullam.

This is when He wrote this Psalm. He realizes he had a narrow escape and he is glad to be alive. If you have been saved from a near death experience, you know the feeling. When David talks about being delivered from all his fears and saved from all his troubles, he is referring to this incident.

David has not seen the end of fear or trouble: there is more coming in the future but in terms of this particular incident God delivered him from all his fears and saved him from all his troubles.

So there is the testimony behind the Psalm.

II. The Principle Illustrated

David understood the fact that God responds to HUMILITY. Of course this is taught through out scripture, not just here.

James 4:10…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I Peter 5:6…Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Jesus…Matthew 23:12… And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Humility within Psalm 34…

Verse 9–Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

Verse 18–The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

This is akin to what David said in Psalm 51:17…The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.

The PRINCIPLE is stated clearly in James 4:6… “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” I like the NKJV version even better… “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

The surest way to make God your opponent is to act in pride.

III. The Promises Stated

[1] Verse 7… The angel of the LORDm {Jesus} is encamped around those who fear Him.

[2] Verse 9… Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

[3] Verse 15… The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.

[4] Verse 18… The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

[5] Verse 19–The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

[6] Verse 22–no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

The last promise reminds me of Romans 8:1– There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.…AND Romans 8:37-39– Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am like the old preacher who said, “I had rather live in Romans 8 than the Garden of Eden; fenced in on one side by NO CONDEMNATION and on the other side by NO SEPARATION.

Jesus Is Great, Demons Are Real and People Are Crazy

26 So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes,across the lake from Galilee. 27 As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town.

28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.

30 Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons. 31 The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit.

32 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs.

So Jesus gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. 35 People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 36 Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.

So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. 38 The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

INTRODUCTION

When our granddaughter Mylee was three or four, she was  saying her night prayers  and she prayed…”God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” I didn’t understand until one of my children told me that it was the title of a country song. Billy Currington came out with this hit in 2008. Billy and Mylee got two out of three: God is indeed GREAT and people are definitely CRAZY. Since beer is a drug and does untold damage to the family, I had to edit that part out–so the title of my sermons is JESUS IS GREAT, DEMONS ARE REAL AND PEOPLE ARE CRAZY. You will see all three clearly from our text.

I. GOD {JESUS} IS GREAT

I love stories about Jesus and this is one of my favorites. I don’t know how anyone could read this story and not admire Jesus…He is Great!

Jesus has “Great” courage--[verse 27]

As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. [naked as a jay bird and screaming]. Matthew adds that he approached Jesus screaming and Mark said “he ran toward Jesus.” So you step out of the boat on to the beach and here comes a man running straight toward you naked, bleeding from cutting himself, and screaming at the top of his lungs. What would I do? I know what I would do, “Get back in the boat ASAP and get the heck out of Dodge.” What did Jesus do? He stood calmly waiting on the demoniac to approach. Do you have that kind of courage?

Jesus has “Great” compassion

As soon as Jesus saw him, He knew what the problem was and began speaking to the demons that inhabited this poor man. Not only is Jesus not afraid of our problems, He loves us so much that He intercedes and stands between us and the problem.

Jesus has “Great” power–Jesus spoke directly to the demons and they obeyed His command. Jesus had authority over demons. There were 6,000 demons but they were not match for Jesus. He sent them packing, thus liberating the poor tortured man.

II. DEMONS ARE REAL

I not here to talk a lot about demons; I don’t know much. I don’t major on demonology and I don’t advise you to either. I do believe in demons. Jesus recognized them and although I understand much less than Jesus, I believe they exist. From this one story, I can tell you seven things about demons;

[1] Demons always recognize Jesus [v.28]

[2] Demons pray–three times they beg Jesus [v.28, 30,32] and Jesus answers their prayer. Figure this out theologians. I can’t explain it, I’m just telling you what is in scripture.

[3] Demons are frightening–demons can scare people, they shriek, they scream, they disturb your mind and your peace. They are experts at torture. You want nothing to do with demons. Stay away from the occult-fear it like the plague.

[4] Demons will enslave–When they get a hold on you, they do not let go. This man was enslaved to destructive habits, he cut himself with stones.

[5] Demons can empower–this man had incredible strength, they community had put him in chains but he could break the chains.  The antichrist will be empowered by the devil. You would not want to confront demons in the flesh. You will end up like the seven sons of Sceva, beaten to a pulp and stripped.

[6] Demons are destructive–when Jesus allowed them to enter the swine, they ran down the clefts into the sea and drowned. It was like Jesus hit the fast forward button and said, “When you do business with demons, this is what happens.” Avoid drugs, any form of meditation that is not Christ centered.

[7] Demons are subject to Christ–they are not all powerful.

III. PEOPLE ARE CRAZY

This story begins and ends with crazy people. Listen folks, if you:

In you Streak-Go without clothes: run all over the country naked…you might be crazy!

In you Slash your wrist and cut yourself with sharp objects just to inflict pain and see blood…you might be crazy!

If you Shriek and scream to the top of your lungs…you might be crazy!

If you Sleep in a grave yard or a funeral parlor…You might be crazy!

If you have supernatural Strength and can snap chains...You might be crazy!

But the demoniac was healed [Transformed] of his craziness. He was sitting calmly and in his right mind. The real crazy folks in this story are the Gerasenes [ge-rä-sā-no’s ]. [gee-raw-so-nos]

Sanity, defined by some is being in touch with, or facing, reality. Thus insanity would be the denial of reality.

