The Prophets part 2

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A. MORE PROHECIES BY ISAIAH.

We have, in the previous teaching, been dealing with the prophet Isaiah. We first spoke about his calling as prophet and then we read and discussed some of the words he spoke.  We will now continue to deal with more of his prophesies.

  • A mother and her baby.

The following two verses contains a special comfort for children of God that do not sense His presence and consequently feel lonely and forsaken.  We read from Chapter 49:14,15:

“But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”  15  “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

Wherever you travel, and within whatever nation you visit, you will find mothers with babies. They may differ in appearance but all have one thing in common: they love their babies intensely.  Mothers are continually alert as to how their babies are.  Though relaxing, conversing with others, the moment they hear their baby cry, they will jump up,  rush to him, pick him up and comfort him.  God has even made mothers in such a way that their bodies provide milk for their babies.

When night comes and everyone goes to bed, the mother will of course also lie down and sleep.  However, if her baby cries or is restless in its sleep, she will be the first to wake up and attend to the little one.  A mother, being a woman, and perhaps not as strong as a man, will fight like a lion when her baby’s  life or health is threatened.  When there is no food in the home, the mother will rather go hungry herself as long as her child can have  something to eat.

Now God uses the illustration of a mother and says, “Can a mother forget the child she is cuddling at her breast or the child  she has borne?”  When a woman bears a child, it comes from her very body, it is part of herself that is separated and  becomes a separate human being.

The same happens when a person gives his life to the Lord by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.  This new spiritual person that is born, flows from the Spirit of God and is in a sense part of God Himself.  And now He says, “If earthly mothers will not forget their children, how can you think it possible  that I will ever forget mine; children that I have born?

Then He goes even further saying, “Yes there are rare exceptions that a mother may neglect her children, but as for Me, your Heavenly ‘Mother,’ I will never forget you”.  Oh dear friend, all of us go through very hard circumstances. How comforting then to know that  our Lord will not forget us, not even for a single moment. Think of yourself as a little baby, cuddled in the arms of its mother.

  • The poor people’s shop.

In chapter 55:1,2 we have a special word for those that have spent a lot, but gained little. They spent thier time and money to find joy and satisfaction in the things that the world offers, but found no satisfaction. They tried riches, friends, parties, sport, honour and many more, yet within their hearts they still feel empty and thirsty:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!   Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  2  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to  me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

  • The despised Sinbearer.

In the introduction to the present teaching we pointed out that some of the prophecies have  a  bearing on the Lord Jesus who was still to come and live and die for the sins of mankind.  Probably the most  striking of all, is the prophecy contained in chapter 53:1-6: 

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  2  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a  root  out of dry ground.   He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  3  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 

4 Surely he  took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace  was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  6  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Especially verses 4-6, should be memorized and often meditated on. The prophet speaks about the Lord Jesus Christ that was to be born hundreds of years afterwards. He says that He would not have a very impressive appearance.  People will not desire to look like Him and his natural personality would not cause people to be attracted to Him.

Actually He would be despised and rejected by men. They would not even think of making Him their leader in community matters.  He would be a man having many sorrows in His life and be acquainted with suffering. People would not choose Him to be their worldly friend. They would prefer a person  joking and having fun; a person that could make them happy too. 

Yet He took our sins, sorrows and sicknesses on Himself. He even died for us on the cross that our sins may be forgiven.  We, all of us as human beings, are like sheep fleeing from their shepherd.  We have all gone astray. We have all left the way God wants us to go.  We went our own sinful ways.  It was He, Jesus, the rejected One, who bore the punishment for our sins. It was He, the Good Shepherd that lead us back to the safety of the fold. Instead of punishing us he bore the punishment for our sins so that we may be back under the protection and care of God.  What a rich portion of Scripture.

  • The Spirit filled Servant of God.

Chapter 61:1 also contains precious words regarding the merciful work the Lord Jesus was going to do in the lives of people in the distant future.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”

In closing of Isaiah’s prophesies we quote chapter 65:17 where we have a prophecy of what what will happen when this present world comes to its end.

17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

B. THE PROPHET JEREMIAH.

We have spoken much about the prophet Isaiah. Let us now look at another giant in the army of God’s warriors. His name is Jeremiah. Interestingly the Book of Jeremiah is found just after the Book of Isaiah. Jeremiah too was a prophet called by God.

  • Jeremiah’s calling.

He relates his calling in Jer1:4-9:

“Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,  5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”  7  But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  8  Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”  9  Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.”

Again, just like in the case of the prophet Isaiah, we see that before Jeremiah went forth to speak to people, he first had a meeting with God. 

It is very much the same as what happens in daily life.  If a king or president intends sending an ambassador to speak to people on his behalf, he will first of all brief him. He will call him in, tell him what to say and also encourage him; assuring him of his support. 

