Speed Bumps, Pot Holes, and Detours are God’s Plan
Ephesians Lesson #090
November 8, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are so grateful that we have Your Word—the Living Word and the written Word. The Living Word is the Lord Jesus Christ and the written Word is the thinking of Christ, as Paul said. And Father, if we want to know what Your will is for our life, then we need to know Your Word, for You have revealed Your will to us in this dispensation through the completed Canon of Scripture.
“Father, as we study these things they give us great insight into who we are and what we are to be about. It is a section that focuses on what You have revealed to the Apostle Paul and the other apostles about the purpose, the mission, the message of the church which is to be our purpose, our mission, our message.
“Father, too often we get distracted by the cares of life, and we forget that we have been called to a higher purpose and that purpose is to fulfill this mission and message, and nothing dare get in our way.
“Father, we pray today that as we face the turmoil, the uncertainties, the chaos of the world around us that we may realize that’s nothing new. Certainly, the Apostle Paul faced similar situations in his time and many millions and millions of Christians face many worse circumstances than we do.
“Many have faced the turmoil of wars and famines and pandemics that they had no knowledge of, and that ravaged them and ravaged their lives, and yet believers throughout the ages have stood fast upon Your Word, realizing the joy, the peace and the stability that comes only from a relationship with You.
“Father, we pray that as we study today that we might be reminded of these things, and that in the midst of these uncertainties, we might just be relaxed and rise above it all and focus upon that which Your eternal plan has designed. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 2, continuing our study today, “Speed Bumps, Pot Holes, and Detours Are God’s Plan.” The problem for most of us is having plans that are not God’s plans, and those plans really don’t have any speed bumps, pot holes, or detours. The big issue in our sanctification is learning to adjust our plans to God’s plans and not God’s plans to our plans. So we have to go through a bit of a learning experience, and that’s what Paul is addressing with the Ephesian believers.
I want to remind you a little bit about the chronology behind Paul’s life and this Epistle. Paul, on his second missionary journey, visited Ephesus for just a brief time at the end of that journey. But then he came back on his third journey, and he stayed for almost 3 years.
Ephesus was a sizable city. In fact, the excavation of Ephesus is the largest excavation of an ancient city in the world, and it’s just a marvelous place to go and to visit.
Paul was there for almost 3 years, so he got to know many, many people in the city. He got to know many of the believers, they got to know him. He taught the Word daily in the school of Tychicus, so they are well-grounded in the Word. He was there for about 2½ years, Acts 19:1–41.
After he finished his third missionary journey, on his way back he stopped briefly at Miletus. He was in a hurry to get back to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, which that year would’ve been, as far as I could calculate, somewhere around the 21st or 22nd of May.
He did arrive in time, but before he went there, earlier in mid-Spring of AD 57, he met with the church elders there in Miletus and gave them some instruction and warning about the days to come when there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing who would come from even among themselves and influence the church in Ephesus. He’s there, they know him; they know his mission.
When he left there, he went to Jerusalem, arriving in time for Pentecost. But he was arrested on the Temple Mount, kept in prison for a brief time in Jerusalem, then taken to Caesarea by the Sea, where the governor had his headquarters and his home. He was kept in prison there for 2+ years.
He’s going to appeal to Caesar in terms of his verdict because nothing was really happening at Caesarea. He goes by ship, suffered a shipwreck, eventually makes it to Rome, and is there from 60 to 62. We’re looking at a period from the spring of 57 until sometime in 62, which is almost five years.
Those living in Ephesus apparently thought that somehow God forgot what had happened, and that Paul was sidelined, and as a result of those circumstances, they were becoming discouraged. They thought God had somehow fallen asleep at the switch or lost control or wasn’t paying attention.
It’s funny how that happens to us. We pray, we read, we study, for example in terms of this last election, and whether you think there’s been some foul play or not, we expected a totally different result, and that didn’t happen. A consequence of that is that we often get discouraged. We think, “Well, what is happening? What’s going on?”
