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10 Days of Waiting

10 Days of Waiting

So the days are strange and dark. We have talked about fear and responding to fear with prayer, today I want to consider patience in prayer.

Okay so we shouldn’t be afraid we should lean on God. Sounds good, but what if God doesn’t answer? What if things continue as they have?

Jeremiah 42:1-12

So what’s the context? Jerusalem has fallen to Babylon, the remnant is left. The governor appointed by the Babylonians (Gedaliah) has been assassinated and the people are afraid of recourse from the Babylonians. They want to flee to Egypt to get away from the horrors they have faced and a returning army of Babylonians.

The remnant petitions Jeremiah as to what they should do. The reading is what follows.

A couple points to notice:

 

1. 10 days they waited.

Sometimes we wonder if God will ever answer or maybe in particularly low points we wonder if he even hears.Take courage from this lesson of Jeremiah. Consider all Jeremiah endured:

 

Ignored

Thrown in a muddy well and starved

Sentenced to death (although retracted)

Had his scroll burned

Called a liar

Beaten and put in the stocks

Endured a famine induced siege

 

And yet he preached the word of God even when he didn’t want to. Now at the end of 40 years of hardship and preaching he makes this final request of God “what should the people do?” and has to wait 10 days for an answer.

How do you think Jeremiah handled these 10 days? I imagine after everything he endured and saw 10 days meant nothing to him. I doubt he wondered whether God would answer

I know we aren’t a prophet called like Jeremiah and we haven’t seen and heard and proclaimed what he has, however haven’t we also received from God? Don’t we have before each and every one of us the very words of God? How many of us have seen loved ones lost or endured hunger and hardship? How many have been through hard times and challenges? Lost jobs, courage and maybe even hope? And yet, each of you despite whatever challenges you have faced are listening to me now deliver a message from the word of God. You like Jeremiah should easily be able to endure 10 days of waiting for an answer, shouldn’t you?

2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

I think we are all familiar with this passage. It is dealing with the context of people questioning the return of the Lord. Not exactly the same as awaiting the response to a prayer but it is similar. Both deal with a lack of faith and patience in God. Both deal with wondering about God’s purpose and plan.

What do we take from this? A reminder that God is not a man. He doesn’t operate as a man or function as a man. Time, which is so fundamentally important to us the temporal creation of the divine, is irrelevant to the eternal. 

We see our present circumstances as unique with unique challenges. We are confused, scared, concerned, cautious, callous or any myriad of emotions. All of that is present in our world now is what occupies our minds and our times. But take this lesson from Jeremiah. Wait the 10 days. This hardship will pass and be replaced by a new one. Whether these strange days or some in the future the idea is the same - wait on the Lord.

Isaiah 40:27-31 

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,

    and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

    and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

    and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

    and young men shall fall exhausted;

31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

    they shall walk and not faint.

Again famous and familiar words to draw strength from. God does not forget or grow weary, He is ever vigilant and ever present. He gives power to the weak and supports the downtrodden. He is everlasting and the creator and can sustain us and support us through every trial and trevail.


2. They didn’t get the answer they wanted

So this is a hard one. We see a problem and we see what the solution should be. It only makes sense to flee to Egypt, right? That is the only logical path to be saved from the Babylonians. This little experiment of staying in the land didn’t work. Our governor was assassinated, we have no protection or leadership and we are about to be slaughtered by Nebuchadnezzart once and for all.

And yet, God says stay. Why? Why were they to stay? Why not just go to Egypt where it is safe? Honestly I don’t know. God could have let them go if He wanted and protected them there and yet He didn’t. He told them to stay. 

At this moment though isn’t the only thing that matters obedience? God said stay so you stay.

What do you do when the answer isn’t what you expected. When a crisis turns into another crisis turns into another crisis? At what point do you just bail on this whole “trust in God” thing? Hopefully never, hopefully you stay ever faithful. But that is of course always easier said than done.

