Where the Battle Will Be Won (Jeremiah 29:1-14)

  • when things go wrong, it is only natural to ask the question, “Why?”
  • and when you ask this question, you will no doubt receive no shortage of answers
  • the simple answer is sometimes, we don’t know the reason why something bad takes place
  • sometimes, according to John 9 for instance, somebody can be sick with no other cause or purpose than to provide a showcase for God to work in a life
  • we can find no discernable link between cause and effect
  • sometimes, however, there is an answer to the question, “Why?”
  • I believe that when it comes to the promises of God, it is appropriate to ask why we are not experiencing the promises and their benefits
  • if God has promised it, and we’re not experiencing it, there are only three possibilities
  • God lied, we misunderstood the promise, or there is some condition to it that hasn’t been met
  • let me state categorically that God is not a liar
  • God is truthful and faithful to every promise that he has ever given
  • God’s faithfulness means that God will always do what he has said and fulfill what he has promised
  • (Numbers 23:19) God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
  • in 2 Samuel 7:28, David said:
  • (2 Samuel 7:28) O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
  • let me emphasize: God can be relied upon
  • he will never prove unfaithful to those who trust what he said
  • God always does as he promises
  • that leaves two other options
  • the second option is that we might have misunderstood the promise
  • for instance, countless parents have claimed what they believe to be a promise found in Proverbs
  • (Proverbs 22:6) Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
  • they have trained their child in the way that he should go, only to see their child depart from that way, and they have wondered why
  • the answer, I believe, is that they have misunderstood this verse
  • it is not a promise so much as it is a proverb
  • a proverb is not a categorical, always-applicable, iron-clad promise, but a short and pithy statement of suggestive truth
  • they are not legal guarantees from God, but poetic advice for daily living
  • we can sometimes misunderstand a promise from God, and that’s why we’re not experiencing the benefit of what we think is a promise
  • but there’s a third option
  • it is possible that God is ready and willing to fulfill his promises to us, but he has attached a condition to it that we have not yet met
  • I believe, tragically, that God is ready and eager to fulfill many of his promises to his children, but they have not yet met the conditions necessary for God to act
  • the problem, then, is not with God, but with us
  • the time was around 597 BC
  • the Babylonians were the enemy
  • the Babylonians were an invading nation known for overwhelming military force, psychological terror, mass deportations, and heavy tribute
  • and for the Southern Kingdom, the news was not good
  • in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he laid siege to Jerusalem
  • and on March 16th of that year, 597 BC, Jerusalem fell
  • all the treasures from the temple, and all the gold articles, were plundered
  • and Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile 3,023 Jewish males, probably ten thousand people in total
  • 2 Kings 24:14 tells us that “only the poorest people of the land were left”
  • back in Jerusalem, Jeremiah heard that some false prophets were predicting an early fall for Babylon and a quick return from exile
  • and Jeremiah said clearly:
  • (Jeremiah 29:8) Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
  • (Jeremiah 29:9) They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.
  • in fact, Jeremiah said, you’re going to be there for seventy years
  • the question was, “Why?”
  • is God a liar?
  • the answer, once again, is a categorical no
  • God is truthful and faithful to every promise that he has ever given
  • was there some misunderstanding about God’s promise?
  • absolutely not
  • (Deuteronomy 7:13) He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land–your grain, new wine and oil–the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you.
  • (Deuteronomy 7:14) You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young.
  • so God is not a liar, and there is no misunderstanding about what God has promised
  • that leaves only one option
  • could it be that the problem is not God, but us?
  • the temple was plundered
  • ten thousand people were carried off into exile
  • could it be because of the disobedience of God’s people?
  • (Deuteronomy 4:25) After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time–if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and provoking him to anger,
  • (Deuteronomy 4:26) I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed.
  • (Deuteronomy 4:27) The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you.
  • (Deuteronomy 4:28) There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.
  • the problem is sin
  • sin among God’s own people
  • Jeremiah was prophesying in Judah’s darkest days
  • although he began as a prophet in the reign of Josiah, the last of Judah’s good kings, he saw Judah slide through a succession of four kings into apostasy and idolatry
  • they perverted the worship of the true God and gave themselves over to spiritual and moral decay
  • and what is worse, they refused to listen to God’s prophet
  • and Jeremiah prophesied that radical surgery was needed
  • Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would be the instrument of God’s judgment
  • Jeremiah preached this message of warning and condemnation for forty years, and was rewarded only with opposition, beatings, and imprisonment
  • the problem was sin, but the warnings went unheeded
  • I’d like to develop some principles this morning
  • principles that apply to us at Richview as we enter 1999
  • the reason that Judah was experiencing captivity at the hands of an enemy nation was not their military might; it was not because of the political situation; it was primarily because of their sin
  • the reason that churches are struggling today is not primarily because of demographic shifts or because of a failure to properly implement strategies and business plans
  • I believe the primary reason why churches struggle today is because of God’s judgment on sin
  • the church’s sin is as serious as Judah’s sin was in the times of Jeremiah
  • most of our churches are in a state of plateau or decline
  • it takes the average evangelical church one year and a hundred members to introduce one new person to Christ
  • many churches are wasting lives, driving pastor s out of the ministry, and turning away those who are seeking God
  • since 1940, the evangelical church has not grown in proportion to population growth
  • evangelical churches have grown in terms of absolute numbers, but as a percentage of the total population, they have declined
  • many churches are in deep trouble today, and do not know it, or know it but are ignoring it
  • we are like the church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation
  • (Revelation 3:15) I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
  • (Revelation 3:16) So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
  • (Revelation 3:17) You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
  • (Revelation 3:18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
  • (Revelation 3:19) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
  • I believe that we are under the discipline of the Lord because of our refusal to repent – because of our tepid passion
  • because we do not care enough about our ways to fulfill our mission
  • God is withholding blessings and bringing judgment on our church because of sin
  • if the problem is a political problem, then the answer is a political solution
  • if the problem is a strategic one, then the answer is strategic
  • but the problem is a spiritual one, and the solution is going to be a spiritual solution
  • in Jeremiah 29:8-9, the false prophets attempted to deceive the exiles into thinking that the problem was only minor and temporary
  • and a number of false prophets are present today telling the church that the problem is not severe, or that the problem is only a strategic one
  • seminars offer panaceas of techniques and methods that are guaranteed to make a church grow
  • but, as Bill Hull writes in his book Can We Save the Evangelical Church?
  • Before anything else, church renewal is a matter of the heart. It is gut-wrenching prayer, Spirit-generated confession, determined repentance, and conflict resolution. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is those internal spiritual issues that must not be skipped. If they are, then moving on to secondary renewal issues, such as mission statements, restructuring, or evangelism strategy, will be pointless. We must not be too interested in superficial changes that only relieve symptoms and bring temporary relief – a plop, plop, fizz, fizz theology.
  • the way out of the mess is not through secondary means such as mission statements, restructuring, or strategies
  • I believe we first need to deal with the primary issues: gut-wrenching prayer, Spirit-generated confession, determined repentance, and conflict resolution
  • read what Jeremiah wrote:
  • (Jeremiah 29:12) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
  • (Jeremiah 29:13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
  • or, from Deuteronomy 4:29:
  • (Deuteronomy 4:29) But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • (Deuteronomy 4:30) When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.
  • (Deuteronomy 4:31) For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.
  • the only way out of this predicament is to return to the Lord “with all your heart and with all your soul”
  • God’s promises are contingent on our wholehearted repentance
  • as God told the church of Laodicea:
  • (Revelation 3:19) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
  • I think we as a church have some business to do with God
  • we need a period of corporate confession, repentance, reconciliation, and restoration
  • we need to uncover and confess individual and corporate sins that have brought judgment against the church, and we need to confront them in a biblical manner
  • and that’s why we’re calling a Solemn Assembly this week
  • when things aren’t going well, when sin abounds, or when we’re just in need of a fresh move of God, it’s time for desperate measures
  • during the Welsh Revival, if a church went two years without an obvious move of God in their midst, they would call a Solemn Assembly and seek God
  • in the Bible, Jehoshaphat called a Solemn Assembly because the enemy was hotfooting it his way
  • Hezekiah called for it because the priesthood was corrupt and the nation divided
  • in Josiah’s case, it was the rediscovery of God’s Word that was the catalyst for revival
  • Joel exhorted the priests to call a Solemn Assembly and to rend their hearts, not their garments
  • let me quote from Joe Aldrich:
  • In the Old Testament, the Solemn Assembly was targeted on Joe-citizen, not upon Joseph-the-priest. Everyone was expected to attend. Wives and children were to be there. Honeymooners were expected to show up. It was not a time for business as usual. Sometimes the assemblies lasted for days.
  • The word “solemn” underscores the seriousness of the occasion and the gravity of the situation. We should get solemn:

