Jeremiah 39:15-18 ESV
The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: [16] "Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. [17] But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. [18] For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'"

This is what God now says to us saints under the New Covenant:

'I will fulfil my words against this WORLD for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that Great Day, the Day of Judgment.

But I will deliver you on that Day, and you shall not be given into eternal judgment, of which you are afraid.

For I will surely save you, and my wrath will not fall upon you, because you have put your trust in my Son!"

In the above passage, God was speaking to an Ethiopian, a Gentile. It shows that, even under the Old Covenant, it ultimately didn't matter who you were or what was your background. It didn't matter if you were the king, the high priest or the prophet. On the day when the Babylonians finally invaded Jerusalem, those who were merely Jews on the outside, but actually did not trust in God as their Saviour, were slaughtered by the wrath of God.

But this Ethiopian, though he looked nothing like a Jew on the outside, was a Jew on the inside, accepted by God, because of his FAITH in God:

Romans 2:29 ESV

But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Acts 15:9 ESV

[9] and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

In the same way, the only thing that will matter on the Day of Judgment is: did we trust in the Son to save us from the wrath to come? It will not matter our heritage, whether you were born in a Christian family, or in a "Christian nation", or not. It will not matter if you were a member of a church. It will not matter if we were one of the 'influential people' in this world, or whether or not we were pastors in full time ministry, or whatever we did 'in Jesus' Name'.

Only one question will matter on that Day: Did I TRUST in Christ to save me on that Day? Or did I trust in who I was or what I did?

But this is interesting: "You shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid". Which means: the Ethiopian DID trust in God that He will deliver him from death, according to God's own assessment, BUT he was still fearful of the Babylonians!

Perhaps it was because he was a servant in the king's palace, and so he could not desert to the Babylonians, even if he wanted to do. This eunuch knew that he could not physically obey this commandment of God, even though he believed it with all his heart: Jeremiah 38:2 ESV

"Thus says the LORD: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live.

And yet, even though this Ethiopian was not able to obey this commandment, he was still given an assurance of salvation. Why? Because whether a person physically stays in the city or not, what God was looking for was: did this person truly BELIEVE my words or not?

Thus what we observe here is that saving faith is not one that is required to be so perfect that it rids the person of ALL fear of judgment. No one has such perfect faith. Like this Ethiopian, we trust in Christ to deliver us from the eternal wrath of God on that Great Day. But we may still be terrified that we might be eternally condemned on that Day. That may be because our obedience to God's commandments, that springs forth from our faith in Christ, is not perfect. Because of our various weaknesses and limitations, there may be many 'holes' in our obedience.

But what Christ is looking for is that mustard seed of faith. He is looking for a faith that struggles: Mark 9:24 ESV

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Jesus understands that our faith and the resulting fruits of obedience will not be perfect. But thank God that we are not saved by our obedience nor even by our faith itself, but by CHRIST and what He's done for us.

Numbers 22:12-14 ESV
God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." [13] So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you." [14] So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."

From this point Balaam's attitude is wrong: "The LORD has refused me". Which means: 'I really want to go. I want that money from the Moabites, as a reward for cursing the Israelites, so bad. But God's not letting me have what I want'. This was what was wrong with Balaam: his desires were not aligned with God's. And this was his downfall.

Numbers 22:18-19 ESV
But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more. [19] So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me."

God had already said NO. But Balaam goes back for a second opinion! He is really an inconsistent man. He had just said, "I could not go beyond the commandment of the LORD my God". But he goes and asks God if he can go against God's commandment that He had given him the first time. Balaam sounds pious, but his profession of faith is a lie.

Numbers 22:22-23 ESV
But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. [23] And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.

Balaam was so blinded by a desire for money and earthly glory that his spiritual eyes became blinded, more blind than an animal's:

Numbers 22:24-27 ESV
Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. [25] And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. [26] Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. [27] When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff.

The donkey was trying to save Balaam's life. When things don't go well in our lives, and we are stopped along the way by frustrating circumstances, it may be God mercifully trying to stop us from facing His greater judgment. May we take heed, stop, turn around, and go the opposite direction.

Numbers 22:28-30 ESV
Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" [29] And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you." [30] And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?" And he said, "No."

