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Metro City Church

07.22.2018 - Week 1 - A Hard Life

OLD SCHOOL Pt. 77  Jeremiah Week One: A HARD LIFE

MetroCITYChurch J. Schossau 07.21.18

 

There is a difference between a hard time and a hard life.  There is a difference between a difficult season and a difficult life.  You may not be there now but it just seems to me that nearly every one of us will have this jarring event…this change of circumstance…health, financial, relational…I don’t know but this change of circumstance that is uninvited, long and deeply challenging.

 

This is what Jeremiah the Great Prophet of God is going to experience. This is his life and its a privilege to step into his life and learn everything we can from him about how God meets him in this space AND HOW GOD MIGHT US WHEN THE DAY COMES THAT WE ENTER THIS KIND OF SPACE.

 

So let’s begin with asking God to speak to us and then we’ll get into the opening chapter of Jeremiah.

 

PRAY.

 

I’m super excited about where we are going to go in this series.  OLD SCHOOL is our series where we are trying to learn the on going story of God. We started about 12 years ago in the very beginning, in the Bible Book of Genesis. And we just started going through it. We simply want to know who God is and what he’s been up to and how we fit into his story. 

 

Truth is, if you’ve ever tried to read the Bible, there are parts of it that are just about impossible to understand.  Sometimes you get lost in time and places and all the names and the battles and then there are the miracles and the crazy stories.  And so in this series we just try to unpack some of that.

And I can tell you that I’m not the best Bible teacher in the world but I love this stuff. And I study hard so you have to listen hard…you with me.  And at times we’ll get into maps and time lines and we’ll figure out how Jeremiah fits not only into Biblical history but into world history. At times its going to get deep and scholarly…and some of you are going to think…OH THIS IS GONNA BE BORING.  I promise you…it will be anything but boring. 

There is a great story that comes from the life of Jeremiah and I don’t want us to miss it.  It begins in the first verse of the first chapter.  And it tells us who this guy is, where he came from and when he lived. We’ll get into that more a little later in this series.

 

But immediately it jumps into some crazy stuff.  I don’t know if you have been around the Christian Church for long but one of the expressions you’ll hear is this idea of being called.  But you hear this a lot…I think God is calling me to…whatever… or I first felt called into ministry or to preach or to something… And that can be weird. I admit it…when people outside the church hear that they think it’s a little strange…Heck, when I hear it I think it’s a little bit strange.  But it’s true…there is this idea in the scriptures about God calling you to something. 

 

And this is where we really get to know what this whole book is about.  Jeremiah hears from God. I know that sounds so weird, but hears this unmistakable voice from God telling him that he’s called to be the voice of God on Earth. I understand this a little bit.  I believe that when I was just a kid…about 18 years old or so, I felt the unmistakable call of God to be a Pastor.  A pastor is a voice for God.  But Jeremiah was called to be a prophet and a prophet is THE VOICE OF GOD.  Prophets in the old testament carried this weight, people believed that they spoke from and for God.

 

They would be tested. People would listen to what they say and watch what they did.  And God would often give them words about the future or he’d give them some sort miraculous power…but people somehow knew who was a prophet and who was not. Jeremiah was a prophet. He spoke not just about God…but he spoke for God and the people knew it.  One day, Jeremiah, when he was just a young man, about 17, 18 or 19 years old…heard this voice. It was a strong voice. And he’s writing his memoir at this point and he remembers

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,     before you were born I set you apart;     I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:4-5

 

And this begins the call and ministry of Jeremiah. He hears God saying…before you were even BORN…I KNEW YOU. That word knew means intimate knowledge.  To know deeply. The Hebrew word does not just mean…I know about you. I know of you…like you know about BRAD PITT or some famous person. But it means that GOD REALLY KNEW HIM…created him…called him.

 

When Jeremiah comes to understand that God had great plans for him it changes everything for him.  He thought about life different from that point forward.

I want to tell you something… when I was reading this and really thinking about this…I started thinking about all of those in our lives who are expecting. I started to think about all the little babies in Creation Drive back at MetroKIDS.  But think about all the people that you’ve known in your life who were expecting a child…  Some of them are so excited. Some of them full of hope…others were scared.