when we realize we’re in over our heads.
when the “glory of God” has departed from our churches.
where sin abounds.
where church leaders are in disarray.
when no one is coming to Christ.
when worship is dead.
when there is no vision.
when the Word falls on deaf ears.
when carnality prevails.
when sin is condoned.
when unity is AWOL.
when the perimeters of control are out of control.
where effective individual and corporate prayer is weak or nonexistent.
where a spirit of criticism prevails.

  • we need to earnestly and wholeheartedly seek God
  • in humility, we need to declare our utter dependence on God
  • we need intense, persistent prayer leading to insight, repentance, and then blessing
  • for the next week, it’s not business as usual
  • we are calling a Solemn Assembly for two purposes: to cry out to God for blessing, and for corporate and personal cleansing
  • I will be fasting this week, and some of you may want to join me for the entire week, or for just one day – this coming Saturday
  • we will gather for prayer during the week at the church
  • on Thursday, volunteers will pray for Richview around the clock
  • but we want to get down to business with God
  • that’s principle number two: there’s no solution but a spiritual solution
  • (Jeremiah 29:10) This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.
  • (Jeremiah 29:11) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • (Jeremiah 29:12) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
  • (Jeremiah 29:13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
  • (Jeremiah 29:14) I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the pla ce from which I carried you into exile.”
  • God isn’t done with Richview
  • according to God’s wise plan, Jeremiah prophesied that his people were to have a hope and a future
  • even in a difficult place and time, they had the promise that God wasn’t through with them yet
  • the Bible says that when you seek the Lord your God, you will find him, if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul
  • it’s time to stop preaching, and it’s time to start praying
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada