Persevere In the Serving of the Lord

Explore the Bible Series

May 8, 2005

 

Background Passage: Jeremiah 37:1-39:18

Lesson Passage: Jeremiah 37:13-17; 38:3-6; 17-18

 

Introduction:

Some years ago I heard John Piper speak at the Southern Baptist Founderís Conference, at Samford University.During one of his sermons Piper addressed the suffering and hardship that often attend the service of Christ.Frankly, I had given little thought to this topic, and Piperís comments startled me a bit.Following the message one of the conference leaders suggested that the attendees purchase a copy of Piperís book, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions.A quick trip to the bookroom, between conference sessions, and I procured a copy of the book.Later, as I prepared for bed, I decided to read a bit of my new treasure.Several hours later, my way of thinking about Christian discipleship had changed.

 

In the pages of Piperís book I discovered a very important message about suffering for the sake of the gospel.In particular, Piperís accounts of the sufferings of Godís servants stirred my soul.Some of the names sounded familiar to me, but many of the stories recounted the hardships of ordinary people who suffered extraordinarily for the gospel.For instance, he reported the story of a Masai man named Joseph (See Let the Nations Be Glad, pp. 95-96).This faithful servant of the Lord walked to a nearby community and went door to door to tell the villagers of the cross of Christ.The townspeople greeted Joseph with violent hostility. They brutally beat him with barbed wire and dragged him outside the village to let him die.After recovering from the horrific beating, Joseph returned to the little town to continue his evangelism, and he met with another cruel reception.Again, the humble men, after a period of recovery, returned to the village.The people, this time, nearly pummeled him to death. Three times he came to this village, and, each time, he met with the vicious response of the people.Finally, many of the villagers listened to the message of the persistent Christian, and a host of them came to faith in Christ.This story touched my heart, and I, of course, realized that I knew nothing of this kind of suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

 

The events recorded in these chapters reflect the grave hardships that Jeremiah faced as s servant of Jehovah.††† The leaders of Judah saw, before their very eyes, the prophecies of Jeremiah coming true; yet, they continued in their unbelief and disobedience.Furthermore, they grew increasingly hostile to Jeremiahís message.Eventually, their antagonism turned into violent action.The prophet paid a terrible price for his faithfulness to the message God entrusted to his stewardship. To be sure, the prophet showed some weakness in the face of the godly fury he endured; nevertheless, Godís strength sustained him, and he persevered in his God-appointed task.

 

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage

 

I.                    Zedekiahís Vacillation as Judahís Leader (37:1-10)

A.     The kingís disobedience to God (vv. 1-2)

B.     Zedekiahís plea for the prophetís intercession (vv. 3-5)

C.     Godís instruction to Zedekiah to surrender to the Babylonians (vv. 6-10)

 

II.                 Jeremiah Imprisoned by Irijah (37:11-21)

A.     Jeremiah arrested as he left Jerusalem (vv. 11-13a)

B.     Jeremiah falsely accused of treason (vv. 13b)

C.     The prophetís defense of his integrity (v. 14)

D.     Jeremiah beaten and imprisoned (vv. 15-16)

E.      Zedekiah sought Jeremiahís counsel (vv. 17-21)

 

III.               Jeremiah Cast in a Pit (38:1-13)

A.     The princesí displeasure with Jeremiahís prophecy (vv. 1-4)

1.      A rehearsal of Jeremiahís message (vv. 1-3)

2.      The princesí efforts of condemn Jeremiah to death (v. 4)

B.     The prophet given into the hands of the princes (vv. 5-6)

1.      Zedekiahís cowardice (v. 5)

2.      Jeremiah left to die in a miry pit (v. 6)

C.     Ebed-Melech rescued the prophet from the pit (vv. 7-13)

1.      Ebed-Melech interceded for Jeremiah (vv. 7-10)

2.      Thirty men pulled Jeremiah from the pit (vv. 11-13)

D.     Jeremiahís final plea to Zedekiah (vv. 14-28)

1.      Zedekiah sought the prophetís council (v. 14)

2.      Jeremiahís reluctance to deal with Zedekiah (vv. 15-16)

3.      The prophetís instructions to the king (vv. 17-18)

4.      Zedekiahís reticence to obey Godís direction (v. 19)

5.      Th prophetís assurance that God would keep his word (vv. 20-23)

6.      The continued cowardice of Zedekiah (vv. 24-28)

 

IV.              The Destruction of Jerusalem (39:1-18)

A.     The siege of the city by the Babylonians (vv. 1-3)

B.     Zedekiahís unsuccessful flight from Jerusalem (vv. 4-5)

C.     Nebuchadnezzar killed the kingís sons and put out Zedekiahís eyes (vv. 6-8)

D.     The Babylonians carried the people of Judah into captivity (vv. 9-10)

E.      Nebuchadnezzar honored Jeremiah (vv. 11-14)

F.      Ebed-Melech vindicated by the Lord (vv. 1-18)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations on the Lesson Passage:

 

1.      Often, ungodly accusers charge the Lordís servants falsely.In our passage, Jeremiah left the city of Jerusalem when the Babylonians temporarily abandoned their siege against the city.As you will recall, Jeremiah previously purchased a piece of property, and he planned to visit his possession north of Jerusalem.As he departed from the city a captain of the guard arrested the prophet and charged him with treason.The princes angrily heard Jeremiahís case, beat the prophet, and placed him in a prison (37:15-16).

2.      Other great men in the Old Testament had been accused and condemned falsely.Remember the story of Joseph in the household of Potiphar (Genesis 39:11-18).This faithful servant of God was accused of making improper sexual advances to his masterís wife, and Joseph spent several years in prison because of the wicked charges leveled at him.

3.      Jesus anticipated that his disciples would experience the false accusations of unscrupulous men (See Matthew 5:11-12).Also, the Gospels teem with examples of plots and charges contrived by the Lordís enemies.

4.                  Wicked men will always pressure the Lordís servants to alter the message of God to fit the dishonorable designs of the ungodly (38:3-6). The princes of Judah threatened and plotted against Jeremiah, but God called his servant to remain faithful despite the pressure to shape his message to the tastes of the wicked.

5. The Lordís servants must cast themselves upon the sovereign governance of God.King Zedekiah, though he certainly understood and believed Jeremiahís message, could not be counted on to protect the prophet (38:5-6).Zedekiah is one of the most unsavory characters in the Book of Jeremiah.He proves a weak and wicked leader.When faced with clear directions from the Lord, this unworthy man vacillated.One of the marks of great leaders is to do what is right when expediency calls for capitulation and indecisiveness.

 

Six Reasons God Appoints Suffering for His Servants

  1. God disciplines his children through suffering.His aim is deeper faith and deeper holiness (See Hebrews 12:4-6).
  2. By enduring suffering with patience the reward of our experience of Godís glory in heaven increases (See II Corinthians 4:17-18).
  3. God uses the sufferings of his missionaries to awaken others out of their slumbers of indifference and make them bold (See Philippians 1:14).
  4. The sufferings of Christís messengers ministers to those they are trying to reach and may open them to the gospel (See I Thessalonians 1:5-6).
  5. The sufferings of the church is used by God to reposition the missionary troops in places they might not have otherwise gone (See Acts 8:1).
  6. The sufferings of missionaries is meant to magnify the power and sufficiency of Christ (See II Corinthians 12:9-10).

John Piper