Abanindranath Tagore, Journey’s End, tempera on paper, 1913.
By Jill Carattini
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, the young hobbit, has been given the burden of bearing the one ring of power. It is a ring that has the potential to put all of Middle Earth under terror and shadow, and the darkness is already spreading. With a fellowship of friends, Frodo determines he must start the long, dark journey to destroy the ring by throwing it into the volcano from which it was forged. It is a journey that will take him on fearful paths through enemy territory and overwhelming temptation to the ends of himself. Seeing the road ahead of him, he laments to Gandalf the Wise that the burden of the ring should have come to him in the first place.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”(1)
A fan of Tolkien’s epic fantasy once wrote the author to say that he preferred to read The Lord of the Rings particularly during the season of Lent. Though I don’t know all this reader had in mind with such a statement, Tolkien’s portrayal of a journey into darkness with the weight of a great burden and a motley fellowship of companions certainly holds similarities to the journey of the church toward the cross. The forty-day period that leads to Easter is both an invitation and a quest for any who would be willing, albeit a difficult one. The deliberate and wearisome journey with Christ to the cross is a crushing burden, even with the jarring recognition that we are not the one carrying it. On the path to Holy Week, the fellowship of the church far and wide is given time to focus in detail on what it means that Jesus came into this world that he might go the fearful way of the Cross. It is time set apart for pilgrimage and preparation, forty days with which we decide what to do with the time that is given us.
In fact, Christian scriptures attach special meaning to the forty-day journey. Considered the number of days marking a devout encounter with God, we find the occurrence of forty-day journeys throughout the stories of the prophets and the people of God. For forty days Noah and his family waited on the arc as God washed away and revived the earth. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, where he received the Law of God to share with the Israelites. Later, he spent forty days on the mountain prostrate before the LORD after the sin of the golden calf. Elijah was given food in the wilderness, which gave him strength for the forty-day journey to Horeb, the Mount of God. Jonah reluctantly accepted forty days in Nineveh where the people, heeding his warning, repented before God with fasting, sackcloths, and ashes. For forty days the prophet Ezekiel laid on his right side to symbolize the forty years of Judah’s transgression. And finally, for forty days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. As Mark reports: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
It is with this same Spirit that any are invited to take the forty-day journey into the shadows and difficulties of Lent. In every forty-day (or forty year) journey described in Scripture, the temptations are real, the waiting is difficult, and the call to listen or to look, to obey or deny is wearying. But there is something about the journey itself to which God moves the journeyer. Jesus himself was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, while Moses, Ezekiel, Noah, and even Jonah were each instructed to set out on the journeys that brought them closer to the heart of God, whether they were able to accept it or not.
Similarly today, the forty days that lead to Easter Sunday are not without burden or cost. “The Cross of Lent,” as Augustine referred to it, is one to bear year round, but one we learn to bear all the more intensely along the way to the cross during Lent. Here, the church invites the journeyer to remember that we are dust, that we follow Jesus to his death, that we recollect the acts of God to be near us, and we let go of the things that keep us from holding the Son who saves us. Of course, these are burdens that none will never bear alone. But each day we are given is one we decide what to do with. Jesus has given one option:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”(2)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), 51.
(2) Luke 9:23-24.
Christian author and speaker Brittni De La Mora believes that hardships and pain have purpose — a lesson gleaned from some of her remarkable and inspiring firsthand experiences.
De La Mora, a former porn star who famously left the industry behind to become a Christian, is now an author and speaker who regularly shares her faith and works to inspire people facing life struggles.
“Sometimes, hardships that come into our lives … are inevitable,” she said on a recent episode of “Let’s Talk Purity,” a show she co-hosts alongside her husband, Richard. “There was a time in my life … I actually was dating a guy who was murdered. He was stabbed in front of me.”
Listen to De La Mora reveal how she discovered the Bible during this traumatic event:
De La Mora went into hiding for a few days while authorities searched for the people who committed the crime, and it was there, while isolated in a hotel, that she encountered a Bible.
“I saw a Bible. I wasn’t a Christian. I was still in the porn industry during this time,” she explained. “And I remember taking that Bible … I just started reading all the scriptures that pertained to everything that I was going through, and I would write out the scriptures as they spoke to me, and I was so liberated during that time.”
Despite not yet being a Christian, De La Mora said the fear that had been overtaking her in the midst of the tragic killing started to dissipate.
“Something about the Word of God gave me so much hope, so much encouragement during one of the hardest seasons that I’ve ever been through in life,” she said.
After becoming a Christian, De La Mora more fully learned how to deal with the pain and struggles that often plague people’s lives.
In the end, she and Richard explained that “hardships are going to come” in life, but that people must keep their “faith in God.” The couple encouraged people to keep “a pure heart during hard times,” and explored a plethora of examples of the challenges that can come in life.
“There are so many things in this life right now that can affect the purity of our hearts,” Richard said early on in the “Let’s Talk Purity” episode. “We understand that there’s purpose in every season. When we understand that there’s purpose in every season, then we know there’s stuff God is trying to show us and teach us during every season.”
Richard said he has learned to stop asking “God, why are you doing this?” and to start asking what God is trying to show him through difficult circumstances.
“Nothing grows our faith better than hard times,” Brittni added. “It’s when you go through hard times that God shows up.”
Now, I told you a couple of weeks ago that we had finished the New Testament. Doesn’t mean I’ll never go back there again. I will. I have some plans to. But the natural assumption is that we’re going to take a look at the Old Testament. And I do have some plans for that. I’m working on kind of putting together a sort of a long series that could last the rest of our lives together, that you could – you could sort of call “The Road to Emmaus.”
You remember in Luke 24, Jesus on the road to Emmaus said to the disciples, it says that he said to them, “Beginning at Moses and the prophets and in all the holy writings, He spoke to them of the things concerning Himself.” Well, Moses, that’s the law; the prophets, the prophets; the holy writings, all the other books. Those are the three categories of the Old Testament.
So Jesus went to the Old Testament and taught them the things from the Old Testament that were about Him. So I can’t cover everything in the Old Testament, but I think we’ll go on a road-to-Emmaus journey and we’ll go through the Old Testament and find all the things that refer to Christ there. And there are many of them, and you might be surprised to know that Christ appears first in the Old Testament in Genesis 1:1. And last, in the last chapter of the Old Testament, in Malachi. So He is the beginning and the end of the Old Testament and whole lot of places in between. So that’s one of the things I want to do, among several others, and I’m kind of working on that as I attempt to reinvent myself this summer.
Now, I want to demonstrate to you that I do really know there is an Old Testament, and I am actually willing to teach the Old Testament to you. So let’s get a sample, all right? Open your Bible to Jeremiah – open your Bible to Jeremiah, the remarkable prophecy of the man known as the weeping prophet. He wrote this great prophecy of fifty-two chapters, and in addition to that, of course, he is responsible for the wonderful, deep, and insightful book of Lamentations. Jeremiah.
And I want to talk about Jeremiah because I think Jeremiah is a man for a time like our time. The Old Testament prophets were historical figures, real figures living in real events that are laid out for us in their prophecies and in their histories. But they are not unique in the sense that the times and the seasons and the issues that faced them were somehow never repeated. They are, in fact, the same cycles that are repeated through all of human history. Jeremiah lived in a time in a nation that is very instructive for us, living in the time and the nation in which we live today.
I think you are pretty much aware, if you are at all attuned to the character of our culture, that naturalism dominates our society. You might say there was a time in America when supernaturalism dominated our thinking. In other words, we were a nation under God. And you know they’re deleting that from the Pledge of Allegiance, I understand even at a golf tournament, trying to figure out how to get it off our coins. But there was a time when we were happy to say we are a nation under God, we are supernaturalists.
We believe in a Creator. We believe in God as a sovereign ruler of the universe. But we have abandoned that and we are essentially now rapidly becoming a nation of naturalists. The most influential intellectuals, philosophers, scientists, educators, politicians, judges in America are mostly naturalists.
Naturalists assume that God exists only in the imagination of religious people, that the idea of God is, frankly, a superstition, an irrational superstition that is created out of a pre-scientific era to meet certain anxieties of the human heart. The truth is, however, there is no God and everything is simply a consequence of natural effects. Naturalism is the idea that nature is all there is, that virtually everything that exists is simply the product of unplanned, uncontrolled accidents. Life is based on this assumption, that we have just randomly evolved into what we are today.
Creation, then, is the result, as we know it, life as we know it is the result of unconscious forces randomly mutating. Man says evolutionary science is the purposeless end of a purposeless process that did not have him in mind. Oops, he just showed up. This is what is taught in the universities and then this is what is learned by the students. Those students then become the next generation of educators, the next generation of politicians, the next generation of social architects, the next generation of judges who make their legal decisions. They become the next generation of journalists who interpret things that are going on in the world from a naturalist perspective. It is a form of atheism.
And while not all of them would deny the existence of some god, they are almost all very anxious to deny the existence of the biblical God. Those who believe in God are seen as irrational. Those who believe in the biblical God are seen as dangerous and must be kept out of the public discourse. And in the name of separation of church and state, we cannot have people who believe the Bible and the biblical God to be the true God have anything to say about public policy, public life, education, government, social order, law, courts, or morality.
All this rejection of God is purported to be based on science. It is called for by intellectualism. It is demanded by freedom and tolerance and mutual respect. There’s no place for anybody being an authority, anybody saying there is one God who is the absolute ruler who has written one book in which is contained all His will and all truth pertaining to Him and life in His world that is necessary. That is absolutely objectionable. There is this wholesale rejection of God. It is, however, not intellectual, it is the product of the love of iniquity. That’s all it is. Not a love of freedom, not a love of intellectualism, it’s not a love for science, it is a love for sin that drives this.
If you get rid of the God of the Bible, you get rid of the Bible. If you get rid of the Bible, you get rid of biblical morality. If you get rid of biblical morality, you can live any way you want with the assumption that there would be no consequences. So all the supposed intellectual naturalists are nothing but Hedonists wanting to express their lust in an unbridled way. Anybody with half a brain knows that all of this didn’t come from no one. Spurgeon said, “I can scarcely conceive a heart so callous that it feels no awe or a human mind so dull and destitute of understanding as fairly to view the tokens of God’s omnipotent power and then turn aside without some sense of wonder and obedience.”
How can you look at what exists and not be in awe of the source of it? How can we sin against so great a reality by denying it and then sin against the will of the very God we deny against the greatness of the Almighty? Well, our instruction today is going to come from the prophet Jeremiah as to how we respond to a society like ours which is very much like his.
Turn to Jeremiah chapter 5 – Jeremiah chapter 5. In a 52-chapter book, obviously there’s a lot more than we would attempt to cover, but I think I can give you a feel for the man and his time that will relate to how we approach the time and the place where we find ourselves today. Chapter 5 and verse 20 is one of the sermons of Jeremiah that comes from the Lord, and it gives us a good insight into the way things were.
