Today we remember a great man who gave up his life in service to his fellow man. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist who is probably the well-known leaders in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. One of my favorite quotes from him is….
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches.
Motivated by his Christian beliefs, Martin Luther King Jr. persevered to advance the civil rights movement through nonviolence and civil disobedience. He is an amazing modern-day example of our topic today Overcoming Adversity Through Perseverance.
We are in a series looking at great men and women of the faith exemplified an attribute that aided them to overcome the storms of life. We started in the book of Daniel with Daniel refusing to pray to another god resulting in him being thrown in the Lions’ Den and then about his 3 friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedego who refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue. Daniel and his (3) friends were just a few Jews who were taken from their homeland and brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar but what we don’t think too much about are those Jews who were not taken away. Today we will be looking at the lives of two men of God who prophesied to the people of Judah during the same time as Daniel. The first is the prophet Jeremiah who was left behind in Jerusalem as many of his countrymen were carried away. He is the author of 2 out of the 5 books of the major prophets — One bearing his name which warns of the impending consequences of Judah’s rebellion and subsequent downfall. The second is the book of Lamentations that picks up after the destruction of the Holy City. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Jeremiah was a shining light who persevered in a very dark period of Judah’s history. He also had his life threatened and was imprisoned several times for preaching an unpopular message that judgement was coming. Charles Stanley described him this way…
“Jeremiah, who was called the “weeping prophet,” labored for more than 40 years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked an unrepentant people of Judah.”
The other prophet, who was also a contemporary of Jeremiah was Ezekiel who was in Babylonian captivity like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedego. His ministry was also one of perseverance trying to push back the darkness with the light and truth of God’s message to a rebellious people. In fact before Ezekiel started his ministry or spoke his first message, God told him in Ezekiel 3:4b, 7-9 (NLT):
““Son of man, go to the people of Israel and give them my messages…But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.””
I don’t know about you but that does not sound like an assignment I would want! Hahaha! Like Jeremiah, his message was not well received, and he too faced great opposition. God used both men as “object lessons” to convey His plans to a stiff-necked obstinate people. Tasked with difficult assignments, they had to overcome significant persecution, threats to their life and great personal loss. So, if you are keeping track, I have added Jeremiah and Ezekiel onto our list of the men and women who pursued God faithfully…The seemingly futile ministry of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to the people of Judah to bring His people back into right relationship with Him. In the sermon called “God’s Greatest Desire” by Robert Morris, he made the point that
“You will be my people, and I will be your God” is one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible. Genesis 17:7 (NKJV) is where it all started off. God tells Abraham…
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
Here is the list of passages that Robert Morris mentioned and others that I have found as well that you can refer to (If you want to read all the references for click here.)As I looked at the list of scriptures I found it interesting that in the Old Testament Book Jeremiah, the phrase “They will be my people, and I will be their God” is mentioned (7) times, the most than of any other book!! I think since Jeremiah was left behind in Jerusalem after King Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Holy City and exiled the people to Babylon, he had a unique perspective of the events. I recently discovered this one from Jeremiah 32:37-41 (NLT) that beautifully displays the amazing grace of God who promises to restore the people once again to the land even after all the hurt they have inflicted on God!!
“I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.”
God is without a doubt in the restoration business! I forgot to mention this in the beginning introduction to Ezekiel, but Charles Stanley had this to say about him:
“Ezekiel’s prophecies for God’s people can be seen as a companion piece to those of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah delivered a frightening message primarily of judgment and destruction, Ezekiel’s messages focused more on restoration and reconstruction.”
Ezekiel 36 is a powerful chapter that lays out God’s plan clearly. Ezekiel 36:22 (NLT) shows how lost the people were. God promised to bring the people back not because they deserve it but because of how bad they made Him look…
““Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations.”
I pray that is never true of me that I make God ashamed that I call myself a follower of Christ. I am reminded of Colossians 3:17 (NLT) which says:
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
And if I may go back to Dr. King for a moment, that is without a doubt the case with that great man of God! My prayer is that my actions will ALWAYS represent my Savior well. The way this happens interestingly enough is found just 4 verses later in Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT) which says:
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
Only with a new heart and the Holy Spirit activated in my life can I even hope to fulfill the command in Colossians 3:17! Right after God promises to give them a new heart and put in a new spirit, Ezekiel 36:28 (NLT) reinforces the familiar promise…
““And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God.”
I so love Ezekiel and how he preserved through so much. We have been going through the book in our Monday morning Bible Study for the past 8 months — lots to unpack from this major prophet! Going back to the list of scriptures, it is interesting to me that there are (6) mentions of the phrase “They will be my people, and I will be their God” in the Book of Ezekiel, so between Jeremiah and Ezekiel God reminds His people (13) times! I wonder if it is stated so many times because God really wanted His people to know how much He loved them, and that regardless of their circumstances of captivity that they were in, He desires to bring them back into relationship with Him! The same is true for us today! No matter what you are going through whether it is no fault of your own or as a result of bad choices God wants to restore you. And if you are still wondering what is God’s greatest desire? Well Robert Morris made this point…“God’s greatest desire is you!”
Through a relationship with Jesus, ANYONE who calls on the name of Jesus is instantly grafted into the Family Tree. And then these verses from Jeremiah and Ezekiel do not just apply to the People of Israel but to EVERYONE! God wants to bring ALL people into relationship with Him! “How can I do that” you say, well I am glad you asked…The answer is found in Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)…
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”
That is why Jesus came into this world to be the light that leads us back to the Father. He achieved what Martin Luther King Jr. said that…
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Jesus is the light of the world and is the epitome of love in its purest form, will you trust in Him today? If you have already made Jesus the Lord of your life, let’s continue to persevere as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had done and drive out the darkness and hate through our light and love as Dr. King urged us to do!
★ What to Dig Deeper? ★
In which we studied the ministries of Jeremiah and Ezekiel who were major prophets like Daniel living at the same dark time period in Judah’s history (of the decline of the nation and during the Babylonian Captivity) yet in very different situations. Jeremiah prophesied while still in the land of Judah while Ezekiel was taken off to Babylon.
Stay tuned for the next post in the series…