 

I remember when Lynette told me that we were having a baby…Oh my…I was FREAKED OUT.  Beyond excited.  And literally scared to death.  It was something that we wanted but I didn’t know what to do as a dad. If you are expecting a child or one day hope to have a child or know somebody who is expecting a child can I just say something to you.  I want you to hear me. THE CHILD YOU ARE CARRYING IS PRECIOUS TO GOD.  Just those words…. Before you were born I knew you, before you came into being I set you a part. God has a mission for Jeremiah.  You can hear God’s words of purpose and affection being spoken over Jeremiah. I just want you to know if you are expecting a child or ever plan to…I want you to know that she is precious to God…that he is loved by God. That your baby is formed in the image of God and created with a great sense of purpose. We have a lady who serves part time on our staff.  Her name is Angela Griggs. And for as long as I have known her, for over a decade now, she has served, almost single handedly at one of the local Crisis Pregnancy Centers.  She keeps this little place open in Melvandale to reach out to ladies who feel like their baby that they are carrying is a crisis. 

 

She’s amazing…she just lovingly and graciously, without judgement, girl after girl, tells them that their child that they are carrying is precious to God. She tells them that they are not alone. That she will help. Her little organization will help. 

We, as a church, try to kick in once and a while to help. Just to tell them that they are not alone. That people care and people will help because the child they carry is precious to God.

 

I just want to speak to you for a moment…if you find yourself pregnant and in a situation where you feel overwhelmed and out of options and you think terminating that baby is your only out…you are not alone. There are crisis pregnancy centers across our area.  Turn to them.  TURN TO YOU CHURCH. We’ll help.  I guarantee you that people all across our faith community, without once ounce of judgment, will help you chose life. I think you’d be absolutely amazed how many of our people would be absolutely delighted to walk with you and guide you through a challenging and scary time. Alright, that was a little side trip for Jeremiah, but when I read these words…BEFORE YOU WERE EVEN BORN… I am reminded that no life should be wasted. And you should not waste your life. GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO SOMETHING. JEREMIAH’S CALLING… Jeremiah hears this voice from God. He’s called from God.  I’m calling you to be a voice to the nations…to be set apart.  THIS IS NOT GOOD NEWS TO A YOUNG MAN.  I don’t want to be set apart. I want to blend in. I want to be part of the in crowd. I want to be like everybody else.

 

NO JEREMIAH…THERE IS EVERYBODY ELSE AND THEN THERE IS JUST YOU. Because I have appointed you to speak for me to them.  And we are going to learn that his worse nightmare came true…NOBODY LISTENED TO HIM.  This prophet thing does not go well. 

 

He doesn’t ever start a big church. Never sells a bunch of books. Never filled an auditorium.  As far as I can tell, there wasn’t one single person that ever converted or obeyed God because of his preaching.  As a matter of fact…this whole thing becomes so depressing that he became know by scholars through the generation as the WEEPING PROPHET or the DEPRESSED PROPHET.  People get angry with him. They arrest him. They beat him. They jail him.  They mock him and he gets depressed…and he tells God…I’d rather not have this job.

And immediately Jeremiah reminds his readers that he didn’t want the job in the first place.  JEREMIAH’S EXCUSES - Verse five is his calling but verse six starts the list of excuses.  He says…you’ve got the wrong guy God.

 

6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

 

He gives two objections why he can’t get involved in God’s work…which isn’t too bad…most of you give God at least 5 or 6 good ones…he starts off with two? What are they? I CAN’T TALK and I’M TOO YOUNG (not ready)

He says, I’m not a communicator like the preacher man…and I’m too what? YOUNG.  I’m just not ready for this.  He’s probably about 17, 18 or 19 because he chose a specific Hebrew word for young that meant…almost an adult but not quite yet.  He’s not self established. He’s still living with mom and dad.  I know in America that can be about 32.

Did you hear about the case, true story, in New York, a set of parents had to sue their 30 year old son and get a court order to have him removed from their home.  He said he just wasn’t ready. He wanted to sit around and play video games.  The parents were absolutely tired of their dead beat son’s laziness.  Don’t be that kid. But Jeremiah is still just a kid and he says..GOD, I’M NOT READY! You got the wrong guy here.  Can I just point out something here…Jeremiah is speaking back to God…NOT TALKING BACK TO GOD. There is a difference. The tone, the attitude is one of saying…God, I’d like to, but I’m just not qualified for this. I’m not ready. It’s ok to speak with God.  If you feel like you don’t understand him. Talk to him.

Jeremiah says…I’m not good enough and I’m not ready.  How many of you remember a day when you just got thrown into a new challenge in life?  And you  enter into something where you were saying…I can’t handle this. I’m not ready.  I’m not ready to be a widow.  I’m not ready cancer treatments.  You get a notice from the human resource department and they are encouraging early retirement for you and you say, I AM NOT READY TO JOB SEARCH AT AGE 59. I’m not ready to be a single dad or a single mom. I’ve sat with person after person in my office who have been thrown into their next steps and all they are saying is….I’M NOT READY FOR THIS. THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME. THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. God has screwed up.