Jeremiah is told by the Lord to say these things. “Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying,” – here is the message that God gives him – ‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear. Do you not fear me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in my presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree so that it cannot cross over it. Though the waters toss, yet they cannot prevail. Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.
“‘But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned aside and departed. They do not say in their heart, “Now let us fear the Lord our God who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” Your iniquities have turned these away and your sins have withheld good from you.’”
Now, what is this saying? It’s really a very, very clear statement. He is saying that the people of God, the men of Judah, the people of Jacob, the Jews have looked at the creation, they have seen the ocean and the land that bounds it, they have understood the rain at the appropriate season and the seasons and the rain that together produced the food that sustains life. They have seen the enduring consistency of all of this. They have seen the power of these provisions and the wonder of them – that is to say, the majesty of God in creation is on display. The providence of God is manifest, and it ought to stir up their hearts in worship. That’s why he says in verse 22, “Do you not fear me or worship me? Do you not tremble in my presence?”
On the contrary. They say in their heart, “Let us” – verse 24 – “not really fear the Lord.” It should say, “Let us fear the Lord now.” But they don’t. Their wills do not submit to Him. They don’t even give Him honor as the Creator and the provider. The almighty power of Jehovah is manifest, it is visible in the works of His creation, that should constrain His covenant people, Israel, and any people in any era of history to fear His name, to be in awe of Him as the Creator, to reverence Him as the source of provision, the One who controls the sea, provides the land and the seasons and the food.
How can we contemplate this God and not worship Him and not give Him honor and not turn to Him and not obey Him? That is the question that God tells Jeremiah to pose to Judah, the southern kingdom, the remaining people in the land of Israel. The northern kingdom already had been taken into captivity for their own apostasy.
But there’s more here than fact. There is an analogy here, and I want you to see the analogy. The analogy appears in verse 22. It is a fact that God places sand as a boundary for the sea. It is a fact that the waves toss and yet they cannot prevail, they roar yet they cannot cross over. It is a fact that God controls the oceans with the shore. The sea, then, Jeremiah says, never breaks its boundary. It obeys me in all its movements. It may toss and turn, there may be an occasional tidal wave, there may be an occasional tsunami, but the sea will go back to its ordered place.
However, on the contrary, verse 23, “This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned aside and departed. They will not be bound. They will not stay within the confines of God’s will and purpose. They are a revolting and rebellious people. They go astray. They break all the boundaries. This pure, puny, sinful man, this little creature that God could crush like a moth under your shoe, this man will resist the restraints of God and overrun all his boundaries. Man in his fallenness cannot be held in check, either individually or collectively. The sea tosses and turns but it obeys. It is restrained by a little belt of sand. Its mighty powers are held back.”
But people, says God, who have stronger restraints than sand are rebellious and overrun the borders that God has established. That’s what the people of the nation Israel had done. The borders, the boundaries, His promises, His threats, His judgments, His commands, His Covenants, and they overran them all. Man is hellbent on revolt. It’s just the way it is. That is how, God says, Jeremiah must see His people.
Now, into this situation in the southern kingdom of Judah, God drops this prophet, and he’s a remarkable man. His message is the judgment that is coming and it is coming fast. In fact, the judgment came in his lifetime. About a century earlier, there was another very familiar prophet, Isaiah, who said the same thing, “Judgment is coming, judgment is coming, judgment is coming,” and he was referring to the Babylonian captivity, the holocaust of the arrival of the Babylonian-Chaldean army to desecrate the temple, destroy the temple, conquer Jerusalem, massacre multiple thousands of people, and carry the rest off captive into a pagan culture. That particular holocaust, among many in the life of Israel, Isaiah said would come. About a century later, Jeremiah arrives, and it’s during his lifetime that it actually does come.
Jeremiah was a preacher for about the same length of time as I have been here, 42 years – 42 years. He preached during the reign of five kings. The first king was a man named Josiah – Josiah. The end of the reign of Josiah was a time of reformation and a time of revival. The law was recovered, and Josiah sought to bring the law to the people, and it produced a revival.
However, a prophetess named Huldah showed up and said, “This is superficial. This is man-centered. This is not going to last. This will have no permanent reformation.” That was true. The superficial revival under Josiah didn’t last. What Josiah did was right, he did all the right things, but the people’s response was surfeited and superficial.
Josiah’s reign was followed by the second king during the ministry of Jeremiah, a man by the name of Jehoahaz. He only lasted three months. He was followed by Jehoiakim and he returned the people to corruption. He led them right back into idolatry and the worship of false gods.
He was followed by Jehoiachin, who also lasted three months. And Jehoiachin was followed by the final king during the time of Jeremiah and the last king of the southern kingdom before the captivity, a man named Zedekiah, who was a vacillating weakling, saw the nation more swiftly down the steep slide of depravity that led to absolute ruin and deportation. He had tough going.
The first king, superficial revival; the next four, rapid decline. And through 42 years of these five kings, Jeremiah’s message never changed – never, ever changed. He was always the voice of God to that society, as any faithful preacher must be. His preaching in no way deterred the idolatry. His preaching in no way stopped the slide. His preaching in no way eliminated the judgment. He never saw, essentially, any impact on a national level through 40 years of his efforts. He was faithful and he was despised, and eventually they threw him in a pit to try to shut him up.
I see so many parallels between Jeremiah’s time and Jeremiah and our time and faithful preachers today. We stand near the holocaust. We have to be on the brink of a devastating judgment in this nation. We have gone through some quasi revivals. There are people who would argue that we’ve had some revivals, that the gospel has spread, that Bibles have spread, that we’re on television and radio and through all kinds of media, the gospel is going out and yet we see no – no reversing of the direction of this nation. We see no lasting results.
The church seems superficial and shallow and consumed with self-fulfillment and self-gratification. So we come to a place in the life of Jeremiah that parallels our own time, and we ask this question: How do we approach a nation on the brink of judgment? Let’s learn from Jeremiah. I’m going to show you three elements.
Number one, Jeremiah understood that he had a divine mission – a divine mission. I’m sure there were people in those days who were calling for all kinds of social reform, all kinds of political action, all kinds of educational advancement. But none of those had anything to do with the calling of Jeremiah, nor did they have anything to do with our calling. Ours is a divine mission – a divine mission.
In other words, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” That becomes clear to us in the commission of Jeremiah. Let’s go back to chapter 1. It’s one of the most fascinating callings that any man of God has ever had and here, Jeremiah is informed of things about which he had no knowledge. Verse 4, “The Word of the Lord came to me,” he says. “The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” Wow.
Here’s the first thing to understand about a divine mission: Your life is predestined by God – your life is predestined by God. Long before Jeremiah was ever conceived in the womb of his mother, long before Hilkiah, his father, and his mother came together to bring him life, long before that, sometime not only before the birth of Jeremiah, before the conception of Jeremiah, but probably before the foundation of the world, Jeremiah was chosen and appointed as a prophet, not only to Judah but to the nations. His message extended beyond Judah and it’s still extending even today, across the globe wherever the prophet is read.
Long before life ever was given to this man, God had determined to separate him, put him in a unique place at a unique time as a consecrated prophet of God to speak for God – predestination. Here, in this brief beginning with eleven short Hebrew words, God gives Jeremiah his own biography. Beginning in eternity past, the timeless eons of eternity, right on through until there are no more nations left for him to preach, God sums up his calling as predestined. He is an intensely human personality, this Jeremiah, and if you read the book and read it and read it and read it, you’re going to learn to love this man.
He is very human, and yet his humanity does not explain the power of his preaching and the relentless endurance of his faithfulness. He is a man who is mysteriously endowed with power from on high to survive the rejection that marked his entire life. He is so humanly weak that he can’t stop crying, and yet he is so unassailably strong that he will not yield and compromise. He is a powerful personality. He is a lovable personality.
Now let me tell you something. When there is a crisis, people look for a program, but God looks for a man. When there is a crisis, people look for some system to fix it, and God looks for a man and God looks for a woman. When God wanted to deal with a crisis, He started with a baby. In this case, Jeremiah was that baby. And He designed him in the womb. And He put him together to have the human capabilities that he needed to do this. He also endowed him with the spiritual equipment to fulfill his appointment by God.
Jeremiah knew this, and this was the bottom line, he was sovereignly ordained by God to do what he did. And it was never a matter of results. It was never a matter of his will. In fact, to show you that, look at verse 6, “Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God’” – sounds like Isaiah, “Woe is me.” Are you kidding? “Alas, Lord God, I don’t know how to speak, I’m no speaker, and I’m just a youth.” You’re looking at the wrong guy. I’m inadequate, I’m not qualified, I can’t do this.
How did he overcome that sense of insufficiency, inadequacy? What took him beyond that was the clear indication that he had been predestined by God to this calling. By the way, whoever doesn’t have a sense of being predestined by God to service will never lead a spiritual revolution. Most people living in the church today have no sense of divine mission, they’re just bouncing from job to job and event to event and engagement to engagement and activity to activity. That’s the way they live, that’s the way they raise their kids.
There’s no sense of an overarching divine mission. There’s no sense – and this is tragic – in the life of believers that the birth of every believer was ordained by God, the death of every believer was ordained by God, which means the middle was ordained by God and for purposes that advance the name of Christ and the glory of the kingdom, and that’s the last thing on our priority list. Not Jeremiah. He knew that he had been called by God from before he was born, designed in the womb, separated from the womb, separated from the society, appointed to be a prophet, and he had been called to fulfill his mission.
Not only was he predestined by God but he was provided by God what he needed. He says, “I don’t know how to speak and I’m a youth.” So the Lord says to him, “Don’t say ‘I’m a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.”
Now, the first thing you would say is, “What am I going to say? What am I going to say?” The educators say that the greatest fear that humans have is the fear of public speaking. Well, the reason people have a fear of public speaking is very often related to the fact that they have no idea what to say or they think that what they have to say isn’t important and most of the time they’re exactly right. In fact, some of the people who do most of the public speaking have the least to say and should be embarrassed about speaking.
But when you have the most important message, that hesitancy has a way of disappearing, does it not? When you see the children on the brink of being consumed in the house fire, you really don’t stumble over the fact of whether you should publicly yell, “Fire, get out” and grab somebody. It’s about the passion of it. You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to say because you’re not going to have to invent it – you’re not going to have to come up with it. I’m going to provide it.
I’m going to give you the words to say. You’re going to speak for me. You’re going to have divine wisdom. All that I command you, you shall speak, and everywhere I send you, you shall go. That’s how any true minister, any true preacher that represents God has to approach ministry. I am predestined to this and I am provided the message. Jeremiah was resisted and hated and despised and abused.