The Gerasenes [gee-raw-so-nos] were out of touch with reality. They saw the miraculous transformation of a demon possessed man. Instead of screaming and running naked, he was sitting calmly, with clothes on and carrying on a conversation. He was a radically changed man and they knew it. Have you or I seen anything so radical as this man’s transformation? The Ge-ra-se-nes were denying reality.

Crazy people make bad judgments: the Gerasenes valued the price of hogs more than the value of a human soul. William Barclay: “No thing [including animals] in this world can ever be as important as a persons soul.”

Tell that to PETA or Planned Parenthood. This country has gone nuts. We are crazy. We slaughter babies like they are sheep and protect the Spotted Owls and Polar Bears. If that is not insanity, I don’t know what is! 

At Harvard University, you can no longer recognize a person by their gender. You are not allowed to use pronouns like his or hers. It has to be they and them. Is this not insane!

But the Crazy of the craziest is to ask Jesus to shove off. They invited Jesus to leave: they insisted that He leave and He left. If the LORD speaks to you today and you tell Him to but out and leave you alone, how insane is that? When we banned scripture and prayer from classrooms in 1963, was that not an invitation for Jesus to leave the room? Look at what has happened to education since 1963. It is not smart to ask Jesus to shove off.

Revival At Mount Carmel

NTRODUCTION

I want to talk to you about some things that accompany REVIVAL but before I do, I want to qualify what I am saying with this preface. Revival is a grace gift from the sovereign God. We can prepare for revival but technically, we cannot work one up or even pray one up. We can shout, cut ourselves with knives and rave all evening like the false prophets but we cannot work up a revival because revivals are not worked up they are prayed down. BUT make no mistake, it is not our pious or even passionate prayers that causes the fire to fall. God sends the fire. He is the source and the giver of the fire. I’ve seen the fire fall one time in my life and that was over 40 years ago. I’ve longed to see it fall again since. I have seen God work, He is always at work but I pray for the fire of heaven to fall on the body of Christ. This country has not experienced a great spiritual awakening in over a century and a half. If you put every Baptist preacher in the convention in one room, they could not conjure up a revival: that being true, you know that I can’t preach up a revival. In intend to talk more about Revival this week than I did when I was here before but be it known, that I am a seeker like yourself. I pray to our merciful God for revival. If He saw fit to let it begin here today, I would be fine with that but I have been in the business long enough to know that if it happens [the fire falls], He will be responsible and we will give HIM the praise.

From the study of God’s word, I do see some things that accompany REVIVAL and I want to share those with you this morning.

[1] THE CONGREGATION

So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel [V.20]

I don’t know about you but at home we have 600 members and only one third of them show up on an average Sunday. At Easter we have over half but that is one Sunday out of 52. I have challenged them time and time again to fake a revival. I tell them, “Let’s pretend that we have had a great revival and all show up this Sunday.” It never happens. It is a miracle in reverse. I don’t know how they do it but we consistently have our 35% with the other 65% on vacation, at the lake, footballing or NASCARing. It amazes me. I wonder if they have a secret network. How do we have the 35% per week when it is always a different crowd that makes up the 35%. If all our people where to show up at once, we couldn’t seat them or park them but it never happens. I don’t think we will have REVIVAL this week or any other week unless we congregate and draw near. The first commitment we need to make is not to let anything hinder us from attending the services.

[2] THE PROCLAIMATION OF GOD’S WORD

Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” [V.21]


If you do a history of REVIVAL you will discover that all are accompanied by the bold proclamation of God’s holy word. This does involve a preacher but I wish to put the emphasis on the WORD rather than the preacher. The MESSAGE in this case is greater than the messenger. The editor is more important than the kid who delivers the news paper. The chief is more important than the waiter. We all know that some waiters are better than others but our interest is in the quality of the food. Elijah’s message was brief but to the point. The people had been compromising. They were trying to serve two gods and Jehovah is a jealous God. Judaism did not mix with paganism. Judaism didn’t mix with any religion. Christianity is the same in that sense. I read the other day about a new religion called Chrislam which is a combination of Jesus teaching with Islam. This bird will not fly, CHRIST IS LORD. He said that no man could serve two masters but that is exactly what the Israelites were attempting to do, they were attempting to serve baal and Jehovah. Elijah said, “Enough of this nonsense: you can’t serve them both so make up your mind. Choose today whom you will serve.”

[3] THE PREPARATIONS

Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” Come near unto me, AV] They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

The first preparation Elijah had to make was to repair a broken  down altar. The altar had not been used in a long time. Jereboam corrupted Israel’s worship with the calves and than Ahab and Jezebel were promoting the worship of baal. Yahweh’s altar had been neglected and the stones were scattered. We think of an altar as a place to bring our sins and in the OT it involved confession and sacrifice. This process is vital to worship. When sacrifice and confession cease, we cease to worship. So the Israelites were guilty of idolatry and they had been unfaithful to Jehovah in worship. Impure worship is no worship in God’s sight.

Then we put the wood on the altar. Wood is combustible, it will burn up. It represents the temporal things that do not last. It is the wood, hay and stubble in our lives. It also symbolizes our works, our human effort.

Then they soaked the wood with water. These people were in a 3 and 1/2 year draught, water was the most precious thing they had. God wants the most precious thing you have on the altar. We cannot have REVIVAL apart from sacrifice and I think this is a major problems. We want God’s blessings but not His rule. We want Him to bless what we choose to do.

