AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH August 29, 2010
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
Sermon Notes Jeremiah 37-38
THE SEEMLINESS OF SURRENDER TO JESUS CHRIST
SURRENDER ? Oh no! but to whom ?
Surrender ? It is not a pleasant topic to the forthright, the militant, the pugnacious or the proud. Yet it is in the very essence of any salvation for man; for man is astray from God, and unless He surrenders his autonomous blight, as if he were in love with fungal infections, infected he will remain, alien in heart, with or without moral or immoral seeming gods of his own construction (Ephesians 2:1-8, 4:17-20). Like the body, the soul, and the spirit of man is constructed in a particular way - in fact in a manner enabling in principle the knowledge of God, an invaluable gift . Thus to short-circuit its provisions, infect its strength is like that calamity for any other high-power object. Spoil its working and you face vast damages. In the case of man, this includes damnation, which is no mere judgment; for it is judgment according to truth, like that of a wilful leper who refuses healing. If you love the sin, there is no further evacuation possible. You are then like Europeans in World War II, had they attacked their delivering forces, in order to remain under the rampaging Hitler!
In the case of Jeremiah, there were several surrenders, real or impending or needed.
Consider first Jeremiah himself. He had been surrendered to the Lord from early years, marked before he was so much as born. Protesting his youthfulness (Jeremiah 1:6-7), he was yet willing to be directed, having been assured the Lord had chosen him before his time began. Promised divine grant of power to overcome all assault, with protection for His purpose, he wept over the prospective fall of a Jerusalem to be demolished (Jeremiah 9): again when it WAS ruined (Book of Lamentations). He had warned them and then seen the results of their refusal, his heart broken before in anticipation and afterwards in lamentation! Such is sin in its tragic waste and ways.
It had brought this desolation, as described so poignantly in Lamentations, upon itself through the obstinacy, pertinacity and blind selfishness on the part of its King, not to mention the moral depravity of many in authority, whose sins shouted from the walls and who insisted on refusing the deliverance promised by the Lord to them, if only ... they would surrender! Indeed, while the false prophets misled, and taught amiss, the priests bore rule and the people loved to have it so (Jeremiah 5:31). Like layers in a cake, so here each layer had a poisonous creme filling before the next.
Before ancient Jerusalem fell, when Jeremiah advocated, in the Lord's name, that the city surrender to Babylon, urging and exhorting that in that case it would be spared, he was treated as a traitor, buffeted and imprisoned, left in an official prison, his life almost extinguished (Jeremiah 38). This resembled the arrest of Christ, and his buffeting by the soldiers, under arrest at the State's pleasure.
The pretext was this: Jeremiah had been falsely accused of betraying the city and going over to the Babylonians, when in fact he was going out on business concerning his land outside the city. Imprisoned by the fearful nobles, who felt that morale was more important than morals, and that his prophetic appeal would only sink the ship, making a hole in its side (whereas THEIR stubbornness DID sink it), the King knew where to look when in desperation at the military crisis, he consulted the prophet. He called Jeremiah in from his prison experiences. What was he to do ?
So now in Jeremiah 37:18, we find that the King sent for Jeremiah from his prison. What! surrender to Babylon (even if their King had broken a covenant made with that King and hence invited this invasion!)... impossible. That was the tenor of things. HENCE when the prophet
Jeremiah had exhorted them to accept the Lord's discipline and to do so, indicating that there would be a 70 year exile, they refused. They in fact BOTH had the destruction of their city AND the 70 year exile, the reward of folly.
Is there any word from, the Lord ? asked the King of Jeremiah. There is: You will be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon! What offence have I committed ? he asked, against you or the people, that you have put me in prison (a specially dangerous place since food was in very short supply, and there was no love toward him! - starvation was all too possible). Where now are your false prophets who told you that the King of Babylon would not invade us!
No, the King would NOT surrender, to the word of the Lord. He might dither, but he would not act. He would shortly have his eyes put out by that King of Babylon whom his prophets had told him, would not even take the city! If you do not USE your sight, you ask to LOSE your sight, and become merely deluded (as in II Thessalonians 2:10).
Jeremiah's request to the King concerning his imprisonment, reminds us of Christ's exhortation to all people on this earth to REPENT, and surrender (Luke 13:1-3, 14:27ff., cf. Jeremiah 13:1`8ff.)..
Now please do not return me to that prison! (Jeremiah 37:20). He had done what might be done! Had he not stood in the gate where the king went in and out, and proclaimed, as in Jeremiah 17, a wonderful offer from the Lord. He was given liberty to tell them that even if they ONLY stopped the burdensomeness of business on the Sabbath, even at that token, the Lord would continue the city in joy and liveliness. But they would not. They would not even accept that.
