He hated the limelight but was constantly in the news. He loved the simple life, yet his was often conflicted and confusing. He preferred the country but had to live in the city. He felt inadequate as a public spokesman, yet he spent his life confronting world leaders. His name: Jeremiah. If you check that name in a dictionary, you will discover that based on the life of a seventh century B.C. prophet in Judah, a Jeremiah is “one who is pessimistic about the present and foresees a calamitous future.”
Who was this man Jeremiah and why was he such a pessimist? Good question. He was born in the village of Anathoth, now called Anata, in modern Israel, about 4 kilometers southeast of the city of Jerusalem. He grew up in a strongly religious family. His father was a priest—perhaps the Hilkiah who brought the book of the law to King Josiah and started a revival.
But Jeremiah didn’t inherit fame. His came with blood and fire. At about age 21, Jeremiah had an encounter with God which changed his life, one which he didn’t ask for, and one which at one time caused such grief that he cursed the day he was born. When God called him, Jeremiah gave three reasons why he considered himself an unlikely candidate: 1. He argued his youth; 2. He explained that he was not eloquent (something which God already happened to know) and 3. He told God that he had no experience to qualify him for the job. God, of course, immediately saw his mistake in wanting to use Jeremiah and apologized for interrupting his life—right? Not at all!
Here’s the account which he himself wrote: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘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.’ ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’ 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. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant’” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).
It’s hard to argue with God, especially when His hand touches your life as happened to Jeremiah. His was never an easy life. Forbidden to marry, his was a lonely existence. Those who should have been his closest friends—priests and civic leaders—were his most bitter enemies. So angered was King Jehoiakim at what Jeremiah had written, that he took his penknife and cut up the scroll piece by piece and fed it to the fire.
Jeremiah’s message was considered “unpatriotic” and he was considered a
traitor who urged the leaders to surrender to the enemy rather than to be destroyed. He stood in the temple and told the people that it would be destroyed and desolate. No wonder the people cried out that he should die (Jeremiah 26:11). God promised to be with Jeremiah, and he was, in spite of the constant battle which he waged. When Jerusalem was overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar and his army in 596 B.C., Jeremiah escaped to Egypt, according to tradition. May God give us more men and women today such as Jeremiah, men who will stand and be counted regardless of the cost!
Resource Reading: Jeremiah 1:1-10
Text: The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “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.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” 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. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 1:4-8
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – July 3, 2017