One other preparation is necessary and that is “Cut the bull”. I’m going to tell you why I think we don’t have REVIVAL, there is too much bull in our worship. We are not being honest with ourselves or God. We are playing church. We are acting like Christians instead of being Christians. Too much pretense. Does God see through it? You know that He does. I’ll be h0nest with: “I am shocked that God does what He does considering all the hypocrisy in the church.” When I was a young preacher, I heard Dr. Vance Havner tell the story of the church that went Hollywood. They brought in some type of entertainment every week. One Sunday they had a talking horse. They put the horse on the stage and his trainer ask him, “How many disciples were there?” and the old horse stomped 12 times and everyone applauded. Then he ask, “How many commandments are there?”  And the old horse stomped 10 times. Then some smart Ike from the back hollowed, “how many hypocrites are in this building?” Dr. Havner said the old horse went into a dance. I fully believe that we would experience some sort of spiritual renewal if we would just get honest with ourselves and God.

[4] THE PETITION

v.36…Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

There is absolutely no question that PRAYER has a vital connection to REVIVAL. I don’t know of any great spiritual awakening that was not preceded by a huge burden for men to pray. I don’t know how it is here but the most unpopular thing you can do in Danville is call a prayer meeting. More then a quarter of a century ago, we changed our Deacon’s meeting into basically a prayer meeting and one of my senior deacons removed his name from the ballot. He did not approve of the change. I am thankful to say that in these 25 years, I have had only one deacon to complain about coming early on Sunday morning for prayer. I do love prayer meeting which means I love deacon’s meetings. I must admit that as bad as things are, we don’t seemed to be burdened to the extend that we will met and pray fervently. I don’t think we have a China man’s change of having REVIVAL without prayer.

[5] THE INCINERATION

V. 38…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!

Now we get to God’s part: Elijah preached boldly, he repaired the altar, he cut the bull and he prayed but it was God who sent the fire. Moses the great prophet and law giver said, “The LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” What we have here is a holocaust: everything was consumed even the stone and the dust. It came quickly in the form of a lighten bolt. From heaven, God nukes the altar, He vaporized it and everything on it.

Note Psalm 135:6-7…For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.

Jesus taught is Luke 9:24…“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Let me tell you what life is about for a disciple of Christ…it is about surrender, giving things up. Desiring for God’s holy fire to consume all that will not honor Christ.

William Borden was born in Chicago on April 1, 1887. He was the son of a wealthy family, the Borden Diary industry. His parents gave him an around the world ticket for his high school graduation in 1904. William traveled the world and not just the finer places in Western Europe but he toured the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, India and China. William was astounded by the pain and suffering he saw: it literally broke his heart and while on the trip he made a commitment to give his life to Jesus as a Missionary to China. He wrote in the back of his bible two words, “No Reserves.” William was not holding back, he gave everything to Christ including his wealth. He came back to the states and attended college at Yale. At Yale he was broken over their drift away from the word and into liberalism. He and a friend began a prayer meeting before breakfast praying for REVIVAL at Yale. When he graduated four years later, 1,000 of the 1,300 students were attending prayer meetings. From there he attended Seminary in New Jersey and then he was off to China by way of Egypt where he went to study Arabic. When he left the harbor for his overseas voyage, he wrote two more words in the back of his bible, “No Retreat. His target group were Muslims so he wanted to learn the language. While in Egypt, young William contracted spinal meningitis and went to be with Jesus within a month of his diagnosis. A lot of people thought William made a mistake in giving his life to Christ. He had so much wealth and potential, why would he give it all up? Days prior to his departure, William wrote two more words in his bible, “No Regrets.” His most famous quote is…”Say no to self and yes to Jesus, always.”

CONCLUSION

I conclude with one final point, the OUTPOURING. Israel was dry, no rain in three and a half years. They needed a flood and they got one thanks to the mercy of God. I think of the words of the song, “Mercy drops round us are falling but O for the showers we plead.” Mercy drops are falling around Danville but we need a deluge, a flood, a shower. We need the fire of God to fall on us and consume everything in us that dishonors Christ. I want that more than I have ever wanted it in my life

Things that Accompy Revival

TEXT:

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed. 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” 26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” 28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response. 30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” 38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

INTRODUCTION

I want to talk to you about some things that accompany REVIVAL but before I do, I want to qualify what I am saying with this preface. Revival is a grace gift from the sovereign God. We can prepare for revival but technically, we cannot work one up or even pray one up. We can shout, cut ourselves with knives and rave all evening like the false prophets but we cannot work up a revival because revivals are not worked up they are prayed down. BUT make no mistake, it is not our pious or even passionate prayers that causes the fire to fall. God sends the fire. He is the source and the giver of the fire. I’ve seen the fire fall one time in my life and that was over 40 years ago. I’ve longed to see it fall again since. I have seen God work, He is always at work but I pray for the fire of heaven to fall on the body of Christ. This country has not experienced a great spiritual awakening in over a century and a half. If you put every Baptist preacher in the convention in one room, they could not conjure up a revival: that being true, you know that I can’t preach up a revival. In intend to talk more about Revival this week than I did when I was here before but be it known, that I am a seeker like yourself. I pray to our merciful God for revival. If He saw fit to let it begin here today, I would be fine with that but I have been in the business long enough to know that if it happens [the fire falls], He will be responsible and we will give HIM the praise.

From the study of God’s word, I do see some things that accompany REVIVAL and I want to share those with you this morning.

