Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that most people want what Jeremiah was talking about here. At least the part about “the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” If nothing more, no one is looking for, searching for, or hoping for – unhappiness and sorrow. I don’t know of anyone who is kicking heavy objects trying to break their toes. No one that I know is trying to gouge out their eyes, or cutting off their ears like van Gogh. Only the insane or semi-insane strip off their flesh or deliberately starve themselves. When a person puffs cigarettes he may be destroying his body, but it’s in pursuit of a bit of pleasure first. When a fool pours liquor down his throat, or shoots himself with drugs he may be destroying his liver or his brain, but all he can see is the immediate enjoyment – or the thrill.
No one would be disappointed if life was filled to overflowing with joy and rejoicing. This is why hundreds of billions of dollars are spent trying to find tens of millions of dollars in gambling. This is why so many people think about nothing except sports. I heard a statement the other day which at first startled me, and yet didn’t surprise me at all. The proclaimed sports expert said that the life expectancy of the average man is now 78 years. But the average professional football player dies at the age of 54. The pursuit of pleasure, fame and excitement, more often than not, cuts a person’s life short – well short. And yet there is no end of young men who want to become football players, earning big salaries and fame, which can only last for a short time.
Nearly all of us hope for a smooth, care-free life, but we find that in reality everyone has his share of problems. “Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” – Job 5:7. Sometimes it’s nothing more than our neighbor’s dog barking its fool head off, but far more often it is far more than that.
Even the best of God’s people have to endure such things – men like Job and men like Jeremiah. Jeremiah was man of sorrows as was his Saviour – and he hated it, often complaining about it. He wanted to as popular a preacher as Rick Warren and as rich as Joel Osteen. He might not have turned down a pulpit in a cathedral. But every time Jeremiah opened his mouth, somebody else put a foot in it. He wasn’t thrown into a prison for preaching; he was thrown into the out-house, the cess-pool, septic tank. I read the other day that small communities years ago didn’t have jails, so the accused were thrown down old wells and mine shafts for safe-keeping. As far as Jeremiah was concerned, kings, cleaning-ladies, cooks, choreographers, and kleptomaniacs all hated him. He was spat on, rat on, sat on and beat on.
And of course, sin was the reason behind it all. Sin has been and always will be the cause of sorrow in this world. You can try to blame Satan, your neighbor, the liberal government and global warming, but actually it is sin. And more often than not, it is the sin that lays in our own hearts. Sin is the reason for the season of death in this world – Romans 5:12. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And sin is the cause of the curse which produces so much pain and heartache – Genesis 3. I can assure you: the reason you don’t have all the joy that you think you deserve is due to somebody’s sin. But old Jeremiah knew of an answer.
In the midst of his problems, Jeremiah found the Word of God.
I know that this sounds simplistic – he found the Word of God. But we have to remind ourselves that this was Jeremiah, the prophet of God. Like nearly every preacher, he was constantly surrounded by the Word of God. He was immersed in it. Before he was born or even conceived, the Lord had chosen him and called him to the ministry. In a sense, he was baptized in the Word of God. He may have had a library of commentaries; he may have had an autographed copy of the Sinai manuscript. But here he says that he “found the words of God.”
This implies that he went out looking for a solution to the pain which he was feeling. Like Ponce de Leon in search of the fabled “Fountain of Youth,” Jeremiah was looking for a blessing through the Words of the Lord. He was looking for a solution, an explanation, some comfort, anything – and the place that the was looking was in the pages of the Bible. I hope that you are aware that the laws of Physics have spiritual parallels. And one of those laws is that our spirits and our spiritual conditions naturally and constantly tend to decline. You don’t have to look for spiritual depression; it will find you eventually. Your love for the Lord and the things of God will dim and cool, unless you are striving to maintain it. You will not grow spiritually unless you deliberately work at it.
But when you come to the house of God, do you come looking for a blessing? Expecting a blessing? E’re you left your room this morning did you think to pray: “Lord, show me your Word”? We need to do that before every church service; the morning of every Lord’s day – every day. I had a professor who used to say that we all had a very flabby appendage at the end of our necks – heads. Some people like to hang baubles off their ears and others have to support their glasses on their ears. Some people fill their ears with hearing aids. We all have ears, but not everyone has ears to hear the words of the Lord. Nearly all of us have eyes in our heads, but not often to we have them in our hearts.
