Return to the Lord, Who Will Restore You
You Get Back Up When There Is the Certainty of Restoration.
- Jeremiah and you know the frustration of those who will not listen.
- For Jeremiah and you, frustration gives way to hopelessness.
III. The promises of the Lord grant hope to the hopeless.
Life will knock the wind out of your sails so that you struggle just to keep going. At times, you’re ready to throw in the towel. It’s the daily grind of a parent with a special needs child. No matter how hard you try, no matter how persistent and consistent you are, no matter how much love and effort you pour into the child, he just will not heed your voice. It’s little solace to know that it’s not your fault. You know it’s the result of neurological injury and that you’re remaining faithful in the face of a challenge that you didn’t create. But that doesn’t make it easy.
And it’s not easy for the one whose spouse refuses to reconcile. Instead of listening to the one person who’s not only made vows of loving fidelity, but has also been faithful to live by those vows, the wavering spouse listens to the voices of others. Those others call them to infidelity. They normalize divorce as no big deal; they say that vows taken in youth suddenly don’t matter when you’ve grown older; they see a love grown cold as something to be discarded rather than rekindled.
Speaking of growing cold, the wind is out of your sails when a friendship has grown cold. Kindred souls are now alien. The ear that would listen is now deaf, and the mouth that would console is now mute. It’s as if you’re dead to one who once enriched your life.
There are reasons aplenty that life knocks you down, but
You Get Back Up When There Is the Certainty of Restoration.
Jeremiah had had enough! He was a true prophet, faithful not to tell people what they wanted to hear, but only what he’d been given to proclaim by the Lord. His message was simple, and it was the same message we’ve been hearing throughout Lent. Repent! Jeremiah warned Jerusalem that she would fall because of her sin. If only she would repent and trust in the Lord, then she would be spared.
In walks the false prophets. They say that Jeremiah has no idea what he’s talking about. Jerusalem will not fall. Why listen to Jeremiah when he’s but one prophet and they are many? Why listen to Jeremiah when Jerusalem has the temple as a divine insurance policy? Jerusalem can’t be touched so long as the temple’s in place. Why listen to Jeremiah when he gives you a hard message that’s difficult to swallow and there are others whose message is Cream of Wheat® that goes down so smoothly?
You can see why Jeremiah is rejected by others, and so he is personally dejected. He knows what’s coming. Judgment for sin cannot be avoided. The temple is no insurance policy. The Lord had proclaimed that he would remove himself from the temple because of the people’s idolatry, and then it would be nothing but a building that can offer no protection against the likes of the coming Babylonian army. But that’s not what the people want to hear, so they not only turn a deaf ear to Jeremiah; they even throw him into a pit so he can’t make such a fuss.
You can understand Jeremiah’s frustration. He loves his brothers and sisters dwelling in Jerusalem. In love, Jeremiah calls them to repentance. Yet the more he cries, the more they ignore him. He sees their coming destruction on the horizon, and he can’t stop it. You know that frustration. You warn others against the false prophets of today. You tell them that it’s a false, misleading dream that their gift of $100 to a televangelist will become $1,000 in their bank account. You tell them that it demeans Christ and robs them of certainty to base their salvation on a decision they made rather than on what Christ has done for them in Baptism and through his Word. You tell them that prayer is not a means to strong-arm God to get what you want, but that God is bound only to his Word and not your demands. His Word delivers far better promises—forgiveness, eternal life, salvation, peace with God, and more—than what’s often demanded in prayer. Yet they’re still crushed when they don’t get what they want and are certain that their faith must be too weak.
You also fall for the lie. It may be subtler, but it’s just as deadly. Trouble comes—perhaps it’s the special needs child, the unfaithful spouse, or the friend who’s abandoned you—and Satan’s lie is in your ear. “You’re being punished. God doesn’t love you. You must have done something to really upset him. He’s full of wrath against you or you wouldn’t be going through all this. God most certainly is not pleased with you, or your life would be more pleasant.”
When the satanic lie takes hold, it’s natural to give up hope. You’ve had enough! So you throw in the towel not just on the part of life where the original trouble was located, but in every realm. You’re ready to walk away from that child, that spouse, that friend. You add to it so that you’re ready to throw in the towel on your job—what’s the point of working so hard when there’s no one to appreciate it? You throw in the towel on your marriage—pride says you deserve better than this, so let that spouse get some of the same medicine. You throw in the towel on society—the whole thing is falling apart, so stop wasting your energy to right a sinking ship. You throw in the towel on your church—they’re a bunch of hypocrites anyway, and the pastor can’t expect anyone to be that great when he talks so much about sin. Why can’t the pastor and the church fix my problem? You throw in the towel on God—if he isn’t willing to come to your aid when you ask, then what good is he?
That is sin. It’s dealing in hopelessness. It doesn’t matter who you are—Jerusalem, Jeremiah, or little old you—hopelessness is sin because it’s giving up on God and his grace. There are certainly reasons for hopelessness. The deaf ear of those who won’t listen, endless investment of truth with no return at all, a wealth of time and energy given with nothing to show for it. The harder you try, the worse it seems to get. Why wouldn’t you be hopeless?
Because there is reason for hope. Hope is grounded on promise. Greater than the frustration of being surrounded by those who won’t listen is the certainty of the Lord who speaks his hope into you. Listen to the Lord’s promise to Jeremiah: “If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me” (v 19). The Lord comes to his dejected prophet. He knows that Jeremiah is spent and ready to give up. Here’s the reason to keep going. When Jeremiah returns, the Lord will restore him. He even promises that Jeremiah will stand before him. To stand in the presence of the Lord is no small thing, especially for Jeremiah. He’s been standing in the presence of those who refused to listen to the Word of the Lord that he’d been sent to proclaim. That’s why Jeremiah is so hopeless. But now he’s promised that he will stand before the Lord himself. That is hope!
The Lord promises more to Jeremiah: “I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you” (v 20). There is strength. Jeremiah stands alone among the false prophets; he alone speaks the truth. But the Lord is with him, so he will not fail. Andrew Jackson famously quipped that one man with conviction is a majority. Jeremiah has it even better than that. One prophet who stands with the Lord is a fortified wall of bronze that cannot be overcome. This doesn’t mean Jeremiah’s life became a rose garden. Far from it. But Jeremiah stood through the coming years of rejection and destruction with the strength of the Lord.
Two promises are not enough for the Lord, so he gives a third promise to Jeremiah: “I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (v 21). Jeremiah will be saved. Those who would destroy Jeremiah will not succeed because he is in the grip of the Lord. And so are you.
In a world full of false promises, you nevertheless have hope because the promises given to you are from one who is good for his word. A promise is only as good as the one who makes it. So you have hope because you know who has promised to deliver you.
The Lord calls you to return just like Jeremiah. And just like Jeremiah, he promises that he will restore you. Your restoration is bound up in Christ. All others may turn a deaf ear to you, but Christ does not. He hears, and he intercedes for you before the Father. All others may lose hope, but you will not. Christ promises that you, like Jeremiah, stand before the Lord. That is the place of his pleasure. He is pleased with you even when your life is full of trouble and rejection. The Lord’s pleasure is yours because Christ has restored you to his pleasure. Amen.