Focal Passages: Jeremiah 1:4-14, 17-19
Jeremiah and I both said no to God’s call to ministry when we were just teenagers. Our reasons were much the same. But after God explained His call and that no excuses would do, we both said yes. Jeremiah’s unique ministry lasted 40 to 50 years (about 626 to 586 and on into Egyptian captivity). In four sessions from the Book of Jeremiah, we will focus on “Who God Can Use.” Nutshell: If God can use Jeremiah and use Johnnie, he can use you. No excuses.
Getting the big picture: Israel had fallen in 721 BC. Judah would fall in 586 BC. Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians were the enemies. God called Jeremiah as one prophet against the world but empowered by God. Jeremiah’s prophecies would call for repentance, tell of Judah’s coming destruction, but also prophesy hope in God’s promise of a New Covenant. Jeremiah would live to witness fulfillment of his prophetic words of God except the New Covenant.
Focusing on God’s call: Jeremiah was flabbergasted when he heard God’s call (Jeremiah 1:1-5). I identify with Jeremiah because I was 15 when I felt God calling me to preach. My excuses were like Jeremiah’s: I was young and couldn’t speak in public without my knees knocking. Jeremiah could speak because he was already a priest, but overwhelmed at God’s plan for him. I was a talking soda jerk when God called me. One customer said, “You must have gotten vaccinated with a Victrola needle.” But I shrank in fear from a career of talking for God to older people. God’s call to you may seem overwhelming too.
Doing away with excuses: In effect, God told Jeremiah — and me — “Don’t say you can’t!” God told Jeremiah He had known him and appointed him to be a prophet before he was conceived or born. Then God filled Jeremiah with His prophetic words. Obeying God’s call would lead Jeremiah to preach mostly unwelcome messages to Judah and others for a lifetime. God told Jeremiah to go boldly and fearlessly since God would protect him. It’s said that man is immortal until God is through with him, and Jeremiah got that promise from God (Jeremiah 1:5-10). My personal answer about “can’t” came when I read Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Seeing two visions (Jeremiah 1:11-16): God gave Jeremiah two visions to let him see God’s Word and judgment coming to fruition: (1) like the early-blooming almond tree’s promise of spring — judgment fulfilled in this case — and (2) a boiling kettle of destruction leaning from the north to overflow with invasion on Judah. These visions and more were to be Jeremiah’s prophetic message for about 40 years and would be fulfilled. Jeremiah’s way was hard without family and only with secretary Baruch and a few friends. After Judah’s fall, Jeremiah was exiled to Egypt — where he may have lived 10 more years. God used him through all the years of a grievous life but for God’s high purpose.
Embracing God’s call and bracing to answer it (Jeremiah 1:17-19): Jeremiah seemingly embraced God’s call and said yes to it. After saying yes to God, the first duty of one called is to prepare to do God’s will. God told Jeremiah to get himself ready, to stand up, speak up and do what God commanded him. God told Jeremiah He was making him an unconquerable city accompanied by the power of God Himself. Jeremiah was to brace himself and not let anyone intimidate him, or God would cause him to cower (v. 18, HCSB).
No excuses! Only obedience is the right answer for us to give God’s call.
— Godwin, a retired pastor and publisher, is a member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.