As the summer sets and the new school year rises, you have an opportunity to begin again. You can start new routines and refocus on good habits. There is one habit which guarantees a successful academic year, but even more, it guarantees a successful life.
As Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, looks on the smoldering city, he weeps. He laments the destruction. It did not have to be this way. If only they would have listened.
The hopelessness could not be more painfully illustrated than with Zedekiah. Instead of surrendering in the siege, Zedekiah tries to escape through the king’s garden. As fugitives from their own home, they flee across the plain, but the army of Babylon catches up with them. One of the most tragic and painful scenes in Scripture occurs. “And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:7). Zedekiah, having only been in his early thirties, would have had younger children. These youths were brutally massacred before his own eyes. The fruit of his own rebellion and incompetence. If that was not bad enough, his own eyes were put out so the last image to plague his mind for the rest of his life would be the loss of his children. This would drive a father to insanity.
Hope had been snuffed out.
There were many days of mourning, but as David wrote, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Zedekiah never saw it. Jeremiah never heard about it, but God’s mercies were renewing. Jehoiachin was lifted out of prison, given a place at the king’s table, and enjoyed a “continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life” (2 Kings 25:30). This last verse of 2 Kings holds the precious truth of a hopeful future. To the casual reader it would not be evident, but consider for a moment Israel’s history. What did God give his people during their wilderness journey to the Promise Land? Daily they collected the manna and fed their families with bread directly from the hands of the King of Heaven. For years, the depended upon the provision of the Lord. God spoke of this time as His honeymoon with his chosen people. It was a sweet time of dependence.
Moses warned the people in Deuteronomy 6:12 to beware lest they forget God. When their houses are full of good things and they are enjoying the bountiful blessings, they may forget God. Success is not measured by the accumulation of things, but by the allowance from the King. When God’s people depend on Him daily, they will worship Him sincerely. When God’s people depend upon His blessings for their survival, they will extol His goodness instead of their ability.
The one habit which guarantees a successful life is plainly daily dependence. The sincerity of your prayer-life rests in your sense of dependence. If you are weak in prayer, you are awfully self-sufficient. Return to the simplicity of daily dependence upon God and you will never go astray.
It still baffles the Coast Guard. How the fifteen passenger rescue boat carried thirty-six people to safety is inexplicable, but it happened when Petty Officer Webber steered his crew through the freezing snowstorm to rescue the tanker Pendleton’s survivors off Cape Cod. This still is considered the most heroic rescue in the United States Coast Guard’s history.
There was another rescue which was as memorable. Jeremiah had preached the final warnings to the people of Jerusalem. Surrender and live; fight and die! Having been accused of treason, he was apprehended and sentenced to die a slow death of either starvation or exposure in the dried up well shaft. There was only enough water in the old well to mire the clay at the bottom. He could not save himself. He was a dead man, yet Ebedmelech the Ethiopian came to his rescue.
Ebedmelech’s name means “Servant of the King.” The Servant of the King rescues Jeremiah from the incompetent king, Zedekiah, who would eventually face justice for his diabolical leadership. Jeremiah could not do anything for his rescue accept to put on the Rope of Hope. The rope of old rags let down by Ebedmelech was not an impressive rescue, but it was effective.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was called the Servant King in the book of Isaiah. As the Servant King, he spoke on our behalf to our diabolical ruler, Satan, who’s snare of sin had mired us. There was no hope we would ever see the light of day again, but in the most unassuming way, Jesus let down the Rope of Hope, His life, as our rescue. It did not look like much. He was only an itinerant preacher, largely unknown and completely disrespected by the authorities. However, once you put on Jesus Christ by repenting of your sin and accepting Him as your Savior, He pulls you up out of the miry clay.
David said it best when he wrote in Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God:
Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust…
You can experience the Greatest Rescue in human history if you have not already. Will you repent of your sin which has condemned you to an eternal prison the Bible calls Hell? Will you “put on” Christ as your Rope of Hope?
If you have already accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you have a new song. It’s the song of the Gospel. Sing the praise unto your God so many shall see it, fear, and trust in the Lord.