That leads to the third aspect of his calling, not only predestination and provision but protection. Verse 8, “Don’t be afraid of them, I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. You have nothing to fear. You are called by me. You are empowered by me. You’re going to face opposition. You’re going to face antagonism, and he certainly did, constantly.
Nobody listened to him. Nobody paid attention to him. The nation didn’t turn. It was a very hard, discouraging 42 years, and people hated what he said and hated him for saying it. If you want to do an interesting study sometime in your Bible, find all the places where it says, “Fear not,” and it’s not said just to little widows who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from or orphaned children who didn’t know who was going to care for them and protect them.
“Fear not” is said by God to Abraham and Moses and Daniel and Mary and Peter and Paul because any human being, even the strongest leaders, face the fear that comes with confronting people with a message they don’t want to hear. But you’ll have protection from God.
There’s a fourth component here, verses 9 and 10, power. “The Lord stretched out His hand, touched my mouth and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” Verse 10, “‘I have appointed you this day over the nations, over the kingdoms, to pluck up, to break down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build’ and to plant.’”
That is amazing. Jeremiah feared he was nobody. He was young, he wasn’t effective as a communicator, he was unskilled in oratory. The divine answer is, “Don’t worry about it. I am going to give you the words to speak. Don’t worry about the reaction, I will protect you from the enemies of that truth. And know this, that the words that come out of your mouth will shatter and build. They will tear down and they will plant. Your words will be destruction to people and nations and construction to other people and nations.”
This is the power that belongs to the one who proclaims the truth. The great power brokers in our world, the kings and potentates and the rulers, have no power – they have no power. The power they do have is the weakness of human power or even worse, the power of the kingdom of darkness, neither of which can even approach the power of God. Kings, nations, empires boast of their power, yet the power in the world belongs to the mouths of the messengers of heaven. God picks up this obscure young man of about 30 years of age from a tiny, little, obscure country and says, “I will set you over nations, over kingdoms of the earth. Your Word will destroy and your Word will build.”
So this was his calling. He was on a divine mission. And, people, we live in a nation in a dire crisis of abandonment of God, headed for a holocaust of judgment. We’re already under the judgment of Romans 1, we’ve been turned over to our immorality, our homosexuality, and a reprobate mind. We’re on the brink of divine judgment, and what is needed is that the kingdom of God. And the representatives of that kingdom understand that our mission is divine. The reason for your birth, the reason for your death and your conversion in the middle is so that you can speak the Word of God to this culture on the brink of a holocaust. It’s a divine mission, it’s why we live.
Secondly, what characterized Jeremiah was a direct message – a direct message. He didn’t pull any punches, we would say. He didn’t pamper, cajole, soft-soap, skirt issues. He didn’t say, “Well, we don’t really want to talk about sin,” and he paid for it. Chapters 30 to 33, he wrote when he was in prison. He didn’t spend his life trying to avoid controversy, trying to make everybody happy. If you read chapter 14 and verse 7, you will hear him say, “We have sinned against God as a nation.”
If you read chapter 17 and verse 9, you will hear him say, “Your hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” He preached against sin. He indicted the nation. He indicted the sinners for their sin categorically in chapter 3, chapter 9, chapter 11, chapter 19. He accused them of being involved in false religion – false religion. You have turned to idols from the true God.
Chapter 2, verse 12, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this. Shudder, be very desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” – that’s false religion. They have turned away from the fountainhead of life, the Lord God, the One who made His Son the living water to quench the thirst of the soul of every penitent sinner.
This wicked thing they have done, turning from the fountainhead and trying to fill up their broken buckets, concocted and created by themselves as if they could hold the water of life. Labor long, do they, in false religion, hewing out cisterns, man-made, collecting dirt and dead animals but holding no water. That’s false religion.
If you are to be a faithful prophet in a nation in decline and crisis, you must expose false religion where it exists. This is not a time for tolerance, this is not a time for embracing everybody and saying, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you follow your heart.” Listen, this world is full of damning false religion. I have been accused through the years of being intolerant and I accept that as a compliment. Of course I’m intolerant, I am as intolerant as God is, as Christ is, as the Bible is of anything that damns people’s souls while promising them heaven. It is a direct message. We’re not just talking about making people feel good, we confront lies.
In the seventh chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah indicts them for worshiping the queen of heaven, who is now cast under the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And so we confront Roman Catholicism and Mormonism and every other ism and spasm and schism and whatever it is, any of it, all of it, because we have no choice but to confront and expose false religion. That’s what Jeremiah did. He did it all the way through chapter 19 and beyond that.
He also confronted corrupt spiritual leadership. Go to chapter 5, where we were, and we’re just looking briefly at these, but chapter 5, verse 30, an appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. What is it? The prophets prophesy falsely, the priests rule on their own authority. He confronted the false prophets. He confronted the deceivers and the liars who had infiltrated Judaism. So on the one hand, he attacked the idolatry of false religion, and then he attacked the corrupt infiltrators of the true religion.
You cannot be the prophet of God, you cannot be the mouthpiece of God, you cannot be the representative of God unless you have a direct message that goes at false religion as it exists contrary to the truth and as it exists inside the categories of the truth. Jeremiah 23 says the same thing. Jeremiah 25 says the same thing.
These were false teachers who were saying whatever they wanted to say, whatever satisfied them, and the people loved it. Sure, they fill up those places where false teachers tell them what they want to hear, how good they are, how wise they are, how powerful their thoughts and their words are and how they can create their own euphoria in this world. All those liars find people who love to hear that, but what will you do at the end of it? What’s going to happen at the end when you face the judgment?
This is a direct message. He addressed wickedness in general in chapter 3. Chapter 3, verse 24 and 25, will be a sufficient illustration. “The shameful thing has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth, their flocks, their herds, their sons, and their daughters.” It’s just – the whole society is immoral. Shame describes all conduct. Verse 25 talks about lying down in our shame. We have sinned against the Lord our God and our fathers from our youth, even to this day have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.
There’s overtones of sexual deviation, sexual perversion, sexual immorality, all about the book of Jeremiah. Perversion of marriage in chapter 3, sexual perversion there and elsewhere as well, the sexual perversion coming physically as a part of the spiritual perversion of worshiping idols. They were a wicked, wicked people.
They were also dishonest, chapter 5. This is really an indictment that we can identify with. Aren’t you weary of being lied to by people in power? Listen to what Jeremiah says in chapter 5, verse 1, “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem. Go everywhere in Jerusalem, look now and take notes, seek in her open squares. If you can find a man, if there’s one who does justice, who seeks truth, and I’ll pardon her.” Huh. I’ll halt the judgment if you can find one guy who tells the truth – one person.
Liars, deceivers, “O, Lord,” verse 2, although they say as the Lord lives” – as the Lord lives, that’s a way to swear. I swear I’m telling you the truth, God is my witness, as the Lord lives, I’m telling you the truth – they still lie, they still swear falsely. “O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?”
Sounds so much like our society. Corrupt religion abounds everywhere. False prophets have infiltrated Christianity everywhere. Moral corruption abounds on every front. Dishonesty is everywhere. There’s a rejection of Scripture.
Look at chapter 11, and we’ll wrap this up in a minute. Chapter 11, verses 8 to 10, “They didn’t obey or incline their ear but walked each one in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore, I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; they did not. The Lord said to me, ‘A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah, among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to their iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel, the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.’”
Pull one statement out, “They refused to hear my words.” Characteristically, they rejected the Word of God. They rejected the Word of God. They deliberately abandoned the Word of God. You know, that’s characteristic of our culture. There’s no place in our society for the Word of God, the truth of God, the Scripture, the Bible. It’s an amazing thing. And then in chapter 13, just to kind of summarize this second point, God does a very interesting thing. It’s a visual aid. You don’t need to read it, I’m just going to tell you what happened.
He tells Jeremiah, “Go get a pair of shorts” – underwear – “and put it on and wear it and don’t wash it.” You’ve heard of wash-and-wear, this is wear-and-don’t-wash. “Wear it and don’t wash it.” And then He comes to him and says, after he’s done that, “Go take that pair of shorts and go far away, go” – according to chapter 13, verse 4 – “up to the Euphrates River and hide it. Bury it in the crevice of a rock.” What? That’s two hundred miles. And by the way, two hundred miles is a long trip when you’re walking.
Go two hundred miles and bury dirty shorts? What is this? Well, he goes and does it, and the Lord tells him later, “Go back and get it.” What? “Go back, get those dirty shorts.” And when he goes back, by the time he digs them out, they’re horrible, disintegrated. And He says, “That’s my people. I drew them to myself as intimately as I could, and they became more foul and more foul and more foul, and I separated myself from them, and they corrupted, and they’re under judgment.” God doesn’t change the rules, right? And we don’t have covenant protection. Jeremiah was a man who had a divine mission and a very direct message – very, very direct.
There’s a third thing, and I’ll close with this. He was characterized by a deep mourning. He’s known as the weeping prophet, chapter 13, verse 17, “If you will not listen, my soul will sob in secret for such pride. My eyes will bitterly weep and flow down with tears because a flock of the Lord has been taken captive.” This is God weeping, and God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. Jeremiah says, “O, that my head were a fountain of waters, that my head were a spring that just kept gushing water so that my tears could continually flow for my people.”
We don’t ever want to get to a place where, as we go to a nation on the brink of a holocaust of divine judgment, we become indifferent or callous. We want to have the heart of Jesus, who saw the city of Jerusalem that He was going to judge and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We want to have the heart of Jeremiah. I’ll read that to you, chapter 9, “O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” I just wish my head was a fountain of unending tears. He even calls, in chapter 9, later in the chapter, for mourning women to come out and mourn with Him over the condition of His people.
So for 42 years, he followed his divine mission. preached his direct message, and was characterized by deep mourning. What was the result? What was the result? Chapter 7 – quickly – the result, verse 23, I’ve already told you, “This is what I commanded them saying, ‘Obey my voice and I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people and walk in all the ways I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart and went backward and not forward.” Wow. Discouraging – discouraging. Why do you do this if nobody listens?
I’m going to close with the twenty-fourth chapter – twenty-fourth chapter and the fourth verse. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs’” – that had been illustrated on a fig tree – “‘Like these good figs, I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes on them for good. I will bring them again to this land. I will build them up and not overthrow them. I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know me, for I am the Lord, and they will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with their whole heart.’”
What is that saying? There is a remnant. There is a remnant. After the destruction and the devastation and the judgment and the purification of the captivity, there is a remnant that God will save.
Why do we preach if nobody listens? Because the nobody is qualified. Within that vast number of rejecters, there is a remnant that God will save, that God will forgive, whose hearts He will change. That’s why we do what we do. You, dear ones, are that remnant, part of that remnant in a nation on the way to judgment.
