God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. So, it is fitting that Jeremiah ends with an extensive call to the nations to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. The Book of Jeremiah is no mere sorry tale of the demise of an ancient kingdom. But it is a constant refrain of grace, sung out to men who are utterly undeserving of it. It is a reminder that God’s promises are not for some particular tribe, language, nation or people, but for “every creature under heaven.” And most importantly, for you. You are not beyond God’s grace. You are not excluded from His offer. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” In Jeremiah 46-51, God calls the nations to turn back. In some of the Scripture’s most remarkable poetry, the Lord calls those who are far from him to return home. Join us as we see that God calls us to return as well.
11/15/2020 | “Counting the Cost” | Jeremiah 45
How much did your Bible cost? You can pay as little or as much as you want for a Bible these days. But its cost is very different from its price. Your Bible cost of the lives of many in history who wrote, translated, distributed, and taught it. But its cost does not stop there. Every time you open it grows more costly. Because it asks, “how far will you follow Christ?” The struggle is real. In Jeremiah 45 we see the prophet’s scribe, Baruch, struggle with the personal cost of God’s Word. But he did not struggle alone. God spoke to Baruch through the voice of the prophet. And in the same way, God speaks to us through the experience of Baruch when we face a crisis of belief and struggle to count the cost of following Christ. Join us this Lord’s as we examine Jeremiah 45 and consider the calling, the care, and the comfort of God’s Word when we face a crisis of belief.
Can You Hear Me Now?
My first mobile phone came in bag. The size of a lady’s purse, except with an antenna, it made me extremely self-conscious. Like a cross between a European tourist and a secret service agent, I felt sure everyone was staring. This phone was for emergencies only. No casual calling. No mobile internet. And coverage was as spotty as spotty could be. Only outbound calls made sense. After all, no one could reliably reach me. What about texts or voicemail, you ask? They were still in the future. My beeper is what alerted me to find for that rare place on earth with a signal.
In those heady days, the expectation of finding coverage was low. But today, we are indignant if we can’t get 5G at every remote Ozark swimming hole. We expect coverage and internet everywhere. And we expect it for free. Few and far between are those places which have ‘no service.’ And, between manned space launches, Elon Musk is working to drive those areas to near zero with Starlink. Perhaps one day concepts like ‘no service’ will be as foreign to our grandchildren as mobile phones that came in a bag.
But this is a distinctly human problem. God has no such limitations in his communication with his creation. God has always had a reliable network with coverage so vast there is no place where he must ask, “can you hear me now?” Problems hearing from God are never a network problem. God’s speaking is “living and active.” Always on. He is always speaking. He “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting… he does not keep silence.” (Psalm 50:1, 3) And there is no place where you are out of coverage from his call. As Psalm 19 so memorably puts it.
The heavens declare the glory of God,Psalm 19:1-4
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
God speaks – and not just to a few select creatures. His Word, his promises, his mercy are not just for a particular culture, tribe, or spot on the earth. He is no regional or racial deity. He is the Lord over all the earth. People from every “tribe and language and people and nation” are the objects of his steadfast love and care. This is one of the remarkable things about Christianity. Other religions import cultural distinctives such as forms of dress, dietary restrictions, and particular sacred languages which become prerequisites for piety. But Christianity permeates and transforms every tribe, language, people and nation through a unity that produces remarkable diversity.
The repeated error of the people of Israel was to believe that God was theirs alone — their private higher power. A God who loved only them and those like them. A God who blessed them and cursed their enemies. A God who served their interest. And ironically, this ‘pagan view’ of the true God caused them to abandon Him for all the false gods of the nations. God set his love upon them to display the beauty of the Covenant of Grace to the whole world. Their faith was intended to call nations, far and near, to abandon false gods. But in their unfaithfulness, they abandoned the true and living God. They were called to be a missionary people. But if they would not willingly testify to God’s grace through faithfulness, they would unwittingly testify to it through unfaithfulness and judgement.
The Apostle Paul makes this point in his letter to the Romans.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!Romans 11:11-12
Jeremiah, the longest book of in the Old Testament, is filled with dire warnings of judgment. For four decades, the prophet called the people of Judah to turn back to God. He outlined their unfaithfulness in every area of life. He warned of the consequences of living with their backs to God. And he stayed with them in every descending step into God’s judgment of them as a nation.
But from the beginning, God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. And through his preaching, God’s Word to Judah becomes a word to the nations and to us. It shines through, time and time again. In every oracle of judgment, there is an offer of grace. So, it is fitting that Jeremiah ends with an extensive call to the nations to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. This book is no mere sordid history of an ancient kingdom’s demise. But it is a constant refrain of grace, sung out to men who are utterly undeserving. It is a reminder that God’s promises are not for some particular tribe, language, nation or people, but for “every creature under heaven.” And most importantly, for you.
You are not beyond God’s grace. You are not excluded from His offer. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” Jeremiah is filled with the threatened judgment, but more than that, with promised mercy. Are you headed toward judgment? God’s call is to turn back and find mercy. In Jeremiah 46-51, God calls the nations to turn back. In some of the Scripture’s most remarkable poetry, the Lord calls those who are far from him to return home.
