An hour outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh, in the rocky terrain of the desert, a Saudi family concludes a daylong outing. A full moon illuminates the black line of silhouettes in prayer. Karen House, writes of what happened next in Newsweek, “While I sit by myself on a blanket nearby, Ahmad and his father, brother, and young sister prostrate themselves in the direction of Mecca. Observing my failure to pray, Ahmad, who is 6, approaches, clearly concerned. “I need to teach you something,” he says. “What?” I ask. “Do you know what to say when the angel of death comes?” he says. Assuming I do not, the little boy then provides the answers that the dying should give if they want to transit successfully to the hereafter: “The angel asks you, ‘Who is your God?’ and you say, ‘Allah,’?” says Ahmad. “?‘Who is your prophet?’ You say, ‘Muhammad.’ ‘What is your faith?’ You say, ‘Islam.’”
It is hard to imagine a child of that age in the UK, as concerned about the hereafter for themselves—let alone for a stranger. But this 6-year-old believer, seeking to save the soul of an infidel, suggests how pervasive religion is in Saudi Arabia. And you don’t have to go as far as Saudi Arabia to witness that kind of fervour.
On Friday I visited the journalist’s watering hole, the Frontline Club near Paddington. Lapido Media, an international religious literacy charity, launched a book about Tablighi Jamaat. You may never have heard of them, but TJ, as they are nicknamed, is the world’s biggest Islamic revival movement, founded in India in 1926. What’s special about them? Every member commits to undertake a 40-day preaching tour, every year, to proselytise backslidden Muslims. 40 days each, every year…
And they are currently seeking planning permission to build the largest mosque in Europe near the Olympic Arena in Newham. Their initial proposal was to build a mosque capable of holding 12,000 people at a cost of £100 million. Because of local objections, they have toned down their proposals but you get some idea of their vision.
How does that compare with yours and with mine? Our 2020 Vision is rooted in the Word of God and the conviction that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world, that lost people matter to God and that the local Church is the only hope for the world. That is why we are undertaking this sermon series, Christ in all the Scriptures, to show that God has only ever had one plan to save the world, and that is through Jesus. You see, Jesus is central to every book of the Bible. After his resurrection Jesus said to his disciples,
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27; 44-45)
In the Gospels, Jesus confounds his critics not just by quoting Scripture but by identifying himself as the one the Scriptures are speaking about.
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39).
So far in our series, we have seen:
Christ in all the Scriptures
Isaiah: Jesus is the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53)
Psalms: The Cross of Christ (Psalm 22)
Esther and the Providence of God (Esther 4)
Kings: Solomon, Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 4)
Samuel: The Son and Lord of David (2 Samuel 9)
Judges and the Angel of the Lord (Judges 6)
Joshua: Joshua and the Commander of the Lord’s Army (Joshua 5)
Deuteronomy: Moses and the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18)
Numbers: The Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21)
Leviticus: The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16)
Exodus: The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12)
Genesis: The Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22)
Today we come to Jeremiah and the New Covenant. I want to draw out three dimensions to Jeremiah that will lead us to a deeper understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ:
1. Jeremiah: The gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Jeremiah: The prefigure of Jesus Christ.
3. Jeremiah: The follower of Jesus Christ.
1. Jeremiah: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Jeremiah’s message was really very simple, “The cure of all your famines, and all your plagues, and all your defeats, and all your captivities – the cause and cure of them is found not in the strength of your armies, or the power of your kings or the words of your false prophets but in your heart attitude toward the One True God and the Saviour he will send you. You see, Jeremiah looks forward to a coming Messiah whom he describes as:
The Fountain of Living Waters (Jeremiah 2:13)
The Great Physician (Jeremiah 8:22)
The Good Shepherd (Jeremiah 31:10; 23:4)
The Righteous Branch (Jeremiah 23:5)
David the King (Jeremiah 30:9)
The Redeemer (Jeremiah 50:34)
The Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)
At the very time that David’s throne was imperilled, and justice and equity almost unknown, the prophet announces the coming of a King of the House of David, a righteous Branch, who should reign and prosper, and execute judgment and justice in the earth.