Father, thank you for your Word to us. We are so grateful for its richness. It’s life-giving to us. Thank you for this precious church. I pray for those here who have not come to Christ. O Lord, would you give them that new heart? Would you cleanse them? Would you love them and seek them and draw them to yourself and save them? Thank you for all that you’re doing here and will continue to do as we’re faithful to you, and we’ll thank you in your Son’s name. Amen.
George Washington has long been credited with instituting the tradition of concluding the oath of office with the phrase, “So help me God,” at his presidential inauguration in 1789. This profound event has helped shape and influence our nation. Washington’s love for God and country has served as an example for all American history. We have the most unique country in the world. We have the most blessed country in the world. God’s good hand is on it. With the great freedom we have been given, comes great responsibility. People who truly know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour are responsible for what no one else is responsible for in our country. Our religious liberty is a gift from God, not from the state; therefore, we answer to God for this liberty.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and notice that it is God’s desire that “all men…come unto the knowledge of truth.” Like Timothy, we have been taught certain truths. We know that God is real. We know that heaven and hell are real. We know that there is a certain judgment. We know that Jesus Christ is coming again. We know that evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse. We know that men for money, power, or other reasons may soil their conscience. And we know that when men soil their conscience, it will surely cause their lives to shipwreck. What are we to do with the truth we have been given? How can we use the truth to impact our nation for Christ?
We Are to Speak to God About Our Country
The Bible says in I Timothy 2:1-2, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” All of us would like to live that quiet and peaceable life, but that quiet and peaceable life according to the Word of God does not begin by marching in the streets or protesting in some town square. It begins first of all with speaking to God about our nation.
The ultimate outcome of the struggle in our nation rests in the hands of God. Our first responsibility is to call on God. I want us to stop just for a moment, and ask ourselves, “How many times have we complained without praying? How many times have we griped about something we didn’t like but we didn’t pray about it?” We must speak to God first.
We Are to Speak to Our Country About God
The first thing is speaking to God for our country. The second thing is to speak to our country about God. The Bible says in I Timothy 2:3-6, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” We meet many people who have not come to “the knowledge of the truth.” How will they ever know the Creator God? It is our responsibility in our country to take advantage of every freedom we enjoy, to open our mouths and proclaim with our whole heart that our God is the true God, the Creator God, and all truth proceeds from Him because He is before all things.
Instead of sitting down, twiddling our thumbs, and having debates about every opportunity we do not have, we need to take advantage of every opportunity we do have. We need to begin speaking to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers about God. This is what our country needs.
We Are to Allow God to Speak to Us
and Obey Him
Thirdly, we are to always allow God to speak to us and obey Him. I Timothy 2:7-8 says, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Notice the parenthetical phrase in verse seven, “I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not.” This is given to us by the Lord in the Word of God so that the reader better understands the author. When we write something in parentheses, that gives a little more earnestness or clarity.
The Word of God says in Psalm 134:1-2, “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.” In other words, “God, see into my heart. This is all for the Lord. It is all for His glory. I am coming to God with a clean heart and giving it to Him.”
Our responsibility is to pray for individuals, for leaders, for authorities; to speak to God about our nation; to speak to our nation in humility and boldness about the truth; and to confront them about Christ. Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour? There is only one way to heaven. Do not be fooled and die and go to hell forever. Do not just live on religion. You must know the true God. That is why we are here.
We have the greatest work in this world to do: being His witnesses and His intercessors, and He will enable us for this work if we keep our own hearts right with Him.
Let me encourage you to open your Bible to the 18th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 18. And here is a familiar and wonderful and rich parable told by our Lord Jesus Christ, the master of the story with a spiritual point, the master of the simple story with a profound spiritual message. Luke chapter 18, we begin at verse 1.
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. And there was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.” And for a while he was unwilling. But afterward, he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection lest by continually coming she wear me out.” And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said.’ Now, shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night? And will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
Now the heart of this text is this great story that begins in verse 2, and ends in verse 5. I want us to direct our attention, first of all, to the story and then we’ll consider the surrounding material. Let’s call it the Lord’s illustration, the Lord’s illustration. Verse 2: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.” This is simply a city that Jesus fabricates in the story. But we can assume that since He’s talking to people in the land of Israel, it would be typical of a city in Israel. And what follows would be all too familiar to the people of Israel, for Israel, frankly, had much experience with widows and much experience with unjust judges. And here we meet such a judge, a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.
And while that seems a rather simple characterization, it is a very well chosen characterization because you find such references to people in literature from ancient times outside the Bible and this kind of description is used to describe the most wicked person, someone who has absolutely no reverence for God and no interest in people, no concerns regarding the law of God, the will of God and completely indifferent to the needs of people and their just causes. This man is ultimately and finally wicked. There is no way to penetrate this man’s wickedness either from the viewpoint of the law of God or from the viewpoint of the need of man. He is not moved by reverence or worship and he is not moved by compassion or sympathy. He has no interest in the first commandment, loving God; no interest in the second commandment, loving his neighbor. He is the most wicked man.
His wickedness is obviously toxic, it is compounded because he is in the role of a judge and he renders his judgments in regard both to the law of God and the needs of people and since he is not moved by either, he is, as Jesus characterizes him, an unrighteous judge. The word “unrighteous” would mean dishonest, corrupt, unjust. Not only is he this evil but he knows it and he’s comfortable with it. In verse 4 he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect men.” This is not simply a definition of the man that has been placed upon him by those that know him, he agrees with it in full. Here is the worst possible human being in a very, very important position of responsibility whose disregard for God and man has massive implications in regard to all the people who come into his court.
Now the kind of court that a judge like this would be a part of would be a civil court. In towns and villages, or in large cities, these civil courts were in a lot of locations. Every little town had to have one and a place like Jerusalem would have many of these civil courts. This is not a position of national responsibility in a religious court where they were interpreting the religious things, or the traditions, or the law of the Old Testament. This is a civil court, but nonetheless the judge would have a very serious responsibility before God to uphold the law of God and to uphold sympathy and compassion toward people. Any judge in Israel would be very familiar with Old Testament instruction regarding being a judge. Second Chronicles chapter 19, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah. It says in verse 4, “Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. And he appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city. And he said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.’ “Now then,” verse 7, 2 Chronicles 19:7, “let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be very careful what you do for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or injustice, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.”
Everyone who was ever appointed to any judicial responsibility in Israel would know that passage very, very well. But even in the Old Testament, in spite of the clear instruction of God, judges were corrupt. Amos the prophet, chapter 5 verse 10, “They hate him who reproves him in the gate. They abhor him who speaks with integrity. Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, you will not live in them. You have planted pleasant vineyards; you will not drink their wine, for I know your transgressions are many, your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate.” The gate is normally where the civil law was adjudicated. These judges that Amos mentions are corrupt and will know the judgment of God.
But this kind of judicial corruption was not limited just to the Old Testament. It was also true in the time of our Lord Jesus. Alfred Edersheim, who has written the classic Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, the great history of that period of time, describes the judges in Jerusalem as being so corrupt that the people changed their title. They were known as dayyaney gezeroth. That was the term used to describe a judge and his responsibility to deal with the prohibitions of the law. The people called them dayyaney gezeloth. They changed one letter in the Hebrew which turned the expression “a judge dealing with the law” to “a judge who is a robber.” “Robber judges” became their title because they were so corrupt. They did just exactly what the Bible said not to do, what God said not to do. They showed partiality. They were unjust and they took bribes. The Talmud said they were so perverted in some occasions that they would actually pervert justice for one meal, for one meal. And so, when our Lord says this is an unrighteous judge, adikia, meaning no sense of justice, dishonest and corrupt. He is defining what everybody would know by the description in verse 2, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t respect man.
Let me look at that word “respect” for just a moment in verse 2, Entrepōmi, interesting verb, it means to be put to shame, to be put to shame. In other words, this man had no shame. Now remember the Middle Eastern culture then and even now is a shame-honor culture. You do what brings you honor at all cost, you avoid all things that produce shame, you avoid shame like the plague. That was typically the way life was lived. And so the way to understand that expression “did not respect man” would be to understand it this way: He is not ashamed before people, he has no shame. He cannot be put to shame. In fact, if you were to study Middle Eastern translations of this verse in Middle Eastern language, New Testament Syriac and Arabic, they never translate it any other way over the centuries than “he was not ashamed before people.” He had no shame. He could not be shamed no matter what he did. Good social behavior in those cultures basically was encouraged by an appeal to shame. I understand that. As a kid growing up, I remember vividly my mother saying to me on numerous occasions, “Johnnie, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.” My mother made constant appeals to my sense of honor and my sense of shame. “Shame on you,” I can hear her say, “Shame on you.” I’m not sure anybody even says that anymore. I’m not sure that we can appeal to a sense of shame in the culture we live in, but in that culture you could. And to say about someone that he had absolutely no reverence for God and could never ever do anything that would make him feel shame in his behavior toward people is to say he is impervious to any appeal to justice or righteousness. This judge was shameless. He had no spark of honor, no sense of character, no point apparently…no noble point to which he could be appealed. Neither for God’s sake nor for man’s sake would he be moved to do what is right. This is the worst possible human being and his wickedness has all kinds of tragic implications because he is making decisions that affect people’s lives.
This woman we meet in verse 3 who is the widow. “There was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’” Someone has defrauded her. In fact, someone has so seriously defrauded her that she is destitute. Not only is she destitute by virtue of the fact that she keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming, which is our Lord’s way of pointing out that she really was in a situation where she had to have what was rightfully hers, but we know that her destitution goes beyond the financial, she apparently has no man in her life, no man in her family, not a brother, not a brother-in-law, not a father, not a son, not a cousin, not a nephew, not any man who could come to plead her case, because courts belonged to men. They did not belong to women, they belonged exclusively to men. Men came to court. Women did not come to court. The courts belonged to the men. The only time a woman would come to court was when there was no man to plead her case. This woman is alone. She represents the destitute, the powerless, the helpless, the deprived, the lowly, the unknown, the unloved, the uncared for, the desperate. And it’s wonderful to use the illustration of a widow because her case is clear-cut, as far as the Old Testament goes, if not on a legal basis, purely on the basis of mercy that he should have done something to care for her. Exodus 22 verses 22 to 24 talks about the responsibility to show mercy to a widow. Deuteronomy 24 verses 17 and 18, Isaiah 1:16 and 17, and many other places, widows were to be cared for. Their needs were to be met. This judge is utterly indifferent to her on a sympathetic side, on the side of compassion, but apparently she had the law on her side as well because she is asking for legal protection. She has been defrauded. Property, money which was life to her has been taken from her.
By the way, as a footnote, there are a number of interesting widows that Luke focuses on both in his gospel and in the book of Acts as well. They were an important part of the ancient world. Corrupt judges, there were plenty of them; and there were even more needy widows.
