Did that get your attention? How did that make you feel? Did it start to stir up a little anger? "Who does he think he is?" That's what I thought when I started to say this. "Who do you think you are?" Hearing those words may not have been easy. Did you wonder where I was coming from, or where I might be headed? Did you wonder what else might be coming? "Am I going to sit through a half hour of this?" I didn't feel too great saying those things. What if God told you to say those very words to your friends? What if God told you to say those very words to your family? Or to your community? To total strangers? What if God told you to go to Hamilton Place Mall this afternoon, the teeagers can't go tonight - curfew, and say those words right there in the food court as loud as you could? Could you do it? Would you do it? Jeremiah did!
In fact, the words that I just used are from a speech made by Jeremiah in a public gathering place and can be found in Jeremiah 4 and 5. Yes, many of the translations use the word, 'stupid'. That's how the people of his day would have heard him. Is it possible that you might ever be asked to do anything so drastic? Actually, compared to the other things that God asked of Jeremiah, this was nothing!
Jeremiah lived in one of the most turbulent times of Earth's history. Three large nations and countless smaller ones were waging wars, conducting raids, and stirring up all sorts of intrigues. Jeremiah lived under the rule of seven kings of Judah, and performed his ministry under five of them. He witnessed one of the greatest religious revivals in the history of Israel. He also witnessed three invasions of Jerusalem and the utter destruction of the city.
Meanwhile, two of the greatest nations, Egypt and Assyria, had fallen to a third: Babylonia. This was the scene of events when Jeremiah had to persuade his people to allow themselves to be taken captive; not a very popular sermon. Even though he lived in a time of great revival, Jeremiah had to deliver a message of doom and gloom. Which is tough when people think, "We're doing great. We're really getting close to God." It's like: No you're not! You've got to do this, this and this. You're so far, it's not funny. This was a message that he hated.
So, why did Jeremiah become a prophet? Was it something he desired to do as a boy? Did his father ask him, "Jerry, when you grow up, what would you like to be?" "Oh dad, when I grow up, I want to be a fireman, or maybe a prophet." Did he have a gift for public speaking? Did he have the charisma of an evangelist that was perfect for attracting people to the Lord? Did he send God a resume? How did he get this job?
Turn with me to Jeremiah 1:4. The word of the Lord came to me, saying, Here's the key. "The word of the Lord came to me, saying." How did he become a prophet? How did he get his call. If you wish to follow the call of God, you must have the call of God. You must hear the word of the Lord coming to you. Now, of course, each of us is called to a work called the Gospel Commission: Go Ye therefore and preach this good new to everybody. But how you are you called? Some people are called directly. You remember Saul was knocked off his horse. "You will serve Me." Other people are called by the Holy Spirit by being given gifts and talents. Look at the gift you've been given and say, "How can I use that to fulfill the Gospel Commission?" You might be directed right into your call.
Verse 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Abortion advocates wish that Jeremiah had never recorded these words from God. It's rather disturbing isn't it. God knew us before anybody knew us. Before we were even formed in the womb, He knew us. Before our parents knew each other, He knew us. He knew what your name would be. He knew what color of hair you would have and what color you would choose to have later. He knew your personality. He knew how many hairs I would leave on my pillow this morning. He knew how you would do on your algebra exam this week. He knows how you'll do on the finals when they come up. He knew that your girlfriend would dump you last week. He knew that you would loose your job when you needed it most. He knew you'd turn down the promotion that perhaps you should have taken. He knew that you would get cancer. He knew whether or not you would know Him! All before you were thought of by anyone else. What is even more amazing about God's foreknowledge is what he told Moses from the burning bush. "I have seen what my people are going through and I am concerned!"
God not only knows about it, He cares! God not only cares for you, He has a plan for you! God not only has a plan for you, He knows how you will respond to that plan!
Verse 6 Here we have Jeremiah's response. "Ah, Sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak. I am only a child." Some translation say, "I'm just a boy." "I don't know how to speak." That sounds about how Moses responded from the burning bush to God's plan to speak to Pharaoh. Lord, I don't know how to talk good. I can't talk to Phay Roah." That sounds about how I responded when God asked me to be a pastor. "I can't talk." "It doesn't matter to Me. You're up there." That is how Jeremiah responded: "Lord, I don't know how to speak." Does this response matter to God? God cares. But He doesn't take excuses. God is not as concerned with our ability as He is with our availability! If God asks us to do something, He will make it possible for us to do it! His biddings are enablings! He won't ever ask you to do the impossible because nothing with Him is impossible! It's impossible for us, but when we are a tool molded in His hand, useable, available, it's not impossible.
