Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life.
This photo is of a friend of mine from my days pastoring Khartoum International Church. I have only just regained contact with him through some friends near where he lives. For more than ten years we heard nothing from each other.
Jeremiah was part of our ‘deaf group’ at KIC, well looked after by mutual friends, Garth Hulin with his wife Pauline. The group were taught to speak and to hear using a sign language, mainly of hand and finger shapes.
Last month I read the Bible book named Jeremiah. God impressed several things onto my mind and heart as I read His word every day after breakfast. Here are some of them:
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah regularly, 1:2,4,7,11,13. This continues through all 52 chapters. Most of us today have God’s word, our Bibles. We can read it in our own language. But reading is not enough! We must also ‘hear’ it speaking to our lives. We must show we follow and love God by doing what He says we must do.
The word of the Lord must not be ignored because we do not like what it says. In chapter 42 a group of people ask Jeremiah to listen for a message from God about what they should all do, verses2-3. However, when God spoke to the prophet, vs7, the people did not like the message and turned their backs on it, 43:1-7. They also broke their earlier promises to God and His speaker, 42:5-6.
The word of the Lord can bring judgement as well as salvation. In an acted parable – always a good way to communicate – Jeremiah told the people God was about to judge them. Egypt, where they were escaping to avoid trouble, was going to be overrun by the Babylonian empire, 43:8-13. The people had a choice. They chose to disobey God and please themselves. Every choice has consequences. Theirs brought disaster, see 44:2,7,11,23, and vs27, “I (God) am watching over them for harm, not for good”!
The word of the Lord must be properly heard. In 44:24,26 Jeremiah twice says to the people, “Hear the word of the Lord”. The trouble was they only heard it with their ears! They needed to listen with their hearts, minds and wills. Then they would have chosen differently. Truly hearing God is an active choice for our wills to make.
It is costly to preach the word of the Lord. Jeremiah suffered for being a true prophet and the human mouthpiece of God. In chapter 38 he was thrown into a dry cistern to starve to death. A God-fearing Sudanese/Ethiopian rescued Jeremiah, vs8-13, and later God saved Ebed-Melech as a result of this brave action, 39:15-18, “You will escape with your life because you trust (note the present tense) in me, declares the Lord”, vs18. At KIC several Sudanese trained hard to sign so our deaf group could hear God’s word read and preached.
6. Make sure you are called to preach God’s word. God shared with the young prophet that it was God’s sovereign choice that called him to a lifetime of obedient service – at least 40 years are recorded, see 1:4-10. He ministered during the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Some of his messages were very unpopular, but it was always “the word of the Lord”.
In my studies I have only reached chapter 44 and already there are more than 400 occurrences of this phrase, or phrases very like it, such as, “declares the Lord”, “this is what the Lord says”, etc.
Re-meeting (by email) my friend Jeremiah has meant a lot to me. It is great to hear from and of each other. We must all make sure we ‘hear’ from God regularly, and then live as He wants.