If the call of Moses and the Escape of the Slaves from Egypt into the Promised Land was the start of springtime for the nation of Israel, and the reigns of the great Kings David and Solomon were the height of the summer, then the Call of Jeremiah definitely came at the end of Israel’s autumn. The chosen nation had rebelled against their God, worshipped idols and fallen into immorality. Israel is about to face the terrible judgement of God, the fall of Jerusalem and exile into Babylon. And Jeremiah is the young man God chose to be his prophet to proclaim this judgement – the messenger of doom and gloom to Israel.
God’s Word to Jeremiah
2 The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 4. The word of the LORD came, saying,
7. `You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
That’s the job of the man of God, the prophet – to deliver God’s messages, to pass on God’s Word. The starting point of course is HEARING God’s word, something that just wasnt happening in Jeremiah’s day!
AMOS 8:11 ¶ “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. 12 Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.
This was fulfilled in Jeremiah’s day – God’s chosen people the nation of Israel had turned away from Almighty God – trusting in idols instead. They ignored and silenced the prophets.
Surely true today in Britain too! All the different religions with their contradictory messages. All the pop philosophies and their New Age gurus, A famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.
Maybe true even in the church today. No end of popular speakers, entertaining stories – but where are the John Stotts and Michael Greens and David Watsons and Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s expounding the Scriptures. Where are the Billy Graham’s bringing hundreds if not thousands to Christ every night? I have joined a Facebook Page for Christian authors and booksellers and the picture for Christian books is truly bleak. I was only commenting to somebody recently how few GOOD Christian books have been published in the last 20 years. Some Christian Classics were written in the 60s and 70s – but today’s popular writers are here today and forgotten tomorrow. Even the most serious sermons at Spring Harvest are lightweight compared to the kind of teaching everyone used to queue up to hear at the Keswick Convention. Premier Radio is great for the kind of teaching and discussion which is inspiring for new Christians and folk approaching Christianity from the unbelieving world. But you very rarely hear the kind of teaching and discussion that stretches and feeds Deacons and Home Group leaders. A famine of hearing the Word of God maybe?
But we DO have the Word of God in Scriptures / history of church / GOOD Christian books / teaching in church. We can hear God speaking to us through our friends and through our conscience. Increasingly Christians are rightly also expecting to hear God speaking in prophecy. But along with this hearing comes the requirement to OBEY what God tells us! God won’t speak directly to us in prophesy until we are properly obeying what he’s ALREADY said in His word the Bible.
Often God’s message comes to a prophet in the form of visions, or dreams or symbols. As we will see as well tonight and next week, this was particularly true of Jeremiah.
11. The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. 12 The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Here is a play on Hebrew words “almond” sounds like “watching”
God has a message for Jeremiah to deliver to the nation. And it won’t be a popular message!
13 The word of the LORD came to me again: “What do you see?” “I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” I answered. 14 The LORD said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.
15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the LORD. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. 16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshipping what their hands have made.
Here was a grim message of judgement – announcing God’s condemnation on all Israel’s idolatry and immorality.
God commanded Jeremiah – 7. The LORD said to me, `You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
God says the same to US too!!! We also have been given a message to deliver to our generation. But unlike Jeremiah we don’t need a personal prophetic call to deliver this message – it’s been entrusted to the whole church by Christ Himself for 2000 years in the Bible. It’s not a popular message. It’s the solemn warning that the Holy God sends to a rebellious world. It’s the challenge to repentance and faith which came in the person and the good news of Jesus Christ.
But in many ways the whole Church seems to be deaf to the word of God – we have been commanded to proclaim the gospel. But so many Christians don’t seem to believe this command actually applies to them. They think it’s only for ministers or missionaries or evangelists or that Christian in the next pew!
So often when God commands his people to do something, they just come up with excuses.
6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”
`I do not know how to speak; – but that won’t do for ANY servant of God – God can equip us with all the gifts and skills we need to serve Him.
I am only a child. – I’m too young. Heard so often! Almost as often as “I’m too old!” I’ve done my share of witnessing and Christian service – it’s somebody else’s turn. OR “I’m too busy” – I’m at a crucial point in my career, with young children my family must take priority, 101 ways to avoid obeying God! So like the call of Moses – one excuse after another. Our excuses are as feeble as those used by Jeremiah or Moses. But the one consolation I suppose is to recognise how mightily both Jeremiah AND Moses were used by God once they stopped pussyfooting around and finally did obey God! How encouraging it is to think of what God could do through YOU, or ME, or his church right here, if only we stopped making excuses and DID throw our whole weight into passing on the vital message God has entrusted to us.
Did you notice the contradiction there in Jeremiah’s response to God’s call?? In one breath Jeremiah calls God “Sovereign Lord” and in the next breath he is arguing and worming his way out of obeying God with feeble excuses. Just like Peter when God called HIM to do something out of the ordinary, eating so called “unclean” foods – Peter said “Surely not, Lord! No way Lord!” Here’s Jeremiah – “Sovereign Lord – NO!”
But we can’t call God LORD, Sovereign, Master, and at the same time disobey Him! Either Jesus is Lord of all or he isn’t really LORD at all!!!
God has commissioned US to proclaim the gospel to all creation – starting with our neighbours and friends and even our family! We can’t honestly call God LORD, pray to Him as Lord, sing songs to Jesus as Lord, if we arent going to take that responsibility of evangelism and mission seriously!
But be encouraged! See how patient God is with Jeremiah – despite the excuses God doesnt cast Jeremiah aside and use a different prophet – and God won’t do that with us either.
Instead he brings Jeremiah encouragement and assurance!
4. The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 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.”
God knew Jeremiah from the beginning
God knows US from our very beginnings!
Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
God set Jeremiah apart and God appointed Jeremiah
God has set us apart and God has appointed US! NOT necessarily to be prophets. Not necessarily to be ministers or missionaries or evangelists. but certainly to be witnesses for Him.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
And God will protect Jeremiah
8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
So many times this is God’s message to his timid servants. Do not be afraid! I am with you! With God on our side one is a majority! If God is for us who can be against us!!!! Jeremiah had nothing to fear! And neither have we!
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. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
God gave Jeremiah the message and God gave Jeremiah the authority to speak.
God has given US the message to proclaim – and God has given US authority as well!
Matt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So here was God’s command to Jeremiah his prophet, his chosen messenger.
17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land- against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
God promised Jeremiah all the support and protection he could possibly want – “I am with you to rescue you” declares the Lord. And that promise is for US as well, as long as we are living in obedience to God’s commands, trusting in Him, and faithfully delivering the message He has entrusted to us. God will be with us whenever we proclaim the gospel which brings the only hope of life to a dead world, whenever we pass on his warning of the judgement that is coming and the Good News of the crucified risen Saviour!
God knew Jeremiah from the beginning: God knows US from our very beginnings!
God set Jeremiah apart: God has set US apart. God appointed Jeremiah. God has appointed US!
God will protect Jeremiah – and God will protect us.
God gave Jeremiah his message and the authority to speak – and God has given US his message and his authority as well!
We will see next week how Jeremiah obeyed His God and delivered the messages God spoke to Him. And we’ll wait to see in weeks to come whether you and I will follow that example of obedience – and throw ourselves as wholeheartedly as Jeremiah into the task of proclaiming the gospel. Or whether we’ll just go on making excuses!