The Great Escape: Can Man Escape God?
Jeremiah 34-44 December 1, 2002
Isaiah 2:12-18, page 1063, pew Bible (north side)
Jeremiah 33:14-18, page 1232, pew Bible (south side)
Q: Have you ever tried to escape God? Would everyone who has ever tried to escape God please stand up? This takes humility, doesn't it?
I. The Narrative
A. Scene One (Jer. 34:8-22)
God's command through Jeremiah to free Israelite slaves - its disobedience and penalty.
Can man escape God? We attempt to go back on our promises to God only to reap the reward of disobedience.
B. Scene Two (Jer. 36)
God's Word through Jeremiah to the people, the court officials, and King Jehoiakim – its rejection and penalty.
Can man escape God? We attempt to reject and destroy God's Word when it will stand anyway as our only salvation.
C. Scene Three (Jer. 37)
God's response through Jeremiah to King Zedekiah concerning his request for prayer – Jeremiah's imprisonment in jail and the King's penalty.
Can man escape God? We attempt to rely on outside sources of help when we can only trust God alone.
D. Scene Four (Jer. 38-39)
God's instruction through Jeremiah to the people, the court officials, and King Zedekiah not to be afraid to go over to the King of Babylon – Jeremiah's imprisonment in a cistern, the king's "Catch 22" fear of his officials and the king's penalty.
Can man escape God? We fear man more than we attempt to trust God.
E. Scene Five (Jer. 41:16-44:30)
God's imperative through Jeremiah to the remnant of Jerusalem led by Johanan after Gedaliah's assassination by Ishmael (due to 40:9) not to cross over to Egypt – their inquiry, its rejection and penalty (note the sign of the penalty in 44:29-30).
Can man escape God? We attempt to inquire of God with no intent to obey him but we will be left with only what we asked (44:28b).
Whose word stands in your life?
II. The Complete Big Idea (subject big question plus complement big idea or answer of the passage)
A. Implication, illustration, and application from scene one
B. Implication, illustration, and application from scene two
C. Implication, illustration, and application from scene three
D. Implication, illustration, and application from scene four
We see in 44:10 the truth of God's purpose all along.
He desires that we humble ourselves.
When we cross over to God's purpose in humility by believing even what we cannot fully understand (it is pure obedience through humility) we find salvation.
It made no sense that the people should turn themselves over the enemy, Babylon, and leave their Jerusalem comfort zone.
They had confused real safety in their physical environment from God rather than in their spiritual relationship to God.
Essentially, they had fairly well forgotten God altogether.
That was their problem God needed to correct.
This was only possible by bringing about events to re-instill the quality of humility.
God chose to do this by raising up Babylon to which the people would be required to submit.
In reality it was not the King of Babylon to which the people would submit but to God himself who was bringing this discipline upon them.
Eventually, all those who would not humble themselves would perish, but all those who would submit to God through Babylon would live – and return (if only in progeny).
In Ezekiel 10 we see the glory of the Lord depart the temple toward the east.
We may not be able to escape God, but perhaps God can escape us.
I believe it is possible that the glory of the Lord went with the people who obeyed him by going east to Babylon.
Admittedly many went aside from their own will, taken as captives, but in accordance with God's will.
Nevertheless, it was those who went to Babylon who would be healed by the Lord's discipline.
In Ezekiel 43 the glory of the Lord returns to the millennial temple from the east.
The great escape is not away from God but toward him.
Many of the people of Judah attempted to escape God's purpose for them – and that purpose was a renewed sense of humility before him.
It was their pride that involved them in idolatry. After their return from Babylon, they would never again return to idolatry.
The great escape is not away from God but into the captivity of his salvation process.
The great escape from God is an illusion for all men will give an account. The great escape toward God is salvation. It is an escape from sin toward forgiveness.
The great escape is not from God but in God himself. And that is only possible when we are willing to humble ourselves before him.
With the advent of the birth of Jesus Christ and our celebration of his communion this morning, we are reminded of his humility.
We cannot escape God. He pursues us to show his will for us. Jesus came in humility and died in humility.
The humility that God wants for us in Christ screams across the ministry of his life from cradle to cross.
His witness stands at the crossroads of the sands of time for all to see who will see.
Many will ignore him, but they cannot ignore him for long.
“ Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11 NIVUS)
Indeed, man cannot escape God.
“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in— behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” (Psalms 139:1-5 NIVUS)
“ Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalms 139:7 NIVUS)
And indeed, this God is Christ Jesus the Lord.
“ In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIVUS)
Will you listen to him? He tells us that the way to God is through humility.
“ At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5 NIVUS)
“ For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 NIVUS)
“ For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” (Psalms 149:4 NIVUS)
Jesus came to us in total humility, and only the humble will find him – because he himself is humble.
I invite you to escape from your comfort zone today, right now, this season, from your own hands, into the hands of the One who said:
“ Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NIVUS)