Indeed, as in Jeremiah 37:10, the word of the Lord was this, that even if the army were all wounded, which was invading them, yet each soldier, despite his condition, would rise up in his tent, remorseless, undeterred, and come and overcome the city anyway! Judgment had become inexorable! Toying with truth, meddling with mercy, fickle-minded dither left no other way!
In fact, King Zedekiah had already asked Jeremiah to pray for the people (Jeremiah 37:3), but there are things where prayer meets a brass heaven (Deuteronomy 28:23), and that is when rebellion sets in with adamantine brow; and this is found when the heart will not believe. Not at rest, it wrests power from God and so becomes exceedingly feeble; for it merely fouls its own power and confronts His! Again and again, they were told to surrender: they would not. Since they refused to swerve from sin and move in mercy back to righteousness, evil smashed into them.
SURRENDER ? Oh yes, to the King Eternal, the Saviouar
"Surely if you will not believe, you will not be established!" had been the word of Isaiah to King Ahaz (Isaiah 7:9). That King would not (believe), and he was not (established)! How simple, refuse the coin of faith and you will fail to gain the results offered, ready to be provided with love, wit and wisdom from the Lord. Alas, in Jeremiah's day the people had already made some gestures, setting free slaves who had been in bondage, contrary to the law; but then they suddenly resiled form this, and made them slaves again. Fitful and variable, they were as the morning mist; and when it lifted, what destruction would await them! What then do we find from this ? It is simple. Not only can faith move mountains, but alas, its absence can help the mountains to grow...
The princes now insisted that Jeremiah be put to death (38:1ff.). The King did not resist, so they took him and put him in a soggy prison, where if starvation did not kill him, the sinking base of the pit would be likely to suffocate him. This reminds us of another parallel to Christ - for Jeremiah is what is called a type of Christ, that is one with some resemblances in some points in his faithful work, though of course without any redemption to offer. Christ was not ALMOST killed slowly, but ACTUALLY killed slowly, not because of the princes, but because of the priests and their seduction of the people. Hatred of righteousness drove even religious people to molest, yes to kill.
Mercy delivered the prophet. Thus, a eunuch, Ebed-Melech, of most blessed memory, pled with the King to deliver Jeremiah, and having prevailed, had him brought, first using rags with ropes under his arms, to drag him out of the pit. The King then spoke to him: "I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me." Again, befuddled and weak, he went once more to the persecuted prophet.
Jeremiah's answer is again rather like an answer of Christ, for he said this:. "If I tell you, will you not surely have me put to death ? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me!"
The parallel is found in Luke 22:67-68. During his cross-examination, Christ was first asked concerning His identity, before His resounding answer which we noted last Sunday. His reply was like that of Jeremiah, being this: "If I tell you, you will certainly not believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go." The points made are in the reverse order to those of Jeremiah, but very similar in substance. In this way, the Lord was showing them that just as Jeremiah had been betrayed by an unbelieving people, woodenly unresponsive, so was He! As the servant, so the Master! Therefore theirs was the greater sin for not believing Him, with that historical fact concerning Jeremiah, now in this way, lodged squarely before their eyes.
It was, then, in this horrendous situation that the King Zedekiah humbled himself enough to call on Jeremiah, drawing him from the prison quarters, to counsel with him.
The message, as we see, was this. Surrender yourself to Babylon and not only will your life be spared, but that of the city! What an offer! It reminds one of King Ahaz years before, who faced with two nations on the rampage against him, was offered ANY needed answer, if he would only BY FAITH make request from the Lord. In effect, that King Ahaz replied: Oh I don't want to trouble Him! In other words, he had no faith, and THAT is what counts, for God hears prayer in accord with HIS WORD, and faith works toward Him who can act as none else can.
For us as for them, it is the joy of surrender which is a delight, for it is not to the King of Babylon, rough pagan, under discipline we are invited to return. No, indeed, for it is to the Lord, to the SAVIOUR of souls and Friend in truth. It is from Him who showed a love and wisdom only God has, who calls, invites, with tenderness, that our invitation comes. Woe to those who refuse THIS! It is not only all that truth desires, but what mercy provides, and what COULD be better for anyone!
Jeremiah had surrendered his own life, TO THE LORD, which is the first and most important surrender, a personal one taking the whole life over, a transfer of man's will to the will of God in His assured salvation (Romans 12:1ff.). Zedekiah had not. NOW in his emerging emergency, with the city down to bits of bread and almost at starvation point, that same King was offered carte blanche, by Jeremiah, in this. Just surrender, and despite all, you and the city will be spared.
