It is a Matter of Faith
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3).
It was not an easy life he was appointed to live. He found himself in opposition to nearly everything his king commanded. He was misunderstood. He was called a traitor. He was often arrested, hounded, and threatened. And yet, Jeremiah never turned back from proclaiming the message God laid upon his heart.
The great prophet came from a long and distinguished line of priests. He once lived in a small village two miles NE of Jerusalem called Anathoth. As a child Jeremiah studied and learned about the great history of the Hebrew people. A strong patriotic passion stirred in his soul. Jeremiah knew that Israel had been founded as a theocratic kingdom. God was the ruler of the land until the people desired a king to rule over them like other nations.
Knowing that He was being rejected, the Lord allowed Samuel to anoint Saul as the initial king of Israel after first warning the people of what would happen. Then came the reign of David and Solomon. For eighty golden years Hebrew history recorded a time of relative peace and prosperity.
But then, the son of Solomon did something very unwise. Rehoboam raised the taxes on the people causing the nation to erupt in civil war. Ten of the twelve tribes broke away to establish a Northern Kingdom called Israel. Two tribes united to form a southern kingdom called Judah. It was the kingdom of Judah that Jeremiah was the most concerned about. There was room for concern because, as the prophet of God saw so clearly, there was personal and political corruption in the land.
Overshadowing the political scene was the empire of Babylon. Judah, growing more fearful entered into a secret alliance with Egypt. Believing themselves to have more political and military power than they possessed, King Jehoiakim, King Jehoiachin, and King Zedekiah led uprisings against Babylon. Jeremiah had warned the political leaders not to revolt, and not to trust in foreign political alliances but to have faith in God for the security of the nation.
The kings of Judah did not listen. The pleas of the prophet were deliberately interpreted as treason. He was arrested and put into prison. But the soul of man cannot be shackled, and so we read that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison. “Moreover, the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison” (Jer. 33:1).
Observe, it was the word of the Lord which came unto Jeremiah. Matthew Henry notes, “No confinement can deprive God’s people of His presence; no locks nor bars can shut out his gracious visits. The sweetest epistles of the Apostle Paul were those written while he was in prison.”
The words of Philippians 3 would never have been penned apart from the pressures of life. While suffering Paul said,
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
Like the apostle Paul, John Bunyan also wrote while he was in prison. In the midst of his sufferings, Bunyan wrote the greatest allegory in all of literature, Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan knew from personal experience that circumstances will never stop the soul from having fellowship with God.
Observe next, it was the second time the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah. God speaks once, and then He speaks again for the encouragement of His people. There is promise upon promise in the Scriptures and for good reason. God knows that our hearts are weak. Our faith is often very feeble. We need constant reassurance. We need many promises from heaven.
The foundation for all promises is declared in Jeremiah 33:2 to be the very nature of God. “Thus, saith the Lord…” There really is no other foundation upon which life can rest. It is in God we live and move and have our being.
Satan’s first lie was that men can live independently of God. But that is not true. We need God, and we need to listen to the Sovereign of the Universe who speaks, “Thus saith the Lord, the Maker thereof.”
Here is the Great Creator who knows His creation, the Lord that formed it. Here is Jehovah Himself, the Keeper of Covenants. He is about to make a great promise. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
In context, God wanted the people of Judah to ask Him to be restored to their land. They had been away for almost seventy years and many wanted to return home. A new generation wanted to put the past behind. They did not care to remember the cause for the exile in Babylon. They had heard the stories many times of what happened in 586 BC. It was terrible.
The armies of Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem.
A large population of the city had been deported.
Families were torn apart.
Children were murdered.
Women were molested. Men were mutilated.
But all that was now in the past. It seemed so long ago. This was a new generation with new problems. The only question was whether or not adequate solutions could be found for the sad condition of society. Many things seemed to be going from bad to worse. Suddenly, the Word of the Lord came and said to the people, “Pray. Call unto me.”
God must hear us pray. Certainly, He knows our needs. Anxiously does He wait to help but we must call upon Him. This is not so much a demanding order as a gracious invitation. As parents, we delight in giving our children the desire of their hearts but they must ask. Our heavenly Father also delights in giving us the desires of our hearts. But we must ask. Those that expect to receive comforts from God must pray and keep on praying. This is not always easy to do for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes we lose faith.