Some people get angry. I think that’s a common response. I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who and may still be going through some levels of anger in thinking about what happened. Some of that may be justified because as Christians we believe in a just government, a just society, that there should be just elections, and we think that there have been some things done that were criminal.
In one sense, we recognize that this is not the way it should be. But we live in a fallen world. We have lived in a historical bubble, as I’ve told you many, many times, over the last 200 to 300 years.
This nation is grounded upon principles of God’s Word and a brilliant set of founding documents in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. And for the last hundred years the courts and the legislators and others have eroded the true meaning and application of the Constitution.
We have a culture that has become vile and wicked in many, many ways that allows many types of injustice to continue that are not part of the Constitution. Many of them are the result of liberal policies that ultimately violate the intent and thought of the Founding Fathers. They have produced cities that have just turned into rot, they have increased racial tension.
They have produced homelessness beyond anything we could imagine in this land of the free. It is the result of government that has grown too large and is inefficient in its bureaucracy. We have allowed evil to continue and to develop. We turn our back on many crimes, and we turn our back on the drug use and many other things that are going on, and it’s gotten even worse in these recent times.
But we must recognize that this is not unique in history. We may not have chosen to live in a time like this, but it’s a remarkable time in which to live, as we witness the unfolding of God’s plan. We need to recognize that God never loses control of His plan.
We have studied the opening verse, Ephesians 3:1, where Paul interrupts his thinking, but he sets a particular topic in force here, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles.”
I’ve taught you that he goes into a diversion which is really on point, as he’s giving them the reason that they should not be discouraged.
When he ends this section in Ephesians 3:13 he says, “Therefore I ask you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”
Don’t be discouraged, don’t give into those mental attitude sins, don’t let anger have its way, don’t be resentful, don’t be depressed, don’t be discouraged because God is still in control.
The Key Underlying Question:
Paul was really asking them, “How has my arrest and imprisonment for five years changed God’s plan for your life?
They were thinking, “Wow! Paul’s in prison! We can’t go forward with the church! We can’t do anything!” They were discouraged and depressed.
Paul went through his second imprisonment about five years later, and he ended up being martyred—he was beheaded under the worst years of Nero.
We get our eyes on people. We get our eyes on human institutions as the source of stability, as the source of hope, rather than the fact that we need to have our focus on God.
The Key Underlying Question for us today:
How has the election of this last Tuesday changed God’s plan for your life?
Not a bit! And every time you think about what happened and who’s in charge and what policies may or may not come into effect, and you start worrying about it and getting unstable and having emotionally sinful responses, just remind yourself, “How has this changed what God wants me to do? How has this changed God’s plan for my life?” It hasn’t.
Sometimes we might be tempted, for example to look at what happened. “I need to go somewhere else.” Well, first of all, there is no place else to go, and #2 that’s not God’s plan for your life. God didn’t say that when things get tough, you need to go find some place where they’re not going to be tough.
God said in this life we are going to encounter various trials, various tasks—you don’t get to pick which ones they are. We know that the testing of our faith produces endurance. We get the privilege of living in a situation, as we have in the past, where the administration is not going to do the things we think they ought to do, and where every time we hear the news it’s going to be something that’s will upset us.
We just need to focus on God and get the distractions out of the way. That is exactly what Paul is saying here: that God’s plan is not hindered one bit and hasn’t changed one bit just because there are unforeseen negative consequences and circumstances in our life.
We realize that when we hit things like what happened on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I was laid up. I pulled a muscle in my back and I was laid up and trying to deal with that, and just trying to ignore everything else that was going on. And frankly, we need not give up yet. I saw an email today just briefly. We need to keep going. There are legal issues that need to be hammered out in court. There are a lot of things that still need to be done, and that’s good, and that should not be a distraction.
It’s not an either/or. We need to be focused on God’s mission for us, but remember, each of us is a citizen of this country and have certain responsibilities to fulfill our citizenship in a way that glorifies God. That means that we need to be in pursuit of justice and righteousness as much as we possibly can, but that that ultimately is not the reason that God has put us here.