Join us as we see that God calls us to return as well. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.
Counting the Cost
What did your Bible cost? A Bible’s price-tag varies widely depending on the ‘features’ you chose. A paperback Bible costs as little as $0.75, while many kindle editions are free. But if you want leather, wide margins, copious study notes, and niche devotional add-ons, you will pay more. Of course, if your only concern is the text, the American Bible Society or the Gideons International will give you a free Bible. In 2019, the Gideons placed 81 million free Bibles in hotels, hospitals, prisons, and schools. They have placed over 2 billion free bibles since the 1950s.
The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. Annual sales of all versions of the Bible routinely top $425 million. In fact, the Bible is excluded from lists of “best-sellers” because it would always be at the top. The average American owns nine Bibles and plans to purchase another. But the cost of your Bible should be measured by more than its price-tag. Perhaps a more meaningful way to think about its cost is to consider the personal cost of those who make it available to us.
The prophets and apostles, through whom the inspired word was given, were ruthlessly persecuted and many martyred. The great hall of faith in Hebrews 11 gives a shocking account of the lives of faithful prophets.
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.Hebrews 11:35-38
Early church history chronicled the martyrdom of the apostles. And likewise, many who labored to preserve God’s Word through transmission, translation, and distribution suffered great personal cost. Reformers such as John Wycliff and William Tyndale, paid dearly for the ‘high crime’ of translating the Bible into English. When warned by one of his persecutors, Tyndale famously said. “If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause a plough boy to know the scriptures better than you.” Tyndale was hunted down and burned at the stake.
But persecution is not a thing of the past. The Bible costs many their lives every year. North Korea routinely imprisons and executes those who distribute, or even own, a Bible. And despite the fact that China works tirelessly to suppress both online and print Bible distribution, half of the world’s Bibles are printed there. Your Bible was probably made in China by someone who would face imprisonment for owning what they made for you. What did your Bible cost? Much more than you realize.
God’s Word cost Jeremiah everything. Four decades of preaching fell on deaf ears. No one listened. No one responded. He was not allowed to marry. Forbidden to be a part of the life of the community. He was hunted by the authorities and hated by his own friends and family. He had no one to support him in his own grief over the judgment coming upon his people. He was beaten and imprisoned, called a traitor. His only refuge was the Lord, but even the Lord often seemed distant. The cost of just one of the Bible’s sixty-six books is incalculable. But Jeremiah is not the only one who paid the price.
His scribe, Baruch, paid dearly as well. Well-educated and well-connected, Baruch’s career prospects had been excellent. His grandfather, Mahseiah, had been the governor and his brother, Seraiah, was a high-ranking official in Zedekiah’s administration. He was no nameless assistant. The King knew his name. But the King also had his number. Baruch’s call to assist Jeremiah in bringing God’s Word to the people cost him.
He shared all the sorrows of the prophet. He wrote Jeremiah’s words. And when Zedekiah destroyed his painstaking work, wrote them again. When Jeremiah was banned from the Temple, Baruch delivered the prophet’s banned message to the people. When Jeremiah went into hiding, Baruch went into hiding. When Jeremiah was cast into prison, Baruch was cast into prison. When Jeremiah was abducted and carried to Egypt, Baruch was abducted. And when Jeremiah warns the remnant not to go to Egypt, Baruch is accused of treachery.
As the cost of God’s Word grew in his life, Baruch struggled. And in Jeremiah 45 we see inner conflict boil over into complaint and accusation. The cost of following Christ is high. And often disappointing at times. In the introduction to his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously observed that “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Baruch was struggling with God’s call “to come and die.” What about you?
So the question is not, ‘what did your Bible cost,’ but ‘what does your Bible cost?’ As with Baruch, your Bible grows more costly every time you open it. It asks, “how far will you follow?” In Luke 9 Jesus challenges three would-be disciples with this question. How far will you follow me? Through what adversity? Through what difficulty? Jesus concluded these encounters with a startling statement. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
We are warned to count the cost and to follow. The struggle is real. It was real for Baruch. It is real for you. But we do not struggle alone. God spoke to Baruch through the voice of the prophet. And in the same way, God speaks to us through Baruch’s experience as we face crises of belief and struggle counting the cost of following Christ.
Join us this Lord’s as we examine Jeremiah 45 and consider the calling, the care, and the comfort of God’s Word when we experience a crisis of belief. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.
11/08/2020 | “Are You Yet So Dull” | Jeremiah 42-44
Jesus’ disciples had the best teacher any man ever had. He showed them things no man had ever witnessed and taught them what these things meant. He taught with clarity and with authority. Yet, they were very slow learners. Even Jesus, in his tremendous patience, often remarked, “Are you yet so dull?”
How slow are we to learn from what God shows us in his word and our experience with him? Are we yet so dull? Jerusalem had fallen. After the fall of Jerusalem, a remnant comes to Jeremiah seeking a word from the Lord. They profess an unqualified commitment to obey all the Lord requires. But then refuse to follow through. Despite their dramatic experience with God’s judgment, they persisted in unbelief. They were yet very dull. How sensitive are you to God’s Word and His Spirit? Join us as we examine Jeremiah 42-44 and the dangers of spiritual dullness.