Would you turn in your Bibles tonight to Jeremiah chapter 18. We're going to be studying Jeremiah the next few chapters tonight. And we're going to be looking at the themes and some verses, in particular, not every single verse. We'll be making some highlights and applications.
And I'm going to ask that now that the study has started, that everyone find a seat and maintain their seat. And if there's an emergency, we understand. But barring an emergency, stay seated. It would be great that you would remain in that position, not because I want to torture you, but so as not to be a distraction to anyone else around you.
Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, there is no one who knows the depths of our heart, the thoughts of our minds, the feelings that we have in our emotions, the ambitions that we hold onto and aspire to. There's no one who knows that like you do.
And that's why it was fitting in this last song to surrender, and place everything, all of that, at your feet. You're capable, you are able, and you are trustworthy. And we confess that and we believe that.
And we pray now, Lord, that just as you have ministered to us so powerfully so far by the reminders and the promises in the worship songs, so do likewise, Lord, as we cover the word of God, these chapters in Jeremiah. You said all of these things were written beforehand for our admonition. They're examples unto us. So Lord, help us to understand your mind as we study further your word.
In Jesus' name, amen.
Now we sang a song at the beginning. And I just want to, if I can, correct the song, not that you need any correction, Holland. But some of the words on the screen, well, I was laughing sort of as I was singing them.
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Make me and mold me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.
And I know the words were all over the map. But let's just use that as just an opening prayer because of what we're about to cover is right along those lines. Let's sing that. Just acapella, you and I together, from our hearts.
(SINGING) Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after they will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.
One of the highlights on a trip to Israel-- and some of you are going here in the next few weeks. One of the highlights has been for me, and will be again, going up to the north part of the land called Caesarea Philippi. It's at the headwaters of the main river in that country, the Jordan River.
And it is while the disciples were gathered there with their master, Jesus, that he asked them a question, two questions. It was a short quiz. Question number 1, who do men say that I am. And question number 2 is the pass or fail-- who do you say that I am.
We know that Peter answered correctly. He got it right. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Right on, Peter.
Of course, he said it a little bit differently. Blessed are thou, Peter, Simon, son of Jonah. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
But the first question, when they said, who do men say that I am, was very revealing. Some say that you are John the Baptist. Some say that you are Elijah Some say that you are Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
It's interesting that, even then, some of the Jews would look at the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus and say, he reminds me of Jeremiah. I believe because there was a beautiful mixture in both Jeremiah and Jesus of both toughness and tenderness.
One day, Jesus could take a cord and whip people out of the temple for profaning his Father's house and turning it to den of thieves. That's tough. The next day, he would stand on the Mount of Olives and weep over Jerusalem. That's tender.
Jeremiah the prophet was very much like the Lord Jesus. They are very similar. Both rejected by their hometown. Jeremiah's hometown, Anathoth. Jesus's hometown, Nazareth.
Both predicted the fall of the nation. One happened in 586 BC, the other in 70 AD.
Both prophesied before the destruction of the temple. Again, those two prospective dates.
So there were similarities in their ministries. The toughness and the tenderness of Jeremiah and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Chapter 18 and chapter 19 is visual. And I'm glad tonight that we have a visual aid that you can look at. If you look to the far right or far left of the platform, you see a light box that says the Book of Jeremiah. And what do you see underneath it?
A cracked pot.
Tonight, God speaks through a cracked pot. I know he's speaking right now through a crackpot, but that's not exactly what I had in mind. A cracked pot, a marred vessel.
The nation of Judah was not what God intended her to be. God had a plan for his people. His people did not fulfill the plan God had for them.
There was hope, there was a period of enlightenment. It was through the King Josiah, a reform was brought. And some of the practices that were evil were stopped, and new ones were started.
And it would seem like it was the light of revival. But it wasn't, it didn't last very long. It was at best a reformation.
And throughout the years there have been reformations. There was even a Protestant Reformation under Martin Luther. I contend that reformations are not enough. And I don't think God is into reformations as much as transformations. He wants an absolute total change.
Sometimes, the system gets so bad, you can't fix it. You have to trash it and start all over again. God said, Jeremiah, I've called you to pull down, to root out, to destroy, then to build, and to plant.
And so in chapter 18, verse 1, "The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear my words. And I went down to the potter's house and there he was making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made it again into another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make.
