Lent Third Sunday Morning Prayer (7 March 2021)
(I) CONSIDER THE PROPHETS. James 5:10
James 5:10 reads:- “1Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the LORD, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”
Earlier in the book, in chapter 1:1-4, we read:-
“1. James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. 2. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (these are trials, tests and testings). 3. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
The phrase, “count it all joy” in the original language means “consider it all joy” and the introduction to James 5:10 is a call to consider the prophets.
We might consider the intricate prophet Jonah, in the belly of the great fish, or faithful prophet Elijah, sometimes hiding from royal dislike, and at a difficult time being fed by ravens by the brook.
Or consider Elijah on Mount Carmel, facing 800 antagonistic pagan practitioners and prophets.
Plus his being used in the healing of the widow’s son.
The prophet Elisha and his advice to General Naama, the Syrian leper.
Or consider the exiled prophet Daniel in the lion’s den.
Daniel’s faithful prayer life, three times a day, facing Jerusalem.
Or consider Isaiah the prophet, who had that wonderful vision (see Isaiah 6) and those wonderful prophesies pointing to the coming Messiah, Jesus, (Isaiah 7:14) and the Suffering Messiah, (Isaiah 5).
BUT TODAY, OUR READING WAS FROM JEREMIAH.
The Bible has many reminders about considering our ways, the Lord’s greatness, His truth, His holiness and His mercy. His knowledge and His understanding.
For today, mainly, let us please
(II) CONSIDER THE PERSECUTED PROPHET JEREMIAH.
Or we might say,
CONSIDER THE PAINED PROPHET, JEREMIAH.
Over a century before this, the northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken captive and many were exiled.
God’s punishment for their consistent, unrepentant disobedience
Now the Southern Kingdom of Judea was facing imminent captivity, and many would face Exile This was about 586 BC, or so.
Jeremiah is in the capital city, Jerusalem, prophesying.
Jeremiah means “Yahweh will exalt.”
Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, a priest, was well named, for he sought to exalt God and to remind people that God was exalted and Sovereign.
In Jeremiah 1:9 Jeremiah says:-
“Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”
<<< Pause for thought.
1. An unusual privilege as a prophet.
2. But God can bring helpful thoughts to us, by His spirit.
3. And we have the inspired Holy Bible to call upon!
>> But back to our Old Testament account.
Jeremiah was also known as the weeping prophet.
He wept for the people’s disobedience and hardheartedness.
He wept for the reputation and honour of the Lord God.
The Book of Lamentations reminds us of the prophet’s sadness over matters. Over the coming punishment upon the nation of Judea.
His godly sorrow that Judea had also rejected the warnings God gave through His prophets.
Here in Jeremiah chapter 38 we read how Jeremiah’s prophetic warnings and advice were not appreciated by those in power in the Kingdom.
We find Jeremiah the prophet put in the Pit.
Now, why might a prophet be forcibly put into isolation?
What were Jeremiah’s crimes? Had Jeremiah been going around robbing widows? Was he a burglar, or was he seeking to harm people? Was he a pagan? Was he an insurrectionist or a bandit?
Was he a deceiver or a liar?
What was his crime?
Did he not have a heart for the people?
Did he not listen to God’s voice and truths?
Did he not care for others enough to warn them of coming judgement?
Did he not a way of surviving the coming assault on the city?
He had spoken God’s truths, and these were truths which the princes and leaders did not like, and prophecies which the false prophets did not like?
Thus Jeremiah was put in the pit.
<<< Let us pause for thought! We might pose the questions?
How about Believers in Jesus’ time on earth?
In New Testament days and apostolic times? In our times?
Many are thrown to the lions, as it were, or put into the pit, as it were.)
>>> Back to our Old Testament account.
(III) CONSIDER THE PUZZLED KING ZEDEKIAH.
(2 Kings 24. 2 Chronicles 36, The last King of Judah.)
Zedekiah means “Justice of Yahweh.”
<<< (Pause to think of the coming, one day, of Great David’s greater Son, who will reign from Jerusalem.
No actual or metaphorical Babylonians or Assyrians, Medes, Persian, Chaldeans, or the modern great powers, will remove Him from His Kingship and Kingdom! He will rule in righteousness.)
>>> But back to our Old Testament account.
(IV) CONSIDER THE FOUR PERSECUTING PRINCES.
They opposed Jeremiah the prophet of the Lord.
They were Shephatiah (God is my judge, or God judges),
Gedaliah (Yahweh is great), Jucal and Pashhur.
They were named in the Biblical account.
<<< Pause to consider some others named in the Bible for misconduct.
