Dear Radio Friends,
It is often the case that, when we are at our worst, we find the very best of God. God is good to His children at all times. But it seems that He often appears His greatest unto us when we are in our deepest distress. When we are in conditions and circumstances of heaviest trial and brought unto our worst, we find the very best of God. The apostle Paul speaks from experience in II Corinthians 1:5 when he writes, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” The apostle says that, as the trial and the suffering abounded in his life, so also the amazing consolation of soul in Jesus Christ abounded. When we are brought to our worst, we find God at His best.
This was the case also with Jeremiah the prophet in the Old Testament. The text that we have chosen for today has all around it the mold and the chill of the prison into which Jeremiah was cast. In Jeremiah 33:1 we read, “the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah…shut up in the court of the prison.”
You will remember with me that Jeremiah had been lowered down into a pit, an old well, the bottom of which was slop and mud. He had been imprisoned thus for his steadfast witness of God. And it was in that prison that Jeremiah learned the best of his God as God comes to him in verse 3 of Jeremiah 33 and whispers to him: “Call upon me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty [or fortified] things, which thou knowest not.” When Jeremiah was at his worst, in prison, tempted to despair and to lie down in sorrow, his heart, through prayer, was illumined with the very best of his God.
This is a very beautiful text. “Call upon me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” It is plain. It is straight forward. And it is true for you and for me.
Plainly, God is saying to each one of us that prayer is the most important part of our life as a child of God. We must recognize this. We must have prayer in our life: Call upon me. Jesus said in Luke 18:1, men “ought always to pray.” The psalmist says in Psalm 27:8: “Seek ye my face.” We must always pray.
The most important daily practice for us is not getting up for our job, it is not our studies, it is not the housework, it is not the appointment with friends, it is not to rush here and there, and the thousand things that appear so important that we have to do today. The most important thing for you to do today is to have your regular time of prayer. For God promises the very best blessings through prayer.
“Call upon me and I will show you great and mighty things that you did not know.” God says that, through prayer, He will illumine our souls with His mighty grace; He will lift us up upon a rock above our adversaries; He will give us understanding; He will give us to see far and wide spiritually; He will unlock for our hearts things that overwhelmed us and caused us so to struggle.
So this word of God comes to you and it comes to me when we are at our worst, when we are shut up, when we are imprisoned in the valley of fears and anxieties, when our hearts are overwhelmed, and when we cannot come forth by reason of the present distress of our hearts and spirits, God says to us, at that moment: “Pray. When you are at your worst, pray. And I will show the very best of My love and grace.”
Note with me that prayer here is commanded. And it is commanded urgently. Note with me that prayer is not simply recommended to us as God’s children, or suggested. It is not simply a possibility to consider. “Call upon me,” we read, “and I will answer thee.”
Prayer is coming into God’s presence. It is communion with God in the Holy Place. In prayer we take as our own the words of the prodigal son: “I will arise and go unto my father.” Or we take the words of Psalm 100: “We will enter into his courts with praise.” We will bring our needs before the throne of grace. We will ask for His blessings to rest upon our soul.
Prayer is not a man-made thing. We did not come up with the idea. It was not some tradition or custom. It was not something that popped into the head of a man and caught hold and became a tradition among men. But it is a command of God, the God who created us and who knows us. The God who redeemed and saved us in the blood of His Son gave us prayer as a precious gift of grace. Prayer is the pilgrim’s gift. We are not yet at home. And until we see Him face-to-face in glory, God says to us urgently: “Call upon me.” It is an urgent and abiding command addressed to you today.
We should not be surprised, then, to find how often in Scripture this command is pressed upon us. We read in Psalm 50:15: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shaltglorify me.” We read in Psalm 62:8: “Ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” In Isaiah 55:6 we read: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” Jesus said in Matthew 7: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” The apostle Paul exhorts in I Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” We read in Hebrews 4:16: “Come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” And the apostle James writes in chapter 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” And then, yet one more: Colossians 4:2, “Continue in prayer.”
