PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D Pace
I want to examine one verse of Scripture in today’s study. It’s verse 3 of our text. We are sometimes prone to allow one version of the Bible to form our perspective of a verse. But at times we need several translations, a lexicon, and theologians to clarify the full meaning of a passage. I don’t think that’s the case tonight but, our text will need some linguistic clarification.
I must admit that I read Jeremiah 33:3 for many years without understanding the richness of its meaning. And while I yet have much to discover from this terse but mighty verse, I have broadened the perspective of my original understanding.
(Transition) As I unravel Jeremiah 33:3, let’s consider four aspects of this verse. I want to begin with the most intriguing part of this passage.
I. God Reveals “Great & Unsearchable Things”
For many years, Jeremiah 33:3 has inspired Believers. As the omnipotent Lord, our God knows how to perform the impossible. It is with unhindered ease that he splits the Sea for Moses, stops the sun for Joshua, and topples the walls of Jericho. Such exploits show us that we can never get trapped in a situation too difficult for the Lord to solve. In other words, God is in the “amazing” business! There is nothing too hard for him. How many here know this to be true?
Here is what’s interesting about Jeremiah 33:3. As a familiar passage of Scripture, Jeremiah 33:3 is often quoted from the KJV, which appears this way: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” When it’s quoted from the KJV, Christians have interpreted it to express God’s power to move mountains, part waters, and work miracles. And the omnipotent God can certainly perform such feats! But that is not the context of this verse.
When God spoke these words to Jeremiah he did not challenge Jeremiah to call for a demonstration of his omnipotence. The more accurate translation from Hebrew to English shows that God challenged Jeremiah to ask for supernatural revelations and disclosures. And that makes all the difference in the world to the meaning of this text!
When you compare various translations of the Bible, God’s challenge for Jeremiah to call for insight into hidden truths becomes remarkably apparent:
The English Standard Version says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
The NIV says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
The NLT says, “Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.”
The YLT says, “Call unto Me, and I do answer thee, yea, I declare to thee great and fenced things.”
Each translation reveals the same concept. That is, God challenges his servants to enquire about “hidden … unsearchable … and secret” things. And I especially like the YLT version, which says God will reveal “fenced things.” When something is “fenced” or “circumscribed,” it means the owner has his possessions off-limits to the uninvited. That is what God does to the outsiders of his Kingdom—he keeps his secrets “fenced” and “walled off” to the uninvited. But not to Believers! This passage gives us permission to seek revelation into things that are off-limits to the sage and scientist! We can call for understanding into mysteries that are concealed and indiscoverable by any human research. And God wants to do this!
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told Peter an “unsearchable” way to pay his taxes. Peter was a professional fisherman, but he could have never imagined that reeling in a fish filled with money would discharge his taxes (Matthew 17:27).
In the Old Testament, God showed the Five-Star General Joshua how to conquer Jericho. But the strategy didn’t involve an embargo or burning the city; it was to circle the city and then shout praises.
God didn’t need a GPS device to track his enemies. Elisha listening to God from his prayer chamber was enough!
God didn’t need a bridge for Israel’s passage over the Red Sea; Moses found that stretching forth his staff was enough!
And today, you can hear God’s voice for your opportunities and obstacles!
(Illustration) This afternoon I met Annette for lunch. The first question she asked was, “What are you preaching tonight?” I said, “Great and Unsearchable Things.” She gasped and said, “You won’t believe this. I was praying that Scripture just before you walked in the door. And besides that, your brother-in-law posted that verse on Facebook twice this morning! (I suppose this message was ordained!)
(Illustration) Some years ago, a California church launched a research campaign and spent $50,000 trying to locate the perfect place for their complex. And they found it! But there was another church nearby that also needed a larger facility. Sometime earlier, that pastor had begun praying about the situation and God showed him the exact property to purchase. It was the identical location that the Search Committee from the other church had found. And when he acted he was first to purchase it. What is the moral of this story? You can spend $50,000 and find the right place to build your church or you can spend time in prayer and let God show you where to build it!
Aren’t you glad God reveals solutions to life’s adventures and opportunities?
(Transition) The question we must answer is this: What is the strategy of securing the voice of the Spirit disclosing these “great and unsearchable things”? The answer to this is simple. And that’s why I have three simple instructions for finding the “great and unsearchable things” of God. So, I want to draw your attention to the three word phrase of Jeremiah 33:3 when the Lord said, “Call unto ME.” In other words, simple as it may be, God wants to be the object of focus in our praying.
II. God Commanded Men to Pray to Him
God told Jeremiah to “Call unto HIM” because he is only divine Source of good and beneficial gifts. Christians don’t address Buddha, Confucius, Allah, or a god fashioned by man’s hands. We call upon the God who created the universe—Jehovah!
(Example) Have you ever watched a movie about a miserably broken, shipwrecked person on the brink of losing everything? In desperation, the person finally looked heavenward and prayed something like this: “Lord, if you’re out there, whoever you are, if you can hear me, I need help! Let me know you’re there and intervene.”
This is not how God wants Christians to pray. Unbelievers can pray this way, but not Christians. Believers should pray in confidence! God knows us by name and he has given his name to us! Moreover, what is your need from God? The Lord has a name that will meet your need!