We need to realize that this is a call for us to take some spiritual inventory. Maybe you have put too much hope in politics or in the election of certain people to office. Now there’s nothing wrong with hoping that certain people will be elected and hoping that certain policies will go into a place, but when that supplants our focus on the Word, then we’ve gotten our priorities out of whack, and we need to recognize that this is what happens all through life because of our sin nature.
We put our hope on people and policies rather than on God. God is always and forever our only source of hope, our only source of meaning and stability. And there have been believers who have lived throughout the ages who have lived in much, much worse circumstances and situations, and had incredible joy and peace and happiness carrying out God’s mission for us.
We fail to recognize that what God is doing may not be what we think He ought to be doing. We assume that we know what God is doing and what His plan’s going to be, and then when it doesn’t come to pass, we get all upset about it. But we need to recognize that we are to let God’s plan unfold.
We may be two weeks from the Rapture; we may be 200 years from the Rapture. More and more things are happening, God is working. We have no idea how those events are going to unfold in the days prior to the Rapture: if it comes in our lifetime or may not come in our lifetime. But we are to be focused on God’s plan and not hope that “Oh, the Rapture will come.”
As the saying goes, there is not a single problem in my life that the Rapture wouldn’t solve. But that’s not supposed to be how we live our lives. We are looking for the blessed hope, but we have to live day by day.
God has given us, as we’ve learned in this passage, as He did for the apostle Paul that we have a mission that is connected to a message. That is Paul’s focus in this chapter, when talking about this mystery—this new revelation that God gave to him that was focused on this new entity of the church that was to be a new man, a new body, a new temple comprised of Jew and Gentile equally in the body of Christ, and how remarkable that was.
That was part of his message. His mission was to spread the message. But that message and that mission didn’t stop with Paul because that mission and message has gone on to all of us, and that’s what our lives are supposed to be all about. Not about politics, not watching the 24/7 news cycle all of the time, and not letting our emotional stability be somehow connected to who gets elected to leadership in Washington.
You know me, you know what I’ve taught. That’s important because as Paul says in 1 Timothy 2, we are to pray for our leaders that we can live in a time where we can lead our spiritual lives in peace and stability. When that doesn’t happen, then in our country at least, under our system of government, we need to be involved not just in terms of prayer, but also other areas. But we can never let those other things override our mission and our message.
That happens too often, and it happens in other things too. People get caught up in sports and all of a sudden sports is more important to them than the mission and message that God gave them. It may be their career, or it may be the pursuit of some hobby, and next thing you know they don’t have enough time to be studying the Word, to be in Bible class, to be memorizing Scripture.
This is a wake-up call to every single one of us, myself included. We need to be thinking that things have a potential of deteriorating rapidly, whether that is two years or 10 years, but in our lifetime we could see a radical change in the government of our nation.
None of us wants that. None of us are going to give up and roll over and let that happen, but if that happens, we need to be prepared, and that means:
1. We need to be studying Scripture.
Every single year we put up a reading plan on the church website and the Dean Bible Ministries website to read the Bible through a year. The only thing that’s going to give us stability is having the Word of God in our souls. We need to be on that! There are a lot of people who aren’t doing that, and we need to all be doing that.
2. We need to be memorizing Scripture.
We need to be learning the promises of God, promises that I go over all the time. We need to memorize hose promises and many, many others, because just because we have our Bibles today doesn’t mean we will always be able to have them with us.
There may come a time when all that we have of the Bible is what we memorized in our soul, and we can’t wait until it’s too late to say, “You know, I need to be memorizing Scripture.” We should be doing that already.
3. We should be involved in witnessing to people. Evangelize!
That’s part of our mission, helping people understand the gospel. That’s the only thing that will truly change this country. It has become so pagan, and there are so many people who only know of Jesus Christ as a curse word. They know nothing about Him.
There are people, cultures and subcultures within this country, especially in certain geographical areas like in the Northeast and Northwest, where the majority of the culture is anti-Christian. The only thing that’s going to change this country is to get the gospel to people, and for them to respond and be restored to God’s Word.
