Judgment and Hope—A Message for Our Time

Sept. 22, 2016 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

Nancy: What we have to look forward to when all earthly thrones fall before the highest throne of the universe, when we stand faultless before the throne of God, when we’re gathered with saints of all nations and ethnicities, when we praise Him with all our hearts without distractions, all eyes on Him—a day when there will be no more tears, no more thirst, no more hunger, no more death, when we will be forever at home with Christ, reigning with the Lamb our Shepherd King.

Are you looking forward to that?

So we just sang about this amazing hope and this hope comes to us from the promises of God. But even as we sing those words, do you stop and think about the fact that our current reality is way different than that? That’s not what we’re experiencing now, is it?

We live in a messed up world. And as we’ve been moving toward this Cry Out! event over the last two years, it’s become more and more apparent that this world has gone crazy. We’re reading day after day, hearing and seeing the images just second after they happen of war and hatred and terrorism and false religions on the rise, threatening to wipe out the followers of the Lamb.

Yet we just sang, the followers of the Lamb will be victorious. Our own country, here in the United States is deeply divided. We’ve lost our moral compass, and everywhere it seems like evil is prevailing.

You have this great hope, but you have this messy reality. And it’s not just our country and our world that are messed up. Our own lives are messy. In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been dealing with a life and death issue of someone who’s very close to me. I don’t know where all that will end.

I’ve been dealing with relational challenges, with weakness, with weariness. I’ve heard this from others who are coming here. Our lives our messy. So how do we hold on to the eternal, amazing hope that is ours while still living in this messy here and now?

What should our perspective be on the craziness taking place in the world around us? Should we just hunker down in our Christian fortresses and hang on for the rapture, hoping that things don’t get to painful or too difficult or too dangerous for us between now and then?

We have some brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are losing their lives and their family members because of their faith in Christ. So what gives them hope in the midst of the terror that they’re living with?

Should we just become angry and rant perpetually about everything that is wrong with the world, with the culture, with the political system? You hear a lot of people on TV doing that. I hear a lot of people doing that.

Should we just ignore it and pretend like it’s not happening? Should we give in to fear and to despair?

For the last several months, I’ve been living in the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament. I didn’t know until I checked this out recently that Jeremiah is actually the longest book in the Bible, if you’re talking about number of words. Jeremiah, and then the companion book he wrote, Lamentations.

There are a lot of heavy, somber, dark themes throughout the fifty-two chapters of Jeremiah, and then in the book of Lamentations. I mean, it’s lament. It’s sadness. It’s lamenting. But as I’ve been reading over and over again, just meditating on it chapter after chapter, there’s so many parallels between Jeremiah’s day and ours.

Jeremiah, you may remember, served the Lord faithfully for half a century, through the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. The first, Josiah, came to the throne at age eight and ruled for thirty-one years. Josiah was preceded by his grandfather and his father who were wicked, wicked kings.

But Josiah had a tender heart toward the Lord. And even at an early age, he sought the Lord, and he led the people to do the same. And under his reign, the nation experienced something of a spiritual revival.

But then the next four kings, three of Josiah’s sons and one grandson were, again, evil kings, and they led Judah further down the pathway to apostasy and spiritual decline.

So meanwhile, as the nation of Judah is in decline, the Babylonians have become the major world power, and they are vicious, ruthless conquerors. In the midst of all of this going on in the world, God raises up Jeremiah to be a prophet to His people and a prophet to the nations.

And I love this man. Jeremiah never paid attention to the polls. He didn’t care about being the most popular anything, and he never was the most popular anything. Jeremiah didn’t keep his TV tuned to CNN or to Fox News. He got his news from the Lord. He listened to the Word of the Lord. And you have nearly eighty references in Jeremiah to the Word of the Lord.

“Then came the word of the Lord." "Then Jeremiah spoke the word of the Lord.”

He exalted God’s Word over many other voices that were clamoring in the land—kings and prophets and false prophets and fickle people and rules. They were all screeching. But Jeremiah listened to what God had to say. And God showed him how current events were connected and what God was doing in the midst of it all.

So God would say to Jeremiah, “Now, about the drought . . .; and now about the Babylonians . . .; and now about this . . .” God would explain to him the heavenly perspective on what was happening down here on earth.

God gave Jeremiah a message for his time, and it was mostly a message of coming judgment. And the judgment was not first against the wicked Babylonians, though God would judge them in His time. But first, the judgment was coming because of the sin of God’s people, those called by His name.

And we see in Jeremiah that God does deal with nations. Nations that forsake the Lord will be judged, but first, God deals with His own people. God would deal with the wicked Babylonians in time, but He would first deal with His people, His Bride that He said had been treacherous, an adulteress, and unfaithful. He said, “You’re My children, but you’ve been wayward. You’ve been faithless.”

