True or False Faith?
July 14, 2002 © 2002, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
- What are some of the things that we place our security in? They might include money, good health, family members or friends, political stability, or many other things.
- What happens when these things fail us? We may find ourselves in a crisis.
- What is a promise? What promises have you shared with trusted people? What happens when those promises fail?
- What are some fail-proof things of this world that we can place our security in? Unfortunately, there are none.
- Why can we confidently trust in God as our source of security? God is immutable: He cannot change from day to day. Because of this, His promises cannot fail.
This lesson contrasts living by faith with living by sight. Living by sight may be considered to be the placement of our security in the things of this world. Living by faith is the placement of our security in God, and God alone. Let's take a look at the circumstance we find Jeremiah in.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2For then the king of Babylons army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judahs house.
Zedekiah was the last king of Judah (596-586 B.C.). Zedekiah was made king in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 24:17). When he rebelled, the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it. Zedekiah was taken to Riblah along with his family. At Riblah he witnessed the executions of his sons before his own eyes were blinded (25:7). Then Zedekiah was taken to Babylon. He apparently died in captivity.
Jeremiah is bring his prophesy to Zedekiah just prior to the final fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, where we find Jeremiah in prison. Actually, we find that Jeremiah is in the prison court. He had previously been in the dungeon where he nearly starved to death. Though better than the dungeon, he is chained outdoors where he is exposed to the elements. Zedekiah may have placed him here for the people to see how he has failed in his ministry as a prophet. Why did Zedekiah do this to Jeremiah? One could only assume that Zedekiah sought to humiliate Jeremiah, and by doing so, nullify his authority.
For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;
Jeremiah's teaching of cooperation with Nebuchadnezzar was seen by the people of Judah as treason and sedition. By this point Jeremiah had gone so far as to predict the imminent destruction of the city. This undermined Zedekiah's position as the protector and provider for the city.
How do you suppose Jeremiah felt at this point? How would you feel at this point? It all depends upon where you place your security. Certainly Zedekiah placed his security in the strength of the city walls and in the faithfulness of his army to follow his direction. However, Zedekiah. was clueless as to the immense strength of Babylon. How is our placement of our security in the things of this world similar to Zedekiah's reliance on Jerusalem's walls? We are often clueless of the power of the evil one to break down worldly walls. As Satan is the prince of the world, and he has power over the worldly domain, under who's authority are we placing ourselves when we submit to things of the world? We are risking yielding ourselves to Satan's impotent power. Zedekiah gave little or no consideration to God's word or will. He followed his own advice and ignored, and even persecuted, God's messenger.
Likewise, we often become critical of a preacher or teacher who "steps on our toes." The average tenure of a pastor is three years. The primary reason pastors leave a church is the presence of significant conflict with its members when the pastor challenges them on their worldly and prideful desire to control. Just as Zedekiah got rid of Jeremiah's influence, prideful and worldly church leaders get rid of the pastor who criticises them. When they do not, often the pastor becomes physically and spiritually fatigued and seeks calmer ground.
And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; 5And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the LORD: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper.
We should always be sensitive to the message from the messenger and measure it against the plumb-line of the Holy Spirit and God's word before we react. We will find that, even in these circumstances, Jeremiah was not defeated. His security was squarely under the authority of God, as he is about to illustrate.
And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 7Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.
Here Jeremiah receives another Word from God, advising that his cousin, Hanamel, will be coming to offer him the purchase of land in Anathoth. Jeremiah is from the land of Anathoth where his ancestor, the deposed priest Abiathar, was exiled. The land had fallen into Babylonian hands and was, consequently, worthless. In order to raise money, his cousin desired to sell the land. Under their tradition, the closest family member had the right of first refusal of purchase, so Hanamel came to Jeremiah.
So Hanameel mine uncles son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. 9And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncles son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.
What did Jeremiah have to gain by purchasing the land while he was imprisoned with the captivity imminent? The land was currently useless, and would appear to all of the Judeans as worth absolutely nothing. What value could the land possible have? As long as the Babylonians were in power, it was valueless. Even Jeremiah knew that the people would not return to the land for 70 years. However, Jeremiah understood fully why it was appropriate to buy the land. Furthermore, the price that Jeremiah paid was commensurate with the value that would be realized had the Babylonians not controlled it.
And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. 11So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: 12And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncles son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison. 13And I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. 15For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.
What was Jeremiah doing by buying this land? Though people will not hear our words, they always see our lives. Through the purchase he was declaring the promise that God would restore his people and give them a new start. Jeremiah was demonstrating by "putting his money where his mouth is," that he believed his own sermon.