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O House of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter. Says the Lord, look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O House of Israel.
The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck it up, to pull it down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in my sight so that it does not obey my voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, thus says the Lord. Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good."
Now the potter's house, I know it's hard to picture this in your mind's eye. And I do have an advantage because I have been to Israel. And I've been there so many times, I've been there 27 times, it's like a second home. And I can picture exactly where he went.
By the way, that's the benefit of going to Israel-- is that, you just go once and the Bible comes alive to you. You'll see these things in your mind.
But to the east of Jerusalem is a valley, it's called the Valley of Kidron. And if you're looking out toward the east, to the left is a garden called the Garden of Gethsemane. Off to the right is a spring of water that comes up out of the ground that feeds the city of Jerusalem. That's called the Gihon. And it is in that area of town where there is water and suitable ground for making pots, vessels, that the potters had their homes and their crafts, their businesses.
Jeremiah went down there, and he's going to watch something. And as he watches something, the Lord speaks to him through it. And he uses what he sees to do something very visual and dramatic in the next chapter, which we'll see in a moment.
Jeremiah was a visual preacher. I think Jeremiah would have looked online and seen the screens and would have said, I like that, I am into that. Because he wasn't one to just speak didactically, he used visual aids.
Sometimes he put a yoke on his neck and he walked around the city with this big yolk of an animal. And people would say, what's gotten into you, Jeremiah. And he said, this is going to be you in a few years. You are going to be captured by the Babylonians, you won't be able to go where you want. Like an animal is brought under the yoke, God will bring you under this yolk.
And so he does it again. God shows him visually what will happen. Jeremiah recaps and spins it to the nation, tells exactly what God has for them.
People will remember what you tell them, but will only retain 25% of what you tell them if you repeat yourself twice. Let me say that again-- no I won't. You get my point.
If you can see something, you'll remember 50% of what you see, as opposed to 10% of what you hear once, 25% of what you hear twice. So Jeremiah, understanding how people are-- have been-- in listening to his sermons, they've been preached time and time again to this. People, they have not changed at all. He gets very dramatic, and God shows him dramatically that the nation had become like that piece of clay marred in the potter's hands.
There's Jeremiah, he's watching the potter at the wheel. Now you've got a picture in your mind-- two wheels, one large, flat stone that the foot would rest on, attached to a piece of wood, attached to another stone on top where the clay was put. And so the potter would take his foot and turn the bottom wheel, thus turning the upper wheel. And he would get into a rhythm and he would fashion the pot.
Why was the clay marred in the potter's hands? We don't know exactly, but it's very typical. If you've ever watched somebody make pots, often times there's a defect in the clay, it's a hardened spot or there's an air bubble. But for whatever reason, it doesn't become what the potter has in mind.
So he makes it all over again. That's the discretion of the potter. And notice that the Lord says, what I am doing with this people is according to what they have done with me. If somebody listens to what I have to say, I will relent or turn from the disaster I was going to fashion upon them. If they don't, then I will relent of the good that I was going to do to them.
And you'll notice that in verse 10, he says, I will relent. It's the second time he says that concerning the good with which I said that I would benefit it. Now when God says that, I will relent, what does he mean?
The old King Jimmy, the old King James version says, I will repent. And yet, the Bible tells us in another place, God is not a man that he should repent.
So do we have a contradiction? God says, I will not repent. Now God says, I will repent. That's why the translators of the new King James put it this way-- I will relent.
And here's the idea-- it's not that God changes his mind. God is sovereign, but God will fashion his response according to our response to God. God makes a move. God loved us and we love him because he first loved us. But then God is waiting for our move, our responses, and will respond accordingly.
And so the Bible says, if you draw near to the Lord, the Lord will draw near to you. It's as if God is saying, OK, it's your move. What will it be? Yours is the next move.
And that's my question to you tonight, at least one of them. What's your next move with the Lord? He wants to fashion your life into something that pleases him, glorifies him, honors him. He's all about taking you, the pot. He doesn't want you to go to pot, he doesn't want you to smoke pot. He wants you to yield your pot, your body, your vessel over to him and let him fashion it into something marvelous.
Now you can be marred in his hand. And if so, God will graciously make you into something, again, else. Or, you can be so hardened that chapter 19-- you'll see what happens there-- could possibly be for you.