[1] THE CONGREGATION

So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel [V.20]

I don’t know about you but at home we have 600 members and only one third of them show up on an average Sunday. At Easter we have over half but that is one Sunday out of 52. I have challenged them time and time again to fake a revival. I tell them, “Let’s pretend that we have had a great revival and all show up this Sunday.” It never happens. It is a miracle in reverse. I don’t know how they do it but we consistently have our 35% with the other 65% on vacation, at the lake, footballing or NASCARing. It amazes me. I wonder if they have a secret network. How do we have the 35% per week when it is always a different crowd that makes up the 35%. If all our people where to show up at once, we couldn’t seat them or park them but it never happens. I don’t think we will have REVIVAL this week or any other week unless we congregate and draw near. The first commitment we need to make is not to let anything hinder us from attending the services.

[2] THE PROCLAIMATION OF GOD’S WORD

Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” [V.21]


If you do a history of REVIVAL you will discover that all are accompanied by the bold proclamation of God’s holy word. This does involve a preacher but I wish to put the emphasis on the WORD rather than the preacher. The MESSAGE in this case is greater than the messenger. The editor is more important than the kid who delivers the news paper. The chief is more important than the waiter. We all know that some waiters are better than others but our interest is in the quality of the food. Elijah’s message was brief but to the point. The people had been compromising. They were trying to serve two gods and Jehovah is a jealous God. Judaism did not mix with paganism. Judaism didn’t mix with any religion. Christianity is the same in that sense. I read the other day about a new religion called Chrislam which is a combination of Jesus teaching with Islam. This bird will not fly, CHRIST IS LORD. He said that no man could serve two masters but that is exactly what the Israelites were attempting to do, they were attempting to serve baal and Jehovah. Elijah said, “Enough of this nonsense: you can’t serve them both so make up your mind. Choose today whom you will serve.”

[3] THE PREPARATIONS

Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” Come near unto me, AV] They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

  1. The first preparation Elijah had to make was to repair a broken  down altar. The altar had not been used in a long time. Jereboam corrupted Israel’s worship with the calves and than Ahab and Jezebel were promoting the worship of baal. Yahweh’s altar had been neglected and the stones were scattered. We think of an altar as a place to bring our sins and in the OT it involved confession and sacrifice. This process is vital to worship. When sacrifice and confession cease, we cease to worship. So the Israelites were guilty of idolatry and they had been unfaithful to Jehovah in worship. Impure worship is no worship in God’s sight.
  2. Then we put the wood on the altar. Wood is combustible, it will burn up. It represents the temporal things that do not last. It is the wood, hay and stubble in our lives. It also symbolizes our works, our human effort.
  3. Then they soaked the wood with water. These people were in a 3 and 1/2 year draught, water was the most precious thing they had. God wants the most precious thing you have on the altar. We cannot have REVIVAL apart from sacrifice and I think this is a major problems. We want God’s blessings but not His rule. We want Him to bless what we choose to do.
  4. One other preparation is necessary and that is “Cut the bull”. I’m going to tell you why I think we don’t have REVIVAL, there is too much bull in our worship. We are not being honest with ourselves or God. We are playing church. We are acting like Christians instead of being Christians. Too much pretense. Does God see through it? You know that He does. I’ll be h0nest with: “I am shocked that God does what He does considering all the hypocrisy in the church.” When I was a young preacher, I heard Dr. Vance Havner tell the story of the church that went Hollywood. They brought in some type of entertainment every week. One Sunday they had a talking horse. They put the horse on the stage and his trainer ask him, “How many disciples were there?” and the old horse stomped 12 times and everyone applauded. Then he ask, “How many commandments are there?”  And the old horse stomped 10 times. Then some smart Ike from the back hollowed, “how many hypocrites are in this building?” Dr. Havner said the old horse went into a dance. I fully believe that we would experience some sort of spiritual renewal if we would just get honest with ourselves and God.

[4] THE PETITION

v.36…Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

There is absolutely no question that PRAYER has a vital connection to REVIVAL. I don’t know of any great spiritual awakening that was not preceded by a huge burden for men to pray. I don’t know how it is here but the most unpopular thing you can do in Danville is call a prayer meeting. More then a quarter of a century ago, we changed our Deacon’s meeting into basically a prayer meeting and one of my senior deacons removed his name from the ballot. He did not approve of the change. I am thankful to say that in these 25 years, I have had only one deacon to complain about coming early on Sunday morning for prayer. I do love prayer meeting which means I love deacon’s meetings. I must admit that as bad as things are, we don’t seemed to be burdened to the extend that we will met and pray fervently. I don’t think we have a China man’s change of having REVIVAL without prayer.

[5] THE INCINERATION

V. 38…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!

Now we get to God’s part: Elijah preached boldly, he repaired the altar, he cut the bull and he prayed but it was God who sent the fire. Moses the great prophet and law giver said, “The LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” What we have here is a holocaust: everything was consumed even the stone and the dust. It came quickly in the form of a lighten bolt. From heaven, God nukes the altar, He vaporized it and everything on it.

Note Psalm 135:6-7…For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.

Jesus taught is Luke 9:24…“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Let me tell you what life is about for a disciple of Christ…it is about surrender, giving things up. Desiring for God’s holy fire to consume all that will not honor Christ.