She comes, back to verse 3, and kept coming and kept saying, which means she’s relentless, she’s there every day and she’s saying, “Give me legal protection,” give me what is mine. “Vindicate me,” is a way to translate that verb there. Vindicate me, justify my complaint, render it a righteous complaint and give me what is mine.
Well consistent with his utter disdain for the commandments of God and any sense of justice and his utter disinterest in showing compassion to anyone, even a lowly widow, verse 4 says, “And for a while he was unwilling.” He was just outright indifferent. He is the worst kind of human being who is then the worst judge imaginable. Just as the prodigal son was the worst possible profligate sinner and the older brother was the worst possible hypocrite. Jesus is into painting these extreme pictures in his stories with just a minimum of language. But if you can fill in the gaps, the people would understand that. But it says in verse 4, “Though he for a while was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself…” Now we get a soliloquy like the soliloquy of the prodigal son who came to his senses and talked to himself. So this man speaks to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man.” He’s a self-confessed wretch, he holds nothing back. He has no noble motive. He is first to admit he has no noble motive whatsoever. But he says, in spite of that, verse 5, “Yet because this woman bothers me.” In the Greek, “She causes me trouble, she is irritating me.” Every day she’s there. Every day she’s pleading her case. It’s becoming very troublesome. I will give her legal protection “lest by continually coming…” “Continually” is eis telos, sometimes translated in the Bible “forever.” She will come forever if I don’t get rid of her and “she will wear me out.”
He has no regard for God. He has no regard for man. But he has regard for himself. He cares not for what pleases God. He cares not for what pleases men. But he cares a lot for what pleases him and this does not please him. This is an irritating, troubling harangue that he hears out of this widow every single day that is intrusive and interruptive. And by the way, I like that little phrase, “She will wear me out.” But it’s a little more benign than the Greek. The Greek is a verb hupopiazo, which means it’s a boxing term and it means to strike someone with a full blow in the eye. She is punching me silly day after day after day. She is beating me up. Some translations would be, “to blacken the face,” to indicate the severity and the strength of the blows. She’s giving me a black eye, she’s beating me. It’s used in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, “I buffet my body, I punch my body with a fierce blow to beat it into submission.” This woman is not just troublesome, this woman is painful. This is more than I can stand and she’s going to do it eis telos, forever, if I don’t get rid of her. So the powerful and impervious judge is defeated by the weak widow through her persistence.
Now you need to know something else, a little bit more about the Middle Eastern culture. Women were really powerless. I guess that’s a good way to say it. They were powerless in the male-dominated culture; still largely true in Middle Eastern culture today. But they were respected and they were honored. And while they had no power, they did have honor and they could get away with things that men couldn’t get away with. I was reading one Middle Eastern scholar who said, “A woman could scream and complain at the top of her voice relentlessly and get away with it because women are to be honored and respected. And if a man did the same thing, he would lose his life.” And so, even today sometimes you see pictures in the Arabic world of women who are pleading their case by screaming and yelling and this would be the crying day and night kind of relentless approach of this woman that is characterized here. The crying day and night comes in the explanation in verse 7. So she’s driving this man to destruction in his own mind. He’s got to get rid of her. And so he rules in her favor. Go back to verse 5, “I will give her legal protection.” That simply means I will vindicate her. I will vindicate her. It’s got the word dikēo in it, from which we get the word dikaiōs, righteousness, justice. I will execute justice, righteousness on her behalf. I will vindicate her. I will avenge her. I will do justice to her because I cannot tolerate her…her harangue any longer. So that’s the story. That’s the illustration.
Now what is the Lord’s intention? That was the Lord’s illustration. What’s the Lord’s intention? What’s the intention of this story? Go back to verse 1. Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. So here we find that the key to the parable is hanging on the door. Before you even get inside to the parable, the key is out there. This is a parable designed by our Lord to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. They…them…He was telling them. Them…Who is that? Back to verse 22, “He said to His disciples.” He’s talking to those who are His followers, those who belong to Him at this point, those who have secured their place with Him now at the end of His life and His ministry and He has just been giving them this great discourse on the Second Coming. He has been talking about the fact that the Son of Man is going to come, that He is going to come in a way that is visible and the whole world will see His coming. It will flash across the sky like lightning from one end to the other. And He’s going to come in horrific judgment as it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Lot. He’s going to come in a way that’s going to divide marriages and families, one taken, another left. He’s going to come in a way that’s going to create death and devastation and carcasses all over the earth so that vultures will gather as we see in verse 37 to devour the flesh of those that have been destroyed. He’s been talking about His Second Coming in judgment. Yes He’s coming to set up the kingdom. Yes He’s coming to glorify Himself. Yes He’s coming to establish His rule of righteousness and peace in the world. But before that, there’s going to be this great judgment. Then will come the glory of the kingdom, then will come the Son of Man establishing His kingdom. In verse 22, the days shall come when you shall long to see one of the days of the Son of Man. We long to see Him come, not only to judge, but we long to see Him come to judge and then to establish His glory and His kingdom.
And so, He’s been talking about the Second Coming. He’s been talking about the fact that there is a return for the establishment of the kingdom so that you have to understand He’s saying to His disciples there will be two comings. Once He comes to die and pay the penalty for sin, and again He comes later to establish His glorious kingdom, to judge the ungodly as well. So that’s what He’s talking about. He’s been talking about the future, eschatology, the Second Coming. Along that line, nothing changes, you notice in verse 1, no scene change, no audience change. “Now He was telling them” takes you right back to the same people He was talking to in verse 22, “that they” the disciples “ought to pray and not lose heart.” What do you mean? In the time between the first and Second Coming, in the time between the first and Second Coming we are not to lose heart but rather we are to pray. We are living in that period of time now. Yes there is the invisible kingdom the Lord is building through salvation as He comes to take up His royal throne in the hearts of those who put their trust in Christ. There is that invisible kingdom being built. But the visible kingdom, the kingdom of righteousness, the destruction of the ungodly, the binding of Satan, the end of the reign of Satan and sin, the establishment of the glorious kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace and finally the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth are all associated with His Second Coming, which will be triggered by the rapture of the church. That’s all in the future. And so He is saying you need to view that event with prayer and not to lose heart. That’s the key to unlocking the meaning of the story.
And it’s understandable. The Lord knew then that a long time would go by, by our measurement, not by His. A day with Him is 1,000 years, 1,000 years is a day because He is eternal. But for us it’s a long time. It was probably a long time for some of the disciples when it was just years and then when it was centuries and now it’s a couple of millennia, 2,000 years. And continually Christ is dishonored and Christ is denied His rightful place. And the Word of God is unappreciated and assaulted and attacked. And Christians are treated with rejection and persecution and hostility and even martyrdom through these two millennia. We suffer at the hands of Satan and the world and we suffer the persecution of a hostile environment and we long for Christ to come back and destroy the ungodly and destroy sin and the reign of Satan and set up His kingdom. We want all that. We long for all of that. But in the intervening time the message is very clear from our Lord: Don’t lose heart. Keep praying to that end. This is instruction for us that it’s unmistakable: at all times, at all times. That simply means through all the events and all the seasons and all the eras and all the sweeping years that go by, we are to pray and not lose heart. “Lose heart” comes from a Greek verb egkakeō, which means “to become weary,” “to give in” or “to become a coward,” turn coward. It’s used only here by Luke but five times by Paul and it always has that…that meaning. Don’t give up hope that Jesus is coming. Mockers will come, as Peter says. Where is the promise of His coming? Denying the Second Coming. We will be a…ridiculed for saying Jesus is coming, but He is coming. Don’t lose heart. Don’t become cowardly. As Matthew 24:13 records, our Lord says “he that endures to the end shall be saved.” It’s that enduring faith that marks the true believer. So this is not a call to prayer in general like, “Pray without ceasing.” That’s a call to unceasing prayer in general. This is a call to eschatological prayer, pray that the Lord will come and pray for the strength to endure until He arrives, to endure the flesh, the world, the devil, the hostility against the gospel, persecution, rejection, and even martyrdom. This is eschatological praying.
There’s a similar call by our Lord in the 21st chapter of Luke and verse 36 as well. “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and stand before the Son of Man.” You need to pray that Christ will come. You need to pray that you’ll have the strength to endure to the end; the end of your life and the end until the Lord Himself comes, should you live until we are gathered to Him.
Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?” Well verse 8 is the key to that. It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” Will He find this kind of persevering faith? Will He find this kind of persevering prayer? Will He find this kind of enduring confidence? This is definitely eschatological praying. No one of us knows the time of the rapture. We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched. We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but 2,000 years have passed by. Believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners. Sin escalates. Evil men grow worse and worse and worse. We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom. False teachers abound everywhere. We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God. We have been promised that He will come. We believe that He will come. And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.” He will come but part of the means of His coming is our prayer life. Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming. He will come. He promises He will come. He will be faithful to His elect. He will bring judgment to the ungodly. He will vindicate the saints. He will exalt Himself. He will establish His throne on earth. He will reign in a kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth. And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.
This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Thy kingdom come.’” This is kingdom pray…praying. This is praying for the kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne, and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises. So again I say: The key to the parable hangs at the front door. We know what this story is about. We are to be living our lives saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view. I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends. That backs up to affect everything. Just think about it. Paul writing about the Second Coming to the Thessalonians, about the rapture of the church aspect of it says, “Comfort one another with these words.” That’s where we find our comfort in the midst of the issues of this life. It’s just…It’s not just comfort, John says, “He that has this hope in Him purifies himself.” It’s a purifying hope as well. Paul says, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” We evangelize because we know the Lord is coming. We’re comforted because we know He’s coming. We’re purified because we know He’s coming. And there are many more. This has tremendously critical implications. It has implications about how we view everything we own. Everything we possess, what we do with our time, what we do with our money, what we invest into the lives of our children and our acquaintances, how we live our lives should all be powerfully influenced by a strong and constant prevailing, persistent prayer that Jesus come. And when you pray that way constantly, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” that defines your life. That defines your life.
So we saw the Lord’s illustration and the Lord’s intention. Let’s go down to verse 6 and hear the Lord’s interpretation. Let the Lord explain the story in the context of His return. “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the righteous judge said.'” That’s kind of a vernacular way to say: Let’s think about the meaning of this story. Think about the wicked judge in the story. Think about it. He was cruelly indifferent to God. He was cruelly indifferent to people. But he finally did what was right for purely selfish reasons. He did what was right for a woman for whom he had no feeling, no emotion, and to whom he had no attachment. That’s what we’re going to start with as we hear the interpretation of the Lord. But let’s go to verse 7 and see the contrast.