But look at verse 11 before we finish this chapter out. "Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you." The word devising or fashioning is the Hebrew word yatsar. And yatsar is the same word as for potter, because a potter is one who fashions.
So just as the potter would fashion a piece of clay into some vessel, I, God, the master potter, will fashion according to your responses, your life. So what will your move be? That's the idea here.
And they said, this is hopeless. So we will walk according to our own plans and we will, everyone, do the imagination of his evil heart. Now that's their move, that's their response. That's what the clay does on the wheel.
The rest of the chapter going on down, God, through the prophet, predicts the fall of Jerusalem. The Babylonians coming against them because they have forgotten the Lord. They've turned from the ancient paths, the Lord says.
And look at verse 17, "I will scatter them. As with an east wind before the enemy, I will show them the back and not the face in the day of their calamity." You get the picture there?
I don't know if you've ever experienced somebody turning their back to you. Well, what would it be like if you were to put your hand out to somebody and they went like this and turned away from you? You would feel snubbed. That's the idea. Somebody has turned away from fellowship. God is saying, you've turned away repeatedly, so I will show you the back and not the face in the day of their calamity.
Then they said, here's their response, "Come, let us devise or fashion plans against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us attack him with the tongue and let us not give heed to any of his words."
Now as a pastor and having been one for many years, I've understood something about people. I've understood that often people have a reaction to God. But because God is not visible, they take out that reaction on God's visible servants.
And so often the way they will treat one of God's servants is really the way they are treating God. They can't see God. God isn't somebody they can grab and abuse. Now, they will eventually-- when Jesus comes into this world, they'll put him on a cross.
But here, there is only Jeremiah. Jeremiah speaks the word of God. So what's their response to his strong preaching? Get rid of them, put him out of this place.
Now in verse 18, notice it again with me. There are two possible interpretations of it. When they say, "Come, let us devise plans against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet."
That could mean, number 1, we don't need Jeremiah, we don't need his prophecies. We have our own prophets. They were the false prophets. We have prophets telling us what we want to hear, so we don't need him.
Or, number 2, it could mean-- and I lean to this interpretation-- as long as Jeremiah is around here being the prophet, opening up his mouth, we're in trouble. We need to get rid of him, stop his mouth, stop his prophecies, and then we'll be OK.
There's a principle I see here. It's a principle on handling guilt. When the Holy Spirit of God points his finger in your heart and starts convicting you, what do you do?
Well, I'll tell you what you could do. You could do what they did. You could do the get out of here, Holy Spirit, I don't want to hear it, I've heard this before spiel. I'm going to do my own thing my own way. I'm just going to go to church, but I'm going to do my own thing. I'm going to get rid of voices that tell me that I need to change, and I want to just put around me voices that tell me what I want to hear. That's what they were doing.
Or number 2, you could yield to God and say, you're right, I repent. Your choice. But your choice will determine God's next move.
If you're driving down the street and a light goes off in your car, a warning light on the dashboard, it's there for a reason, usually. Now I know there are some cars the crazy lights just come on. And it's like, this.
I had a Volvo and lights would go on all the time. And I finally took it to the dealership. And he said, oh, you know what, we already checked it last time. These lights just come on, but normally they mean something.
And if you have a Volvo, I repent. I can speak from authority because we still own a Volvo at home. It still does that.
Anyway, when the light goes on on the dashboard, you can do one of two things. Take it in for service, or you could carry with you in your glove box a little hammer just for times like that.
So you drive down the street, light comes on, pull out the hammer-- koosh! No light. No warning anymore.
Now that's what many people do with their conscience. God is probing their conscience, messing with their life, saying, I want at that part of your life, I want surrender in that area. We take out our hammer and we smash the light, rather than pulling off and seeing what's wrong with the car.
So if there is guilt, I know the psychologist today says, well, you shouldn't ever motivate people out of guilt, guilt is unhealthy, and these churches that try to motivate people out of guilt.
Listen, God put guilt within you for a very good reason. Here's why-- you're guilty. And the cure is Christ, the cure is the cross, the cure is his forgiveness, the cure is repentance.
Apart from that, you'll never get rid of the guilt the right way. You'll only cover it over, temporarily. They wanted to kill the prophet.
I read an interesting story about the revivals of Dwight Moody. Dwight Moody-- you've heard of him from the 1800s-- he would travel around this country and he preached the gospel, usually with another evangelist he had on his team.
