God’s Everlasting Love by John C
We are going to trace the way God’s carries his people through hard times. On the 15th anniversary of 9/11 we need a view of history helps us to make sense of God’s good plan in the light of huge unwelcome changes in the world. Jeremiah’s whole life and ministry focused around an unimaginable event. Jerusalem was captured and its leaders exiled. Why? What was God doing? What would happen next? Was there any hope? Jeremiah was a prophet and understood the times. His insight and counsel were rejected, but proved true. He saw that God’s people were unfaithful and idolatrous, and they were destined for exile. But God showed him a bright future beyond, restoration would follow, although he would not live to see it.
God’s everlasting love outshines times of judgment
Times of judgment and trial come (Jer 1:10f)
Jeremiah stood in the counsel of God. That was his calling. (Jer 1:4f) Jeremiah was called to see things others could not or would not. (1:13f) The world he lived in was coming to an end, and he was the herald of this message. No wonder he was known as the weeping prophet. Every day he called for repentance. In Josiah’s time the scroll of the law was found and read and the King decreed a reform. But it was shallow and short lived. Once Josiah had died the people reverted to their old ways. (3:6-10) They sacrificed to idols. Whole families were involved. (7:18) Their actions breached the covenant and brought down the threat of judgment. (Dt 28:36)
Jeremiah saw what was happening and felt the pain. (Jer 2:10-13, 9:1ff) Babylon would exile the people. But this was not just bad news. It was not just a political move by the superpower of the day. It was the plan and purpose of God. There is no way around it. Jeremiah had a pretty stark message. Exile is upon us and it’s not going to be a short term experience, over in a weekend.
Brexit: will it be a blessing or a curse? Whatever it will be we will live through it. The Bible does not give faithful Christians opt out clauses. (Acts 14:22, John 16:33) If there is a day of great trouble coming upon earth believers will endure. Some have taken in a fantasy that God will rapture the church from the earth before the end comes. Not in my Bible. (Rev 3:10, Mt 24: 40, cf Mt 25:31f, John 5:28f, 1 Thess 4:15-17).
The whole point of this is that we who cling to the Lord, as our Saviour have the only sure hope and true foundation for our lives.
There was a lumberjack who went into a grove of trees and knew he was going to cut them all down. He saw a mother bird building a nest in one of the trees and he realized she and all the eggs, or the babies if they were hatched, would die. So he went over and started banging on the tree to try to shake her up.
The poor mother bird got so shaken and looked down to see this lumberjack. “What is the matter? Why is he hurting me?” So she flies to another tree and starts to build her nest. The lumberjack goes over and starts banging on that tree. She’s wondering, “Why is he trying to torment me?” He goes to another tree and bangs on that tree until finally he saw her build her nest in the rock. She flew up to a rock, and then he knew she was safe. Jeremiah says, “Every tree in this world is coming down. Every institution, every family, every loved one, your career, everything. You have to rest and you have to build your life on the rock. That’s God.”
Times of judgment and exile are not permanent
Jeremiah predicted an exile that would last 70 years. The whole people of God faithful and unfaithful would go through it. Some would never return. Only small children would see Jerusalem again. This was a powerful experience. It reshaped history. The people of God had been slaves in Egypt and liberated. Now they would be enslaved in Babylon and liberated. Jeremiah himself would go to Egypt and die there. Sounds terrible, no?
But that would not be the end of the story. God is eternal and his plans span the ages. You cannot get the whole picture from the latest trend, no matter how clear it may seem to you. Where is Britain headed? Disaster or glory? We don’t really know. But the church, if you believe the gospel, is headed for glory. That is very clear. The church is not going to peter out.
Tough times never last, but tough promises do.
There are those who think that they can read history by following trends. It’s not that simple to be a futurologist. There are too many factors beyond our ability to predict. God does not have this problem.
The exile would not last for ever. The people would come back. The exile would not be a short lived experience. It would be 70 years. The restoration would follow the exile for sure. But I would suggest in the days we are living that exile and restoration are not subsequent but simultaneous. The church is experiencing decay and renewal at the same time. Some churches are taking on liberal doctrine and ethics as if 2016 was the high point of revelation and that we can overthrow historic biblical truth and values, as “now we know”. It is simple historical pride. Looking down on previous generations of Bible believers as if they were fools. The truth is that people who trust God stand on the only foundation that will endure. It can be a little confusing to say the least. But,“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.” (Elisabeth Elliot)
Restoration exists because of God’s everlasting love (Jer 1:10, 31:3)
Why not just preach the promises? Why get bogged down in ancient history? God works and is working in history. It’s not that ancient to God. It is important for us to be rooted in biblical history and thinking or what will we be led by?
God took his people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised Land.
God took his people from exile to restoration. (Psa 126:1ff)
God takes his church through history with all its ups and downs because he has an everlasting love for us. It never stops. It is not greater when things are easier, or less when times are rough. For us judgment and mercy are not successive but simultaneous. We experience God’s justice all around us, but we also know God’s mercy. Paul says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” (Rom 13:11) And, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)
At the Cross Jesus was cut off from God. He became the ultimate exile. But his life was restored at the resurrection. He took God’s judgment so we would not. Even if we experience terrible tragedy, it is not God’s judgment. While we are in the world we are not exempt from the consequences of other people’s sin. But God’s everlasting love remains.
So he tells the church. Remember the exodus. I was with the slaves in Egypt and in the wilderness and in the promised land. Remember the exile. I was with the remnant in Babylon and brought them back to Jerusalem. Now I am with the church in the thick of it all. And we are called to build and plant. This is the message Steve has been bringing to us. The church is the vehicle for good news to reach everyone. We have a calling to share and reach out. Jeremiah had it in his day. We have it in ours. Our focus is on the unchanging reality of God. Hidden to many but revealed to us.
I want to encourage us to be a discerning people, who understand the times in which we live. Rooted in a biblical and prophetic hope of a restored church, filled with people who know the everlasting love of God.