4. We need to be careful when we think about what is going on in terms of current events.
It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and to get angry. As Christians we have a desire for justice and a desire for righteousness. There’s a lot of injustice in our nation right now; it’s an evil culture.
There are many, many problems that need to be addressed that are not being addressed by either side of the aisle. We see the social problems that are taken advantage of by the enemy in order to stir up trouble. We cave in too easily to worry, so we have to figure out what the Word of God says so that we can avoid giving in to worry.
Some of the promises that we should memorize and be reminded of today are:
1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”
Nothing that happened this week was unknown to God. He knew about it in eternity past, and He’s given us everything we need to handle it. We just need to learn to apply what we’ve been learning in Bible class for decades and claim the promises.
Philippians 4:6–7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall defend your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Who is called according to his purpose? Every single person who has trusted in Jesus Christ. We are called according to his purpose, so we need to live in light of that purpose, and that’s the mission that God has for us.
Jesus knew these times would come, and He knew it would come upon His disciples. As they were walking from having the Passover meal, the Seder meal as we just celebrated, on the way to Gethsemane, He made a number of statements and promises about what was coming.
John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you.” It’s almost like saying Jesus is a liar when we don’t have peace.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you …” That’s a supernatural peace. It’s not the calm that your pagan Buddhist neighbor has when he meditates. He has a measure of something, but it isn’t the peace that is produced by God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit produces peace, love, joy. It’s only the result of walking by the Spirit.
“My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled.” The idea is: don’t be agitated, don’t be anxious; don’t be worried. Don’t be caught up with the details of life wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow, what’s going to happen the next day. Jesus said we’re to live one day at a time and not let what comes in the future worry and destroy our stability today.
Jesus also said, John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”
We are witnessing in our country the evil side of worldliness being exposed, and we see it for what it is. But those who are not believers and many who are believers with no doctrine have fallen in love with the world, so they hate the truth.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”
John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not out of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
He’s talking to his 11 disciples, but that’s true for every single believer. The world hates us. It’s not in love with Christianity.
John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
One of the periodicals that we get is from Voice of the Martyrs. We have some copies around the church, and I encourage you, to go to their website as well and read a lot of very interesting fascinating stories about what’s really going on in the world outside of our little safety bubble in the United States.
At the end of a recent one, from an article originally published years ago by the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian who was arrested, persecuted, and suffered a great deal in prison under the Communist regime. He wrote this many years ago. I just want to read a couple of examples for us this morning.
I think of a young girl of our Romanian underground church whose activities were discovered by the secret police. She had been guilty of secretly distributing gospels and teaching children about Christ. To make her arrest as painful as possible, they decided to wait a few weeks for her wedding day.
When she was dressed for the event that every woman looks forward to, the police suddenly broke in. Anticipating their intentions, she held out her hands, which they handcuffed roughly, looked lovingly at her groom, then kissed the chain saying. ‘I thank my heavenly bridegroom for this jewel He has presented to me on my marriage today. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.’
(I think God gives us grace to handle these kinds of situations, but we have to be oriented to Christ before that will really happen.) She was dragged off to prison, leaving behind weeping Christians and a weeping bridegroom, and five years later she was released haggard, broken, looking 30 years older. She had remained faithful, and her intended had waited for her.
He gives a second example:
A Soviet prisoner who was mocked unmercifully said, ‘Many fear suffering and in the past I too feared, but the presence of the Lord in jail has given me so many happy experiences that I would not have changed them for years of easy living in freedom.’
Then he writes:
In Ukraine the Christian, Terrelia, was put in a psychiatric asylum (I can clearly envision that happening today). The sadistic psychiatrist, Butkovich, told him, ‘The fact that you call yourself a Christian shows already you have a serious and irremediable sickness. Faith in God is mass psychosis, a kind of schizophrenia.’
But instead of brooding about his suffering, Terrelia brought officers of the secret police to Christ. They provided him with paper and pencil and smuggled out a whole notebook of his joyous poems praising God. Out of the mire of suffering grows the lily of joy in the Lord.