It is a shameful thing when an ANIMAL is able to think more logically than a human, when a man is lectured by a beast of burden. Thus we see here Balaam's sin had made him sub-human. Indeed, his absolute cruelty and anger towards his donkey in this passage shows that his sin has made him become beast-like.

Numbers 22:31 ESV
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.

God opens the donkey's mouth and now opens Balaam's eyes.

Numbers 22:34-35 ESV
Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back." [35] And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you." So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

The thing is, Balaam ultimately did not obey this commandment. Balaam later advised Moabites to seduce the Israelites into idolatry and prostitution to make them become perverse in God's sight.

Balaam's sin is a miracle of sorts: he witnessed two amazing miracles: a donkey speaking, the angel of the Lord standing with a sword. And yet his heart did not forsake his sin of the love of honour and wealth. This is the evidence that no amount of miracles can change the ways of a person who will not repent of his or her idolatrous loves of their heart:

Prayer: Father God, may our desires be aligned with yours. And if we have heard you saying "NO" once, through your Word, help us to not go back to you for a second opinion. Help us to simply obey your will, with no ifs or buts. May love for money and earthly glory not blind us from spiritual dangers we are in because of our sin. May we take heed your warning when we are, according to your providence, stopped by our circumstances, so that we will genuinely turn from our evil ways. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.

Jeremiah 38:2-3 ESV
“Thus says the LORD: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. [3] Thus says the LORD: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.”

Jeremiah's words to the people of Jerusalem was clear: Surrender to the king of Babylon and you will live. Stay in this city and you will die.

These words of course sounded like treason to the Jews:

Jeremiah 38:4 ESV
Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”

These officials thought that to go outside the city to the Babylonians meant certain death. Even though God's Word promised that they would live, they chose to believe in their own thoughts, rather the promise of God.

Hence, this was the ultimate test: those who believe in God's word would go out and live. Those who disbelieve in God's word will stay, fight to the end like fools, and die, and suffer the wrath of God unleashed.

The instructions of Jeremiah is a type of the Gospel instruction given to ALL of humanity: turn your back on the world (i.e. the world system of sin, run by Satan), surrender to Jesus and live forever. Remain part of this world, resist the authority of Jesus over your life, and experience the eternal wrath of God.

There are only two options. Of course, surrendering to Jesus "sounds" like death: it is death to self, death to one's own will, one's own selfish desires and ambitions. But it is actually the way to life (indeed, it IS life itself):

Mark 8:34-35 ESV

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [35] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Just as to "go out to the Chaldeans" meant life to the citizens of Jerusalem, to lose your life for Jesus and the Gospel is save it forever. That is the infallible promise of God, in Christ.

But, what does it mean to "lose your life for Jesus", practically, besides martyrdom? It means, when someone sees my life, all they see is Jesus Christ and His Gospel! When someone who doesn't know Christ sees me, they say, "this guy has NO LIFE, besides this "Jesus" and "Gospel" business!"

It means Jesus and the News of His glorious death and resurrection has so taken over and consumed all that we are, that besides those things, we are seen as nothing and having nothing. That besides Christ and the message of Him Crucified we are nothing but an empty shell! That's what it means to "lose my life for Jesus and the Gospel's".

Now, when we live in such a way, people who belong to this world system (especially churchgoers and religious people) will accuse us of a kind of 'treason'. They will say that we are being too 'extreme'. They will say that one must not empty oneself SO MUCH for Jesus and the Gospel. Jesus can just be one of the many accessories of a person's life. You can still keep your "life" and have Jesus too, they will say. Such preaching of 'Jesus + Nothing = Everything' (where ME and my ego is included in that "Nothing"!!) "weakens the hands of the people", they will say. It hurts our self-esteem! We need to FIND ourselves, not lose ourselves for the glory of Another!

But, in the midst of such devilish voices (including especially those of our own deceptive hearts), we must believe in the unshakable promise of God: to LOSE our lives, to go out to Jesus Christ and hand over our kingship to Him, is our ticket to freedom and life! To refuse to do that is to pronounce a death sentence upon ourselves.

©2020 by Sherwood Methodist Church