Summary: Jeremiah teaches us how to endure tough assignments from God
Jeremiah - Tough Assignments
There have been a lot of difficult situations in the news lately - difficult from a Christian perspective. Hurricane Katrina sweeps through the south, and massive devastation, loss of homes, loss of property, loss of family, and loss of life. And for many of those facing these losses, they are Christians. It would be wonderful to think that all those who faced the wrath of the storm were sinners under the judgment of God--but that’s not the case. Many good Christians and many good churches were attacked by the hurricane. Even good seminaries faced the brunt of the storm.
Here in Owosso last Saturday night a house explodes, killing six. It would soothe our conscience if this was a crack house or a place of prostitution. But instead this is a home where those killed had a strong faith. How do we combine the idea that as Christians “God will watch over us” with the tragedies that occur?
To gain some biblical perspective, we look at the story of the prophet Jeremiah this morning. Scripture offers us some basic truths that we turn to in times like these - truths that God knows best, that his ways are perfect, that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. But often we can say these truths in a simplistic way without embracing the full feelings of emotions of those under the burden of the loss. Jeremiah is one who understands what it means to be given a hard assignment. Turn with me to Jeremiah 1 this morning, as we learn from his life and message.
Jeremiah is right after the book of Isaiah. Open your Bible in the middle and you can probably find it fairly quickly - Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Jeremiah. To review quickly, we’ve come through the OT together, seeing God calling out a people to enter into relationship with. He took them to a land He had prepared for them, and made them into a nation, giving them a king after his own heart. Then, because of their sinfulness, he sent prophets to warn them, and to call them back to repentance. The nation was split into a northern half, Israel, which was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. There was a southern half, Judah, which ended up falling to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Jeremiah is a prophet sent to the southern nation of Judah during the last 40 years of its existence, under the kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. But Jeremiah’s ministry was a hard one.
In Jeremiah chapter 1, we see Jeremiah’s call. Look in verse 4. 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.
That sounds like a wonderful promise to Jeremiah. God knows him, and will keep him free from being afraid, for he promises to always rescue Jeremiah. Given that promise, we might think Jeremiah was going to have a great, productive ministry. But as we read through the book of Jeremiah, we find that his ministry was a difficult one. For Jeremiah’s message to the people was one of coming judgment.
•In chapter 7 - Jeremiah stands in the temple to deliver a message of judgment.
•In chapter 10 - Jeremiah tells the people they will go into exile - vs. 17 - Gather up your belongings to leave the land, you who live under siege. For this is what the LORD says: “At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured.”
•In chapter 11 - we see the people plot against jeremiah to kill him - vs. 18 - Because the LORD revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” The men of Anathoth were seeking his life and saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD or you will die by our hands.