COURAGEOUS GRACE LIVED OUT IN RELATIONSHIPS
God has almost seven billion children right now on planet earth. And God wants to use you through His grace to change this world.
Where do you start? Or better yet, where do you continue?
Do you have someone in your life you are tempted to give up on? Have they caused you a lot of pain and sorrow from their sinful choices and you feel like giving up on them because you are not sure you can take it anymore? If so, Jeremiah understands! He lived this story too. But he shows us that it is still possible for others who have pained you and hurt you by their sinful choices to still experience the courageous grace of God through you.
Where do you start?
You and I start by doing what Jeremiah did in his day, we need to ask God not to give them what they deserve. In Jeremiah 34 God told Jeremiah to say to King Zedekiah,
Jeremiah 34:2 ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. 3 You shall not escape from his hand but shall surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face. And you shall go to Babylon.’ 4 Yet hear the word of the Lord, O Zedekiah king of Judah…You shall not die by the sword. 5 You shall die in peace.
Zedekiah deserved death but God in the midst of the bondage gave him peace. This is what a merciful God looks like, and this is what God wants us to do for those who are wayward from him.
God through Jeremiah uses a rather obscure example of the Rechabites among them to make a profound point and reminder to them about how he wants us to live among those who are wayward. God says in Jeremiah 35:2,
“Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak with them and bring them to the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers; then offer them wine to drink.” 5 Then I set before the Rechabites pitchers full of wine…and said… “Drink wine.” 6 But they answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever.
12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13…to the people of Judah…they have obeyed their father’s command (not to drink wine), but you have not listened to me. 17 Therefore, thus says the Lord, I am bringing disaster…18 But to the house of Rechabites…(they) shall never lack a man to stand before me (God).”
God is telling Israel through this obscure example, “Set an example of obedience to those around you who are wayward so that they can see physically what it looks like to truly follow God with their lives. Your example before those who are unrepentant may be the only example they have and regardless of how obscure you feel, don’t give up on setting the example. Your life and your example matter to God and to those around you. Keep trusting this truth and keep living it.
As you live this example, this gives you the authority to ask God to show mercy to those around you and forgive them for their waywardness. Your prayers for others like Jeremiah, matter. God spoke to Jeremiah about this very thing in Jeremiah 36:1,
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that everyone may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch…5 And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the Lord, 6 so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. 7 It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord, and that everyone will turn from his evil way…
Why is important to ask God for mercy for others sin? Because it reminds us to ask God for mercy on our sins. Do you know what happens to us if we don’t ask God for mercy on our sins?
When you and I reject the word of God as a tool of mercy, then it becomes a tool of judgment. We see this in Jeremiah 37 with Jehoiakim who refused to listen to God’s Word through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah37:1 Zedekiah the son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim. 2 But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet.
3 King Zedekiah sent Jehucal…to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Please pray for us to the Lord our God.” 4 Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 6 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah…7…Pharoah’s army that came to help you is about to return to Egypt…8 …the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire. 9 Thus says the Lord, do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us…”
Let me explain here what is happening. Israel was trusting in the pagan nation of Egypt and Pharaoh’s leadership to protect them, that is how far gone they were from trusting in God Almighty. They had returned to the slave mindset of their heritage and was trusting in them to deliver them from the Chaldeans, the Babylonians.
God was letting them know through Jeremiah, “It won’t work!”
They didn’t want to hear that as probably some of your relationships don’t want to hear either. Look at what happens in Jeremiah 37:11-15 to Jeremiah because of their resistance to the truth he shared with them.
Jeremiah: 37:11 Now when the Chaldean army had withdrawn from Jerusalem at the approach of Pharaoh’s army, 12 Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive his portion there among the people. 13 When he was at the Benjamin Gate…Irijah seized Jeremiah…saying…” You are deserting to the Chaldeans.” 14 And Jeremiah said, “It is a lie; But Irijah would not listen to him…and brought him to the officials. 15 And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him…
Know anyone else who was beaten and imprisoned unjustly?
That’s right, Jesus!
Like Jesus and Jeremiah, we must be willing to suffer to tell others the truth that can save them.
Jeremiah did. Jesus did. Will you be willing to suffer for the sins of others so they can have a chance to experience the courageous grace of God in their own lives?
This is not easy, but it is essential to the Gospel, the Good News. For the Good News of Jesus to reach others it must first be seasoned through suffering in us for them.
People are worth it! Jesus didn’t just say that He modeled by His death on the cross.
These next words frame it well…
Jeremiah 37:16 When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells and remained there many days, 17 King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.”
People we have suffered for know where to go when they want to hear the truth of the Lord.
In Jeremiah 38:1-13, Shephatiah and Pashhur had Jeremiah thrown back in a cistern to die. Ebed-melech got him out under the King’s authority.
Then look what happens in Jeremiah 38:14,
14 King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you a question hide nothing from me.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death?” And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.” 16 Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, “As the Lord lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord…
It is important, regardless of our suffering, that we keep speaking the truth of the Lord to those who will listen.
Don’t let the Enemy silence your voice for Jesus. Jeremiah didn’t, even the direst of circumstances couldn’t stop him. Look at what God had Jeremiah say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian,
Jeremiah 39:15 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: 16 “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm…17 But I will deliver you…18 For I will surely save you…but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the Lord
Ebed was the one who saved Jeremiah’s life, and more importantly, risked his own life to save Jeremiah out of the cistern, the pit, Jeremiah had been thrown into.
I want to encourage you to keep speaking life over the relationships of your life. God will send people to fight for you too during this. Yes, some will cause you great suffering, but others will listen and ultimately like Ebed, receive the mercy and grace that God has for our lives through Jesus, our Savior.
Don’t focus on the haters! Focus on those who want to experience the grace of God and give yourself more to them than to anyone. Don’t give up on serving and speaking life to others. Speaks words of life! I love Toby Mac’s song: “Speak Life.” Here are some of the lyrics,
We can turn our heart through the words we say
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die
So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
Keep speaking words of life to those who have not yet turned back to the Lord, regardless of what their actions cost you.
Jesus did that for us, let’s do that for others!