William Borden was born in Chicago on April 1, 1887. He was the son of a wealthy family, the Borden Diary industry. His parents gave him an around the world ticket for his high school graduation in 1904. William traveled the world and not just the finer places in Western Europe but he toured the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, India and China. William was astounded by the pain and suffering he saw: it literally broke his heart and while on the trip he made a commitment to give his life to Jesus as a Missionary to China. He wrote in the back of his bible two words, “No Reserves.” William was not holding back, he gave everything to Christ including his wealth. He came back to the states and attended college at Yale. At Yale he was broken over their drift away from the word and into liberalism. He and a friend began a prayer meeting before breakfast praying for REVIVAL at Yale. When he graduated four years later, 1,000 of the 1,300 students were attending prayer meetings. From there he attended Seminary in New Jersey and then he was off to China by way of Egypt where he went to study Arabic. When he left the harbor for his overseas voyage, he wrote two more words in the back of his bible, “No Retreat. His target group were Muslims so he wanted to learn the language. While in Egypt, young William contracted spinal meningitis and went to be with Jesus within a month of his diagnosis. A lot of people thought William made a mistake in giving his life to Christ. He had so much wealth and potential, why would he give it all up? Days prior to his departure, William wrote two more words in his bible, “No Regrets.” His most famous quote is…”Say no to self and yes to Jesus, always.”

CONCLUSION

I conclude with one final point, the OUTPOURING. Israel was dry, no rain in 3 & 1/2 Years. They needed a flood and they got one thanks to the mercy of God. I think of the words of the song, “Mercy drops round us are falling but O for the showers we plead.” Mercy drops are falling around Danville but we need a deluge, a flood, a shower. We need the fire of God to fall on us and consume everything in us that dishonors Christ. I want that more than I have ever wanted it in my life.

JBS 2020–Chapter 8

The Loving Messenger

Jeremiah 42-44

Story

In C.S. Lewis book, the LAST BATTLE, which is an allegory about the end time and return of Christ: there is the segment where Lucy pleads with the dwarfs. The dwarfs are unbelievers. The presence of Aslan has brought light but they refuse to see the light or to acknowledge its existence. They refuse to see what is so very obvious to Lucy and other believers. Both Lucy and Edmund try to convince them but the Dwarfs will not change their mind or attitude. Even Aslan’s very presence doesn’t change them.

Background

In this session, we will look at spot passages is chapters 42-43-44 as we continue our same line of thinking: DISOBEDIENCE IS COSTLY. Disobedience is a bad choice and bad choices produce bad results.

After the Fall

When Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians; they do everything that Jeremiah had predicted, burn the city, destroy the buildings and put the nobles, leaders, land barons to the sword. They spare the slaves and the poor along with Jeremiah and some of his friends.

A man by the name of Gedaliah {gee-dal-ya} the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, governor over the territory. A man by the name of Ishmael [member of the royal family] plotted and killed Gedaliah. This put the remaining Jews in a panic mode. So they form a group [made up of leaders and soldiers] and approach Jeremiah. We take up in Jeremiah 42:2…

They approached Jeremiah the prophet and said, “Please pray to the Lord your God for us. As you can see, we are only a tiny remnant compared to what we were before. Pray that the Lord your God will show us what to do and where to go.”

This sounds rather innocent: they want Jeremiah to pray for them…it would appear that they are seeking God’s will. Jeremiah agrees to pray for them…

“All right,” Jeremiah replied. “I will pray to the Lord your God, as you have asked, and I will tell you everything he says. I will hide nothing from you.”

The rebuttal and promise of the people…

“May the Lord your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.”

Reality Check

Ten days later the LORD gives Jeremiah the answer…

Stay here in this land… Do not fear the king of Babylon…the LORD will rescue you from his power. But if you refuse to obey and are determined to go to Egypt, the very war and famine you fear will catch up to you, will get you there…you will die from war, famine, and disease. None of you will escape the disaster I will bring upon you there….You will be an object of damnation, horror, cursing, and mockery. And you will never see your homeland again.’

People’s Response

Jeremiah 43:2-3

“You lie! The Lord our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt! Baruch has convinced you to say this, because he wants us to stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or be carried off into exile.”

Again in verse 7… The people refused to obey the voice of the Lord and went to Egypt, going as far as the city of Tahpanhes.

Notes

[1] Note the insincerity of the people: prayer was a sham, they already had their minds made up.

[2] Note their blatant disobedience. It is unmistakable, they flat rebel, we will not listen to the word of the LORD.

[3] They force Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them. Why? Obviously they do not like Baruch and they will not listen to Jeremiah.

[4] They jump from the frying pan into the fire with Jeremiah telling them exactly what is going to happen. Neb has no need to return to Judah but he is coming to Egypt, just a matter of time and he did and these people died by the sword just as Jeremiah predicted.

[5] It is seldom wise to run from your problems. I said seldom, not never. Joseph ran from a problem and he was wise in doing so. Most of the time when we run from a problem, we take it with us or it follows close behind. The best thing to do is recognize the problem, call it what it is and deal with it.

[6] Egypt was a false Messiah. The world is not our savior; it is one of the reasons we need saving. Don’t look to the world to solve your problems, look to Jesus.

[7] These ignorant and rebellious Jews walked right into a trap and had no one to blame except themselves.

Obey and Live–Disobey and Die

Lessons to Learn from their failure…

[1] Always examine your motives…Why am I praying? Why do I attend worship? Why do I help my neighbor?

[2] To be open to God’s agenda, you have to drop yours. We can pray sincerely when our minds are already made up.

[3] Desire God’s will more than His blessings. The Jews wanted God’s blessings {why they carried Jeremiah} but they wanted Him to bless their way—He doesn’t do our will. He will not bless rebellion. He will bless obedience–Trust and obey, there is no other way. He will not rubber stamp your plans.

Summing It Up

Jeremiah 44:15-18

Then all the women present and all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to idols—a great crowd of all the Judeans living in northern Egypt and southern Egypt—answered Jeremiah, “We will not listen to your messages from the Lord! We will do whatever we want. We will burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven just as much as we like—just as we, and our ancestors, and our kings and officials have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her with liquid offerings, we have been in great trouble and have been dying from war and famine.”

