The Call of Jeremiah
Today’s reading in our relentless march (or continuing crawl) through the Old Testament begins the book of Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s call as a prophet. God tells Jeremiah that he has set Jeremiah apart as His prophet since before he was born (1:5). Jeremiah immediately begins to make excuses, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (1:6). Arguing youth is an interesting excuse since God said He had given Jeremiah the job before he was born! Twice in this opening God assures Jeremiah, “For I am with you and will rescue you” (8, 19). He will make Jeremiah “fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall.” That promise is repeated several times later in the book (see Jer 15:20).
Jeremiah was set apart as God's prophet, but his ministry as a prophet would not be an easy one. God tells Jeremiah from the beginning that times were going to be hard. The barbarians were at the gate and God's people would be punished (1:15-16). Jeremiah was going to sounds the warning, but no one was going to listen to him.
- Jeremiah is not going to have a prophetic ministry like that of Jonah. You recall that Jonah preached one sermon and all of Nineveh responded in sackcloth; few would listen and fewer would respond to Jeremiah's sermons.
- Jeremiah is also not going to have a ministry like Isaiah who was the confidant and adviser of kings; Jeremiah would be a pariah to most of the kings to whom he preached... and persecuted by them.
I think we can understand Jeremiah's reluctance to take on this job! But God promises that He would be with Jeremiah and would make him an iron pillar and a bronze wall. But what did that mean? Well, it's obvious what it doesn't mean! God’s presence with Jeremiah didn't mean everything would going to go nice and easy for him. God’s presence with Jeremiah would mean hard times and real struggles. Jeremiah would not pray the “Prayer of Jabez” and receive expanded territory and success! Jeremiah’s faithfulness would not mean the health-n-wealth in all its forms that are sometimes promised as the reward for faithfulness today.
God's promise to Jeremiah was that no matter what he was called to endure, he would never endure it alone. The promise was not that there would be no struggles; the promises was that God would lead him through all His struggles. God’s promise to Jeremiah was “They will fight against you!” But the rest of that promise was “I am with you and will rescue you.” God’s ultimate promise isn't success or prosperity. The promise was that if Jeremiah was faithful, he would receive God himself. Whatever struggles and opposition he would face, he would never face them alone. And that is the promise God makes to us. Whatever our struggles and hardships, we are not alone. God is with us, God’s Spirit is in us, and God’s people are beside us. God never promises that we will not struggle; He does promise that we will never have to struggle alone!