“In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.” (Jeremiah 23:6)
In this majestic name, both the Godhead of our Saviour is predicted, and, as a descendant of David, His humanity also. God and man in the same person. And this Saviour will, says Jeremiah, institute a brand new covenant. This is the first time in Scripture the term is used.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
We have here one of the clearest and explicit descriptions of the gospel in the Old Testament. We are told why this New Covenant is needed, who it is made with and what its purpose is. Notice this New Covenant would be with the people of Israel and Judah. God does not have two chosen peoples. We Gentiles have been grafted into the One people of God. The Church has not replaced Israel. The Church IS Israel because Jews and Gentiles have been brought together, grafted into the one people of God by faith in Jesus Christ. . Hebrews insists:
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13).
At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup and said? “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
Paul repeats these words in his instructions to the Corinthians:
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”” (1 Corinthians 11:25)
That is why in Hebrews, Christ is described as the Mediator of a better Covenant because it was made with his blood. (Hebrews 12:24). Jeremiah’s prophecy therefore portrays the spiritual nature of God’s kingdom, in which His Laws will be written on our minds to enable us to know Him, in our hearts to make us love Him, and by His Spirit to enable us to obey Him. That is the good news. A Righteous Saviour who will institute a New Covenant. Jeremiah: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Jeremiah: The Prefigure of Jesus Christ
Jeremiah not only proclaimed the Lord Jesus in his message but he also prefigured Jesus in his life.
Like Jesus, Jeremiah was carried into Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-7)
He caused controversy throughout all Israel (Jeremiah 15:20)
He was accused of leading the people astray (Jeremiah 38:4)
He was imprisoned (Jeremiah 38:6)
He was beaten (Jeremiah 20:2)
He was mocked (Jeremiah 20:7)
He was accused of treachery (Jeremiah 38:4)
He was nearly put him to death (Jeremiah 38:4)
He compares himself to a lamb led to slaughter (Jeremiah 11:19)
This prefigurement of Christ is seen most clearly in Chapter 26 and in the way Jeremiah was treated for delivering God’s word.
“But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die!… Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!” Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” (Jeremiah 26:8, 11-15)
Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet” (Jeremiah 9:1), but he did not weep for himself. He wept over the lost condition of his people just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
“As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
It is therefore not surprising that when Jesus asked the Disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” some mistook the Lord for Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14).
Jeremiah: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah: The prefigure of Jesus Christ.
3. Jeremiah: The Follower of Jesus Christ
God chooses unlikely people to accomplish his strategic work. Jeremiah was a sensitive and insecure person. When called by God to be a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah replied, “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6). He did not realise that a recognition of his own inadequacy did not disqualify him. Just the reverse, it was an indispensable requirement. The Lord replies,
“Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:6-10)
You are never too young to follow Jesus. Never too inexperienced to speak up for Jesus. If a six year old Muslim in Saudi Arabia can witness to a stranger , confident of his beliefs, what can a follower of Jesus Christ do with the help of the Holy Spirit? Although Jeremiah often complained to God, he never turned back from his calling.
Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet” (Jeremiah 9:1), but he did not weep for himself. He wept over the lost condition of his people. Some think weeping proves a person is weak, but Jeremiah was not weak. Despite Jeremiah’s unpopularity, despite the threats against his life, in spite of the way Jeremiah was treated, he continued to deliver God’s message to his people faithfully for 18 years during the reign of Josiah, then during the reigns of four more kings in Judah until after the capture of Jerusalem and the fall of the kingdom. He persevered for more than forty years without seeing any lasting results of his work. But he remained faithful to his calling.
We have seen how Jeremiah’s ministry, his message and life, all point to Jesus Christ: Jeremiah, the gospel of Jesus Christ; Jeremiah the prefigurement of Jesus Christ; and Jeremiah the follower of Jesus Christ. And the application? I wonder whether God is saying to you tonight,
“Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” (Jeremiah 1:6-7)
Because you are never too young to follow Jesus. You are never too inexperienced to speak up for Jesus. You are never too sinful to reveal Jesus to others. If a six year old Muslim in Saudi Arabia can witness to a stranger, what can a follower of Jesus Christ, like Jeremiah, do in the power of the Holy Spirit?