Final Lessons

[1] Not a lot has changed: the Jews had removed God from the picture. They had no fear or respect for Him or His word. He was simply someone to blame when their plans went wrong.

[2] The Jews were given a faithful witness who was true to the word: they had no one to blame but themselves: they were rebellious and would not listen.

[3] Things are not in our control but there are in God’s. He is working His plan and His will, will be done.

[4] Many people are like the Dwarfs, they choose to believe a lie when the truth is staring them in the face.

[5] Obedience doesn’t give us immunity from suffering but it will give us peace.

[6] Jeremiah’s generation refused to listen…He may have died thinking that he failed…He didn’t. Think of the millions who have been blessed by his story. Seldom do we know the impact we are making.

[7] Our goal must always be obedience to Christ and glory to God.

[8] Our call is to be faithful: the results are up to God

JBS 2020–Chapter 7

No Compromise

Jeremiah 37-39

Compromise is usually seen as a good thing in modern America–as a sort of middle road between two extremes. Yet if we stop and think about it, there are a lot of situations in which compromise is far from positive.

Hearson, page 76

Illustration

Neville Chamberlain and Hitler. Chamberlain followed the “appeasement” policy which was popular in England. He gave Hitler the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia but that only fueled Hitler’s aggression. When Hitler invaded Poland, the English realized they had made a mistake.

Some people make compromise a way of life; most notable, politicians. But how do that rate when it comes to integrity, very low.

If we compromise with the truth, we sacrifice our integrity. Remember Job’s wife, what an encouraging lady…His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job did not listen to her and he did maintain his integrity.

Compromise Begets Compromise

David made one compromise when he took his friend’s wife in his bed chamber, but that compromise lead to another, and another.

Good Examples

Daniel and his three friends are a good example of integrity and refusal to compromise.

The Point

When it comes to obeying Christ, there is to be no compromise.

Historical Background

[1] Zedekiah was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar so he was a puppet king or a sort of governor. Unlike other kings before him, he could not do as he pleased.

[2] Zedekiah did have a difficult task: Pleasing Nebuchadnezzar and the Elders of Judah. The Elders were pro-Egypt and were constantly encouraging Zedekiah to rebel against his boss. Keep in mind, Zedekiah is not a strong man in terms of character.

[3] Some a short period of time, the Babylonians broke the siege and during this time, Jeremiah tries to get out of Jerusalem and go home.

[4] Jeremiah was accused of treason, of compromising with the Babylonians but in reality, he was obeying God and it was Judah and Zedekiah who had compromised their faith.

Indecisiveness

Jeremiah 37:2-3

But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the Lord said through Jeremiah. Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent messengers to ask Jeremiah, “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.” 

Jeremiah 37:5 tells us that  Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt and his army appeared at the southern border of Judah. The Babylonians break the siege and move toward the Egyptians. The Egyptians turn tail and head back to Egypt. The Babylonians then go back to Jerusalem.

Zedekiah and many of the Jews thought they were saved. Jeremiah told them: No, they are coming back and nothing has changed. Jeremiah 37:9-10…

“This is what the Lord says: Do not fool yourselves into thinking that the Babylonians are gone for good. They aren’t! 10 Even if you were to destroy the entire Babylonian army, leaving only a handful of wounded survivors, they would still stagger from their tents and burn this city to the ground!”

All Jeremiah had to do to save his own skin was just play along; let them believe what ever they wanted to believe. The only thing that can get him in trouble at this point is to keep telling the truth. All he had to do to save his own skin was shut-up.

[John the Baptist lost his head for telling the truth]

Jeremiah’s Message never changes

Surrender and live, rebel and die.

Jeremiah in the Cistern

Jeremiah 38

So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die! That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people. This man is a traitor!” King Zedekiah agreed. “All right,” he said. “Do as you like. I can’t stop you.” So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. It belonged a member of the royal family. There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.

Contrast: Jeremiah verses Zedekiah

Jeremiah feared God more than man and would not compromise one word; not even tone it down or keep silent. Zedekiah changed his commitments as easily and quickly as changing clothes. Honestly, which of the two do you respect?

Ebed-Melech

Jeremiah 38:7-13

14 One day King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and had him brought to the third entrance of the Lord’s Temple. “I want to ask you something,” the king said. “And don’t try to hide the truth.”

15 Jeremiah said, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.”16 So King Zedekiah secretly promised him, “As surely as the Lord our Creator lives, I will not kill you or hand you over to the men who want you dead.” 17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down. 18 But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape! This city will be handed over to the Babylonians, and they will burn it to the ground.’”19 “But I am afraid to surrender,” the king said, “for the Babylonians may hand me over to the Judeans who have defected to them. And who knows what they will do to me!” 20 Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the Lord. Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you.

Ironic Conclusion

[Hearson, top of page 84]

The Jews and Zedekiah: In their effort to save their lives, their homes, their comfort and happiness, they lost everything.

The very last thing Zedekiah saw with his eyes was the execution of his sons and then they gouged out his eyes and put him in chains. I wonder if he thought about his foolish choices: if he had only listened to the word of God, none of this would have happened.

A second irony that has a prophetic message: the poor were given the land. All these things that the Jews owned was given to the poor. THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH. David predicted it in Psalm 37 and Jesus confirmed it in the Sermon of the Mount.

JBS-2020–Chapter 6

God’s Eternal Word

Dr. Hearson begins chapter 6 with a Star Trek analogy. I am not a Star Trek fan but the story is about some officers were tasked with saving the planet and they had to jump from a shuttle and land on a platform. Two of the three did it successfully but the third was a thrill seeker and he tried to deploy his chutte just in time to hit the platform. His chutte did open as face as he assumed and he was killed.