Well, when you are arguing with God, have plan B. At least Jeremiah tried it. Jeremiah had a second excuse. "I am only a child." It is believed that when Jeremiah received this call, he was a teenager. Can you picture Jeremiah as a teenager? "I can't talk. I'm just a kid." Just as Mary was a teenager when asked to bear the Savior of the World. Esther was just a kid when asked to become queen to save her people. Ellen a teenager when she was asked to bear a last day message to the last day people! Just as ability is no barrier with God, neither is age. If God asks you to do something, you are old enough to do it! Did you know that? He knows when your birthday is. He knows what you will get for your birthday. He knows everything. He knows when were born, and if he says you can do it, you can do it. You can't say, "I'm too young." If you were too young, then ever-knowing God would have never have asked you. You can't say, "I'm too old." The same excuse. He would have asked you. You can't say, "I'm too busy." He knows your schedule better than you do. No excuses. If God asks you to do something, you will have the ability and you will be old enough to do it.
That is why you have seen our youth department in a leading role today. I've heard a lot of people look at our youth and in all love and sincerity they will say, "This is the future of our church." But I vehemently disagree with those people. These are not the future of our church, these are the present of our church, just as we all are the present of our church! We are where we are, who we are, when we are for this time, a time such as this.
Our youth are active in this church, and elsewhere. I cannot believe how active they are. They are active in Bible study and missions. Many have already served in foreign countries on mission trips. Some have already preached sermons in front of their peers. How many here can say that? Some have served faithfully on church committees, including the nominating committee. Some are taking Bible studies while some are giving Bible studies. Some hold church offices. Some are working in our children's divisions every week. Others are leading out in their own Youth Department. Our youth are active now for the Lord! They don't want a special program just for them. They want to be part of the program that is for us all. They are an integral part of our church body.
A survey a few years ago went out across the North American Division asking the youth of the church what they want to keep them from going out the back door. The expected response was, "We want you to provide this, this and this for us." But, that's not the response the survey got. The response was: "We want a piece of the pie. We don't want a program just for us. We want to be a part of the program. We want to do ministry, not just be ministered to. And the youth right here at McDonald Road church are doing just that, and it is exciting. Yes, occasionally we'll have a separate event, we'll have youth church over at the family center maybe once or twice a quarter, but that is not to separate us, it is to help them discover the talents God has given them in maybe a less threatening atmosphere. Did you know you were scary? There are two services of you. That's scary. And so they're up at youth service and they're the ones leading out, learning to find their talents so they can be up front like they are today. And that thrills me all the way to my toes, thinking of how our youth want to be involved in ministry. And I'm looking forward to the time when I can convince one of them to stand right here. I almost had it, but we're working on it. Maybe next time we're going to have some team preaching by the youth up here. Look forward to that, because it will be good. The time for our children to proclaim the Gospel has come. God does not accept excuses. Not from our youth. Not from the rest of us.
Jeremiah 1:7. But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you." Did you notice: Where we are to go and what we are to say are not determined by us. They are determined by the Lord. This verse almost sounds like "No excuses! Go to work!" I'm glad it continues with verse 8. It softens it up a little bit.
Verse 8. "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord. We are not to be afraid because the most powerful being in the universe is our friend and He has promised to be with us. This is where we receive holy boldness to do God's work. Going against our personalities, going against our wishes because we don't have to be afraid. God is with us. Will we get into trouble? You bet! god predicted it right here, didn't He? But God also says that He will rescue us. He knew Jeremiah would need rescuing for being a servant of His. And God will rescue us. It is no fun to be in need of rescue but it is fun to watch God do it. He has a thousand ways out of a situation that we would never think of or be able to do. The Bible is full of stories about how God rescues His people out of impossible situations.
Verse 9. Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put My words in your mouth." Have you ever heard words of wisdom come out of your mouth and you wondered where they came from? Any time words of wisdom come from my mouth I wonder. That must have been from you, Lord, It wasn't from me. I've been preaching along at first service and something will come out and I'll listen to that and I'll think that that sounded pretty good. I wish I could write it down. I want to remember it for second service. You fold who come to second service miss out because I never can remember.
I have a friend that decided to allow the Lord to touch his lips. My friend and his wife had decided that they were wanting to go to the mission field. They had a wonderful job and everything but they decided they wanted to leave it all behind and go into mission work. They put their name in the pot. The General Conference called them and said, "We have a position for you. Think about it and pray about it and we'll call you back." My friend and his wife prayed about it, they thought about it, they talked about all the pros and cons about it, the ifs ands and buts. Finally they decided this was not the call for them. They wold wait for a different one. When the General Conference called back, they were both by the phone. They knew the call was coming. They agreed the would say, "No." Right! My friend put the phone to his ear and the man said, "Well, are you going to go?" And my friend said, "Yes we will." The man on the other end said, "Great! Let me get dome paper work and I'll be right back." My friend looked at his wife and said, "What did I say?" She said, "You said 'We will go.'" They have now been serving faithfully and successfully for several years in Mongolia. Exciting things happen when God is in control of our lips!
