Sunday Sermon • March 22, 2020
Jeremiah 32:42-44 “Is Anything Too Hard for God?”
Series: “Plans for God’s Good Future”
Some years ago, I remember traveling from my hometown in West Alabama to get back to where I was living at the time. The route I took from York was US 80, which we chillingly referred to as “Blood Alley” because of the number of fatal accidents that had taken place on that stretch of road over the years.
I remember somewhere between Demopolis and Selma, on a lonely stretch of the highway, coming across an unusual road sign, one I had never seen before. It was one of those informational signs you see now on the highway, put up with symbols to convey their messages more easily.
But this one sign was befuddling. It was just a question mark. In the middle of the Black Belt section of the state you had a blue sign with a question mark and nothing else. No indication of where the next rest area or welcome center might be located. No explanation of how a traveler making his way through an unfamiliar territory might get answers to his questions. It was just a question mark; that was all.
Thinking back on my experience, I see the sign to be something of a parable of where our world is today. We have lots of questions but no one to turn to for any answers. Some of them are “how long” questions. “How long are we going to have to endure this present disruption?” Some of them are “what” questions. “What are we going to do to survive this season of challenge?” Most of our questions are “why” questions, and almost all of them involve God. “Why are we having to go through this time? Why did God allow this coronavirus to cause all of this commotion and trouble?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
If you think that God is somehow taken aback by all of these questions, think again. The truth of the matter is that God is kind of used to it. He has, after all, been subjected to such queries for quite some time, actually as long as humans have been on this earth, their lungs filled with the breath God breathed into them from their very creation.
Our passage this morning contains God’s response to the “why” questions posed to Him by no one less than the king of Jerusalem, Zedekiah, who was feeling feverish over the threat of a seen enemy, not an unseen one – the Babylonians, who were on the verge of the city, laying siege to it in order that they might conquer it, plunder it, and take from it to their far country the best and the brightest. Needless to say, it was not a normal time, and Zedekiah confronted God’s prophet as to why he persisted in preaching messages that were so grim and discouraging when the markets were crashing and businesses were closing and paper products were hard to come by. “Why?” Zedekiah asked Jeremiah. “Why do you preach that God is about to hand this city over to the Babylonians?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
Jeremiah answered the king’s question in a rather strange way. He answered it indirectly and symbolically. “You know what God told me, Zedekiah? He told me to buy a field, my cousin’s field in Anathoth. I know, just like you do, Zedekiah, that this is a time when that’s the last thing that anyone in his right mind would ever do, knowing how with the Babylonians breathing down on us, I’d probably never get to build anything on it. But God told me to do it, and so I weighed out seventeen shekels and put all of them on the property. I did it, because when I prayed about the very question you’ve asked me, God in turn asked me a question. ‘Is anything too hard for me, says the LORD?’”
“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Normally, that’s a question that college sophomores pose to one another when they’re sitting together in someone’s dorm room, thinking themselves to be intelligent beyond their years and completely capable of comprehending the deep mysteries of life, mysteries like, “Can God create a rock so big that God couldn’t move it?” What a dumb question. It’s easy to ask something like that when you’re sitting around a dorm room eating Ramen noodles with a silver spoon and don’t have to contend just yet with “the real world.” But it’s another thing to ask about God’s capacity when today is all bleak and tomorrow appears only bleaker.
Come to think of it, that’s where some of you are this morning. You’re in a place where questioning God’s capabilities isn’t just a theoretical exercise, it’s an existential one. You’re watching this morning on your computer or your tablet because you can’t be here in person. In fact, you’re really not supposed to be anywhere in person. You’re in exile. Yes, it’s a voluntary exile, but it’s an exile nonetheless. And you’re wondering where all of this is going to lead and why has God allowed all of this to happen. You’re wondering if God is capable of doing anything about this.
Jeremiah’s purchase of his cousin’s field was his way of answering the king that in spite of all threats that might come against us, God is very much in control. It was his way of reminding both Zedekiah and us today that our future is forever bright only because it is grounded in a God who is faithful to His promises. In other words, there is only one thing that actually is too hard for the LORD. There is only one thing that God cannot do. God cannot go back on His word. God cannot renege on His promises. It’s just that sometimes God works in a more deliberate and patient way than what we might prefer.
Which brings us to our text for the day – “This is what the LORD says: ‘As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I promised them… Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed, and witnessed (all around), because I will restore their fortunes,’ declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah’s purchase, which seemed absolutely insane at the time, pointed to a coming day when God would show up and show out, and make life return to a sense of normalcy by doing something that only He could do. And God will do the same for us in this present season. God will see us through this time and life will return to normal. When will that happen? I do not know, and anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth. But what I do know is that God has promised to deliver us from all enemies, even our unseen ones, and He is completely capable of bringing those promises to pass.
I say that because of how He signed and sealed the deal in sending Jesus to be the means to our salvation. The cross is our road sign of how Jesus traveled his “blood alley” for us so that our fortunes might be restored and our redemption might be secured.
I think of that evening in Gethsemane’s Garden when Jesus felt the weight of sin’s burden and knew the price that it would require of him. He had gone with his disciples to the garden, just east of Jerusalem to pray about the matter, because he had questions. Boy, did Jesus ever have questions. “My Father,” prayed Jesus, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Three times he prayed that prayer. But as he prayed, it became clear to Jesus that removing his cup of suffering was something that was too hard for the LORD, because the LORD had made a promise to His people. “Come now, let us reason together…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18). “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions…and remembers your sins no more” (Isa. 43:25). “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins are like the morning mist…for I have redeemed you” (Isa. 44:22). And Jesus, knowing these promises, put his trust in God’s faithfulness and set his hope on Him.
Would you do that this morning? Would you set your hopes on God? Could you find the faith to look past your present distress to the blessed assurance that God is with us in this time of exile and He will see us through to be a better, a brighter, and a more prosperous way?
The story is told of a dear saint who had found herself in a difficult season, one in which she was facing significant challenges in every respect – her health, her finances, her relationships. Many of you can probably relate. A friend called in an effort to be helpful. “You’re hurting so much,” the friend said. “I wish I could take it all away.” To which the dear saint answered, “Yes, this is a tough time.” But then the tone of her voice changed when she said to her friend. “You don’t have to take it away; he’s already done so. I’m looking at my hands and there are no nails there. And I’m feeling around my head and there are no thorns there. He had the nails; I have the hope. He had the thorns; I have the hope.”
For those who are trying to find their way in these tumultuous times, the cross says it all. You need no other sign to give you direction for these days. It is every bit of the information you really need to make it through this time and beyond. God is in control. God will see you through. God is faithful to His own. Nothing is too hard for Him.