What was the purpose of Jeremiah's instruction to his friend and scribe, Baruch? He wanted the deed of sale to be secure. He told Baruch to take both the sealed and open copies of the deeds and place them in clay jars so that they would survive the captivity. They would be needed when the people returned to the land so that it would be in his (or his family's) proper possession. Most commentators seem to state that the purchase of the land by Jeremiah was a "symbolic act." Actually, I believe that it went much farther than a simple symbol. He was not just demonstrating faith, he was living it by following the will of God without hesitation. After the exile, this land would, indeed, belong to the family of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was going through a difficult trial in his life. Had God left him during this time? God's continual presence with Jeremiah gave him the strength to endure the persecution. Did this make his persecution any less severe? The only thing that is different in Jeremiah's persecution is how Jeremiah interprets and reacts to it. Jeremiah's focus was on God, not on the persecution.
Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the LORD, saying, 17Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: 18Thou showest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name, 19Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: 20Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day;
Following the purchase of the land, Jeremiah prays a prayer of thanksgiving and praise, despite his harsh circumstances. Jeremiah has suffient faith in God that he sees through the circumstances and praises God for who He is and for the plan that is ultimately His. Few people probably realize that these words, commonly sung as a song of praise, came from the midst of a period of time when its author was enduring persecution. Even in this time of stress, Jeremiah recognizes that,
1. God made the heavens and the earth.
2. His power is great.
3. Nothing is too difficult for God.
4. God shows his love to all people.
5. God will ultimately judge the wicked.
6. God is the only God, mighty, and the Lord of all men.
7. God is the great counselor.
8. God's works are mighty.
9. God sees all that men do.
10. God gives to all people in the manner of their ways.
11. God has revealed himself to people through signs and wonders.
12. God never changes.
We would do well to remember these things when our faith is challenged. When we fully understand the truth of Jeremiah's song, our faith is strengthened. We can focus on God, and not on the trial, as Jeremiah has just demonstrated.
The people of Judah were going through a difficult trial that was about to become much more harsh. Was God going to leave them during this time? When subjected to the trial, they would focus on the trial and not on God. They would fail to find the strength that God provides. Regardless of what trials we go through, God will always bring us through it and provide us with a new start. We have looked at how we turn away from God's plan when we place our security in the world, when we establish firm personal goals that are not in line with God's will, or when we are subjected to others who make the same error (as Jeremiah's persecution was.) When we experience crisis, is our focus on the crisis, or is it on God and God's purpose through it? God has promised that he will bring us through. Jeremiah taught this promise by illustrating God's providence in bringing the ancestors of Abraham out of Egyptian bondage.
And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; 22And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey;
This is still part of the prayer that Jeremiah prayed after giving the deeds to Beruch. The content of the prayer illustrates that Jeremiah had doubts about the purchase of the land at such a critical time, and was seeking God's affirmation that he had indeed been following God's will for himself. In this part of the prayer, Jeremiah focuses on the two most pivotal events in the history of the people of Judah: the exodus from Egypt, and the gift of the land. God had promised to do these things for the people, and He had been faithful to that promise. We can have the head knowledge that God is always faithful to the completion of his promises, but it helps when we look at the history of God's interaction with man. God has fulfilled all of his promises, with the exception of a few still to be fulfilled, such as the parusia.
Jer 31:31-34 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Here Jeremiah describes God's promise of a future for the covenant people on which Jeremiah staked his purchase of Hanamel's field. Even Jeremiah may not have fully understood the implication of his prophesy. Here he clearly states that God is providing a "New covenant". Why is the new covenant necessary? The old covenant proved to man that righteousness needed for fellowship with a Holy God cannot be attained by the adherence to law. When Nebuchadnezzar was replaced by a more beneficient King, God's promise to return the people to the land would be fulfilled.
Ezra 1:1-4 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'"
Following the exile, the people did not return to God in faith. For the next 400 years the people would not see God in the temple. The pillar of fire that consumed the sacrifice on the day of atonement, the pillar that had stood over the tabernacle/temple since the Exodus was gone. This was the darkest period in Jewish history, darker than the ages of the Judges. The nation became more worldly in nature than ever, and the people divided into sects of varying philosophies concerning God and the law He handed down. The most influential of society taught a worship of the Law, rather than an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God. However, 400 years (10 times 40, the number to signify completion), the pillar of fire came back. When? (See Luke, chapter 2.)
Indeed, God's promise of Jeremiah 31:33 would be fulfilled. What does it mean when God states that He would place His Word in our hearts? Who is the Word? John 1:1,14 reminds us that Jesus is the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. Mankind would no longer need to be taught the law, but rather God would place His Spirit in our hearts to guide us to the truth. Our relationship to the law would change, and our relationship with God would become personal for all who would place their faith in Him.
Like Jeremiah who had the resource of the Holy Spirit to lead him through times of great difficulty, we also can depend on that Same Spirit to do the same for us.
What happens if while riding a bike, you focus your eyes on the ground immediately in front of your wheels? Most likely, you will lose your balance and crash. Look at the resource that God has placed in your heart as described in
Psalm 118:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
God's Word has been placed in your heart to light your feet (where you are) and to light your path (where you are going.) If we focus on God's Word we will find God's plan in the circumstances we endure and find hope for the fulfillment of God's purpose in those circumstances.
Isaiah 55:8-9. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.