The whole turmoiled situation of judgment and invasion and horror, this would cease. Deliverance was there, available: IF he would surrender to the word of the Lord, to yield the city, and not continue to violate the covenant he had made with Babylon, years earlier, then all would be spared. NO! That was the answer, the reply. Whatever was the reason for this reluctance! It was as if Churchill had been offered total victory against Germany, but said it might interfere with his bath.
THE PRICE OF NON-SURRENDER
AND THE SPLENDOUR OF LIBERTY IN THE LORD
It was not his bath, however, that held up Zedekiah. For ONE THING, he was willing to lose his own freedom and the life of the city. What was that one thing ? It was faithless fear. It was apprehension about ridicule, or rough handling by others who had surrendered, if he also did so. Thus in the balance: on the one hand, sure safety is guaranteed by God, and the city's life would be spared. On the other side, his own liberty and safety would be forfeited and the city destroyed. The offers seem extraordinarily easy to determine.
What KING would sacrifice his entire city with its religious and other monuments, its vitality and its life, its babes and its youth, to utter destruction, humiliation and desolation ? Would he do it if the alternative were 5 years of horrid torture ? Maybe, some might. But THIS King would not sacrifice even his mere FEAR, despite the assurance of safety if he should do so, BY GOD.
Wavering and wandering, he preferred the devastating desolation of the city and his own assured loss, rather than suffer FEARED manhandling which his imagination proposed. When God speaks, it is true. When man wheedles, it is imagination: no help there. In other words, not only was his life far more important to him than that of the city with all its institutions and all the pain and horror which many thousands of people would suffer; but his own concern at some humiliation despite contrary assurances. Even THIS was more important, a feeling, an apprehension of a personal kind, than all the rest.
Certainly faith did not operate; but what did ? A seeming self-centredness which not only put his own welfare far above that of the entire city and thousands of its inhabitants, with all its marvels and ways, but placed aloft his imagined welfare, contrary to evidence and assurance BOTH. He would rather salve his fears than save his people.
He would rather listen to his imagination than to God. Apart from this, he would rather hang on to his own life, at any cost, even virtually certain destruction by a much higher power, WHILE he could, even if unknown horrors would await him, already snarling like an incensed tiger. In fact, he had his eyes put out, and had his sons killed before his eyes just before that, as if to make the last sights the worst, for oncoming blindness. This is where fear and hesitancy landed him!
That is a parable. If you refuse to surrender to the Lord, then you not only lose the city of your life, but you can become blind with a spiritual blindness, almost as if your eyes were put out. That is, you become so immured to reality, so resistant to light, the light of truth in the Lord, the light of His mercy and grace, that you no longer even know where to look, while saying, perhaps, I AM CONFUSED! or not admitting it, but engaging in foolish arguments, you slip down the slope to hell.
Zedekiah STAYED IN, to take the parallel to the present mood of accepting virtually ANYTHING and so remaining IN the false churches which are falling into this position like Autumn leaves, so many of them, as this Age advances towards its end. Just as he WOULD not move to surrender to the word of the Lord, and go out of the city, so they will not leave apostate churches. Surrender is a thing that can be avoided only by taking the route to damnation. It is not a matter of this or that, but of the spirit of rebellion which will not allow the word of God to rule. If any be rescued after that, it can only be by a miraculous intervention of mercy. Zedekiah may have hoped for it, but he WOULD NOT take it where it was offered! Stay where forbidden, and invite being smitten.
Afraid of trouble from others already in Babylonian hands, who had previously defected, he took ANYTHING rather than that. Just as fear ruled his heart, so sorrow was his reward, the loss of all. Such is the history, and such is the parallel. If you seek to save your life, you lose all; if you lose it for Christ, you are spared, and having fled to Him for refuge, you have the testimony of Christ for your deliverance, giving you an anchor of the soul (Hebrews 2:1-3, 6:19), keeping you steadfast, even kept secure by Him who having died once, is alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18), and will let none of His perish (John 10:9,27-28, Ephesians 1:11).
But consider the joy of surrender, not to be perfect, but to be perfected; not to rely on yourself, but to rest in the Lord, not to congratulate yourself, but to praise Him! It is life like that of the swallow (II Corinthians 3:17), free to swoop, to move with grace and energy, free in the realm of His Royalty, from whom life came, in whom it is safe, protected beyond all the rages of the devil, the ravages of time, the insanities of the world and the compressions of culture. Praise God.