A Day in the Crowd

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

In the year 2013 there were 7.125 billion people living on the planet earth. I myself cannot imagine a number so large. Being that it is a number larger than my imagination it amazes me that there are so many lonely people in a crowd so large. I remember the Beatles song of my youth “Eleanor Rigby” and the lyrics, “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” Loneliness is a strange thing as one can be alone in a crowded room while yet another can be alone without being lonely.

It may be that the state of loneliness is a position of the mind making one feel separated and apart from other human beings. A person who is lonely has a deep sense of isolation from the rest of the world. It then may not matter if they are in a large group or off by themselves. Either way they have a sense of loneliness.

The word for lonely in the Hebrew text is “yachiyd” and is translated as “one alone, only; one who is solitary, forsaken, wretched.” The Idea that we are alone in the world of so many people, that we have not a friend to call upon, that no one cares for us, and none to who have a concern for our welfare causes a deep sadness to overcome the mind. This sense of being alone and aloof is a cause of depression and despair. David knew loneliness and was very aware of it.

In his hour of despair David cried out to his God. His own son Absalom had come against him. The King of Israel, Saul, was trying to hunt him down and kill him and his men were chasing him and David was forced to flee and leave home and family behind. While lonely and afflicted David turned to God to plea for comfort and intervention on his behalf. “Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.” (Psalm 25:16) In time of discouragement, depression, affliction, and loneliness the safest place to go for comfort and guidance is to the Lord.

Whatever the cause of our loneliness, weather we be in the crowd or a place of desolation our cure is always the same, the comforting fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we find one who understands the trials we are going through, as He has suffered them too. In Him we find not only One who understands but One who knows what we should do to relive the cause. He is love and He advises us in that context and in judgement of wisdom beyond the comprehension of man. He has given the right encouragement to countless numbers of the faithful as they languished in prisons and even went to their deaths for His sake. Yet the friendship that He offers is greater, as only Jesus can bring peace to the spirit. He is a friend that is closer than a brother. “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

On the cross of Calvary Jesus laid down His life that the sin debt we have would be paid and we could find eternal life through Him with our Heavenly Father. The measure of His love is already proven in that He laid down His live for His friends, you and me. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. “You are My friends if you do what I command you. “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15)

Friends that we find in this world will come and sometimes they will go. I know and you know that this is true. Jesus is eternal and some day He will welcome us into His Kingdom and from now to the borders of eternity He will never leave nor forsake us. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

As the hymn that J. Wilbur Chapman wrote in 1910, “Jesus! What a Friend for sinners!” reads, “Jesus! What a friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.”

The Prophet Jeremiah was a man called by God into a lonely life of service for his God. It was of no fault of his own but a result of his obedience to the Word of God that he was to proclaim. Speaking the truth of God’s Word may be the same reason that we are isolated from our own family and friends today. In such matters of their spiritual welfare we cannot dilute the truth so that they will accept us.

The people of Jeremiah’s day had become idolatrous, they had become a wicked people forsaking the Word of God and going their own way. God would bring judgement upon His people for their rebellion against His law and covenant and God sent Jeremiah to warn His people of their pagan worship of idols. Jeremiah was not a courageous man and was timid in nature but God had promised to make him strong and able to stand alone against a rebellious nation.

Jeremiah preached the truth of God’s Word and it was not a feel good message and pointed to the error of their ways. It was not a message that built up their self-esteem or made him a popular person amongst them. The people hated to see Jeremiah coming and they did not make him their friend as his message was convicting and it made powerful enemies against him. The Lord gave Jeremiah some very hard things to say to the people as we see in chapter 16 of the Book of Jeremiah.

“For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bear them, and their fathers who beget them in this land: “They will die of deadly diseases, they will not be lamented or buried; they will be as dung on the surface of the ground and come to an end by sword and famine, and their carcasses will become food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth.” (Jeremiah 16:3-4)

“Moreover you shall not go into a house of feasting to sit with them to eat and drink.” For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I am going to eliminate from this place, before your eyes and in your time, the voice of rejoicing and the voice of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride.” (Jeremiah 16:8-9)

These words of judgment were not the words that he people wanted to hear nor would they take warning of the coming judgment from God’s Prophet. As a result Jeremiah never knew the comfort or joy of marriage and family. Jeremiah never had a normal social life or the sharing of joy and sorrow in a community life. Jeremiah never found a safe place to rest. He never found encouragement and was never accepted by his people. Jeremiah knew loneliness and isolation in his own land.

For forty years Jeremiah carried out the assignment that God had given him. Jeremiah was a man and acted in the normal way that a man would in these circumstances. There were times when he mourned for his people and there were times of bitter resentment for his calling in life. Jeremiah, as we all would, shared his grievances.

“For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored? Oh that my head were waters And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 8:21-22; Jeremiah 9:1)

“O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me. For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long.” (Jeremiah 20:7-8)

Hearing Jeremiah’s grievance it is easy to see that he was a very lonely man. His loneliness brought on anger, frustration, uncertainty, and depression. Jeremiah had enemies that wanted to be rid of him and the friends that he had could not be trusted. And the greatest hurt was that at times he felt that even God had deceived him. As a result he had wished that he had never been born.

To his God Jeremiah expressed his feelings and let God know just how he felt. It was a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. But through it all he would remember the promises that God had made to him. Jeremiah had his ups and his downs but he always came back to the promises that God had made to him and here he rested on the Word of God. “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

Jeremiah was able to go on with the calling that God had on his life through his faith in God’s Word. It was in the promise of God’s word that Jeremiah found his hope.  And Jeremiah expressed that hope in these words. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 32:31-34)

Jeremiah was able to endure all the hatred, the treachery, the plots that were made against him, the imprisonment, the loneliness, and being left in a cistern and near starved to death. He endured it all for the sake of the Lord because he knew that he was doing the Lord’s will and he was able to see the big picture of God’s plan and purpose. He believed God would bring His people back to the land and to Himself. And even though Jeremiah wouldn’t live to see it, he found comfort in its certainty.

Some of us when answering the call of God experience the trials and tribulations as the Prophet Jeremiah had. We experience the separation of family and friends just because we have faith and obedience to God’s calling. Jesus knew that these things would happen to those who would trust Him on faith. But Jesus invites us to have an eternal perspective on what happens to us here for His sake in His words, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

Jesus knew loneliness and isolation. His own brothers did not believe in Him. “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.” (John 7:5) The people that knew Him thought that He was a man who had lost His senses. “When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” (Mark 3:21) In the three years that He was training His disciples there was a lack of intimacy. They were selfish, ambitious, unspiritual, and often unbelieving. Even as He was agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane they fell asleep and did not share in the heartbreaking time with Him. Jesus knew what it was to have His closest friends betray, deny, and abandon Him. And He suffered the worst on the cross when His Father in Heaven seemed to forsake Him spiritually, the penalty for sin.

Jesus endured the agony of the cross and the ultimate loneliness of separation form the Heavenly Father when He cried, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) Jesus endured spiritual separation from God, which is spiritual death, so that we would not have to. He suffered that agony so that we would not have to know it. And He lives today to solve the problem of our loneliness.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 22, 2016

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