The bad thief on the cross.
Ananias and Sapphira.
Alexander the coppersmith.
Demas the forsaker.
Remember, God knows us all by name.
And He knows how we respond to Him, and His teachings and expectations, whether with fervency or otherwise.
How we treat His Word.
(How precious the Bible is, brothers and sisters. How good we feel when we are in loving submission to the Lord and His Word.)
>>> Back to our Old Testament account.
The prophet Jeremiah was put, by the princes, into the pit, a dank place of mire, stench, lack of food and water, lack of human company.
<<< Let us reflect on some princely and powerful people’s attitudes,
King Ahab and Queen Jezebel seemed to hate the prophet Elijah.
Today it is not Elijah, but Evangelicals (Bible-believing Christians) whose God-honouring positions on life and morality, repentance and salvation can so disturb the atheists and worldlings.
A question to consider later, maybe, might be why is it there is so much antagonism to, or belittling of, God’s truths, God’s principles and precepts, nowadays, even in the 21st century United Kingdom?
(Consider two words, maybe. Sin and darkness.)
>>> Back to our Old Testament account.
(V) CONSIDER EBED-MELECH THE ETHIOPIAN,
A PALACE OFFICIAL
(Ebed-melech = Servant of the King).
A Non-Israelite (Non-Jew) was used to plead on Jeremiah’s behalf.
(In our Thursday Bible Study we were reminded in Solomon’s Prayer of Dedicating the Temple that “strangers, foreigners,” would come to Jerusalem and embrace the true God.)
(VI) CONSIDER THE APOSTLES.
Philippians 1:14 reads:- “And many of the brethren in the LORD, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
“Paul the Apostle” was put in the Prison.
Paul (small, humble) was formerly Saul (asked for, prayed for), but formerly himself a persecutor of believers. Then the Damascus road experience, and an encounter with the Lord. He was soon converted,
Paul proclaimed Christ Jesus, repentance and faith.
For this he was often persecuted.
(Philippians 1:14 showed that his courage when under persecution actually inspired other believers to be brave.)
<<< (How about the attitude of some of the authorities to believers today, even in this country, sometimes, if the Word of God is expressed uncompromisingly, albeit in love?)
(VI) CONSIDER THE FAITHFUL VISIONARY.
John the Beloved is exiled to the island of Patmos. He notes this in his book of Revelation, in 1:9. Exile did not stop him preaching and writing.
John (Yahweh is gracious)
(VIII) CONSIDER THE EARLY CHRISTIANS. Examples, the saints mentioned in Philippians 1:1.
Needed and welcomed Paul’s prayers and teachings.
They were God’s witnesses where God had placed them.
“Each Believer is put in a Place or Places, for a Purpose.”
We, like they, rightly and prayerfully consider other countries, the persecuted Christians, those in various conditions, and so forth.
(IX) CONSIDER OURSELVES.
But we need to consider ourselves. Our local light. Are we true believers?
During his sermons your presbyter often reminds people that we all need to be right with God.
Last week, holiness was emphasized. Today we are thinking of trials and patience, perseverance and loving duty.
The Bible is full of examples of believers ministering and witnessing to their neighbours and community, to individuals,
as well as to a few of their number being sent on mission abroad.
As believers we have a God-given mission and a purpose.
In Kent, in England, we are in our own local missionary situation.
As Christians, God has placed us in our part of His world for a reason.
Of course, on occasion a church or an individual Christian will minister some loving help to believers some distance away, too
Support mission abroad, try to help the persecuted saints, and so forth, with prayers and money. Help to send missionaries abroad help the local communities there. What a blessed privilege!
However, do we witness and seek to point our own Kentish communities to Christ Jesus our Lord? What a poignant responsibility.
This is what we read of most, in the birth and growth of the Church in the New Testament account. Salvation, fellowship, doctrine, growth in grace.
The local church was a place of togetherness, worship and witness. People getting to know one another, to encourage and to pray for one another. People inviting others to enter the faith and to enter fellowship.
LET US AGAIN, AS OFTEN, RECONSIDER OUR PERSONAL LIVES AND RESPONSES. THANKING GOD FOR WHAT IS OBEDIENT AND GOOD. BUT SEEKING HELP IF THERE IS ANY NEED.
DOING SO IN THE LIGHT GOD’S WORD, AND BECAUSE OF OUR FAITH IN, AND OUR LOVE FOR, OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHO DIED, ROSE AGAIN AND INTERCEDES FOR US.
To Whom be honour and glory, power and dominion, praise and thanksgiving, now and always. Amen.