The Authors analysis: his actions were not only foolish, they were very selfish as he jeopardized the mission by trying to be a dare devil.

Fear Can Be Good or Bad

How do we know when fear is good or when it is bad? Healthy fear can save our lives as we exercise caution: too much fear can paralyze and render us dysfunctional. There are times when facing our fears can be a good thing, even thrilling [roller coaster]. I was horrified the first time Bro. Inman told me I was to preach. I’m glad I faced that fear. One of the greater joys of my life is to preach. [why I did not do well in retirement]

How Do We Relate Fear To God’s Word?

Respect may be a better word here: I have great respect for the word of God. I don’t understand it all but I believe it all. I made that commitment in college and I’ve never looked back.

Jehoiakim

The book of Jeremiah is not in chronological order so don’t get confused. Jehoiakim was king before Zedekiah. Jehoiakim was evil through and through. He was cruel and self-serving. He was anything but a shepherd king. He didn’t love people nor God and he had no respect for God’s word or God’s prophet.

The author makes two valid points: this event took place some 18 years before the final judgment of Jerusalem. This is a reminder of how gracious and merciful God is in dealing with sinful humans. This event makes it crystal clear that Jehoiakim had no interest whatsoever in pleasing God.

Baruch The Scribe

We don’t generally give Baruch a lot of credit which is typical of the person who plays second fiddle. He is to Jeremiah what Barnabas was to Paul. Jeremiah has a restraining order and cannot go to the temple but the LORD gives him a message and he dictates it to Baruch and Baruch goes to the temple and delivers the message.

Fast Day

The Fast Day was not what you would think, Dr. Hearson likens it to EASTER Sunday. He says the fast days drew huge crowds and usually all the elders were present. So the temple would be packed. The LORD tells Jeremiah [36:3], Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings.”

God’s desire is a restoration of fellowship but that depends on Judah’s repentance but even in judgment, God’s desire was to bring Judah to repentance.

Baruch Reads the Scroll

When Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people, some of the government officials heard the message. The congregation did not react; could have been indifference or perhaps they were not listening but the officials were impressed and wanted the king to hear the message. Have you ever been to DC or to a major city where there is a person preaching on the side walk. I’ve seen it in DC more than once, a black man who lives in a old school bus shouting REPENT, and no one pays any attention. Gemariah, the brother of Ahiakim–both sons of Shaphan the scribe the faithful secretary and confident to King Josiah. Its Gemariah’s son Micaiah that is impressed with Jeremiah’s message.

Note

Years earlier when his grand father Shaphan read the scroll to Josiah, a REVIVAL broke out that changed the landscape of the entire country, so perhaps this is what Micaiah is thinking or hoping. He calls together some higher level cabinet members and has Baruch read it again, they too are shaken by the message [v. 16, looked at each other in fear]. They insisted that the king hear the message and they hoped for a good response but they didn’t count on it. They told Baruch, “You and Jeremiah go into hiding and don’t tell anyone where you are, not even us.”

Jehoiakim’s Disrespect

Jehoiakim had already had the prophet Uriah executed for repeating one of Jeremiah’s sermons, so his officials did want to take any changes–that’s why they had Jeremiah hide.

Jehoiakim reacts perhaps as they feared, he paid no attention to the message, in fact every time that read a section of the scroll, he took a pen knife and cut that section off and threw in the fire. It was in December and he was sitting by a fire. The officials were upset by his disrespect but he paid them no attention.

Note The Contrast

Josiah’s response to the word: tore his robe, put on sackcloth and repented–Jehoiakim burned the scroll and did not tear his robe nor repent and just as His officials expected, He wanted Jeremiah and Baruch arrested.

Sad Story With Sad Ending

Jehoiakim had seal his own fate; he would not get another change. He had harmed not only himself but his children. The Royal line would not continue through him. The bible doesn’t tell us exactly how he died, only that it was by the hand of the Babylonians. He did not have a funeral and no one cared.

Moral Of the Story

God’s word is not only infallible, it is indestructible. Jesus said, {Matthew 24:35} Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

JBS 2020–Chapter Two

Courage To Tell

Quote

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak, is to speak; not to act, is to act.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to tell the truth: especially in a culture that craves the lie.”

~H.C. Anderson

STORY: The Emperor new clothes

Moral of the Story: The emperor needed to hear the truth from someone who was close to him, cared about his welfare.

NOTE: All humans need accountability, there is no exception. Wise people make themselves accountable to those whom they trust. {Tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear}.

[1] Chapter 26 in Jeremiah is about his famous Temple Sermon. {on a fast day/Easter}

[2] Jews were guilty of TEMPLE worship…it was their security blanket. Logic: “God loved the temple so He would never allow anything to happen to it.” Hint of paganism here: all pagans worshiped objects like shrines, altars, idols and temples.

[3] Irony: In pagan society there was no emphasis on the character of the worshiper: all the emphasis was on the offering or the sacrifice. Paganism is very materialistic and materialism is very pagan.

[4] God is more concerned with proper worship and Character than He is in bricks and mortar.

[5] Deuteronomy 12 records God’s instructions on worship and He particularly commanded them to destroy all symbols of pagan worship.

The TEXT: Jeremiah 26

At the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came from the LordThus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings. You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently—though you have not heeded— then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.

[6] Shiloh had been in the pass a thriving place of worship but it was basically closed down after the death of Eli.

