Friday, October 1, 2010

Walkabout with Jeremiah: Studying with

 If you haven't read my introductory post about my ongoing journey through the book of Jeremiah, you should hop over and read the short description of my desire to engage in a time of discovery and revelation in the book of Jeremiah. During this journey, I'm taking advantage of as many study resources as I can juggle, and this includes one of my all-time favorite websites and a tool God has used to both change my study time and my life. hosts sermons from some of the most inspiring preachers of the last century. Their broad focus is presenting genuine biblical revival, but they feature resources from all different areas and span from puritan classics to current preaching. They host the sermons for free and provide a vast amount of material from various men of God.

Study often means juggling a number of books while reading and rereading certain portions of the Bible (in this case the whole book of Jeremiah). For visual, language oriented learners, this is a joy and blessing. We love to pour over words and sentences that carry God's truth. We get excited over small syntactical differences between translations and absorb vast numbers of pages on a daily basis in pursuit of Godly wisdom and rightly dividing the word of truth. And God blesses this. However, a large portion of people are not of this nature and have a harder time absorbing the written word. For them a Sunday morning message or an audio Bible may carry a more active interaction with the word than a week of written Bible study. God has anointed the "foolishness of preaching" to spread the gospel and this originally meant the spoken word from the mouth of a man God called to preach. While much "preaching" and teaching can be absorbed in books, many times the real fire and passion of God's word can be best experienced in the spoken word. Sermonindex is a source of that powerful, anointed word flowing from the lives and studies of men who are called to proclaim and edify the body of Christ. The auditory aspect of the presentation can illuminate new niches of understanding and activate the mind and heart in a different way.

The "index" portion of Sermonindex provides an organization of the messages and sermons, allowing spiritual consumers to effectively search for the message they are looking for. In this case I used "Sermons by scripture" to find a list of all the sermons Sermonindex hosted that featured scripture from the book of Jeremiah.

The results were intimidating and would take a massive amount of hours of listening to fully appreciate. However, the list includes a large number of "Through the Bible" or survey sermons, where Preachers covered the entire book of Jeremiah in a single sermon, highlighting specific points and over-viewing the book with a distinct purpose. I decided to start with a few of these messages and then work my way into individual passages of interest.

The Sermons I used for this project were "Jeremiah" by Leonard Ravenhill, a passionate rambling sermon that touches on the heart and character of the prophet and how that character illuminates Christ, and Through the Bible- Jeremiah and Lamentations by Zac Poonen which is a remarkably fast and insightful journey through both books, highlighting key scriptures with expository deftness and focusing on the private and public life of Jeremiah and the purification of the church. The sermons are highly different with Ravenhill approaching the text with broad passion, while Poonen isolates points quickly with pith and vigor, drawing a complete picture out of specific expository moments spread throughout the book.

Listening to sermons alone with the Bible open and the ability to rewind and take specific notes is an exciting process. You can hang on every word. With an open desk before you, you have room for all your notes, your Bible a few pens and your cd/mp3 player, so there's no book juggling on the pews. When the speaker quotes a reference you can pause the message, find the scripture, read it, write it down and then hit play again. It's absorbing preaching at your own pace. It feels like in depth study, but its less strenuous, more dynamic and provides more texture as you can gain information from the inflection of the voice, the strain of passion in a certain phrase, the sincerity of thought in a certain idea from the scripture. While it may not be as personal a guided study, it can be more inspiring and even relaxing to actually hear someone's voice expounding the scriptures.

Regardless of the sermon style I tend to take notes as if the message was purely expository, writing down the scripture and then copying down points related to that scripture (see my Sermon Notes post).

One of the most exciting points in Leonard Ravenhill's Jeremiah was his opening thought regarding Matthew 16:14. There was something about Jesus that people identified with the ministry and scripture of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was not a man of miracles, though the touch of the miraculous was on his ministry. He was not known as a man of great public compassion, though he wept often over the nation. He was not known as a man of great position or authority, though he prophesied to multiple kings and nations. He did not have a great following, though today every student of the Bible has read his words. Something about this man resonated in the people's mind when it came to Jesus's ministry, so much so, that they considered that Jesus was perhaps Jeremiah raised from the dead. The public perspective was rarely spiritually astute, but perhaps they gleaned a surprising truth from the book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was a man of sorrows and anguish; he was gripped by the pain of God's heart and so was Jesus (Isaiah 53:3). Jeremiah was a man of incredible courage as he prophesied in the face of hostile kings, nations and religious leaders, and so was Jesus. Jeremiah was a man of suffering who endured fierce persecution, and so was Jesus. While their lives do not exactly parallel each other, Jeremiah's life itself is a prophecy as to the character of Christ and just as Jeremiah was lifted from the muddy cistern which was to be his death in Jeremiah 38 and continued his prophetic ministry, Christ was raised from the grave on the third day and continues His ministry to this day.

Zac Poonen's vast perspective on the book focuses on how Jeremiah's ministry reflects on the church. One of the most inspiring points was his explanation of God's commissioning of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:10. Poonen explains that Jeremiah had the difficult task of tearing down old religious structures in order to build the foundation for the true church and true worship of God. The initial work is the hardest. God refuses to put a patch on an old garment. He made Jeremiah a man who would challenge the whole religious structure and topple it in order to build and plant a new, true church.

Pull out your MP3 player, download some sermons and grab your Bible and notebook. You won't be disappointed and it might just add a fresh approach and fresh fire to your Bible interaction.


  1. I have to agree with Max in your chat box - I am not one to leave comments but I do like to visit your blog daily and am always encouraged and blessed by your posts. I'm almost sure you have other "lurkers" who are being blessed with what God leads you to share.


  2. Thanks for the encouragement; it really means a lot. I'm working 12+ hour days in urban ministry, so knowing that the time I take writing the blog is not just for my own benefit is rewarding and a true blessing.