He is Jehovah-rohi—the caring shepherd.
He is Jehovah-shalom—the God of my peace.
He is Jehovah-ropha—the God who heals me.
He is Jehovah-nissi—the Lord my banner.
He is Jehovah-meqaddeshkem—the Lord who sanctifies.
He is Jehovah-tsabaoth—the Lord of hosts.
He is Jehovah-elyon – the Lord Most High.
He is Jehovah-shammah—the Lord who is there for me.
He is Jehovah-tsidkenu—the Lord my righteousness. He is the creator and sustainer of all life.
He is El Shaddai—the Lord Almighty.
And this great Creator is also our personal Abba, Father. He is our daddy that’s filled with love and compassion.
So, the Lord’s word to Jeremiah tells us to address the one, true, living God of the universe.
(Transition) Next, let’s look at God’s very simple call for people to be about the praying business.
III. God Commanded Believers to Pray
Many Christians find it difficult to make room for prayer because statistics report the average Christian spends three minutes a day in earnest prayer. In most cases, Christians utilize prayer in a nominal way:
We pray before meals.
We pray when there are emergencies.
We pray when we petition God for a need, such as: clothing, a means of transportation, a house payment, etc.
We pray when we or a loved one are sick.
We pray a few moments in church.
Other tha these ways, many Christians are unaccustomed to spending much time in prayer. However, we should understand that Scripture has much to say about the need to pray:
The Bible commands Christians to “Pray without ceasing.”
Jesus said, “Men should always pray and never faint.”
Paul said Chistians should “pray everywhere as they lift up hands without anger and doubt unto God.”
So often we think there is no way to squeeze prayer into our busy lives. But did you know, you have more time for prayer than you realize! Let’s consider some ways:
How You Can Make Time to Pray
When you are alone in the house.
When you are driving.
When you are walking outside.
Before getting out of bed. Many people find the time between awaking and exiting their bed to be convenient for pausing, listening, and waiting for God’s “still, small voice.” This doesn’t take long, but God does occasionally speak.
Some people are either “Early Birds” or “Night Owls.” Whichever the case, you’ll likely find these times appropriate for making time to pray.
Always, always, take time to pray when the Holy Spirit impresses you to pray. Why?
There is the mystery of what God has to say.
It could be a matter of urgency, or even life or death, for someone.
God may want to disclose a promise to you.
It could be a matter of God testing your obedience to him. The Lord often functions as an Educator: He gives promotion when we “pass the test.”
Finally, you can increase your prayer time by designating a specific time for prayer each day. People that are rigorously organized may find this method convenient. But whether that is the case, the NT Church had a set time of prayer that was 3:00 pm.
Some people have a “calling to pray”—perhaps even the gift of intercession. If that is you, it is imperative that you place prayer at the pinnacle of your life. Do your best to keep your blade of prayer sharp. But everyone, not just those that are called to spend hours in prayer, should spend time with God.
It has been said that prayer is the highest calling of the Christian life. I believe that is true. I cannot think of an assignment, purpose, or opportunity that comes from heaven’s throne that is of more immense consequence.
This is really hard for Christians to grasp, nevertheless it is true. Here is how you can test that statement: Tell me anything in the Christian life other than prayer that is more problematic to make time for, more complex to focus upon, more challenging to find victory in, and where Satan seeks to minimize and more than prayer! . . . [pause] . . . I rest my case!
(Transition) Now, I want to specifically examine God’s instruction to Jeremiah regarding how to pray.
God Commanded Believers to “Cry Out” in Prayer
When you translate the word English word “call” from its Hebrew word, it is a robust, vigorous word. It means to “cry out; to cry out loudly and forcefully.”
You understand what it means when you hear a drowning person “calling” for help from a pool of water. A drowning person doesn’t whisper a “call” for help. They desperately shout and clamor to obtain attention any way possible.
This is how God tells Jeremiah to pray. The Lord told him to offer more than an invocation or benediction. He says, “Jeremiah, if you want help, lift up your voice, let me hear it, and make some noise. Cry from the depths of your heart.”
(Example) On most occasions I pray quietly and with reserved intonation. But there are times when I’m vexed or challenged with such extremity that I must raise my voice and plea loudly for God’s help. And it’s Scriptural to pray in that fashion. Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 5:7.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”
When Jesus hung on the Cross Matthew points out that “About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
And notice how our Lord’s final prayer was uttered: Again, Matthew writes: “When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit” (27:50).
Jesus, our example, prayed with unabashed boldness and ferocity. And there is something about this method of praying that the Father wants from us that touches his heart.
Perhaps you’re thinking, Which words do I use as I “call out” to God? There are a few simple ways:
Be clear with your request. Let the Lord hear a simple but strong supplication for what you’re asking him to reveal.
Praise him with fervor.
Pray in the Spirit. Paul said when we pray in “other tongues” we are speaking mysteries. God wants to disclose to us some of those mysteries.
God has answers to indecipherable problems and he delights in unveiling them! (1) That is why God issued the challenge: “Call to me”; (2) It is why his promise remains certain: “I will answer you”; And (3) it’s why his revelation will disclose: “great and unsearchable things.”
God is in the “amazing” business! Are you ready to listen?