This is where Jeremiah’s story begins. He’s thrown into something that was UNINVITED, LONG AND DEEPLY CHALLENGING.  And he doesn’t want any part of it. We have Jeremiah’s CALLING. We have Jeremiah’s EXCUSES…now we have Jeremiah’s STRENGTH.

7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’  Yeah, that whole thing about not good enough and too young…don’t say that.  Knock it off. If I call you I will qualify you. If I lead you, I will lift you. If I move you i will meet you.  Anybody hearing this? Stop the excuse making… Here’s what you are gonna do.

You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Does anybody feel that’s a little vague? A little open ended?  What is this whole prohet thing about? Don’t worry about it. Just go wherever I tell you and do what ever I tell you to do and say whatever i tell you to say and it’ll be fine.

I personally like a little more info to go off but God says to Jeremiah…I just need you to be faithful. You won’t always know how it’s going to turn out or where this is going…but just trust me.  Walk with me. Be faithful. And Jeremiah is afraid which makes sense. His friends will turn on him. His family will abandon him. He will be beat by people who don’t want to hear. He will be arrested and jailed. Later in his ministry he is suspended from ropes in a public square and dipped in some sort of slim.  People try to kill him.  Bad things are going to happen because bad things happened to all the prophets of God. It just comes with the territory BUT GOD SAYS SOMETHING TO HIM and I think he says this to us… verse 8…

8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

That’s so big. But he says…Jeremiah…I want you to know that you will not die before it is time. There will not only be hard times…but it may be a HARD LIFE…but don’t worry…I AM WITH YOU.

JEREMIAH’S STRENGTH IS HIS OBEDIENCE.  He trust God. Remember that.  His strength, what hold him close to God is going everywhere God commands and doing everything he ask.  HIs strength is his confidence.  So Jeremiah has a calling… Jeremiah has EXCUSES Jeremiah has a STRENGTH And now, JEREMIAH’S MESSAGE

Look at this…

9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” In other words…this is going to be huge Jeremiah. This is going to be overwhelming and bigger then you.  But don’t be afraid.  I am with you. Then God asked him…what do you see…

11 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

12 The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” HE SEES AN ALMOND TREE!  I love almonds. I put almonds on my sugar free ice cream! But I had no idea what that was about. Apparently an almond tree is the first tree to bloom in Israel each year. It’s a precursor to spring. It’s a sign that something is coming. And in Ancient Israel when the Almond Trees started to bloom that was their sign that spring was near and they should get ready to plant crops.

I think what is happening here is that God is saying, Jeremiah, your voice is a sign that something is coming. Judgment is coming because look at this…God asked again…

13 The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”

“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”

14 The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord.

“Their kings will come and set up their thrones     in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls     and against all the towns of Judah.

16 

I will pronounce my judgments on my people     because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods     and in worshiping what their hands have made.

 

We’re going to learn that Jeremiah stands on the edge of a huge move of human history. He sees something…he gets a prophetic vision from God…that there is a new empire rising in the north…and we’re going to learn that they are the Babylonians…anybody ever hear of the Babylonian empire.  They are coming and they are going to take over. 

This isn’t just part of history but Jeremiah is given advanced notice by God because it is a judgment that is coming because the people refuse to honor and follow God. They have become wicked and they simply don’t care about what is moral and right.

 

And this is why Jeremiah’s calling is so hard.  He’s about to enter something that is completely uninvited, long and deeply challenging. Can you imagine just how crazy it’s going to be to have to tell your fellow citizens…we’re all going down. NO ONE IS ESCAPING.

 

17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. AND HERE IT IS…19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

I don’t know what you face…but you will face something that puts a measure of uncertainty and fear in you.  And all through scripture these two things are linked…FEAR and THE POWER AND PRESENCE OF GOD. Over and over in the Scripture people are paralyzed by fear and that is followed by…BUT DO NOT BE AFRAID FOR I AM WITH YOU. 

It’s knowledge of the presence of God in our lives walking with us that can rescue us from being scared to death. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT…fear is a thief.  Fear about tomorrow, next week, next month or next year will steal your joy today.  Fear of tomorrow will steal you peace today. Fear can keep you from God’s best. It can keep you from your most strategic relationships.  It can keep you from your calling.

And right out of the gate Jeremiah is saying…i can’t do this. I’m not ready for this. I am afraid…and God says…DON’T BE AFRAID BE WILLING.  DON’T BE AFRAID FOR I AM WITH YOU.  We’re going to step into Jeremiah’s life and learn from him… I hope that you’ll come with me.

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