So what did God say to Jeremiah?  He said what amounts to the following: “Jeremiah, you know what, even before you were formed in your mother’s womb, I knew you. I knew that you would be born. I knew what you would look like. I knew what your name would be. I knew that you would love and serve Me.  Even before you were born, I selected you. I put you on a track, a road to do a special work for Me. I then already appointed you to be My prophet to the nations.  I then already gave you the task to speak on My behalf to the nations.” 

This must have come as a tremendous surprise and shock to Jeremiah. Up till then he had been a priest in God’s service, serving at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.  As you might remember from our previous teachings, a priest was not really a preacher.  Their main job was to offer sacrifices on behalf of God’s people although they also explained God’s Word to them. 

Now suddenly God lifted him out of that smaller ministry saying, “Now you are going to be My spokesman, not only to the nation and the King of Israel, but to many nations and their kings.” 

How would you have felt, how would I have felt, if God had said this to us?  We might have been shocked, wanting to run away; to escape.  Jeremiah was a human being just like us and he too was overcome by fear, even more so because he was so young.  Let us have a closer look at his response (verse 6):

“Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”

He felt, “Lord why don’t You choose an older man of 50 or 60 years of age? Such a man will be more readily respected and accepted. As for me, they will look down on me, smirk and say, “You are just a child, how can we listen to you?” 

When God wants to do something through us, we look at ourselves and see many reasons why we are not a good choice for the task.  Someone may say, “I am not a learned man, I cannot even read.  No one will respect me nor listen to me.  Lord why don’t You send such and such a teacher, he will do much better.”  Another may excuse himself, saying, “Lord I have a family to look after, to support, how can I go?” 

But God’s answer is, “My child, I know all about you, I know all your weak points and your whole situation. I already knew of all these even before you were born but, notwithstanding all those shortcomings and obstacles, I appointed you to speak my Words even before you were born; even before you were formed in the womb. You have unknowingly been on this chosen track for many years; you cannot, at this stage, turn back and say you cannot go.” 

Let us take another look at God’s answer to Jeremiah:

“But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall   go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  8  Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

What strong words did the Lord not speak to Jeremiah:  “Jeremiah, I do not accept your excuse of being too young.  You will go to whoever I send you and speak whatever I tell you.”

Oh my friend, God is God, and He can sometimes be very stern with us.  We can tell Him that we are afraid; we can tell him why we are afraid; but we cannot say no to Him. He is God and He has the last say. 

That, however, was not the end of the interview. What blesses my heart, is that God did not only speak sternly to Jeremiah, His heart was tender towards this young man.  So He encouraged him, saying, “Do not be afraid of the people I am sending you to, do not look at them, do not look at their power and learning and position, look at Me for I am with you wherever you go.”  Then the Lord did something very special (verse 9):

“ Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.”

So the Lord said, “Look, My words are now inside your mouth. All you need to do is to open your mouth and speak forth the words that are there already.  You will not need to think what you should say. My words are now on your tongue and when you open your mouth, they will spill out.”  What a mighty God we serve!  He who calls us, empowers us, let us therefore go out boldly and be a witness for Him.

  • Jeremiah’s ministry.

Jeremiah then was obedient to the Lord and went forth to bring God’s words to the nations. Of course, it was not always easy to do so. Many false prophets opposed him, spoke evil of him, accused him of being a traitor to his own nation.  At times he cried out to the Lord because of the pain he suffered in his body and in his heart. But he never gave up, because God was with him.

  • Jeremiah’s suffering for God’s sake.

Jeremiah lived during a time when the nation of Israel was sinning greatly. This had been going on for hundreds of years. Now the time was drawing near when God would have to hand them over into the hands of a heathen king to be chastised. He would destroy their temple and cities and carry them away as prisoners to his country. 

Jeremiah therefore continually received words from the Lord, warning the people to stop sinning before it would be too late. He of course also prophesied of the terrible things that would happen to them should they not heed his words.  This caused both the leaders and the King to be furious. They often punished him and planned to kill him. Chapter 37:15-17:

“And the princes were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of  Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison.  16  When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells, and remained there many days,  17  King Zedekiah sent for him, and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house, and said, “Is there any word from the LORD?” Jeremiah said, “There is.” Then he said, “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.”

The dungeon was the very worst part of the prison. But even imprisonment under such very bad conditions could not stop Jeremiah from speaking God’s words to the leaders. King Sedekia, however, secretly beleived that Jeremiah spoke the truth and further enquired from him privately.  Then he commanded that the prophet be kept in custody in another part of the building which was not so bad.  But then some of the other leaders came to know what he had told the King. They fumed and connived to punish him more severely. We read chapter 38:6:

“So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mire, and Jeremiah sank in the mire.”

But God was watching from heaven and saw all they did to His beloved servant. He knew that he would die of hunger and death.  So He worked in the heart of one of the King’s servants to get permission from the King to show mercy to him.  He and others then took a rope and old rags and pulled him out.

There is so much more to share regarding Jeremiah, but there is no room for that in the course of this study. Let, however, the example he set us, be engraved in our hearts.

And, do not miss our next Bible Study which deals with the prophet of Jonah.

SHALOM

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