NOTE: We don’t worship places {person} and we don’t live in the past.

[6] Reaction of the congregation:

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LordAnd when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

NOTE: It is not just the congregation; it is the Priest and the Prophets. There are always false prophets among us who say what people want to hear.

[7] Look who comes to Jeremiah’s rescue: of all people, government officials. Probably lower level cabinet members.

10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”

[8] Ahikam was the leader of this group and his father had worked with previous administration as a court secretary–they were scribes by trade. Ahikam’s father Shaphan was the one who found the scroll in the temple during the early days of Josiah so he was a God fearing man.

[9] What do we do when we hear a sermon we don’t like–blast the messenger. But it was not Jeremiah’s message they were opposing. Here is where we have to be careful, prayerful and students of the word.

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you14 But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

[10] The government officials are able to calm the crowd and then they get help from the Elders who draw from history and the days of Micah and Hezekiah.

Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” 17 And some of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembled people18 “Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’

19 Did King Hezekiah of Judah and all Judah actually put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord change his mind about the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster on ourselves!”

[10] Then we have the story of Uriah the prophet who basically said the same thing Jeremiah said and he too was threatened so he fled to Egypt.  Jehoiakim hunts him down and executes him.

Lessons To Learn

[1] The TRUTH is seldom pleasant to to hear or proclaim.

[2] Worldliness, paganism and materialism are temptations for every generation.

[3] The TRUTH must be preached if only one responds or even none.

[4] Often there is a price to pay for telling the truth

JBS 2020–chapter 4

The Problem With Promises

[1] Dr. Hearson is a fan of JRR Tolkien and I am not but the basic point of his analogy is when promises are broken, we feel betrayed. {lot of betrayal in this chapter] To see the relationship to this chapter, let me give you some background…

[2] Zedekiah is king, Jerusalem is under siege. The Jews have been notorious as breaking the Mosaic law concerning slavery. They were supposed to, by law, release all slaves every 7th year. You are not going to find many era’s in Jewish history where they actually obeyed the laws of Moses, especially this one. I ‘m sure Jeremiah had something to do with but Zedekiah decision to free the slaves in obedience to the Lord’s command. Meanwhile, Egypt starts a march toward Jerusalem to confront the Babylonians and the Babylonians break siege and head toward Egypt. Zedekiah and the slave owners went back on their promise re-enslaved their former slaves.

[3] Jeremiah warned them concerning this evil and told them the Babylonians would be back. Sure enough the Egyptian army made an about face and headed back to Egypt and the Babylonians returned and took up the siege.

Three Betrayals

[1] I’m sure Jeremiah and the slaves felt betrayed: as soon as the army left, the king and the slave owners reneged on their promise. {Coleman}

[2] Egypt betrayed Israel. No doubt, Zedekiah had sent to them for help and they had good intentions to a point. We don’t know why they turned around but it was probably due to the size of the Babylonian army and the fact that they knew they would be coming to Egypt next. Whatever the cause, the did not help Israel. [Egypt is a type of the world]

[3] The greatest betrayal was Judah betraying God. They were attempting to manipulate God and thought they had pulled it off and like fools they reneged on their promise to God.

Zedikiah’s Fate

34 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with all the armies from the kingdoms he ruled, and he fought against Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. At that time this message came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go to King Zedekiah of Judah, and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape his grasp but will be captured and taken to meet the king of Babylon face to face. Then you will be exiled to Babylon.

“‘But listen to this promise from the Lord, O Zedekiah, king of Judah. This is what the Lord says: You will not be killed in war but will die peacefully. People will burn incense in your memory, just as they did for your ancestors, the kings who preceded you. They will mourn for you, crying, “Alas, our master is dead!” This I have decreed, says the Lord.’”

So Jeremiah the prophet delivered the message to King Zedekiah of Judah. At this time the Babylonian army was besieging Jerusalem, Lachish, and Azekah—the only fortified cities of Judah not yet captured.

[1] Jeremiah’s predictions concerning Zedekiah

~City will be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar

~He will burn it to the ground

~You will not escape

~You will be captured not killed

~You will stand before Nebuchadnezzar face to face

~You will not die by the sword

[2] Page 51…Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem were corrupted by their own selfishness and belief that the power of God was something they could use to help them accomplish their own selfish purposes. {Guilty of trying to manipulate God to get Him to serve their interest}

The Treatment of the Poor in Israel

Looking closer, page 51

Deuteronomy 15:1-11

15 “At the end of every seventh year you must cancel the debts of everyone who owes you money. This is how it must be done. Everyone must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord’s time of release has arrivedThis release from debt, however, applies only to your fellow Israelites—not to the foreigners living among you. “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possessionYou will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you. But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.

Matthew 26:8-11

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 

Matthew 19:21

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Back to the betrayal of the poor within the city: the irony is when the Babylonians took the city, they either killed or enslaved the nobles, then they set the poor free. The meek inherited the land, one day they will inherit the earth.

Conclusion

We should have the attitude of Job: “tho He slay me, yet will I trust {love, serve} Him.” Bo-ro-mir in the lord of the rings was supposedly a good man but he wanted the ring for its power. He intended to do good with this power, that was his justification for seeking it but the fact that he wanted power was a sign that he would be corrupted by it.

Sometimes we want good things for the wrong reason.

The ancients sealed covenants by slaughtering of an animal and cutting it into two parts and the agreeing parties walk between the two pieces. The meaning, “If I break the covenant you have the right to cut me in half.”

Judah’s breaking the covenant with God brought about their death. {Literally} The wages of sin is death. Sin and rebellion always lead to death.