This was unthinkable. And it broke God’s heart, as it would break the heart of any husband, any parent, to have their wife, their children leave them, be disloyal to them, go pursuing another man or running from their parents as the prodigal son or daughter. Many of you know exactly what that feels like.

God grieved over the waywardness of His people, and so did Jeremiah. He became known as the weeping prophet. I’m seeing in Jeremiah something of the heart of Jesus when He wept over Jerusalem, wept over the condition of His people, grieved over the things that grieve God’s heart.

So Jeremiah, grieving over this, confronts the people of God with their sin, which is first and foremost against the Lord. They have forsaken the Lord. They have forgotten the Lord, and they have followed after other gods. And, to make it worse, they are unrepentant. "They have made their faces harder than rock. They have refused to repent” (Jer. 5:3).

And then he speaks the Word of the Lord, “I bring disaster and great destruction. Your iniquities have turned these away (speaking of rain coming in at season)." What about the drought? God says, “Your sin has kept the rain from coming to water the land. Your sins have kept good from you.” God said, “I wanted to bless you. I wanted to meet your needs, but your sins have forced Me to work against you.”

So you have this heavy message; you have this somber message. You say, “I came to True Woman to hear all about this doom and gloom and judgment?” I’m just telling you where I’ve been living all these months.

But here’s what I love: Intertwined through all of this is a message of amazing hope, amazing beauty that comes shining through the dark clouds of sin and judgment and wrath. And we see throughout Jeremiah that God is a faithful, covenant-keeping God, unlike His disloyal, adulteress, treacherous people, that God longs to pardon His people.

He longs to show mercy. And He pleads with His people to return. That word "return" you see twenty-seven times in the book of Jeremiah. And God gives repeated offers of salvation. In fact, mark it in your Bible wherever you see judgment talked about in the Bible, you’ll see a parallel track of salvation. There’s no salvation that’s meaningful if it’s not positioned against judgment.

What are we saved from? We’re saved from the wrath of God. So you see God’s wrath, the impending judgment. They’re already under the judgment of God. God’s anger is being outpoured, but He says, “I long to show mercy. I long to send salvation.”

And so He says, “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).

But the people reject God’s offer. They say, “We will not walk in God’s paths.”

Well, there’s a lot more we can say about Jeremiah. I won’t, but I just wanted to give you . . . I wanted to set the stage for some of what’s on my heart this weekend, some of what God’s been saying to me.

I think this weekend in God’s appointment book in heaven is so timely. Who could have known when we put this weekend on our calendar two years ago that our nation and the nations of the world would be experiencing what we are today? When has there been a greater need in our lifetime to cry out to the Lord?

There’s so much that should concern us in our world, in our nations, but it’s a time for a great hope, too, because God is at work. God is speaking. He’s laying on women like you, women like me, the burdens that are on His heart for this broken world, and He’s inviting us to come up with Him under that burden to cry out.

He’s reminding us that He’s still on His throne. It is the highest throne above all thrones. He is sovereign over all nations, all rulers, all political parties, all candidates. Heaven rules. I love it! Heaven rules!

And, yes, we’re reminded sin does have consequences. Those who reject God’s laws, who reject Him as Lord may seem to be winning, but they will not win in the long run. They will not go unpunished. This is why we need to listen to God instead of listening to what all the pundits are telling us.

God knows what’s happening. He will judge those who forsake Him. But He still offers salvation and redemption and restoration to those who will repent, return, bow before Christ as Lord.

He’s speaking today to Hindus, to Muslims, and people who call themselves Christians but have no concept of what that means or what that is. There may be some women here—you’re religious, but you don’t know Jesus. He’s saying, “Return. Repent. Come, be restored.” Starting with our own hearts, He’s offering that invitation.

So we’re going to ask throughout this weekend: How have we forsaken the Lord? How have we followed other gods? This is going to be a call for us to return, to repent.

This passage in Jeremiah has been on my heart for many years. It’s the passage from which we got the concept for this weekend. Jeremiah chapter 9—let me just read you a paragraph: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Consider, and call for the mourning women to come.'" That’s what we have done this weekend. We’ve called for the women who say, “I want to have on my heart what’s on God’s heart. If God’s grieved, I’m grieved.”

Call for the mourning women, the wailing women to come; send for the skillful women to come [it’s talking about professional mourners at a funeral]; let them make haste and raise a wailing over us, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids flow with water (vv. 17–18).

Then He says, verse 20:

Hear, O women, the word of the LORD, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth; teach to your daughters a lament . . . For death has come up into our windows; it has entered our palaces, cutting off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares (vv. 20–21).

Are we experiencing that today? So what are we to do? We’re to come. We’re to grieve. We’re to hear the Word of the Lord. We’re to receive the Word of His mouth. It’s a sober message, but it’s also a message of hope because as we return to Him, we will find that He is faithful. He is merciful. Heaven rules, and we have a calling and a mission as His people today.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.