Summary: God gives one more chance to his fickle children, one more chance to return to him, one more chance to avert destruction, one more chance to know him and be healed.
Aren’t you glad that God is the God of second chances? This week I have been sick with a nasty bug, which has left me at times with a migraine that keeps me from being able to read. This is one way God slows me down and forces me to meditate. I spent more time than usual laying around thinking about mistakes I have made in my past. No, I wasn’t feeling guilty or beating myself up – these are sins that God has delivered me from, and he has forgiven me fully and thoroughly. But sins always have consequences, even when God forgives you of those sins. And I spent a lot of time thinking about the consequences of some of my sins, and how they could have been so much worse than they were, if it weren’t for God’s intervention. Our text this morning is about a time when God gave ONE MORE CHANCE to his people.
The northern kingdoms, those ten tribes of Israel, had all been carried away and pretty much destroyed by Assyria. Now Babylon was the big kid on the block, the only real superpower, and little Judah was facing the same fate. It was December, 604 BC, and it was cold outside. The harvest had already come in, and no one really planned on their being a siege of the city, so there was a fair amount of anxiety in the air. Godly King Josiah had been killed in battle only four or five years earlier, and his son Jehoiakim was King. The Bible summarizes his whole life with the words, “he did what was evil in the site of the Lord…” (II Kings 23:37)
Now Babylon might have been the big kid on the block, but Judah belonged to Egypt. King Jehoiakim was a puppet king, the younger son of Josiah, and he placed on the throne by the King of Egypt, the same man who killed his daddy. Now things haven’t changed a whole lot through the years. When Judah became the vassal, or servant, of Egypt, they had to submit to Egypt in a lot of ways. They had to pay taxes, they had to send soldiers to help Egypt fight, but most of all they had to honor Egypt’s gods. So when we read that verse that says King Jehoiakim did evil in the site of the LORD, we need to remember that he was responding to the same pressures you face in school, or in work, or among unbelieving friends. That is, he had to honor and worship their gods, live like they lived, or he would get in a lot of trouble. This is what Jesus means when he says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) You WILL have tribulation! The only question is, do you have the faith to believe that Jesus has overcome the world, and therefore it is safe to trust in him when no one else around you does? Jehoiakim did not. That means when others around you are drinking, or doing drugs, or having sex outside of marriage, and you feel that pressure to conform – Jesus says don’t worry, I have overcome the world. You can trust me. It will cost you, but you can trust me. Jehoiakim failed here, he succumbed to the pressure from an unbelieving nation – Egypt, and the whole summary of his life fits just eleven words, “he did what was evil in the site of the Lord…”
Enough about him! God is the God of the second chance, so he sends his word again to his children, and to this wicked king. Let’s look at what happens! God tells Jeremiah to write a scroll. There are three aspects of that scroll that I want to take apart this morning: the CONTENTS of the scroll; the PURPOSE of the scroll; and the TIMING of the scroll.
For the CONTENTS we need to look into verse two:
2“Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day.”
There are three pieces to this verse, the words, the people and the days. The entire Bible, and especially the book of Jeremiah, places immense weight on the word of God. IT IS THE GREATEST HONOR OF MAN TO RECEIVE IT, AND THE GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN TO GUARD IT AND PROCLAIM IT. When the Word of God is lightly esteemed, destruction quickly follows. I know too many people who honor the Word physically, placing it on the highest shelf, or in a place of prominence in the home, and yet never open it. This generation more than any other will bear the heaviest judgment before God for our neglect of the Word, because it so available to us! We all have copies of it in our homes, you can study the greatest Christian teachers in history for free on the internet; if you are illiterate you can buy CD’s and tapes of the Bible; if you are blind you can hear it on the radio and television, or buy a Braille Bible. God has given us electricity so we can read His word when it would otherwise be dark. He has given us every convenience from dishwashers to microwaves to washing machines and so on, so that we would have more free time to study his word, pray, and know him. But what do we do with our free time? We squander it on things that do not profit. Yes, this generation more than any other will stand before the judgment seat of Christ with works of hay instead of works of gold. God is the God of the second chance, and it is not too late to repent of our slothfulness!