I have a friend I have not heard from in a couple months. The silence has been so long, I sent a message hoping he will get it and at least know that I have been praying for him. The silence is not because of anything wrong. He is a Navy chaplain and has been deployed for several months. He has missed the birth of his third child. His wife and two older daughters are likely feeling the strain of missing the man of their home.
Distance is painful. David cried out, “Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me” (Psalm 38:21). David was in the soundproof room of his sin. His cries evaporate into the silence.
Can you relate with David’s agony? Do you feel estranged from God?
Recently, I was called to the house of someone shackled in the prison of alcohol. She was crying on the voicemail, “No one will help me! No one will answer me.” Rocking back and forth on the couch with incoherent sobs she flings her hand at the cup on the table, “I hate it! I hate that stuff!” A few moments later she takes a sip to calm her nerves.
O friend, this is the cry of a long distance relationship. Wherever you are in your journey of life, are you wrestling with the spiritual loneliness of sin? You hate it because of what it does to your relationships. You hate it because of what it does to your life. Yet you take a sip of it to calm your nerves. You are shackled in the prison of your own making and Satan has hidden the key. If I could give one message to you, it would be the same message I’d give to the addict and it is the same message God gave to Jeremiah, “Call upon me…and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
You must know God loves you desperately. The distance in your relationship is not His doing. Jesus Christ left heaven and came to earth. He spanned the infinite distance. The distance in your relationship which seems to be universes apart—that distance is changed to nearness with the simple, broken cry, “O Lord, forgive me.” Jeremiah displayed the heart wrenching plea for God’s forgiveness when he said, “Surely after that I was turned, I repented; And after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, Because I did bear the reproach of my youth” (Jeremiah 31:19). Your condition may seem incurable. Your sin may be over your head drowning you (Psalm 38:4). Seek the Lord. Confess your sins.
God said to his wayward people and the message is directed to you through Christ today, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiahs 31:3; 29:11). Jesus Christ has given you access to the throne of grace. Will you come boldly in your time of need?
I had never been there previously. It was a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Gulf Breeze, FL. We had just enjoyed the beach, and we were hankering for some really good food. Sitting in the dimly lit restaurant, there were business people and other “locals” who obviously knew what a good place this was. The waiter came to take our order. At a Mexican restaurant, you can choose from the staples, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. Today, this was not for me. I asked the waiter, “If this is the only time I ever come to your restaurant, what is the one thing I should order.” Without a hesitation, he said, “The molcajete is delicious. You should order that.” I had never even heard of the molcajete, but I agreed. I will never regret my decision to trust the waiter. It was the best Mexican dish I have ever had and if I ever get back to Gulf Breeze, FL, I am looking up that restaurant again.
It’s what God said His people were. They rejected Him by worshipping idols. Once they were facing punishment for their poor choices, they resisted His message to repent. They refused to surrender their will to God’s. What does it mean to surrender? As you read Jeremiah 28, you see the collision of the people’s will and God’s expressed will. The nation was confirmed in their punishment. Babylon had already taken 10,000 captives and set the incompetent Zedekiah as king. From history, we know there was a moment where Babylon stumbled. Nations began to activate their plans of rebellion. Jeremiah insisted Judah should continue to willingly serve Babylon. They needed to surrender to God’s will in this matter. However, submitting to Babylon was unconventional. Hananiah’s prophecy and others like him galvanized the people’s resistance to God. They had traded the yoke of wood for a yoke of iron.
You might think surrendering to God is the elimination of your will, however, surrender is not the resignation of your will. Surrender is adopting God’s will as your own. Much like my visit to the unknown restaurant. It’s not that I didn’t have a will and said, “Serve me whatever you’ve got.” I adopted the counsel of the waiter and it became my will. Surrender is taking the counsel of God regardless of how unconventional it might be, and making it your will. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23). The steps are ordered by the Lord, but you delight in the way. So do not march robotically down the path as if your will has been deactivated. Take God at His word and indulge in the way. None of your steps shall slide. “Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, And he shall exalt thee…” (Psalm 37:34).
God’s way may seem unconventional but trust Him. Adopt His will as your own today.