In one town, and I don't remember exactly the name of this town, they were preaching and a letter came to the evangelist that was the associate with Dwight L. Moody, basically saying, I had peace before you and Moody came to town. I thought I was great till I heard you and Moody. I can't stay away from the meetings, he wrote. But every time I come, I feel bad. And he said, I wish you and Moody would leave so I could get my old peace back.
The Lord was convicting that man of his sin. He didn't want to turn. The only thing he could think of, is where's my hammer, I want to smash them lights.
Well, the rest of the chapter is Jeremiah's prayer based on that. And it's not a sweet prayer. He says, "Give heed to me, O Lord, and listen to the voice of those who contend with me. Shall evil be repaid for good, for they dug a pit for my life?" And he recounts what they did.
And notice verse 23. "And yet, Lord, you know their counsel, which is against me, to slay me," says Jeremiah. "Provide no atonement for their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight. But let them be overthrown before you deal thus with them and the time of your anger." This is known as an imprecatory prayer, or a prayer calling down on God's vengeance on those people.
Now I'm not going to say it's right or wrong. I'm just going to say it is. And here you have the honest prayer of an honest man who feels the brunt of the persecution of people around him.
And the Bible honestly lays out the heartfelt prayer of Jeremiah. That's what he felt like. And he didn't hide what he felt before God.
Sometimes when they go, I've got to come before God and I've got to think of the sweetest, most golden-tongued words to say him. Not if that's not inside of you. You think God is impressed by golden speeches?
O Lord, thou creator of the universe, thou who [INAUDIBLE] all things. Get over it, get honest.
Lord, I'm sunk-- help! Ah, that's honest.
Now, will God answer the prayers of his people? Yes. Will God answer the prayers of Jeremiah? Yes.
But God may say, yes or no. That's Both are an answer. Lord, beat him up. No. That's an answer.
God will answer your prayers. He'll say yes, sometimes he'll say no.
It's funny how we say, I pray and the Lord didn't answer me. Yeah he did, he said no. Isn't that an answer?
It's not the answer I wanted. That's not the issue. He's still the Lord last time I checked.
So you lay it out before him, you get real honest with him. But he is still sovereign, hallelujah. And he knows what to sift through and answer.
David prayed these kind of prayers. In fact, I'm very encouraged by his praying. He one time in the Psalms said about his enemies, Lord, break their teeth in their mouth. OK, hey, that's an honest prayer. That's mafia, man-- but it's honest.
So Jeremiah prays. This is what he felt.
Now in chapter 19, "Thus says the Lord, go and get a potter's earthen flask." This is now a finished vessel. It's been fired up, it's been hardened, it's finished vessel. "And takes some of the elders of the people and some of the elders and the priest and go to the valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is in the entry of the potsherd gate and proclaim there the words that I will tell you. And say, here, the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place that whoever hears it, his ears will tingle."
Now you have to picture this. This took really work for people to come to church that day. Jeremiah had to summon the leaders and say, come on, you guys, let's go on a field trip, walk with me. And they walked down through the Kidron valley out into that ravine in front of Jerusalem.
And he took a pot with him. And as they all stood around him, and he gave this speech. God is going to bring such a catastrophe on this place, you won't believe it, your ears will tingle.
How do you think they took his sermon? Not well.
The reasons are given beginning in verse 4. "They have forsaken me. Verse 5, "they built foreign altars. They turned the landscape of Jerusalem into a place of idolatry.
Now look at verse 10, "Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you. And say to them, thus says the Lord of hosts, even so, I will break this people and this city as one breaks a potter's vessel, which cannot be made whole again. And they shall bury them in Tophet till there is no place to bury.
Thus, I will do to this place, says the Lord, and to the inhabitants and make this city like Tophet."
I call this the exclamation point on Jeremiah's sermon. He preaches the message, he has seen the potter make the vessel. It was marred, he made something different, he got the message. He took now a finished flask and he goes down to the valley and then he says, you've been unfaithful to God. And then he breaks this thing in front of him.
And as they're going, whoa, he says, God's going to do that to you. It's a very dramatic moment.
And they understood as soon as he broke it, I believe, what he was meaning. For there was a custom among the ancient kings of those days, in a ceremony before a battle, take a vessel and break it to pieces as an indication, this is what we will do to the enemy that we are attacking or that is attacking us. It was wrought and fraught with some symbolism.
You remember that verse of scripture in the second Psalm? It's a messianic Psalm, it's a prediction of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. "You are my son. This day I have begotten you. I have set my King, my Holy One on Mount Zion. And he will break them with the rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel."
He is speaking of world dominion, absolute autocratic authority of the messiah. And so they understood the symbolism. And then when he said, God is going to do this to you, it was unmistakable.
So what's the message? Here's the message-- you're clay in the potter's hands, yield to his touch. He'll remake you into whatever he wants. But you stiffen your heart and your harden your heart. And there could come a time where you become so useless, the only way to do anything is to break it.
And God is about to break the people of Judah. He tried-- he tried to get through. They wouldn't listen. Year after year after year, till finally God broke their pride and would take them into captivity.
There is a consistency in the Bible. God first wants to be your Savior. If you say no, God is forced to be your Judge.
Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. You are doing it now willingly. But those who refuse to do it willingly will do it forcibly one day in judgment.
There was a young man who was in a new city. He had just moved there and got a job. He was walking across a busy street, unfamiliar with it. He was about to walk across the street when a hand reached out from behind him and grabbed the scruff of his shirt, his collar, and yanked him back on the sidewalk.
Whoa, he had such a tug and he looked back and saw the man attached to the hand and said, what was that all about. He said it instinctively. And the man said, look. Just then a truck rushed by that that young man didn't see. It would have run him right over. He saved him. He yanked him, saved him.
Two weeks later, the same young man was in a courtroom. He had committed a crime in that new town he had moved to. And there before the judge, the judge was reading the sentence that this young man was going to have to suffer.
The young man stopped and said, wait a minute, don't you remember me, you're the man who with his hand saved me two weeks ago on the sidewalk. I'm the kid you saved. Can't you do anything? He said, young man, on that day I was your savior. Today, I must be your judge.
And that's the heart of the Lord. I want to be your Savior. If you refuse, I will be your Judge. That's the consistent message throughout the scripture, and it's found even here.
Now look at the end of this chapter in verse 15, because Jeremiah prophesies to these people. He does it down in the Valley of Kidron. He walks back up to Jerusalem and says the same message again in the temple courts, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, look or behold, I will bring on this city and in all her towns all the doom that I have pronounced against it because they have stiffened their necks, that they might not hear my words.
Now Pashur, the son of Immer the priest, who was also the chief governor of the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah the prophet prophesied these things. Then Pashur struck Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the House of the Lord."
I would say this sermon really jarred the people of Jerusalem, wouldn't you?
Three of you got that. And in chapter 1, you may remember that God prophesied and said Jeremiah, don't be afraid of their faces. Don't be afraid of their faces.
In other words, they're going to look at you with those snide, angry looks. I am going to make you like a fortified wall and an iron pillar, if you trust me. So he was able to take this barrage of insults and imprisonments-- and we've already seen some, and there will be more. And so he was put in the stocks, which were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the House of the Lord.
And it happened on the next day that Pashur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. And Jeremiah's said to him, the Lord has not called your name Pashur, but Magormissabib, fear on every side."
Hey, did you know that God likes to rename people? He did it with Peter, didn't he. You're Simon. I'm going to call you Peter-- a little tiny pebble, a little stone. You are Peter and upon this rock-- not Peter, but the rock of the confession of Christ-- I'll build my church. We find this often where the Lord will change a person's name. Give you a new name, the Bible promises.
Jeremiah, tender but tough. It was Stuart Briscoe, whose writings I have loved over the years, said the qualifications of a pastor-- he said he must have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, the hide of a rhinoceros. Good mix.
I think Jeremiah had all of those. He was tough. At the same time, he could weep.
Now look down to verse 7. Here's Jeremiah's prayer, again. His lament, they're called in these books. After he prophesies to Pashur and says, you have a different name because God is going to judge you, buddy boy, you're toast. I'm summing that up for you a little bit.
"Oh Lord, you induced me, and I was persuaded. You are stronger than I and have prevailed. I am in derision daily, everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out, I shouted violence and plunder because the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily."
Now listen to this, here's Jeremiah the prophet-- "Then I said, I will not make mention of him nor speak any more in his name." You know what that is? A resignation. He just quit, he just turned in his prophetic resignation. He is now a nonprofit organization.
Good, you got that one.