Now, “Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night? And will He delay long over them?” Listen, what’s the point? This is a “much more than” kind of comparison, this is a “lesser and greater” kind of comparison. This is extreme. You have the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable, indifferent human being doing what is right for someone about whom he has no feeling or interest. And if a judge who is like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, do you think God will not do what is right for those who are His eternal elect, who are loved by Him before the foundation of the world? And who cry out to Him day and night pleading for His glory to come and for them to be glorified with Him?
The elect are represented by the widow. We are, in a sense, helpless. We are, in a sense, at the mercy of our judge. But this judge is not like God. This judge is the opposite of God. He is as unlike God as you can get. God always does what is right by His own law. God is always compassionate, merciful, gracious, tender-hearted, and kind. And God will do what He says He will do to bring about the glorious manifestation of His own children who are loved by Him from before the foundation of the world. The wicked, unjust, unloving judge will do what is right. What will a righteous, loving, holy God do?
The answer: verse 7, “Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect?” Literally, “Make the vindication,” make the vindication.” Again “the vindication” comes from that same verb, dikēo, which is related to the word group “justify.” Will He not justify? Will He not vindicate His elect, those whom He has chosen for salvation? First Peter 2:23 says, “God is the one who judges righteously.” Romans 12:19 says that, “God has said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’” Revelation 19:2, “True and righteous are His judgments.” He will do what He has promised for His elect because His Word is at stake and He’s faithful to His Word, He’s faithful to His law, because He’s merciful, because He’s compassionate, and because He loves those whom He has eternally chosen.
And the key here is this, verse 7: “Who cry to Him day and night.” That’s us. And that takes us back to verse 22 in chapter 17. “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man.” That’s us again. We’re longing for Christ to come. We’re living with the blessed hope and glorious appearing of that great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We live longingly, we live pleading like those under the altar in Revelation 6, we’ve commented on, “How long, oh Lord?” How long are You going to allow this evil until You come and establish righteousness and glory? We are those like the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, who wait for His Son from heaven, who wait for His Son from heaven. I don’t think you can live your Christian life the way the Lord wants you to live it unless you live it in the light of the Second Coming. You can’t remove the Second Coming out of the constant discourse of the church, out of your vocabulary or the theology of the Second Coming, out of your life with having…without having massive implications on how you view everything.
Let me give you an illustration of this, and this is really just an add-on, but it’s worth a moment. Turn to 1 Thessalonians. If you were to go to a brand new place where the gospel had never been and you were going to teach and preach there, what would your message be? Let’s say you’re going to go into a place where there’s no knowledge of the gospel at all. There’s a…There’s a Jewish synagogue there so there’s some knowledge of the Old Testament, but predominantly you’re going to a pagan city. That’s the case in Thessalonica. And Acts 17 tells the story about the apostle Paul going there. What are you going to preach when you go there? What is the message you’re going to give?
Well if we asked that of a contemporary group of evangelicals today we’d probably get everything but the right answer. Probably get everything but the right answer. What did Paul do for these people? Now we’re told in the book of Acts that He was there three Sabbaths, three Sabbaths, that he was teaching three Sabbaths. That’s the minimum, three weeks. Little deeper study and some conclusions drawn from these epistles would say that maybe he actually stayed beyond those initial three Sabbaths. Maybe he stayed a little longer but somewhere between four and six months, absolutely the terminus point, so somewhere in there. If you only had a few weeks, if you only had a few months with a group of people, what would you teach them? What would be the theology that you would give them?
Let’s find out what Paul majored on. Chapter 1 verse 3, “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” Right away in the salutation he introduces the hope that we have: our future hope. And what is that hope? He tells you in verse 10, “To wait for His Son from heaven.” Right off the launch pad he instructs them with regard to the Second Coming. You come in to chapter 2 verse 12, “That you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” And now we know that he’s talking in terms that they understand. They understand the hope of the return of Christ. They understand that they’re waiting for Him to come back from heaven. They understand also that He is going to bring a kingdom and establish His glory.
If you drop down in this same chapter to verse 19, Paul refers again to the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming, the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming. You see this emphasis throughout this entire letter. I won’t belabor the point, but look at verse 11 of chapter 3, “May our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you. May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all men, just as we also do for you, so that,” there’s the reason, “He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God…our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” You’ve got to live in the light of His coming. It provides comfort, I said earlier. It provides purity. First 1 Corinthians 15:58 says it provides stability. It provides zeal in evangelism. You have to live in the light of the Second Coming of Christ.
You come into chapter 4 and he gets more detailed. In verses 13 to 18 he describes the rapture of the church. He says in verse 15, “We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not precede those that are fallen asleep.” The people that are alive are going to go first, and then the dead are going to be…I should say, the dead are going to be caught up first and the people who are alive are going to follow. The Lord is going to descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ rise first. The rest are caught up, going to meet the Lord in the air, always be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words. This is a lot of eschatology for a baby church.
Come in to chapter 5 and he says…Listen to how he begins, “As to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.” Why? What do you mean we don’t have anything we need to know? Well you know already about the times and the epochs. What is he saying? I’ve told you the history of the ages. I have already taught you eschatology. Verse 2: “You yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” He told them about the suddenness of the Second Coming. When people are saying peace and safety, they won’t find that. They were also told in verse 5 that they were sons of light and sons of the day and won’t get caught in the night and the darkness. They were also told in verse 9 that God has not destined them for wrath but for obtaining salvation. You know because I taught you.
If you go in to 2 Thessalonians, look at verse 5 of chapter 2; 2 Thessalonians 5 chapter 2. “Do you remember that while I was still with you I was telling you these things?” If you only had a few weeks or a few months with a brand new congregation, a few Jews and assorted pagans who knew nothing about the Bible, would you give them a full-orbed eschatology? That’s what he did. Backing in to chapter 1 of 2 Thessalonians, he told them in verse 5 about God’s righteous judgment, about the kingdom of God that was to come and until which they were suffering. He told them in verse 7 that the Lord would be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing retribution out to those who don’t know God. He told them also that after that judgment, verse 10, He would be coming to be glorified in His saints on that day and to be marveled at among all who have believed. They’ve got a theology of judgment. They’ve got a theology of the Second Coming glory, the establishment of the kingdom, the judgment of sinners. You go into chapter 2 and he says this, this is amazing, verse 3, “The apostasy will come first before the Day of the Lord.” The Day of the Lord is mentioned in verse 2. Apostasy comes first, the man of lawlessness is revealed. They also knew about Antichrist, they knew about escalating lawlessness. They knew about the apostasy and they knew it all. They knew that he would establish himself, this Antichrist, as a god, as an object of worship. He would take his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God, verse 4, and that’s when he says in verse 5, you remember all this, I told you all this. And you know about him — verse 9 — that he’s going to come in the power of Satan with signs and false wonders and deception of wickedness. That is amazing…amazingly comprehensive eschatology. It encompasses the rapture of the church. It encompasses the suffering of believers until that time. It encompasses the Kingdom, the establishment of glory, the glory of Christ, the glory of His own, the manifestation of the saints, the judgment of the ungodly. It’s all here. It was critical. It was foundational. It always is foundational to know the end of the story. It produces stability, as I said. “Be ye,” Paul says, “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Because when He comes He’s going to reward you for it.
So look at this time and remember there’s a reason for it. One of the reasons is so that you can labor to earn an eternal reward. But there’s another reason. Let’s go back to the text of verse 8. And this is the one to which our Lord points us…verse 7, rather. “Shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him night and day?” Of course He will. Of course the true elect are going to continue to believe, continue to hope, continue to pray that Jesus will come soon. And will He delay long over them? That probably could be better translated. It should say, “and be patient over them.” Yes, “Is not God exercising patience?” is what this means. How do you know that? Makrothumeō is the word. It means to be patient. Do not we expect a delay because God is being patient over His people? What does that mean? It’s really a profoundly important word. The long interval between the first and the Second Coming of Jesus is a period in which God is exercising patience, “patience over them,” it says, patience over them. “Them” is in this text, back to verse 22 of 17, the disciples, His own, being patient over them.
Now there are three New Testament words for patience that are used in reference to God. One is anecho. It means “tolerance.” One is hupomone. It’s the patience of the sufferer, as Christ patiently suffered. But this is makrothumeō or makrothumia. It’s from two Greek words. Makros; we know what “macro” means as opposed to “micro.” The technical meaning of “macro” in the Greek, makros, is “far distant.” It means “long” with regard to space, or “long” with regard to distance, remote. And that’s makro, makrothumos. Thumos is anger. The word makrothumia means remote anger, anger removed far, far away. And our Lord is saying He is coming, He will come, He will vindicate His own, He will glorify Himself, He will judge sinners. But He has removed to a far distance His wrath for a long, long time. This describes what Exodus 34 says about God, that He is slow to anger.
God has a right to judge, but He also has a right to be merciful. God will judge in His own time. But Peter tells us the answer to this little dilemma, 2 Peter 3:9, “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” So in 2 Peter 3:15 Peter says this, “The makrothumia of God is salvation.” What’s He waiting for? He’s waiting for the salvation of His elect. He’s waiting until they’re all gathered in. You don’t want Him here any sooner than that. And when the last of the elect are gathered in, then the end will come. Yes, He will satisfy his wrath, but not until He has satisfied His grace. This, by the way, is the meaning of makrothumia every time it is used with reference to God. It is used with reference to God in Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 3:9 and 15, 1 Timothy 1:16. In each of those cases it means that God withholds His wrath at a distance.
T.W. Manson told a story that came from the old rabbis and this is the story. There was a king who was a very compassionate king. He wanted to rule his people with compassion and so he determined that his army would be stationed many miles from the city. And when he was asked by the wise men of the city why he would station his army many miles from the city, because they would be so far removed from civil disobedience that people would get away with things and they wouldn’t be able to get there in time, he said this, according to the rabbis. That on any occasion of such rebellion in the city, it will take a long time to bring the soldiers here and this will be time for the rebels to come to their senses. And so said the rabbis, it is argued that God keeps His wrath at a distance in order for Israel to have time to repent. And not just Israel, but Gentiles as well. That’s again 2 Peter 3:15, “Consider the makrothumia of the Lord as salvation.” God will send Christ to judge and set up His kingdom and vindicate His elect, but not until His mercy in salvation is satisfied in full and all the elect are in.
So verse 8, “I tell you that He will bring about justice, He will vindicate,” literally, make the vindication of the elect. He will make the vindication of the elect speedily, en tachei, quickly, suddenly. When it happens it will happen suddenly. And he will do it, but you keep praying and praying and persisting in prayer and don’t lose heart because He’s waiting to gather in all His elect.
