Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is there any Word from the Lord?

Today I at home struggling with a very high fever and the pain of yet another attack of pancreatitis or some associated infection. It is a particular sorrow to me because I was due to preach at my church this morning, and tonight we are baptising some recent converts who are very wonderful people. So, I thought I would put onto my blog the main points of my sermon in case anyone out there is looking!

My text is found in Jeremiah 37:1-4, 16-17 and is vs 17 ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’
This was a remarkable question from the King (Zedekiah). His predecessor King Jehoichim had a very clear attitude towards God’s Word. See Jeremiah 36:20-24. In these verses we see King Jehoichim cutting up the scroll of God's Word into strips and burning it in the fire. The worst thing was that neither the king nor anyone with him who heard God's Word read before it was destroyed, were moved by it or affected by it in any way. They had become really hardened to what God was saying! King Zedekiah himself had shown a very low level of interest in God’s Word in verse 1 (neither he nor any of his attendants paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken). The only sign of spiritual life in Zedekiah was seen in verse 3 – ‘please pray for me’. (Contrast these attitudes with that of King Josiah 15 years earlier, 2 Kings 22:8, 11-13.) What is our attitude towards the words of the Lord? Do we hunger for more, saying 'is there any word from the Lord?' Or are we indifferent, or even hostile? It is vital that we answer these questions.

God is a God Who Speaks.
God is not silent. He speaks through His Word, the Bible. The Bible sells 44 million copies per year, 1.25m in the UK. It is uniquely popular – (according to a book report in The Times newspaper recently). It is also powerful – people’s lives have been changed by opening the Bible and obeying what it says. (I have a friend who was a prisoner in Cardiff jail when I was a Pastor in the same city, and who liked his Gideon's Bible because the pages made good cigarrette papers. One day he tore out a sheet to smoke, and started reading the words instead. Richard was convinced that he was a sinner and that he needed a Saviour! He called on God to change his messed up life and was converted. Today, 10 years later, he is a Pastor in Birmingham). But God also speaks today through His people who bring us a word from the Lord. It may not be exactly a Bible verse but it will always agree with Bible teaching.

We Need to Hear from God.
So that we know what He wants us to do… like King Josiah.
So that we can ‘hang in there’ when the going gets tough.
So that we can have something to give away to others (like the disciples at the feeding of the 5000).

Why is it so Hard to Hear from God?
Because of interference from the world we live in. (When we were in France – trying to get BBC – interference from strong French stations prevented us). Jer 37:1 shows the attitude of most people who were around Zedekiah and who affected him - his peer group. Amos 8:11-12 speaks of the atmosphere in our postmodern Western world today. There is a famine here, not of food nor of water (that's for sure!) but a famine of the Word of our God.
Because of a lack of real passion in our hearts to hear what God is saying to us. Not so with Job in Job 23:12, I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
Because of an unwillingness to obey what He has already said to us. Zedekiah did not like what Jeremiah was saying. Neither did those who lived around him. If we are holding out in disobedience to something that God has previously told us, it is not likely that He will speak to us again until we put that right.

How Can We Know When God is Speaking to us?
There is always the danger of it being our imagination or just the words of others.
It will arise from the Scriptures or will be confirmed by them.
It will cause a quickening of your spirit or conscience. (Like when the embryonic John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb when he heard the voice of Mary nearby!)
It will be affirmed by others to be a word from the Lord.
It will bear fruit in your life if you respond to it.

Is There Any Word From the Lord?
There is a call to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. ‘Come follow Me’.
There is a challenge to hush our hearts enough to be able to hear God.
There is a crisis of obedience to the last thing you heard. If God has spoken to you before about a relationship or an attitude, or about baptism or being filled with the Holy Spirit, now is the time to respond.

So, God is speaking, but are we listening? And if we are, are we doing anything about it? If not, now is the time to put that right.