Beth Moore - The God of Again - Part 1
You may be seated. I just want you to know before we open this book together, that on these sacred pages are no dead dry words. This ink right here is animated by the Spirit. Jesus said, "My words are spirit and life". That's what he says to us. We inhale them by faith, and then we exhale them by speech, and in doing so we engage in this glorious thing I like to call divine CPR. There is no tangible thing in your life more thrilling, exhilarating, or at times bewildering; no tangible thing more sustaining, more rearranging, more challenging, more comforting, more pride-killing, heartwarming, bone-chilling, hair-raising, and hell-crazing than the Word of God. Anybody know what I'm talking about?
Nothing your hand can touch, nothing your fingertips could reach out and touch is as history-staging, future-telling, or flesh-quelling. And in the words of the psalmist, by them is your servant warned and in keeping them there is great reward. It's the world-mystifying, demon-terrifying Word of the living God. Can I get an amen? Right here we're swept back into a world of earth, water, and sky created ex nihilo, out of absolutely nothing; with flawed patriarchs grappling with faith, of angels and men wrestling in the night, of a burning bush and parting seas, of clouds by day and a fire by night, of conquest and Canaan rest, of crowns and kings and triumphs and defeats, of prophets and warnings and idols and exiles, of tears and fears that all is lost; and then promises and prophecies that God is not yet finished, that the plan is still on.
Then ear-aching silence, 400 years total silence, not one new word. Then the sound barrier between heaven and earth is broken by the cries of a newborn echoing from a stable, and through these living words we are suddenly swept into Bethlehem and there he is Emmanuel, God with us, wrapped in human skin. And we are suddenly whirled and twirled into a world where pathetic, pitiful flesh and blood can find eternal life, where we little man sitting in a tree gets an unexpected guest larger than life, where stones of condemnation drop unthrone at the feet of a shame-filled adulteress. "Neither do I condemn you," this extraordinary God-man says.
"Now leave your life of sin where the hemorrhaging are healed, where the sin sick can find the doctor, and where one sinless man's blood saves whoever will". And the Spirit falls and all bets are off, and here every follower of Jesus in the footsteps of those originals find themselves kicking up dust on the greatest adventure available to mortals assigned with impossible tasks, royals with insider knowledge who appear to the rest of the world to be crazy peasants, loons. "It is to these," the Spirit whispers, "fear not, little flock, for it is to your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom". So look alive, saints of God. We are about to open the living Word of God. Would somebody say, "Hallelujah and amen"?
Would you turn with me right to the split middle of the Book of Jeremiah to Jeremiah the 31st chapter? We read passages that we absolutely love. I hope that you're going to love the ones we are going to get to right now, but we get to them and they jump off the page but not like they do when we've taken that whole journey with God through that thing, especially if it's a difficult journey. And Jeremiah is. So there comes this point where there's this glorious news. And he's done it a couple of times up to now, and he'll do it a couple of times throughout the rest of the book, but it comes to a climactic point right here where he just like bursts forth with the news and it's almost in the middle of the book.
And so, it makes you wonder because the order of it has been inspired. The words have been inspired and the order of it has been inspired and you almost have to wonder, "Were we getting just a little break right in the middle of it"? 'Cause he had hard things to say and he led a very difficult life. And so, what we're going to do, I want to read you these verses because they are going to capture our theme. So you'll already know this is where we're headed, but then after that point we're going to back up from it and we're going to look at an overview of Jeremiah and the prophets for a few minutes.
So, I want to read these verses first. They're Jeremiah 31:1 through 6. "'At that time,' this is the LORD's declaration, 'I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.' This is what the Lord says: 'The people who survived the sword found favor in the wilderness. When Israel went to find rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you. Again I will build you so that you will be rebuilt, Virgin Israel. You will take up your tambourines again. You will go out in joyful dancing. You will plant vineyards again on the mountaintops of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy the fruit. For there will be a day when watchmen will call out in the hill country of Ephraim, Come, let's go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.'" Did you hear him say, "Again I will build you. You will take up your tambourines again. You will plant vineyards again".
Right here in the middle of Jeremiah, in some of the worst possible circumstances, God through his messenger sends forth the word, "I am the God of your agains. And as surely as I have restored a people before you ever had your feet toddle on this planet, you look to me and I will restore you". Now, I can't wait to explore our theme with you, but what we've got to do is that we need a little bit of a history lesson. Now listen. Depending upon your taste, you will either like or hate that. Next to theology, it just so happens that I love history and geography. I love the social sciences. I just absolutely love them. But I'm going to ask you, would you give me a few minutes to do a little history on the prophets in the Word of God? Because we're going to need it so that we can place Jeremiah.