Children of God, child of God, never question whether you should pray. Never question whether it is the will of God for you to pray. Do not ask if you have the right to pray, if you might be permitted to come into His presence. Never think that there is a place where you cannot pray. Jeremiah was in a prison. Never conceive of a situation, a moment, where it will not help to go to God in prayer. God calls us to pray. There is no command in the Bible so plain and so often repeated as this one: Pray.
Examine your life today before God. Do you? Or do you have hours for the world, hours for television, hours for Facebook, hours for e-mail, and seconds for prayer? Does the world and our pleasures and our own interests receive our best, and do we bring the leftovers into the closet of prayer? God says, “Call upon me,” for God knows that we are apt to forget. God speaks to us in the book of Jonah: “What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God.”
But as the command is repeated and urgent, it is also an utterly gracious command, issued in the love of God. Jeremiah is in prison. He has been prophesying for forty years in Judah with scarce fruit. Though he has urgently called the people to repentance, there has been no repentance. According to chapter 17, he has seen that this sin of Judah is chiseled in their heart with a pen of iron. He has, for forty years, told them that Jerusalem would then be destroyed. And now the enemy is surrounding the city walls. And Jeremiah’s calls to the people of God became more fervent and urgent. And the result of his earnest preaching was that the king has put him in prison. While he is in prison, the word of God comes to him for the second time, we read, to encourage him.
In chapter 32 of Jeremiah, we read that the word of God came to him the first time. And in that word, Jeremiah was instructed to call his cousin, his uncle’s son, a man by the name of Hanameel, to come to him in the prison. And God told Jeremiah to tell his uncle’s son to purchase a parcel of land and to get him to conduct a survey and to arrange the paperwork and to give him the money and to get the deed for that land and for Jeremiah to sign it and to seal it according to the customs of the day. Jeremiah was to do this as an evidence that God was going to have mercy. He had Jeremiah buy a parcel of land in Judah as a testimony to Jeremiah that He would restore His people to the land of Judah after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. We read in chapter 32:15, “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”
Now, maybe Jeremiah, though he had received this promise of God, was yet in doubt. Even though God had gone through the whole process of telling him to buy this parcel of land as the proof and as the pledge that God would restore His people out of the captivity of Babylon, perhaps Jeremiah still was overwhelmed in his sorrow and doubted the promises of God. And so God comes to him the second time, and says, “Do you doubt? Do you still wonder? Do you question my promises? All right, call upon Me. Pray. Prayer will be the means whereby the assurance and the certainty of My promises to you, Jeremiah, shall be certified in your heart. I will show you great and wonderful things that thou knowest not.”
God, then, graciously, requires of us prayer.
God calls us to pray, first of all, because prayer is the means whereby God confirms and seals His promises to our souls. The promises of God are great and vast and spread before us each day. He promises that He will work all things for our good, that He will never fail nor forsake us, that He will supply us with all of our needs, that His grace will be sufficient for us, that He has forgiven us all of our sins.
These promises, due to the weakness of our flesh, sometimes appear far-fetched. We doubt them, or we look at ourselves and we say, “But we are not worthy of these promises.” And like the weeping prophet Jeremiah, we think it to be inconceivable and impossible. Sometimes, then, we are left alone in our prison. The devil works us over. And so God says, “Call upon me,” because prayer will be the means whereby God will confirm the promises of the covenant.
Still more. God graciously requires us to pray each day because, no matter how much we pray, it is never enough. Jeremiah, no doubt, had prayed. He probably had spent his days in prison in prayer. What else could he do? And God said, “Jeremiah, my son, you have prayed. And after much prayer, you yet arise from your knees of prayer and you find fear and anxiety and sorrow and worry and distress. And do you know My answer to you, Jeremiah? It’s this: Pray again. Call upon Me.”