Verse 10. "See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." When we are a willing and available tool in God's hands, great works can be wrought! God never claims an easy path, just the grace and power needed to follow it.
Even though Jeremiah was available and willing and useable, he had great conflicts. Even though God was with Jeremiah and worked through him, Jeremiah's life was hard. He had a great conflict between his personality and what he knew God wanted him to do. We find that Jeremiah was a warm hearted man. He may also have been a shy, introvert. Verse 6 seems to indicate that with his unwillingness to speak in public. We certainly know that he was an emotional person. This is seen throughout the book of Jeremiah as he mourns for the people that he loves. Just look at chapter 9:1.
Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. He is often described as the weeping prophet. He loved the people that God sent him to condemn. He, Like any other human, had need of fellowship. But the message that he bore was not one that gained him many friends. Sometimes, standing for God can make you very unpopular. He was even forbidden to get married in order to make a specific point to God's people.
In fact, sad poetry is now called, 'Jeremiads', named after him because his emotional thoughts of his own people.
Some of the points that God asked Jeremiah to get across seem rather severe. God asked him to not marry just to get a certain point across. Another time, God told him to wear a loin cloth without taking it off or washing it for evidently an extended period of time. Just to get a point across. Have you ever worn clothes for more than a day or two? It gets pretty bad.
A few years ago, Susan and I went to Europe. We went on the cheap, cheap plan. We were hopping trains with Eurail passes and carrying one small bag apiece for three weeks. We slept on benches in train stations and bus stations and youth hostels. We were dirty. We had no itinerary. We'd hop the first train that came along, no destination in mind. "This one's going to Sicily and this one's going to Holland. Which one leaves first? Okay, let's go to Holland." And we jumped on the train and went to Holland and arrived there in the wee hours of the morning. I went to the desk where they have nice people to help you find a place to stay. The lady asked what I had in mind. "We'd like a youth hostel next to a Laundromat." She looked and she asked, "Is that really necessary?" "Ma'am, I've had this shirt on for three days and three nights, and it's the cleanest one I have." She got a whiff of me and we got our Laundromat.
I can't help but imagine what Jeremiah was like. Oh, wearing this loin cloth all these days. I don't know how long it was. And then he was told to go to the Euphrates river and bury it in the bank. And then he was told to go back and dig it up and take it back and show the people. "This is what God thinks of you. You stink! You're useless and you're rotten."
Put this in perspective. Jerusalem's closest point to the Euphrates river is three hundred and fifty miles. He had to go there and back twice, fourteen hundred miles just to make this point.
Another bizarre event can be found in chapter 27, where the Lord says, "You are to put a yoke on made out of wood and straps like a cow would wear or a bull pulling a plow. You carry that yoke around and you walk down there. They're having a United Nations convention and you walk in there and you tell them that unless they subject themselves to the yoke of my servant, Nebuchadnezzar, they will all die." He would be real popular. Can you imagine somebody walking in New York City Untied Nations building wearing a yoke and saying, "Your are going to be subject to such and such a king."
The book Prophets and Kings by EG White, p. 444, states that "the amazement of the assembled council of nations knew no bounds when Jeremiah, carrying the yoke of subjection about his neck, made known the will of God."
These are only representative of the many things that Jeremiah went through, and the many things he went through in response to that. You can imagine his own people were against him. The church leaders were against him. The city leaders were against him. It just depended upon whose toes he was stepping on at the time. And he stepped on a lot of toes. He spent time in prison, was placed in stocks, beaten, put down into a cistern where the Bible says he sank in the mire. By the pleading of a king he was taken out before he starved to death. He wrote a book that the king burned page by page. So he wrote another book, the one that we have now in the Bible.
The book, Prophets and Kings also states that "for forty years Jeremiah was to stand before the nation as a witness for truth and righteousness. In a time of unparalleled apostasy he was to exemplify in life and character the worship of the only true God...."
"Yet amid the general ruin into which the nation was rapidly passing, Jeremiah was often permitted to look beyond the distressing scenes of the present to the glorious prospects of the future..."
Each and everyone of us are called by God to do a certain task. To some, that call is very clear. To others, you wish it was. Be available. Use your gifts. And that call will become more clear. If we, like Jeremiah, look at the glimpses of the future that we have received, the stress, the trials, the peer pressure, the hardships that this world has for those who follow God's call will appear as cheap enough for admission into fellowship with God for all eternity.
I'm looking forward to spending eternity knowing that God. And I want to hear from Him, going through those gates, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Thank you for accepting the call. I knew you would."
Hymn of Praise: #538, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-7 Hymn of Response: #330, Take My Life and Let It Be
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last updated 4/29/2001 by Bob Beckett.