So, the Lord’s illustration, intention, and interpretation; a final thought: the Lord’s inquisition. He closes with a question, verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” What does that mean? Jesus is just pensively asking the question that when He does come, given that it’s going to be a long time, will there be anybody left persistent like this widow? When He does come, and He will, will He find people praying for His return? I kind of think that if He were to come now He would find a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians with very little interest in that. Genuine Christianity never loses its grip on God, never loses its trust in Christ, never loses its hope. But we get easily distracted, don’t we? And the Lord is trying to nail this down in a practical way. When He comes, will He find His people still crying day and night eagerly waiting for His return? Will we love His appearing? Will we be crying out “Maranatha”? First Corinthians 16:22, even come, Lord, come, Lord. Or will it be like in Noah’s day with just a few, or Lot today with just a few?
We live in hope, beloved, we live in hope. We…We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise. This is how it’s all going to end. In the meantime we suffer and we’re rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it’s going on too long and too long. We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ. And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life. How you view every part of your life. Yes it’s been 2,000. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm. And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord. Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes. And watch how it changes your life. Let’s pray together.
We know You keep Your Word. You’ve kept it perfectly throughout all history and You will keep Your word in the future, oh God. Give us this shining, bright hope, this blazing hope to live our lives knowing how it’s all going to end, to invest in what is eternal, to treat lightly the things that perish and to treat seriously the things that are forever. And that’s the difference between how we treat material things and how we treat people. People are forever. May we, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuade men! May we do our part to engage in the accomplishment of the patience of God leading to salvation that Peter talks about! Even so, Lord Jesus, we wait and we will wait until You determine You want to come and the time is right. But we plead with You to come, Lord Jesus, come soon, come suddenly as You have said. Take us to be with You, establish Your glory, and bring us all that You have promised that we might give you unfading and unhindered praise and worship throughout all eternity. That is our prayer. May You be glorified in the glory of Christ when He comes. And until then, may we be known as those who cry day and night and never lose heart that the Lord Jesus will come sooner than ever, even this moment. And we’re ready and eager. We thank You, Lord, for that eagerness that comes by a grace gift through the Spirit to us in salvation. We give You all the praise. Amen.
Throughout the Trump presidency but with increased frequency in the days and weeks following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, the term “Christian nationalism” has littered newsfeeds, and “Christian nationalist” has become a ubiquitous insult hurled broadly at those on the religious right.
We can’t say Christian nationalism doesn’t exist; it does. But what does it mean? Who are the Christian nationalists? Much like the irony of the racism label, when religious folks fight the Christian nationalist tag, their foes seem to take that resistance as further proof that they are indeed Christian nationalists.
Part of the problem with the label is that it is ill-defined, meaning it’s hard to know what exactly Christian nationalism is, how to identify it, and thus hard to counteract or refute it. This makes it a convenient and effective rhetorical grenade to launch at faithful Christians.
Rachel S. Mikva, writing in USA Today, seems to think Christian nationalists are “Christians who plan to take the country for Jesus,” while Amanda Tyler, writing in Religion News Service, describes the phenomenon as “Christianity wrapped in an American flag.” It’s “a fusion of God and country,” explained Jack Jenkins in the same pages.
The Rev. William E. Swing, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, defines Christian nationalism as “those who believe that God is partial to Christians, that Christians are God’s chosen people in this country. They are convinced that America has always been a Christian nation and always will be.”
While Christian nationalism predates the Trump era — critics hurled the same accusations against George W. Bush for his policies — some authors have fused this idea with the 45th president, saying “the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America,” as Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham wrote in the New York Times.
In The New Republic, Matthew Avery Sutton takes it a step further, claiming that “fear, anger, and anxiety remained as central to the lives of evangelicals as any practices of forgiveness, love, understanding, or compassion,” and that Trump “stoked evangelicals’ terror of state power and brought their deep-seated racism and sexism to the surface.”
Christian Nationalism Defined
David French zooms away from Trump to help articulate a clear explanation, which he takes from Thomas Kidd quoting Matthew McCullough: Christian nationalism is “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” It offers an “exaggerated transcendent meaning to American history” and can “undergird American militarism.”
The first part of French’s analysis is spot-on. He notes that this problematic worldview is ahistoric and anti-biblical, and thus can lead to dangerous applications. So-called Christians who believe their identity as Americans is equal to their religious identity and that their earthly citizenship is central to God’s divine plan and promises do so at the expense of scripture. Patriotism is not the central message of the gospel.
French is also right that “the pervasiveness of Christian nationalism as an academic or theological concept is greatly exaggerated.” Even most patriotic pastors believe Christians must devote themselves to God above nation.
Also, contrary to how corporate media actors have crafted the riot narrative, the number of “religious” people who forced their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6, allegedly taking it over “in Jesus’s name,” was numerically insignificant compared to the number of Christians who rallied peacefully in the capital city that day, concerned for their country and the integrity of our institutions.
Most of French’s subsequent analysis, however — which also wades into anti-American 1619 absurdity and white guilt — is instructive about the myriad ways opponents of Christian Trump supporters (and of Christianity generally) use this label to smear Christ-followers trying to faithfully live out their beliefs. French’s NeverTrumpism taints his analysis of patriotic white Protestants and shines through in his knee-jerk disdain for anything resembling an America-first outlook.
It’s the same sentiments you can find in The New York Times and The New Republic, but unlike most corporate writers spouting off about religion, French, as a Christian himself, has all the right language to effectively smear the faithful believers whose voting records and civic engagement he finds distasteful. In his world, Christians who love their country differently than French loves it run the risk of being tossed into the “Christian nationalist” basket.
When Love Becomes Militant
French rightly notes that an incorrect view of God and his purposes for America can lead to militarism, which he seems to believe is what’s wrong with white, Christian freedom-lovers and Trump voters now. But he fails to note that even a correct love of God and country can lead to aggression.
Of a virtuous love for country — which includes love of home, familiarity, and family — French quotes C.S. Lewis, saying: “Of course patriotism of this kind is not in the least aggressive. It asks only to be let alone. It becomes militant only to protect what it loves.”
His argument is self-defeating, however, because it ignores our present reality. What does righteous patriotism become, then, when people are not “let alone” and when their institutions begin to directly attack what they love? Lewis said it right there: It becomes militant.
The pandemic offers a fresh example. Citizens aren’t being “let alone” when they are subjected to sweeping and partisan orders that dictate how they must cover their faces and whom they are permitted to allow inside their own homes. When government authorities qualify worship as nonessential and dangerous, fracturing church bodies into rotating services or relegating them to internet “fellowship,” that surely qualifies as an attack on “what they love.” Therefore even in keeping with so-called pure patriotism, aggression becomes warranted.
This seems to be a popular sentiment among left-wing media and politicos, that Christians ought to be polite, silent, and unconcerned with the affairs of government. Any peep out of them, even when their rights are violated, amounts to extremism and a desire for theocracy.
Oh, you Christians don’t want gender propaganda forced on your kids in schools? You’re a bigot who wants religion written into law. You want Supreme Court justices who value life even in the womb? You’re a hateful theocrat. You think Big Tech and bureaucrats rigged an election that will result in your rights being infringed, so you fly to D.C. with your family and your flags? You’re a Christian nationalist.
The Gospel According To…
The fact is all people have some sort of religious belief to which they passionately cling. As the late novelist David Foster Wallace noted, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”
For some people, it’s Black Lives Matter or so-called reproductive rights, and for others it’s climate activism. For some, it’s nationalism parading around as orthodoxy, and for others it’s biblical Christianity.
Each has a certain moral code, a requirement for repentance, some method of worship, and leaders that they follow. BLM disciples hosting struggle sessions and following the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi while they praise the doctrine of “equity” have the same religious fervor as true Christians. Elevating Kamala Harris, the social justice warrior and “equity” preacher, to the vice presidency is evidence that followers of that secular religion want their beliefs written into law as much as Christians want to be free to follow their own.
The laws and policies in our country aren’t neutral; they reflect someone’s “religious” beliefs. When lawless actors set fire to a courthouse or vandalize a national monument in the name of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, it doesn’t differ much from a rioter wielding a cross and a Bible as he storms the Capitol. Both could be considered religious extremists; they just worship different gods — neither one the true God. Violence and tribalism are the natural result of false religions that prize the temporal over the eternal.
It’s here we must realize that when patriotism becomes violent nationalism — when it elevates country to the same status as God and believes America, rather than Christ himself, to be central to God’s plan — there’s nothing “Christian” about it.
True Christians condemn idol worship. They hold fast to what is good. They expect to be persecuted strangers and exiles. They believe vengeance and judgment belong to God alone, not to vigilantes bearing cross necklaces and flags. Rogues who invoked Jesus’s name while smashing windows and barging into the Capitol did so in vain. That isn’t what following Jesus looks like.
Bullied into Apathy
None of this is to say Christians ought to embrace apathy or be pacifists. The anti-religious newsrooms pushing cover stories about so-called Christian nationalism would love nothing more than to shame and bully faithful disciples into sitting down and shutting up.
The Capitol riot was a convenient hook for their narrative, but they don’t just believe the people who showed up in Washington that day were religious extremists. They think all Christians are. It isn’t that they don’t want you in Statuary Hall. It’s that they don’t want you on the school board, in journalism, or on campus. They want to chase you out of churches, out of public office, and even out of political conversations.
Believers, however, know faith without works is dead and that our faith isn’t confined to Sunday morning services. What we believe about God and man and redemption ought to affect every decision we make, including our civic engagement.
If we love God, love our neighbor, and wish to steward our resources and lead our families well, sitting on the sidelines of the political and culture wars is really not an option. Contrary to French’s assessment, it isn’t about making ourselves more culturally comfortable; it’s about being consistent in our beliefs and doing what’s right.
As long we remain on this Earth, Christians will be assailed as bigots and nationalists. This evergreen dynamic of Christians being not “of the world,” but striving to be faithful while they’re “in it,” is way bigger than Jan. 6, Donald Trump, David French, or America. Don’t confuse true believers who rightly fight for both faith and freedom as Christian nationalists. They’re just Christians.
Kylee Zempel is an assistant editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @kyleezempel.Photo Pikist
Problems in marriage are inevitable. Even chronic. And so, at times, is unhappiness. There are three key ways to handle an unhappy marriage.
After studying 645 couples where one spouse rated their marriage as unhappy, a research study from a team of family scholars found that two-thirds of the couples who chose to stick it out together reported a significantly happier marriage five years later.
So what makes the difference if you choose not to divorce?
The marriages that got happier fell into three broad approaches: the marital work ethic, the marital endurance ethic and the personal happiness epic.
In the marital work ethic, spouses actively work to solve problems, change behavior or improve communication. When the problem is solved, the marriage gets happier. Strategies for improving marriages range from arranging dates or other ways to spend more time together, to enlisting the help and advice of relatives or in-laws, consulting clergy or secular counselors, or even threatening divorce and consulting divorce attorneys.
