Joy Comes in the Mourning

JeremiahAn exposition of Jeremiah 31:7-26. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, September 28, 2008.

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). What does that mean? It means we live according to what God has said rather than by what we can see or how we feel. Let’s be honest – that is a tough assignment. That is very demanding. Especially during times of great distress or difficulty. When times are dark and hope is gone faith flounders. When your loved one dies or your job is taken away or you’re not sure how you are going to provided for your family or the diagnosis is not good – faith can be in short supply. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen but in times of crisis that sounds like, “wishful thinking and blatant denial” and that usually doesn’t put food on the table. I’m not trying to be flippant I’m trying to be honest about the struggle of faith. You may find courage to face that momentary sit back but what happens when the sit back becomes a crippling disability? What happens when that detour turns out to be a total rerouting of your journey? Jerusalem was in ruins. The temple burned. Israel’s best and brightest are captives in a foreign land. And God has made it clear this is not short-term thing. This is not summer camp this is for the long haul. Some of those now in Babylon will never see their home again. Dreams have died. Hopes have been crushed. Joy and laughter have departed and sorrow and mourning have become constant companions. How do you go on? What are you to do?

A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Jeremiah 31:15; ESV

Rachel was the wife of Jacob. While traveling from Bethel to Bethlehem she stopped near Ramah. There Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty (Genesis 35:16). She delivered a son in anguish and named him with her dying breath – “Ben-Oni” – “son of my trouble” later his father Jacob renamed him Benjamin. She was also the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh. She represents in Jeremiah 31 all those mothers who have lost their children as well as the nation of Judah weeping over the loss of her sons. Ramah was a transit camp for refugees (40:1). The Babylonians dragged their prisoners 5 miles from Jerusalem to a staging area in Ramah were they were chained together in preparation for the long march to Babylon. It must have been a place of great distress and grief. Mother’s wailed over the loss of their children. Some had starved during the siege, others died by the sword during the sacking of the city still others were ripped from their mother’s breasts never to be seen again. This was a place of national mourning. Of course Rachel wept. In her misery she cried out to God and God answered. Thus says the LORD:

Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the LORD,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future,
declares the LORD,
and your children shall come back to their own country.
I have heard Ephraim grieving…
Jeremiah 31:16-18a; ESV

When God came to comfort Rachel He did not come and say, “There now. Everything is okay. Don’t cry.” He came with a promise of doing something about her pain and her circumstance. He came promising to make things right. He promised their sufferings would not last forever. He promised to turn their mourning into gladness and to give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. And His promises had to be received by faith because there were years of heartache and struggle between the promise made and the
promise fulfilled. Our text is found in Jeremiah 31.

Text: Jeremiah 31:7-26
How do we suffer in faith? That is what this text is about. How is it we exhibit our faith in Christ and God’s grace in the face of great difficulty? Jeremiah reminds us…

Thesis: When faced with overwhelming circumstances and great hardship believers cling tenaciously to the Sovereign God who promises grace, provision, peace and ultimately deliverance.

  1. God promises to restore the heart through worship. (31:7, 12, 13, 23)
  2. God promises to answer their prayer. (31:7-8)
  3. Closely associated with this is the promise of preservation. (31:8)
  4. God promises to return and restore the captives. (31:9, 18-19)
  5. God promises forgiveness. (31:9, 20)
  6. God promises guidance. (31:9, 21)
  7. God promises to shepherd His people. (31:10)
  8. God promises to ransom and redeem His people. (31:11)
  9. God promises to provide for His people. (31:12, 14, 24)

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” As the people of God we have no assurance of a life free from heartache and struggle – quite the contrary. But we have assurance of the presence, the grace and the promise of our God. How do we respond to life’s struggles? We don’t give in. We walk by faith. And joy will come in mourning.

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