Should I Stay or Should I Go?
By Mark Pickles
Speaking of Jeremiah going down to Egypt:
“Was he forced or did he go voluntarily?
“If he went because he was forced to, then under the sovereign providence of God, God was sending his prophet to accompany those under judgement who were in defiance of his Word, which was quite extraordinary.
“If he went voluntarily to Egypt this is even more extraordinary. Why on earth would he accompany them knowing so clearly that the people were expressly, intentionally, and unequivocally rebelling against he clear Word of God?
“There is in the life and ministry of Jeremiah a remarkable and extremely rare but beautiful combination of a bold, unswerving commitment to proclaim the whole counsel of God, which in his context meant a particular focus on the persistent need to call the nation to repent in the light of God’s coming judgment and his unswerving commitment to love and care to his people despite their rejection of his message and their hatred of him. Either through the providential leading of God or through his own loyalty and love rather than remove himself from them as God’s judgment falls he appears to move ever closer to the epicentre of that judgment. Offered a comfortable retirement in Babylon, he opts for a life of poverty and degradation back in Jerusalem. For a nation that has been warned of God’s judgment but failed to believe it, the final flight to Egypt by Johanan and his forces against the express command of God reveals a defiance that is almost unbelievable yet Jeremiah still accompanies them with God’s Word echoing in his ears, “ I will take the remnant of Judah who have set their faces to come to the land of Egypt to live an dthey shall all be consumed. (Jeremiah 44:12)
“If you were to ask Jeremiah, “Jeremiah at what point will you decide to abandon the remnant of Judah? Where for you is the line to be drawn, beyond which you will declare, ‘enough is enough’?
“I think you would be met with a look of bewildered incomprehension and the words, ‘there is no line.’
“In the life and ministry of Jeremiah, do we not see ever so faintly something of the glorious life and ministry of other Lord Jesus Christ? The one who to the astonishment of John the Baptist entered the waters of the Jordan river to be baptised along with all the repentant sinners confessing their sins. ‘I need to be baptised by you and do you come to me?’ Rightly astounded as the Sinless One came to him for baptism, an early foretaste of this unswerving love and commitment to his people, a willingness to stand with and identify with sinners rather than stand aside and be removed from them. An identification that found its fullest and most glorious fulfilment on the cross, where rather than stand with sinners, he hung dying instead of them. From the moment he set his face to Jerusalem, Jesus deliberately walked into the epicentre of God’s judgment in the place of those upon whom it should have fallen.
“That is the gospel.
“Of course there is a great complexity here and this is by no means all that there is to say, however there is here a perspective that ought to be far more to the forefront of our thinking, our discussing, our praying and our decision making.
“We follow a Saviour who walked towards the place of judgment not away from it and removed from there sinners upon whom that judgment should fall.
“If J.I. Packer was right that the Church of England is under the judgment of God, or at least heading that way, then it seems to be completely contrary to the nature of the gospel, that gospel “ministers should therefore absent themselves from the arena of judgment instead of deliberately moving nearer to it.”
Excerpted from Gospel-Driven Anglicanism by the Revd Dr Mark Pickles, 2017.