He was so despondent, the only thing he could think of doing is, I quit the ministry, I resign, I don't want to speak in your name anymore. But his word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones. I was wary of holding it back and I could not.
Now you know you're called by God. When you try to quit, but you can't. Because the word of God is so much a part of your fabric, you got to speak it.
Look at Converse 11, "The Lord is with me is a mighty awesome one. Therefore, my persecutors will stumble and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten."
So it is a prayer where lots of different emotions go on. Now on one hand, he says, I quit. Ah, but God's word was in me. And then he starts saying, yeah, but the Lord is with me. He's with me, like he said he would be. He said he would be with me to deliver me. He is with me.
Verse 13, it gets higher. Anthems of praise flow out in this prayer. "Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of the evil-doers."
But now look at the next verse. "Cursed be the day in which I was born." Boy, this guy is like bipolar all in one little second. I mean, manic, depressive, manic, depressive. Hallelujah, I quit. Hallelujah, I want to die. Cursed be the day I was born.
"Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me. Let the man be cursed who brought news to my father, saying, a male child has been born to you, making him very glad. And let that man be like the cities which the Lord overthrew and did not relent.
Let him hear the cry in the morning and the shouting at noon because he did not kill me from the womb, that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb always enlarged with me. Why did I come forth from the womb and see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?"
We're going to close with this chapter tonight. I just want to make application in closing.
Jeremiah is not alone. You remember Job faced such dark trials that he said, cursed be the day I was born. You remember that Elijah the prophet went from Mount Carmel seeing miracles of God performed, down to Mount Sinai where he crawled under a bush and he said, it's enough, Lord, let me die right here, right now.
Great men of God, powerfully used in deep depression. It's what the ancients used to call the dark night of the soul.
Now I recommend a book to you, if you're so inclined, called Spiritual Depression by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Martyn Lloyd-Jones became the assistant pastor to G. Campbell Morgan, whom I quoted Sunday. He's one of my old favorite dead guys that I like to quote from.
Prince of expositors, he became the assistant pastor to G. Campbell Morgan, eventually took over his church in London. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor, a physician, who went into the ministry. So he understood depression from a medical standpoint and looked in the scripture and wrote a beautiful volume called spiritual depression.
You've heard of Four Spiritual Laws, have you not? The little booklet, Four Spiritual Laws. Law number 1, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. You've seen the little tract.
Tonight, I want to close by giving you two spiritual flaws, two spiritual flaws. Flaw number 1, if I'm saved, if I'm a child of God, all my problems will automatically be solved. That's a flaw. It's not a spiritual law, it's a spiritual flaw.
If you think that, go read the Book of Psalms and read the heart cries of a man who wrestled with God in the depths of despair. Read the writings of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a great pastor in London who said, there are depths of depression I have gone to I wish and hope and pray none of you ever go to. And then in his golden-tongued way he said, there are dungeons beneath the castles of despair.
And so Jeremiah, the great man of God, the prophet. Tough? Yes. Tender? Yes. Man of faith? Yes. Did he doubt from time to time? Oh yes. Did he pray angry prayers? Uh-huh.
Did he want to quit? Tried, handed in his resignation. He couldn't. God's word wouldn't let him go, even saying, I wish I would never have been born. Well, that's the first spiritual flaw. If you're saved, all your problems will be solved.
Spiritual flaw number 2, if I feel down and I feel depressed, I must not be spiritual. Because spiritual people don't feel this way, only unspiritual people feel this way. Again, Job, David, Elijah, Jeremiah.
Paul in the New Testament-- read some of his writings of how he almost gave up. And then the Lord spoke to him. Those are spiritual flaws. That's wrong thinking.
And so the chapter concludes, however, I draw your attention back to two verses, verse 9 and verse 11. And this is where I want to close.
What tethered Jeremiah? What got him back from wrong thinking to right thinking? Two things-- the word of God, and the recognition of a basic fact in life, God is always with me-- verse 11.
The word of God and the presence of God. Those two things tethered him, brought him back. He was reminded of that.
Verse 9, he says, "But his word was in my heart, like a burning fire shut up in my bones. I was weary of holding it back and I could not." As long as I am in the Bible, I'm all right.
When I'm not in the Bible, look out. Have you found that to be true in your life? You need to be reminded daily of the promises of God, sometimes. Maybe hourly, sometimes.
