Faithlife Sermons

Finding Hope in Affliction

Last week we looked at the Christian response to a crisis and we learned how to move from fear to faith. While having faith is paramount in the face of anything, I want to make sure we also understand other important responses in the midst of devastating circumstances. Jehoshaphat dealt more with potential danger, but when we observe what’s taking place in our world today with the coronavirus, the danger is already having its impact. Now over 100,00 reported cases in the US and over 600,000 in the world, this virus is having a devastating impact on humanity. Some of the common questions are “why is this happening?”, and even to some believer’s minds “why is GOD doing this?” I don’t claim to know exactly why, nor do I believe anyone alive can say exactly why because I don’t believe GOD has revealed his specific purpose for 2020. Nor do I subscribe to the apocalyptic claims that many have. However, I do believe we can learn from the pages of faith history why GOD has done it in the past, . And thus my aim is to increase our learning of what epidemics meant then, but also further encourage us on what state of mind we (and prayerfully any whose hearts are humbled) should be in in light of this epidemic.
First, we should no that there’s no epidemic in biblical history that was aimless. Meaning they were never a random series of events. Rather every epidemic recorded was sent by GOD and it was always due to sin. Let that sink in!!! Whether it was upon the entire world, region, or a particular group. The person contracting the disease was not always the one who sinned, as in the case of David’s sin of taking a census of Israel. David wasn’t directly impacted, but 70,000 of Israel died. So the bible teaches that an epidemic or pestilence is one of GOD’s great judgments upon sin. Please understand that GOD isn’t only going to judge sin in the end, but will do so now. But what’s his purpose and what can we learn regarding how to respond when GOD sends a judgment such as this?
Remember Israel/Judah, GOD’s people, were judged and chastised over and over by GOD. The prophet Jeremiah exhausted himself warning Judah of the destruction to come because of their sin, but they wouldn’t listen. So it came to pass, Babylon attacked Judah and took them captive. Babylon was GOD’s servant for punishing his own people. Jeremiah picked up his pen and poured out his grieving heart from what he witnessed against the city. Everything that was normal was cut off. Streets that were filled now empty. Fancy buildings burned down. Gates fallen. The temple burned down. It was devastating. So much so that Jeremiah began giving up hope (). But then he began to recall the goodness of GOD and his hope was restored. As a result of recalling this to mind Jeremiah encourages hopeful submission. When GOD executes judgment, when such things that we see occur: silent submission, humble submission, and suffering submission.
Application: Yoke in v 27 depicts what GOD lays on one, particularly a burden. The challenge for GOD’s people, really humanity, is to submit to this yoke. We have a lot to say and many words aren’t filled with facts or anything beneficial. No, if we recognize that this is from GOD, take it as a moment to isolate and reflect on GOD. When I’m silent, it demonstrates that GOD I accept what you have done, are doing, and will do. Then I need to place my mouth and words where GOD made it from, and it will help me humble myself before him. Because in him there’s still hope for the future. And even when I’m disrespected during this time, mistreated, I will suffer. This isn’t a time to act like we’re not children of GOD. In these times, we out of all people need to demonstrate we are in submission to GOD and all that he’s laid on us!!!
What are the grounds for this encouragement Jeremiah? Why would I be in submission during such a devastating time as this? Why would I hope in GOD right now? Because GOD has his back turned right now and he doesn’t accept them, but Jeremiah is assured that it won’t last forever. Because GOD is the type of GOD that will show his compassion after he has made us disturbed and distressed. Why? Because of the wealth of his love!! Watch this, and because he doesn’t chastise, punish, or bring this type of judgment because he enjoys it.
Application: I love this triad of words, because helps me keep all things in perspective. People have been trying to predict when this epidemic is going to end. Nobody knows when it’s going to end. But one thing we do know, is that GOD’s judgments while time still exists, will not last forever. He doesn’t like to get the belt. It doesn’t give him any joy!
But then Jeremiah addresses the fact that GOD doesn’t approve of oppression, depriving of justice, or perverting what’s right. This is important for captives to understand to know that GOD doesn’t like what’s happening to them. However, these same things are charges GOD laid on Judah before they were taken captive. The fact of the matter then is that GOD doesn’t approve of any injustice.
Application: They were taken captive in a violent way, GOD didn’t enjoy that and in fact would later bring judgment on Babylon. At the same time Judah was guilty of the same thing. All of the unjust behaviors that are happening as a result of this virus, definitely know that GOD doesn’t approve.
Jeremiah then asks two questions that speak of GOD’s sovereignty in all situations. None of the things that have happened to them are outside his command. All that Babylon has done is by GOD’s permission. Whether it is blessings or calamity, all come by the command and permission of GOD. Which shows he is supreme in all that happens. He is also just in all that he allows!
Application: We hear a lot about what people think is going to happen. That the virus will decrease in 2 or 4 months. The very fact that this virus has spread in the manner that it has is by GOD’s permission. And whatever happens next, he is in control over it.
Jeremiah asks another question in light of this, why should anyone who is alive complain or murmur because of his sins. If GOD’s mercies renew everyday, is good to those who hope and wait on him, compassionate and not willing to afflict man forever, is sovereign and just in all that he does, then what reason does humanity have to complain against GOD for chastisement he gives?
Then Jeremiah gives the alternative to complaining about this consequence of sin. He says “Let us”, he includes himself which shows that although he being prophet and set apart by GOD to speak all that he did, he also shared it what needed to take place. Examine and probe our ways.
Application: That means to do a deep investigation of the way we live life. Which also suggests that there are some sinful ways we life that have been hidden to us or we’ve ignored that they’re against GOD. In the midst of what’s been happening, everybody needs to turn off the TV, stop blaming countries and their leaders, stop criticizing folk on the news. Everybody needs to take the same time you spend doing all of that and look at yourself! Ask GOD to search you and reveal if there’s any evil in us that we’ve ignored.
Then Jeremiah says return to the Lord.
Application: Self-examination is useless if it doesn’t turn us in the right direction. We need to realize that whatever those evils are have pointed us away from GOD. Therefore, when GOD by his sovereign rule and love for us allows such an epidemic, it is a really a call for humanity to turn to him.
Lastly, Jeremiah says lift our heart and hands. The word lift actually means to offer, it is a word describing worship, particularly sacrifice. One would have to lift up the sacrifice. He’s really describing prayer to GOD, which is part of worship. But notice he doesn’t just say hands, he says heart first. This is critical because GOD’s people had been charged with worshiping with their lips, and other bodily postures only, but their hearts were far away.
Application: The word lift actually means to offer, it is a word describing worship, particularly sacrifice. One would have to lift up the sacrifice. He’s really describing prayer to GOD, which is part of worship. But notice he doesn’t just say hands, he says heart first. This is critical because GOD’s people had been charged with worshiping with their lips, and other bodily postures only, but their hearts were far away.
Application: This is a time to revitalize our hearts toward GOD. Pray, lift your hands, yes! But where are our hearts truly? More concerned about our jobs, bank accounts, food, entertainment, pleasure, etc. Maybe GOD has allowed these things because those things have become our modern day idols. GOD wants our hearts and our firm loyalty.
So let these times turn us to GOD, not be in a complaining mode because we want to return to all of our earthly fixations. If we want life to go back to normal for those reasons, then we’ve missed the lesson of GOD’s chastisement.
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