We never know what’s coming. We have to prepare today, and that means we have to take stock of what’s going on in our lives.
Another promise, John 16:33. Jesus said, “These things I’ve spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation—that’s a promise—you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
He did that in the way he lived, walking by the Spirit and applying the promises of God.
Philippians 4:13 is a promise, but we have to have the context. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not some sort of positive mental attitude spin, which is how a lot of Christians take it.
Paul said in the previous verse, Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased—I know how to be poor and how to have nothing—and I know how to abound—I know how to have everything that I can hope for—Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
“I can do all things” means I can handle any set of circumstances without it shaking my spiritual life. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This is what Paul is trying to convey to his readers in Ephesians 3, as we study this Mystery Doctrine rationale that he has explained to them—that he is called as an Apostle.
Ephesians 3:2, “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the rest of God which was given to me for you.”
That’s the first thing he starts with, as he is explaining to them why they should have stability and not be discouraged—why he’s in prison.
We ask, “What’s the meaning of the phrase “the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me?”
It’s repeated again in Ephesians 3:7, which we’re studying today, “of which—meaning the gospel in the previous verse—I became a minister—then uses that phrase again—according to the grace of God which was given to me.”
We have to understand the significance of that phrase as it applies to us; it indicates that we have this mission, and his mission was through the gospel. I want to help you understand this particular phrase.
Ephesians 3:6–7, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs—this is the content of the mystery which we studied last time—that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.”
It’s fellow heirs, fellow members, and fellow partakers of His promise. There’s equality between Jew and Gentile now.
It is “through the gospel.”
As we look at this phrase, I think it’s important that we understand what the gospel is. It is used three different ways in the Scripture. Actually, there are some more if you want talk about the gospel of the kingdom message in the time of Christ’s incarnation, which was related to the coming of the kingdom.
Just thinking in terms of today:
1. The narrow meaning: what must be believed to be justified?
What’s the good news? That my sins are forgiven, that Christ died for me on the cross, and if I believe in that I have eternal life. That’s the narrow gospel. Just the information needed, so that when I die I will be face-to-face with the Lord.
2. Paul uses it in a broad meaning in several places, where it includes not just the information needed to have eternal life, but also the information to have the abundant life.
John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal and destroy, but I have come that you may (first) have life.” That is, justification-salvation: you have eternal life. You’re no longer spiritually dead, you are regenerated, and you now have spiritual life.
He uses “and” there which has the sense in the Greek of “in addition to,” “I have come that you may (first) have life and (in addition to) have it more abundantly.”
That’s living the Christian life, where we realize that abundant life that Christ has given us, and that’s really what Paul is talking about here.
Part of that includes this third statement because when he uses this term through the Gospel in the context of Ephesians 3:6, he’s talking about:
3. The good news that the barrier between Jew and Gentile was removed, which is what we studied in Ephesians 2:14–18 and that the barrier between all of us and God has been removed.
Being fellow members of the same body and fellow partakers of His promise in Christ is through the gospel. That’s part of the gospel—not what we need to believe to be saved, but the result of that—is our new position in Christ.
Ephesians 3:7, “of which—that is, the gospel—I became a minister according to—then there’s that phrase we’re looking at—according to the gift of the grace of God which was given to me.”
When we studied this several weeks ago, I said it’s easy for people to think “The gift of grace. Okay, that’s salvation.” But that’s not how this phrase is used.
It’s used in an identical sense at the beginning and end of this section, where Paul says in Ephesians 3:2, “you have heard of the dispensation—or the administration—of the grace of God which was given to me.” We have to understand the whole phrase and what it means.
He repeats that in Ephesians 3:7, “the grace of God given to me.”
1. This phrase uses grace in a way similar to a form of the word CHARISMATA or DOREAN, which means a gift that refers to spiritual gifts. Paul is talking about the spiritual gift in appointment and commission given to him as an apostle.
In Ephesians 4:7 he uses it that way, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift,” then goes on talking about spiritual gifts.