James 4:1-10

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?[b] 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people![c] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

A lot worth unpacking here but let’s focus on a couple points more immediately relevant to our present conversation. Verse 3 - “you ask and do not receive because  you ask wrongly”. One of the simplest answers to why God doesn’t answer our petitions is because we ask wrongly with the wrong motive. This is harsh, but true. 

Let’s assume that this isn’t our issue though. Let’s assume that our motives and intentions in prayer are perfectly pure. I don’t think this is an unreasonable assumption especially in this present troubled day when our prayers are probably focused on our particular circumstances. So then, we ask rightly, but why no answer then?

Verses 6 & 8a - But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you

 

Do you see the lesson in these verses? Don’t pull back, don’t let discouragement drive a wedge between you and God, allow the troubles of the day drive you more fully into the embrace of the Lord. Draw near to God!

How do we draw near? Prayer, meditation on the word. If God doesn’t grant our petition the reaction should be to pray for wisdom and understanding. We should strive to better be like God rather than draw away.

The harsh reality of Jeremiah 42 and the circumstances surrounded  that text is the impending judgment for disobedience.

Jeremiah 42:13-22 - Punishment 

I don’t read this to cast anyone down or to challenge anyone for a lack of faith. I read this because it is a real part of the story. It is a relevant point in the history of the world and even in our current discussion. God didn’t give you what you want - accept the reality you are in. Learn contentment as Paul did. Draw ever nearer to God. 

There are a lot of ways to make this last point but I want to offer this one. I want us to go back to a passage we have used in the last several lessons and consider once again this idea:

I John 4:17-18 - By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Back up to verse 10 - In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We talked about how fears ultimately reside in death and punishment. Look at this. The love of God is defined in the sacrifice of Jesus as a propitiation for our sins. So then. Death is taken away. Sin is nullified. Fear then is removed. Do you see this? This is the Gospel -THE good news!

God promised the people in Jeremiah 42 that if they remained he would sustain them and support them and that they would be spared disaster. What does He promise us? That if we remain we will be spared the disaster deserved of we sinners. God would spare even us. Remain - not in Canaan - but in the arms of the Lord. Lean upon Him and trust Him. Humble yourselves before Him and He will lift you up.

I have not spoken too directly about the present circumstances that we all face with this disease. I don’t have any insight into that situation or about the dangers of the world. This I know though, that God loves His creation and sent His son to die for us. In this we have salvation and the ability to overcome even death itself. Take courage!


Additional Reading:

Psalm 27

Read Psalm 27 and consider these things: 

What do you truly and terribly fear?

How do those fears compare to the difficulties that faced David in his life? This question is not to make you feel guilty about your own fears in comparison but rather to lead to this next question.

If God could sustain David against Goliath, Saul, the Philistines, a kingdom coup, hunger and loss - can He sustain you?

Finally, consider a time in which you almost lost heart. Maybe it is a loss or a struggle but consider that time. Then reread verses 13 & 14. 

 

Philippians 4:8-13

Take a few moments to consider how you spend your days. Not only what occupies your time but what occupies your mind. What do you  do, how do you do it and most importantly how do you decide what to do? After you have taken a few moments compare those activities with verse 8 and 9. Again the point is not to drive guilt but to drive the idea at the end of verse 9: “these do, and the God of peace will be with you”.

Continue you on though and consider your own contentment or lack thereof. What do you desire? What do you long for? Is it pizza? Is it to get out and experience things? Or is it a longing for better health, and comforts. Consider those things which you want and reread 11-13. Whether you are abased or abound, what should we do? Lean on God.

Now consider how these two passages fit together. How does what you dwell on allow you to achieve contentment? Do you see that by controlling our own minds we can draw close to God and that as we draw close to God we learn how to better handle life? We, like Paul, can find this kind of contentment but only with God.

Finally, consider that this idea of contentment marries even with difficulty and hardship. Even in the strange times that we are dealing with. Even with the unique situation that the world finds itself in we can find contentment - but only with God.