We stop believing God is listening, or that God cares. When the winds of war begin to blow across the land, the temptation comes to lose faith in God. When disease or death begins to stalk the soul, the temptation comes to lose faith.
On other occasions we stop believing that we need God.
When we are very comfortable, we are prone to forget the Lord. When we are satisfied and self-sufficient, the temptation comes not to call upon our heavenly Father. That is the testimony of many a life.
Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. He was a proud king. He did not know and did not honor God. One day he went mad, and began to behave like an animal. For seven years he crawled and ate grass. His fingernails grew long and sharp and dirty. Then, in marvelous grace, God gave back to Nebuchadnezzar the gift of sanity. He began to worship Someone other than himself, and this is what he said. “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase “(Daniel 4:37). When men forget God, the Lord will allow the circumstances of life to become a burden. Our troubles begin to grow so great that we either pray or perish.
Implied in the promise of Jeremiah 33:3 is that all the people must pray. The word of the Lord did not specify that only the priests, kings, or prophets should pray. The exhortation is general to all the people. Prayer is not to be left to others. Prayer is not to be left to the pastors, or to the more spiritual minded. All people are to pray.
But what if someone feels they do not know how to pray? The biblical answer is that we can do what the disciples did. We can go directly to the Lord and ask to be taught. In Matthew 6:9-13 are all the principles of prayer. Dr. John R. Rice made prayer simple by teaching that prayer is just asking and receiving by faith.
Here is the good news. If we will but call upon the Lord, He will answer.
His word is unequivocal,
“I will answer thee.”
In the Divine economy God makes a promise, invites His people to seek the very thing He has determined to do, and then honors what He has ordained shall come to pass and what He has led His people to pray for.
For the people of Judah in the sixth century before Christ, God had determined that after seventy years they should return home from exile. Yet, for seventy years the people are to cry unto the Lord, all the while believing that an answer will come.
To encourage prayer the Lord promises not only to answer personal petitions but also to show great and mighty things.
What this means is uncertain in every situation but surely it refers to something wonderful. So, we wait in breathless anticipation for God to reveal hidden things which cannot be known. Good things will happen to those who pray. The Lord will keep His promises and manifest Himself in the midst of His people.
By far the greatest thing God can do is to save the souls of individuals.
You and I have loved ones who are enthralled in the power and pollution of sin. What are we to do? One activity we can perform is to cry out to God for their salvation. When we meet to pray, we can pound the doors of heaven with great passion and cry out, “Lord, save my husband. Oh God, save my wife! Lord! My sister is lost and needs to be converted.”
It is a great thing to be converted. When salvation comes, the terror of eternal punishment disappears. There is forgiveness in Christ and sanctification. There is peace and joy and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. But something more than salvation, and something more than sanctification is in view in this gospel passage of promise.
There is a wonderful time of spiritual fellowship offered.
That is of course the essence of prayer. Prayer is designed so that people can have fellowship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus once spoke to the Church and said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hears my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
In as far as we hear with the ear of faith the voice of the Lord, we can begin, like Judah of old, to call upon the Lord for He is ready and anxious to listen. God is ready to deal with the deepest need of every heart.
It may be a financial need.
It may be a secret struggle with sin.
Perhaps there is a broken relationship that needs to be restored.
Perhaps there is a need for healing.
God is waiting to respond, but the Church must pray. From the youngest to the eldest, the Church must pray, or we will never see souls saved, sins confessed, or know the sweetness of Christian fellowship. The Church needs to call upon the Lord.
Some will call loudly like the two blind men sitting along the road. When they heard that the Lord was passing by, they cried out, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us” (Matt. 12:7). People tried to get them to be quiet, but they cried out all the louder and Jesus had mercy on them.
Others will call continually such as the man who went to his friend at midnight asking for food. He had unexpected guest and he needed help. Though help was given, it was not because of friendship, but because of his importunity he was given as much as he needed (Luke 11:8).
Some people who love the Lord will call often upon Him, and talk as a Friend with a Friend. It was said of Abraham that he was the Friend of God. Friends talk often. They speak of anything and everything. God has shown Himself to be our Friend. Jesus is the Friend of sinners. The Holy Spirit is a Friend, for He is always present to help and to comfort. There is no reason not to talk often to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let all God’s children call upon the Lord. It is a matter of faith.