Romans 12:6, “Since we have gifts—there he uses the word CHARISMATA—that differ according to the grace given—same words that we see in this phrase—the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith …” then he continues to talk about the spiritual gifts.
2. Paul uses the phrase “grace given to me” to refer to his spiritual gift of apostle and the mission and message of that office.
1 Corinthians 3:10, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder.” He’s using the imagery of a wise master builder to refer to his role and his mission and ministry as an apostle.
Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you …” See he’s exercising his apostolic authority. He’s essentially saying, for through the apostolic gift, this grace given to me, I am exhorting you to do this. The ministry that was given to him was primarily to the Gentiles.
Acts 26:17, God told him, “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you.”
His mission was to take this gospel to the Gentiles, that there was now one new man, one new body, one new temple, Jew and Gentile together. That is still the message that goes with the gospel, to understand our identity after we’re saved, to understand this new identity that has been given to us.
Ephesians 3:7, “of which—that is, of the gospel—I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me—that is an apostle with my apostolic mission, and this is—according to the working of His power.” It is God’s power that is at work in us, not our power.
Ephesians 3:8, “To me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given—again, it reinforces the idea that this is about his mission. He’s called to be an apostle: his office, his mission, and his ministry—to me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given …”
What was this grace? “…to proclaim—to evangelize literally, EUANGELIZOMAI—this grace was given to preach to—that is, to evangelize—the Gentiles—to tell them good news and to help them understand—the unfathomable riches or the wealth of Christ—that is now ours.”
Whatever pathetic things happen in the realm of our culture, our civilization, your business, your life, nothing measures up to the fact that we are in Christ and we have a wealth of blessings. That’s our identity.
Our mission is not to reform the culture or the politics—and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not our primary mission, so don’t let it get in the way. Our mission is to tell people about Jesus Christ, to grow to spiritual maturity, and to be able to carry out that ministry that God has given to us with reference to our spiritual gift in serving Him in the body of Christ.
3. The mission God gave to Paul as an apostle was to proclaim the mystery doctrine of the church, Jew and Gentile united together as one new man, one new body, and one new temple.”
That’s our passage, Ephesians 3:8–9. He was the least of the saints, and he was given this grace “to preach the good news to the Gentiles the unsearchable wealth of Christ, and to reveal to all what is the dispensation—or the administration—of the mystery.”
Paul’s giving that as new information, new revelation. We have it in the Scriptures, so we are also to give it. It’s bequeathed to us to continue to give that message, to help people understand.
In conclusion, the phrase “grace given to me” refers to Paul’s apostolic gifts and office. And it refers to our giftedness as believers, our mission to serve God, and we serve God by continuing to carry out that mission and message to proclaim the good news to teach people about the wealth of riches that we have in Christ and to teach them about our new identity in Christ.
That is our message and mission.
Ephesians 3:8–9 reminds us that this is what we are to be all about. Sometimes we get discouraged. I want to look at two passages before I stop.
I’m going to summarize the first one in the Book of Habakkuk. You probably haven’t read that recently. It’s in the Old Testament, but Habakkuk is a very fun little book to study because Habakkuk is just like us. Habakkuk is sitting there looking at the culture of Judah during the time when the nation is in great and terrible sin. It is a time when Jeconiah has been the king and things are just absolutely terrible.
He looks around, and sees all of these things that are happening in Judah, and it troubles him, just like we look at stuff in our culture and it troubles us. He says, “God, you need to do something about this. How can you let these things go on?
(Things that are going on in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Portland and Chicago and many, many other cities, and in many places in Houston.) How can you let this go on? You’re going to judge us one of these days.”
He said to Habakkuk, “Here’s the way I’m going to judge you, I know just the thing. I have these Chaldeans over here, and I’m going to bring them in, and they are going to conquer you and destroy Jerusalem and destroy the temple, and they’re going to wipe you out.”
Habakkuk—he is just so self-righteous—"WHAT? How can You use these horrible, pagan, wicked Chaldeans. They don’t even know You; they have no knowledge of You. How can You use them to discipline us? We’re Your people.
