She was braver than I. Even though I was three years older, she enjoyed the ride while I sniffled as a spectator. I still remember the ride and the emotional turmoil. My parents reassured me there was nothing to fear. They spoke logically, “If your sister can ride this, then you have to know it is a very calm ride.” The wisdom of Solomon and the persuasion of Hushai could not convince me to get on the ride. I knew best. Fear was my teacher. My fear restrained me from that amusement until I was in high school.
Humanly speaking, fear will either motivate you or paralyze you. When your fear is properly placed it is a motivator. Fear can motivate you to rescue your child, fight for your life, or run to safety. When fear is misdirected it paralyzes you. It is dangerous. This type of fear is bondage (Hebrews 2:15; Romans 8:15). It paralyzes you from accessing complete peace and joy in your life.
Jeremiah 40-43 provides the details of a fearful group of people. Babylon had crushed Judah and set Gedaliah as the governor. Ishmael assassinated Gedaliah, so naturally, there is fear Babylon would return and eliminate everyone without any investigation. The people are trying to decide whether to stay in Judah or flee to Egypt. They ask Jeremiah for God’s instruction. “Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 42:5-6). For a moment, you are hopeful. Maybe God finally broke through their rebellious hearts! Then you see their response after Jeremiah urges them to stay and trust God. “Thou speakest falsely…So all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah” (Jeremiah 43:2-4). Just like I knew better as an elementary kid, we often “know better” than God. There was not a convincing argument in the world that would alter their heart. Fear was their teacher.
Whether it is the fear of Israel had before Goliath or the fear of the people in Jeremiah’s account, when we mislabel our cause for fear, we are in bondage. The people in Jeremiah would lose their national inheritance, the blessings of God, besides peace of being in the center of God’s will. Psalm 23:4 speaks of the terrifying valley of the shadow of death. It is interesting he only mentions the shadows. Satan, with his smoke and mirrors shows, seeks to paralyze you in fear. They are only shadows and all you need to conquer shadows is the Light, the Son of God.
Is God challenging you right now? Are you at a crossroads in your life? Don’t let the shadows paralyze you. Listen to the wisdom of God. Your hero, Jesus Christ, has already destroyed death and “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). You are more than a conqueror through Him (Romans 8:37). He has destroyed the Goliath of fear so you can follow Him completely, free from any fear.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Things are changing more quickly every day. Technology is advancing, devices are getting more powerful and more contained. However, technology without the parameters of morality is dangerous. Just recently, scientists experimented by editing the genetic code of human embryos using the CRISPR technology. It has been lauded as the way to help genetic disease. The moral bankruptcy of our culture, though, will degenerate into designer babies. It will be the epic quest for the perfect human as man toys with things they can’t possibly handle because they don’t respect it.
Technology is wonderful, but it also has a way of turning man’s hearts inward. We tend to deify ourselves. We make decisions like we were God. You will find this tendency all the way back in Genesis 11. The technology was brick-making. The deification of man was to build a tower which would exalt man like the gods. The city was Babel. The saga of Babel has been repeated over and over throughout human history and the mascot of this depravity is Babylon.
Habakkuk is looking at the nation of Babylon in his day and they were wicked people. They were still worshiping their advancements. He describes their barbaric treatment of human beings. They treated “men as the fishes of the sea” (Habakkuk 1:14). Their disregard for the sanctity of human life was legendary and rivals our own disregard today. Amazed with themselves, they worshiped their military advancements. “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag” (Habakkuk 1:16).
From Genesis to Revelation and distinctly in Habakkuk today, it is clear, every nation has the “genetic” malfunction known as SIN the symptoms of which are pride diagnosed as self-worship. Our nation does not need genetic editing physically. It needs “genetic editing” spiritually. They need the precision of God’s grace to rescue them from their own depravity. They need to be reborn by humbly acknowledging their sinful rebellion against God and repenting of their way. They need to ask Christ to save them from their sin.
In the meantime, Christian, influence the culture. Do not let Babylon influence you. Remember, “the Lord is in his holy temple” (Habakkuk 2:20). Nothing man can do will ever strip God of his infinite power. In the midst of uncertain times, find your stability in God.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, And he will make me to walk upon mine high places. (Habakkuk 3:18-19)
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?