Do you get it? It is not that we say, “Well, I prayed and now I need something else. There is no answer to my sorrow and anxiety and trouble. So I need something more than prayer.” Do not say, “I prayed but it didn’t help.” God says, “Pray on. Continue in prayer.” We must continue in prayer because prayer is the means whereby God will bring us into conformity with Him and His will.
Prayer does not change God. But prayer is the instrument to change us. Prayer changes things? No. Prayer changes us. It brings our wills into conformity with the will of God. So often our hearts are not in line with God’s will. So often we are out of line. We struggle. Our minds race. We retrace everything that happened. We say, “If only I had done this.” Prayer is the means that God uses to bring me into line with His will, to readjust, to put me before God’s face, to put me before the eternal light. God says, “Call upon me.” How thankful we may be for this precious command.
God also says, “And I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” And that is so personal. “I will answer you, Jeremiah. I will answer each believer.” Perhaps you say, “This is too wonderful—that God would hear me, that God would be mindful of me, that God would take my case under review, that God would know my needs.” But God says, “I will answer? I will communicate to you a response.” Do not, therefore, say that God does not answer your prayer. To say that would be blasphemy. God says, “I will answer you.” He does not say, “Maybe, or, most of the time.” But “I will answer you.” Psalm 65:2 says: “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” We read in Isaiah 65:24, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” There is the most marvelous communion of God to our souls. He answers us in our souls.
And the history of God’s people in the Scriptures confirm that God answers prayer. “This poor man cried,” said David in Psalm 34, “and the LORD heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.” God answers our prayers.
But He answers our prayers always according to His will and His grace. “And I will shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” God did not say to Jeremiah, “And I will give you everything that you ask.” But God says, “I will show you great and fortified things that you have not known.” In other words, “I will illumine your mind. I will bring you a spiritual grace. I will point out things that you have overlooked. I will show you from the divine perspective what has been so perplexing to you from your human perspective.”
Prayer will lift you from earth, to see what God is doing in and through all things. “I’ll show you great things, things of My grace and mercy.” Prayer will take us, who are so short-sighted and so earthly in our perspective, and bring us to see all things in the light of God’s glory and majesty and purposes in Jesus Christ, in the light of God’s abiding and wonderful promises. “I will show you mighty things,” says God to Jeremiah, fortified things, things that are sure and settled and established, hidden things. “I will reveal to you that, in My will, all things must work together for good to each one of My children who have been called according to My sovereign purposes in Jesus Christ.”
Prayer will bring to us the answer of a sovereign God holding us in His arms, controlling all things. Prayer will give us to know things that the human mind and the human heart cannot attain to—great and mighty things that we receive, through faith. Prayer opens our eyes to a whole world that man cannot see. Prayer puts our life in the perspective of eternity. We read in I Corinthians 2:9 that we will see things that “Eye hath not seen…nor ever entered into the heart of man” to conceive. It is better than you can possibly imagine. This present load of sorrow, this heaviness, this difficult way over which you struggle—God will answer, and show you that He is working something so glorious and so great that it can hardly appear to you to be true, so marvelous it is. He is working your glory in Jesus Christ His Son.
But you must pray. Prayer opens, by God’s grace, the light of heaven. Prayer floods your mind and soul with the purposes of God. “I will shew thee great and mighty things.” So pray. Come apart. Enter into the sacred place of prayer.
When God brings you to your worst, call upon Him in prayer. And God will show you His best. He will show you that His name is Jehovah, the faithful, covenant God who will do all things well and glorify you in Jesus Christ.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word, a word that so abundantly calls us to pray. We thank Thee that Thou art the God of prayer and that, by the Holy Spirit, Thou wilt answer our prayer and grant unto us grace, the grace of God in our hearts, that we may know that all things in Thy hand are working today for eternal good and glory. Keep us humble. Keep us on our knees in prayer, that we might bring glory and praise to Thy name. In Jesus’ name do we pray, Amen.