In the marital endurance ethic, by contrast, spouses don’t solve problems with concerted action on the part of either spouse. Stated another way, you don’t “work” on an unhappy marriage; instead, you endure it. “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” because with the passage of time, things get better. Job situations improve, children get older or better, or chronic ongoing problems get put into new perspective.
Finally, in the personal happiness epic, marriage problems don’t seem to change that much. Instead, you find alternative ways to improve your own happiness and build a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage. This often contains elements of both the marital work ethic and the marital endurance ethic approaches as well.
Marriage as a Shared Story
Creating a happy marriage depends on more than just your interactions with your spouse; it also depends on how you view marriage in general.
Marriage is not just the sum of the personal interactions that you find either satisfying or distressing. Marriage is a social status and a shared ideal—a story you have about your own life, your family, your spouse and your love.
The attitudes and values that people and societies have about marriage and divorce affect how satisfying people find being married. In communities where marriage is highly valued, husbands and wives get more from marriage than they would in a community where marriage is seen as a merely private matter.
People who are deeply committed to marriage as a lifelong vow have happier marriages not only because of what they do in their relationships, but because of what they think about being married in general. Read that sentence again.
Stated another way: The happiness you get from any role in life—being a parent, holding a job, being married—depends in part on how satisfying you find the day-to-day interactions and tasks. But it also depends on whether you see the role itself as important and valuable.
In general, we have many goals for our own marriages, and those of others: We want marriage to last, we want children to enjoy living with their own two married parents, we want these marriages to be happy, and we don’t want unhappily married people trapped in miserable lives.
Over the past 40 years, these goals have seemed to be in conflict: If we discourage divorce we create lasting marriages at the high cost of individual misery—almost certainly for adults and often for the children. We need to find ways how to handle conflict.
Based on the findings of this study, this conventional wisdom is untrue.
Does divorce typically make unhappily married people happier than staying married? No.
Does a firm commitment to staying married, even though unhappy, typically condemn adults to lifelong misery? No.
So, is divorce always wrong and staying married always right? The answer’s not so simple.
Both divorce and marriage initiate complex chains of events whose outcomes cannot be predicted with certainty at the outset.
But know this…marriages are not happy or unhappy—spouses are.
And with the passage of time, the feelings of people about their marriages can and do change.
A bad marriage and a good marriage is not always a fixed opposite, but the same marriage at two different points in time (or in the eyes of two different spouses).
Divorce may make an unhappy spouse happier, but there is no guarantee (and much doubt) that it will.
Marriage is no panacea, but neither is divorce.
To sum all this up: People and marriages are going to be happier in communities with a strong commitment to marital permanence. While some marriages are so destructive that divorce or separation maybe an outcome, marriages are more likely to be both happy and stable when marriage is highly valued.
Surround yourself with other married couples who value marriage as well.
Stick it out through the tough times.
And live life together with others.
It makes the ride so much more enjoyable along the way.
We all have to cross the river Jordan in our own life, one day!
The Israelites successfully crossed the river Jordan before entering the Promised Land of Canaan.. In Part-1 we already saw the first two points of how to cross this river. Here is the second part of the same topic:
Using the mantle to cross river Jordan
Prophet Elijah was an Old Testament saint and a prayer warrior. He was also the one who had brought down rain and fire from heaven. With the mantle, both he and Elisha had crossed the river Jordan, while ministering together. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. 2 Kings 2:8.
What does the Mantle refer to?
Spiritually, the Mantle refers to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Without the Anointing, we cannot cross the river Jordan like situations in our life. Moreover, to enter the Kingdom of God we need to have received the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. We need to be people who are always relying on the Anointing.
To face greater trial, we need to have greater unction of the Holy Spirit. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s Anointing, before being taken up. 2 kings 2:9. For this to happen, Elisha had to keep his eyes focused on Elijah. they both didn’t know when the latter would be taken up.
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; 2 kings 2:11-13.
So by using the mantle, that is, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we can cross the river Jordan in our life.
By using the staff
Shepherds use a staff for grazing their flock. Old people also use this for walking. However, Jacob also says that he used a staff to cross the river. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Genesis 32:10.
Jacob used that staff from the beginning to the end of his life. When he left his Father’s house, he also took the staff along with him. Later on, the staff continued to be with him, even when he was returning from Padanaram (Laban’s place). Finally, in the end of his life as well, Jacob leaned on his staff and passed away. Spiritually, Staff refers to the Promises of God. Dear child of God, use the promises of God to overcome your troubles. May the Lord help us!
Are you awake? Or, are you still asleep as a Christian? If you know the value of time, you will be up-to-date on what’s required to reach your goals. We have learnt to keep time, predict outcomes from an earthly standpoint.
Can we discern the signs of the times?
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? (Matthew 16:1-3)
As believers, we need to stay awake and be found actively doing God’s will. Sadly, many Christians are found wasting their life away in worldliness and even picking on other Christians.
3 Qualities of Those Who Are Awake
Walking In Righteousness: (1 Corinthians 15:34) a lifestyle of victory over sin as a loving child found in obedience to the Heavenly Father. A believer who hungers and thirsts for the righteousness of God. Consistently growing in the knowledge of Christ.
Knows The World Is Evil: (Ephesians 5:14-16) living a life with a burden for the lost, redeeming the time by walking wisely and staying the course.
Ready For The Rapture: (Romans13:11) keeps themselves sanctified and ready, encouraging others for the coming of the Lord.
‘I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold’ ~ Zechariah 13:9
Life is a test, and within it are series of tests. Just like a litmus test is used to figure if something is acidic or basic, tests in life produce only two outcomes. However, to understand the outcome of the tests, we must understand the Tester and the reason for His testing. Solomon writes, ‘As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so does the other’ (Ecclesiastes 3:18-19). If the fate of all men is death, then life is the soluble mixture of our experiences where we, litmus papers, are dipped by God for testing. As we journey through life, some tests are subtle while others are apparent, and so it is only God who judges the outcome, ‘For who can bring him (mankind) to see what will happen after him?’ (v22). When God tests, He only declares two outcomes; ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23) or ‘you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting’ (Daniel 5:27).
Whatever the form, format, or unit that God uses in our tests, He is only concerned with taking note of two things; our faith in Him and our faithfulness to Him. Peter writes, ‘Though for a while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. So that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Peter 1:6-7). When Jesus beckoned to this same Peter to defy scientific laws so that he ‘walked on water and came towards Jesus’ (Matthew 14:29), Peter probably thought he would do it just for fun, or just to see. Little did he know that even in that situation, Jesus was testing him. Jesus was measuring something vital and so when Peter ‘saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord save me!’’(v30). Jesus response simply was, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’(v31). At that time, the test showed little faith, and Peter was found wanting. Likewise, our life is not just for living or for just going with the flow in our experiences.
In every conduct of our lives, God is only interested in two things- our level of faith and faithfulness to Him because, ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6). That is why Jesus would say, ‘your faith has healed you’ to ‘a woman subject to bleeding for twelve years’ (Mark 5:34), to ‘a blind man, Bartimaeus’ (10:v52), and a man healed of leprosy (Luke 17:19). To a sinful woman, Jesus said, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (7:v50). These people were facing prolonged trials, fateful even, because they were in tests of adversities that never seem to lift. It is through them we see that faithfulness also interlocks with faith in that, ‘anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Those who believed in Jesus approached Him in faith that He exists and is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him. Their healing and forgiveness of sins was thus their reward.
Sometimes though, our reward is not earthly. Of the great men and women of faith, Paul observes, ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect’ (11:v39-40). Therefore, faith through testing not only rewards but also qualifies.For if we cannot please God, we cannot be qualified to be in His presence. Therefore, He ensures our faith is refined so that, ‘To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints’ (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Not wanting anyone to miss out on this glorious eternal gift, God uses tests to ‘perfect that which is lacking in your faith’ (v10). So throughout life, God tests us and takes note of the;
Responses we make: Sometimes when trouble hits us, they seem like storms in our lives, but in reality, they are just tests. When a woman told Jesus that her ‘daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’ (Matthew 15:22), ‘Jesus did not answer a word’ (v23). Likewise, when we make our request to God and He does not immediately say a word, it is not that He is unbothered, but could be that He is testing our faith. Because true faith recognizes God’s sovereignty and man’s frailty. Jesus eventually tells the woman that, ‘It is not right to take children’s bread and toss it to their dogs’ (v26). The woman then responds, ‘Yes, Lord but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table’ (v27). Even when things did not go her way, the woman still recognized Jesus as Lord and Master. She also acknowledged her frailaity comparing it to that of an animal, and acknowledged God’s mercies irregardless of the crumbs He sent- because no one is deserving to eat at the Master’s table in the first place. In hearing her response, Jesus tested and gauged her response and eventually said, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted’ (v28).
Instructions we take: Other times, God gives us explicit and clear instructions to follow in order to test our faith. ‘Some time later God tested Abraham . . . God said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’ (Genesis 22:1,2). When Abraham followed the instruction and ‘took the knife to slay his son’ (v10), the angel of the Lord stopped him and said, ‘Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’ (v12).
When God asks us to give up something dear, it is not that He is in need of it, but is rather testing our faith. When He sees our faith and complete obedience to His instructions, He restores and multiplies. To Abraham, God says, ‘I swear by myself . . . I will sure blessyou and make your descendants as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. . . and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you obeyed me’ (v16,17,18). Abraham’s faith was found in good measure when tested based on the seemingly unfavourable instructions he followed. ‘By faith Abraham, when God tested him offered Isaac as a sacrifice . . . Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead’ (Hebrews 11:17,19).
Sins we tolerate: Although God does not bring sin into our lives to test us, temptations arise from the lust of our flesh or by the devil’s cunning devices. ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts any man; But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (James 1:13-14). Irregardless, how we respond when temptations cross our way directly correlates with our faith. Being tempted is not sin, but giving in to temptation is sin. So God tests our faith by the sins we tolerate in our lives. He says, ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?’ (Jeremiah 9:7). When we continually tolerate sin in our lives, God sees us as, ‘hardened rebels . . . the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out’ (6:v28,29). So God says, ‘I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another’ (Isaiah 48:10-11).
Choices we make: ‘Are you still holding your integrity? Curse God and die!’ (Job 2:9). Job facing loss and anguish is presented with two choices. His wife urges him to let go of his integrity, his faith in God, and curse Him so he can die- so that his troubles can come to an ‘end’. How far one is willing to go to rid off their misfortune is a measure of their faith and faithfulness to God. In life, we are presented with choices. Some take the wide road contrary to God’s will in order to become rich, famous, admired, comfortable, or ‘happy’. Our choices reflect our faith in God and our readiness, or lack thereof, in the Kingdom class. Job replies, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said’ (v10). Job knew his adversities were a test and that the choice he made would not only determine his outcome, but his perception of God. He eventually says of God, ‘But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold’ (23:v10).
‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart’ ~ Proverbs 17:3