The two on the road to Emmaus remarked to Jesus, Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us along the way. That's where my heart burns, when God speaks to me, reminds me of his truths.
It was Dwight L. Moody, once again, who said, I know the Bible is inspired because it inspires me. And Martin Luther said, the Bible is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet and runs after me. It has hands that lays hold of me. The living word of God tethered Jeremiah.
And then verse 11, the Lord is with me. So here's what I am suggesting. When you are barraged with thoughts that are overwhelming to you and you think you can't get any lower than this, learn to, as Jeremiah did, replace your thoughts with his truth. Replace your thoughts with his truth.
This is what I'm feeling. OK, stop and analyze that. Is that the truth?
Well, I feel like God's forsaken me. Well, that's your thought. But the truth is Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you.
I feel like God has abandoned me. I've confessed all my sins. I've even made up, a few just in case.
Well, the Bible says, if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
So you might feel this, but what is the truth, say? You see, replace your thoughts with God's truth and keep coming back to the truth until eventually it becomes a part of what you feel.
See, what you feel in your emotions, you can't rely on. That's why it's wrong when people say, oh, just go with your heart, man. What is your heart say. The heart is deceitful, above all else. Who can know it? So it's bad counsel if somebody says, just do whatever is on your heart.
Baloney-- do whatever is in the word. Do according to the principles of the word, and let it burn within you as you replace your thoughts with his truth.
All of that to end with this-- "I think when you and I get to heaven, it's not going to all be about the metals we have received, the awards, the notoriety, but the scars. Jeremiah had a lot of scars.
He had no metals at this point in his life. In heaven, he did. He has treasures lined up for him in heaven. But we think, oh boy, in heaven, I'm sure guys like Billy Graham, they're going to be real close to the front, front row seats. Look at all they've done for Christ.
I know Dr. Graham, and he would say, I'm probably going to be way in the back. And those unknown prayer warriors and servants and churches, they're going to be right up front, those ones you've never heard of.
And you're going to be saying, where is Billy. He'll go, I'm over here. What scars do you have? I've got a lot of scars.
Amy Carmichael was a missionary in India. And she writes up a little something I close with. It's as if Jesus speaks and would say this, "Hast thou no scar, no hidden scar on foot or side or hand? I hear you sung is mighty in the land. I hear them hail your brightest ascendant star. Hath thou no scar?
Hath thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers spent. Lean me against the tree to die and rent by ravenous beasts that encompass me, I swooned. Hath no wound?
No wound, no scar? Yet as the master shall the servant be, and pierced are the feet that follow me. But yours are whole. Can he have followed far who has no wound, no scar?"
You know what's wrong with this? We live in a culture, we're surrounded by a culture that does not buy into that. Our culture, especially here in these parts, are all about no scars, except plastic surgery, please.
No scars in my life at all. No, no, it's all about doing everything I can to avoid an unpleasant life and have a good life.
But you're following the master. And the master calls you and I to obey. And it wasn't easy for Jeremiah.
May God give to us that fortified wall, that iron pillar mentality of, I'm yours, Lord, I'll do what you want me to do, Lord.
And now as we close tonight, allow me to pray for you, that God would heal some of the wounds that you're carrying around. Let's bow in prayer.
Heavenly Father, we want to pray tonight for healing on a variety of levels. Your Holy Spirit is here present to minister, That gracious, loving, spirit of Christ, sent forth into the world.
Some are feeling very alienated and isolated tonight because of their wounds, their scars. They feel that they're unspiritual because, if they were spiritual, they wouldn't feel this way. Or they feel I must not be saved because saved people should have life going easy for them. And then we think again to men like Jeremiah and Isaiah and Job and Matthew and the Lord Jesus himself.
So Lord, I pray you would lift the burden and replace it with your confidence. Help us, Lord, as we live our lives this week to replace our thoughts with your truths, and to live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave himself for us.
And, Lord, we want to say thank you for the scars that show that we're following the master. But encourage tonight, lift up.
And Father, we do pray for those who are sick. I know several, Lord, in this body who aren't here because of it. We pray you touch and heal them. Some are watching by the internet. We pray that you'd heal, physically, miraculously.
We know, Lord, that we're being joined by many around the world by internet who are seeing this live-streamed, a part of our extended family, spiritually. Minister to them as well in a unique way.
In Jesus' name, amen.