Do you remember the Ethiopian man of Acts 8? That good man was holding and reading a copy of the Prophet Isaiah. But he hadn’t yet “found” the Word of God, because the message hadn’t reached its mark. He had the scriptures before his eyes and just below his nose, but it hadn’t sunk in his heart. We are a Bible-rich nation and church, but how few of us have really found the Word of God? In Luke 13 there was a lady with ten pieces of silver, but one was lost. That coin was lost only in part – it was there in her house near all the others. But it wasn’t in her hand. Like so many of us, she may have had lots of books sitting on their proper shelves, but the Word of God was out of place. Thankfully, she recognized her loss and went looking. She looked and looked until she found it.
Jeremiah took the Word of God and properly applied it – he DEVOURED it.
Probably all of us have experience it by now – the man with the Blue tooth phone in his ear. You are in the grocery store, and this man walks by talking loudly, but you can’t figure out to whom. For a few moments you hear a one-sided conversation. At first you might think he’s talking to you. It makes no sense whatsoever. Obviously, there is a difference between overhearing a conversation and participating in that conversation. That is what Jeremiah is referring to here – he became a part of this conversation with the Lord.
Have you ever watched how people eat food that is strange to them? Some people criticize the looks of it, even before they taste it – that is what three-year-olds do. Some people pick at it, using their spoon like a goalie stick, rather than the shovel that it was meant to be. And then there are others who enjoy the challenge and the change, jumping right into the new taste. We can do the same thing with the Word of God.
When the Lord speaks, it is not up to us to edit it or to camouflage either it – or ourselves. Some people hide their Bibles and can’t find it in time for the church service, and others hide themselves lest the Bible finds them. If the Bible says that what you are doing is sin, then it is sin. If the Bible says that we ought to be doing something that we haven’t been doing, then we need to do it. If the Bible teaches a principle which is contrary to what men have taught us, we need to listen to the Lord. Jeremiah found the Word of God and swallowed it down, finding that it actually tasted really good. Joy and rejoicing is found in obedience to the Word of God – in surrender to the claims of Christ – even in Bible doctrine. Admit it if necessary – “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” But always be ready to say – “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”
If you read the first chapters of Book of Jeremiah, and listen to his groanings, you’ll see that he was trying to find something which was above and beyond his circumstances. He wanted his problems to go away, or else to find new ways to cope. Was his life any smoother after chapter 15 and our text for this afternoon? Actually, it was distinctly worse than it had been. People hated him with twice the vengeance, and they persecuted with three times the former ardor and anger. But eventually his joy and rejoicing were truly genuine, superceding all his troubles.
How could that be? Well, he was reassured through the Words of God – through the scriptures – that Jehovah was still God. Let’s say that for Jeremiah, death was not only sure, but imminent. That terrifies most people, but as I tried to say last Sunday, if we stop and consider the sovereignty of the Lord, it should take away the sting. Or here comes Goliath again – using his words to rob me of my comfort and peace. Let him come, because my Bible teaches me that he is a midget in the sight of the Almighty God. And there is nothing that he can take from me, which the Lord cannot restore an hundred-fold. Isn’t the life of Job a perfect example of that? “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job ore than his beginning.” Were the words of the Book of Job those to which Jeremiah was referring?
The Ethiopian was confused, disturbed and distraught as he was being driven south toward his home. He had come to Jerusalem to find the truth, hoping for peace and hope, but the trip had been in vain. With rose-colored glasses over his eyes, he came to Jerusalem seeking an uplifting religious experience. But all that the scribes and Pharisees had given him were a bunch of false doctrines and false hope. It wasn’t until he “found” the Word of God, or should we say “until the Word of God providentially found him” that he had joy. Once the Word took up lodging in his heart what happened? “He went on his way rejoicing.”
It may be hard even for Christians to realize, but even in the earthly, secular problems of life, the Word of God has oil for our wounds and balm for our bruises. Read it, study it, meditate on it, learn to love God’s Word.