Summary: What to do when your life gets "put on hold."
Lessons From the Back Shelf
(What to do when life gets put on hold)
Jeremiah 32-33 December 31, 2000
Back shelf events ¡V now there¡¦s an oxymoron. The words just don¡¦t fit together. The back shelf is where you go to rot. There are no events. It¡¦s where you¡¦re put when the world is done with you, like a seldom-needed roasting pan, or a set of Christmas lights with one bulb out. You never work quite right, so you get put on the top shelf, way in the back. The back shelf!
Here we are on the brink of a New Year ¡V it¡¦s the end of this old one. It is quite natural to look back over the last year. We evaluate, revel in the good things; we reminisce, sometimes torture ourselves over the bad. We look at our waistlines after the holidays and make resolutions (in some cases, revolutions!).
But, what if you look back and there is nothing? What if you look back, and contrary to the calendar, all you can see is the back of the shelf? All you feel is the kind of thing we felt from November to December, while they located all the ballots! As George Goebel once remarked to Johnny Carson, I feel like the entire world¡¦s a tuxedo, and I¡¦m a pair of brown loafers.
Michael McDermott may have felt that way. He had a distinguished record of service to his country aboard nuclear submarines. He worked diligently in the computer industry. Then the IRS decided to grab a portion of his salary, and the next thing ¡V just last week ¡V he carries eighty pounds of assault weapons into work and kills 7 co-workers. The man had been put on the back shelf.
As we head into the new year; as we evaluate the past year ¡V if it appears to you that, along the way your life got put on hold, then this message is for you. Come with me for a peek at the life of the king of the back shelf ¡V Jeremiah.
God had called Jeremiah to be his voice against the ungodly condition of His chosen people ¡V to speak a warning. Jeremiah¡¦s call included the vision of a boiling cauldron facing the South; a picture of the invasion forces that would come from Judah¡¦s northern enemies.
In the 32nd chapter of Jeremiah¡¦s prophecy we find that what got him thrown in jail was his insistence that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, would conquer Jerusalem. Jerusalem¡¦s king Zedekiah didn¡¦t like that!
While in prison, Jeremiah¡¦s cousin, Hanameel offers the prophet the right to purchase land in Anathoth. How strange. If the prophet¡¦s prediction came true (and it certainly did), then land titles issued under Hebrew law would be worthless. And if the prophecy failed, Jeremiah would stay in jail. It seemed odd to buy land under those conditions.
What was Jeremiah (and God) up to? He was making a bold statement that God would truly bring judgment on the people, but the judgment would end and God would also restore his people.
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries¡K32.37a
And they shall be my people, and I shall be their God¡K32.38
And fields shall be bought in this land¡K32.43a
The prophet spoke truth about the coming judgment of God, and it did not exactly endear him to the king. In fact, he got thrown in prison ¡V several times, and finally died in Egypt under house arrest -- no fairy-tale ending to an epic life!