So once we get him placed in this, then we can come back and the rest of the time we're going to spend on our theme right here in the book. But until then, I'm just asking for a little bit of, just humor me for a little bit of history. Anybody in the room like history besides me? Now, I'm so glad 'cause it's going to help a lot, but I want to say something to the rest of you. The beautiful thing about biblical history, what makes it different than regular history, although I like regular history, but what makes Bible history different is that the Bible's words are living words. And so, Bible history is living history. You and I are living out history presently.
We are part of this glorious lineage of faith that began long, long ago in Genesis chapter 12 with the call of Abraham, that through him all nations would be blessed. We represent part of that. So I want you to know we're part of this history. And so, what a history lesson like this helps us do is it makes the Bible feel more accessible to us and approachable, not just archaic and unattached from our reality because there's objectives in the Word. There is a redemption story. It's not just stuff stuck together. It's not haphazard. We don't detach the Old Testament from the New nor the New from the Old. We keep it all together because the brilliance and the beauty of it seen side by side is magnificent. It's magnificent.
So you and I are going to get these prophets straight for a few minutes. So among the inspired writers of Scripture, Jeremiah, which is what we're studying this weekend, we're studying themes in it, but we're also studying the person Jeremiah because he himself is, he's absolutely fascinating and more is said of him in the Word of God than any other prophet. We know more about the individual Jeremiah of all the Old Testament prophets because he's just verbose about it. We get to see glimpses of it, but he is classified as a major prophet. I have your major prophets over here and I have the minor prophets over here, and I want to give you a little thumbnail lesson on what it means for there to be major and minor prophets.
Now, the adjectives major and minor are simply ways that theologians have classified them to keep them, to give them categories and keep them straight. So these are the things that set them apart. The major prophets, what makes them major prophets is the greater length; but it is also because they have broader content, sometimes even global. In these that we'll talk about in just a moment, these are going to be the major prophets and I'm going to name them all to you as we go through this lesson. But what we're going to find out if we were to study, read every single one of them, is that their approach, what they're saying has a very, very broad sweep. Many of them will speak specifically to one nation after another, after another, after another, after another. What makes the minor prophets minor prophets is not only because they're shorter in length, but they are also a little narrower in focus. There are specific things they are after saying instead of a broader scope of declarations from God.
So that gives us a little bit. You've got 17 prophetic books or books by the prophets in the Old Testament. Seventeen. You have got 12 that are the minor prophets, and then you have got 5 that are the major prophets. So I want you to be able to get that straight, and one reason why it's so significant to us is because Jeremiah is the most major of all the major prophets. This one right here is the longest book in your Bible. Jeremiah has a whopping 33,002 words. Genesis comes in at a close second at 32,046. Psalms would be next at 30,147. "Wait a minute. I thought Psalms was the longest because it has 150 chapters". That is absolutely true. More chapters by far than any of the rest of the books. However, it does not have the most words. Some of those chapters may be three verses long, others may be seven or eight verses long. But word for word if you're looking for the longest book, you have got Jeremiah and by some impressive calculation.
So Jeremiah's only got the 52 chapters, but it's got more words than any of them. Now, these prophets, the reason why we have them wrapped in gift wrap with bows on them is because these prophets, both the minor prophets and the major prophets, were gifts of God to his people in the eras that they were sent. Only sometimes we don't always think something that God has given us is a gift. Is that fair to say? Sometimes even at Christmas we get stuff that we don't necessarily think is a gift. Sometimes for birthday, whatever it may be, someone gives us a gift, it's someone we're going to see a lot. We know we're going to have to use it. And yet we not only don't appreciate it sometimes, sometimes we flat-out don't like it, and this is a little bit of what happened with the major prophets and the minor prophets. You see?
See, 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy". These prophets making these declarations that God had placed on them by a number of different means, and I'll get into that in just a moment, they were gifts to the people, but they were gifts that the people did not want. Now, the minor prophets, there are 12 of them. They're sometimes called the 12, which can be confusing because we've got the 12 heads of the tribes of Israel, we've got the 12 disciples. But this will just be a little bit of Bible trivia for you. If you ever see something referring to the prophetic books, the Old Testament books of the prophets that mentions the 12, you can already say, "I know what that is. Those are the 12 minor prophets".
So, those 12, and then we have got what seems like, this is where it's going to throw us off a little bit because over here in the major prophets we have got, of course, Jeremiah, we have got Isaiah, we have got Daniel, and we have got Ezekiel. These are major prophets. But Lamentations, even though Lamentations is only coming in at a handful of chapters, it goes with Jeremiah so it sticks with the major prophets. So that throws us just a little bit, but it's got to stick exactly where it is because it's by the same author. So I want you to think with me for just a moment because I want you to understand how much they did not appreciate the gift because, I mean, Jeremiah was this gift from God going like, "Babylon is going to take you into captivity for 70 years". You understand what I'm saying? Like, "Yay. Yay. Yahoo".