Then God gives them a little insight into His character in the second chapter, and at the end of God explaining who He is and His right to do what He wants and to discipline the nations according to His own plan, Habakkuk truly changes his mind. That is the biblical term “repentance.”
At the end of his last chapter where he praises God, he concludes it with these three verses:
Habakkuk 3:17–19, “Though the fig tree may not blossom—in other words, though there’s no agriculture production and we are in a famine; the economy of the country is destroyed—though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”
That’s the mental attitude that we should have: though everything falls apart, God in His justice is in control of history. There’s no big surprise here for Him; there is for us. When God is doing something, we should not sit back and get depressed or discouraged because that’s God’s plan. God’s plan includes potholes, detours, and speed bumps; and we need to recognize that and not try to change them.
Job says something very similar, Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
Jeremiah lived through what God told Habakkuk was going to happen. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. Jeremiah proclaimed to the people in Judah what was going to happen, “You have given yourselves over to idolatry and all sorts of sexual perversion. You have been sacrificing your children in the arms of Ba’al and Moloch, and God is going to come and judge us, and we are going to be destroyed by the Babylonians.” Isaiah had predicted this 150 years or so earlier.
Jeremiah witnessed this, then he witnessed the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem. He was a great patriot. He loved the Lord. He was obedient to the Law. But they were misinterpreting the Law, they were misapplying the Law, and they were ignoring the Law.
Same as we have too many people in our culture misinterpreting, misapplying, and ignoring the Constitution. They have applied it in illegitimate ways, and our culture is rotted on the inside. I don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe the president will be blessed by God in his attempts to address the corruption in this election. Maybe not.
But whichever way it goes we need to recognize that we can trust God, and we’re not going to let whatever happens in the political sphere impact and upset us. We may grieve for our nation. Jeremiah grieved for his nation. The Lord Jesus Christ also grieved for them.
Remember that passage in Luke 19, where the Lord Jesus Christ is on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city, and He weeps for Jerusalem. There is nothing wrong with having grief over what may be transpiring in our beloved nation. Nothing wrong with that. Jeremiah wept, Jesus wept, for the nation, for what was happening. That didn’t change the fact that what happened was the just thing.
This is how Jeremiah responds to it.
Lamentations 3:18, this is where he’s down, he says, “My strength and my hope have perished from the Lord.”
A lot of people felt this way this last week. “I have no hope.” Jeremiah felt that way. That is your sin nature talking. We need to get our heads out of our sin nature.
Lamentations 3:19, “Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall.”
Lamentations 3:20, “My soul still remembers and sinks with in me.” He’s remembering the way it was and the way it ought to be.
Lamentations 3:21–26, “This I recall to my mind—what’s he recalling? Who God is and God’s plan—This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope.”
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
After I close in prayer, we will stand and sing together “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Think through the words; they are tremendous for a time like this.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to be reminded of Your plan, Your purpose, that it is perfect. We may not understand it, we may not appreciate it. It is not our plan, it’s not the way we would do things, but we need to align our thoughts to Your thoughts and our ways to Your ways, and we need to follow the example of Jeremiah. Our hope is in You; it’s not in the things of the world. It’s not in what we would hope to happen in our political system. It is in a relationship with You and realizing that the mission and ministry You’ve given us has never changed.
“There’s nothing about the election this last week that changes anything about Your plan for our life, and we need to get back in gear, get focused and constantly remind ourselves of this in the coming weeks and days, as the vicissitudes of this election go back and forth and kinds of things are going on. We ought not to pay attention, just do what we can and focus on You, for You are our hope and our stability.
“Father, we pray for any who might listen to this message, that salvation comes from You; it is not on our based on our efforts. You have provided us with a perfect Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and that by trusting only in Him and only trusting in Him we have everlasting life. He alone is our Savior, He alone died for our sins, and He died for all of them so that there is nothing for us to add. We cannot add to it. If we try, we destroy it. We are to believe in Jesus Christ alone.
“Father, we pray that we might be strengthened and encouraged this day for what we have studied. In Christ’s name, amen.”