And so, it would be like over here with Hosea, here's this kind of gift, "You are a harlot, Israel, but I am going to stay with you anyway". You know, it's like, "Whoa, that was a gift". Anybody understand what I'm saying to you? This is how this goes. Then we would have Jonah to... Jonah was such a gift to the people. Jonah was, it was like, "Jonah, go and call the people to repentance that you hate most on the earth". Yay. And he did, and they repented to his severe displeasure. So when they would get these gifts, they'd go like, "Oh..." I mean, how do you thank God for this? Now, the prophets came on the scene at the time that Israel had been well established in the Promised Land. So they'd been in captivity in Egypt. Of course, they went there for salvation in the beginning with Joseph. God had made a way for them to stay safe and fed in a time of famine, well received by Pharaoh, and for the next Pharaohs, but there came a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph. That's the way Exodus starts.
And so, it begins this time of increasing oppression and really increasing terror for them. So, then God calls them out, calls them into the wilderness, makes Pharaoh let them go so that he could take them into the land of promise. Of course, they falter in their faith. They don't believe God and their carcasses, except for just a few who believe, the carcasses of those original people that went into the Promised Land fell. Those bones dried right on that wilderness. But when they get into the land of promise, they come in with the conquest of Joshua. They go through the time of judges. They're settling into the land, but they begin asking for a king.
Well, the thing about it is, they didn't just want a king like the king that God had always planned a royal line. From the very beginning in Exodus, he had already said that he was establishing a royal priesthood. So this was not that it was outside the plan, it was that their reason for wanting a king was so that they could be like the other nations. They didn't want to be different. Well, he had called them to be... and I'll tell you, we're not called to blend in. We're the church. We're not supposed to look like the world. We're not supposed to act like the world. We were a people chosen to bring light into dark places. But no, no. They wanted to be like the other people. They wanted to be like the other nations.
And so what happened under the son of Solomon, so there was Saul the first king, then there was David the man after God's own heart, then there was Solomon, and then there was Solomon's son under whom the king, the one kingdom of Israel divided. It was torn apart. Then it became the northern kingdom, and it became the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom retained the name Israel and the southern kingdom took on the name Judah, which is where we get Judaism and where we get Jewish from so that they were the only ones that really would end up retaining their identity. So we're going to see that the northern kingdom is going to get dispersed all over the place and it doesn't stay intact, and that's why it took on the name ultimately that all of them were considered to be the Jews, took on that particular identity.
So what happens? He has warned them over and over again, "Do not take on the ways of the nations. You're my nation. There's a way we're going to do things". Well, of course they did. And not only did they, but they got so incredibly idolatrous, so perverse, so ridiculous, just so ridiculously outside the character and calling that God placed on them that, man, there started being heavy-duty consequences. Now, I'm going to ask you a question. Have you ever been in a relationship where there was something definitely wrong all of a sudden, something definitely off but they would not tell you what it was? I need to know. I need to just know if anybody, is it not the most frustrating thing in the world? 'Cause you think, you know, "If you tell me what it is, I could fix it. If you tell me what it is, I could say that I'm sorry".
But have you ever just had, anybody just either start ghosting you or they just got stone cold, just stone cold? You have no idea why. I mean, you were the dearest friends. "Oh, you're still my friend". "No. We were like best friends. I'm trying to figure out what's happening here". "Nothing". Well, that's not God. That's not God. When it starts feeling cold, he's up there going, "You know what? I've written down exactly what the situation is, exactly what it is". So the prophets were used to remind them. So the prophets were all called by God to any number of things. Call out wrongdoing to remind the people of what God had said, to call them to repentance, to issue warning.
So listen, prophecy is not always predictive. We think of, like, prophets were always telling the future. That's not true. That's not true. There would be a blend of it. Prophecy was always declarative, declarative but not always predictive. Many times it was. There would be portions of it that would be predicted, predictive rather, but it was always declarative. And so, a word from God to any one of these prophets could come by any number of means. If you studied them, you would see the difference. Like, Daniel and Ezekiel, I mean, they just like had ecstatic visions. I mean, they saw the wildest, wildest things from God. So we could, he could do that ecstatic experiences, including visions, dreams, some manifestation or appearance of deity or the angel of God; or it could also be just by pure divine declaration that the Word of the Lord came to so and so, and then they would tell it to the people.
Now, when it comes to predictive prophecy, here's the tricky thing about predictive prophecy. Predictive prophecy could either have an immediate kind of fulfillment or it could have a near future or a distant future or the ultimate future. In other words, when God restores all things. And sometimes, listen to me carefully because this is important and this is where it gets really, really tricky. When we get books that we're reading that tell exactly how it's going to go because no one knows exactly how it's going to go, what you want from your Bible teachers and the books that you're reading on prophecy is for them to say it is really, after much, much study, there are many scholars that really believe this is possibly how it could go. You don't want anybody telling you this is exactly how it's going down because nobody knows that.