Jeremiah is an example of the truth that you can be whatever God wants you to be. Although another reluctant starter, God assures him…
“Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ 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.” (1:7).
Like Moses, it was as if he had little choice. God touched his lips and he was ready to go.
We sometimes forget, as Christians, that we already have a call, encapsulated in the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). To receive Christ as Saviour is to receive the anointing of his Spirit, who gives us the words we need. We cannot opt out any more than Jeremiah could!
…his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in,
indeed, I cannot. (20:9)
Just as Isaiah prophesied judgement, so did Jeremiah, though you get the impression that the latter suffered more for it, even expressing the wish that he’d never been born! (chapter 15). Although God held out the assurance that, if Judah would change her ways and actions, deal justly and not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, shed innocent blood or sacrifice to Baal, they could continue to live in the land, the rulers and people resolutely ignored the message, right up until they went into captivity to Babylon!
When we look at the world today we realise that human nature has not changed and this message is still just as relevant. We may no longer sacrifice to Baal, but instead offer the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people on the altars of materialism, power, fame and fortune. Recently in Australia we sought to help balance our budget by significantly decreasing overseas aid.
As with Isaiah, there is still a strong note of hope. Seventy years was allotted for the Captivity and as always the aim of the judgement was repentance and restoration…
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. (29:11-14)
Jeremiah put his money where his mouth was and, with disaster looming on Judah, he bought a field in obedience to God and in anticipation of the return.
Until the return (and let’s face it, not many of those who heard Jeremiah speak would see out the Exile) Jeremiah exhorted the people to seek the peace and prosperity of the countries where they would be carried off.
Even today that’s good advice, not only to refugees but also to Christian people who can be so busy criticising governments and their leaders that they forget to pray positively for them. If we want to see change, we must pray as the beginning of our action!
Beyond the return God promises that, a righteous Branch, a King who will rule wisely, would be raised up, to be known as The LORD Our Righteous Saviour (23:5-6).
Also there would be a new covenant where…
I will put my law in their minds
and write it in their hearts. (31:33)
The implication is a transformation whereby people are motivated to live in obedience to God and act in the spirit of the law rather than simply living to the letter and minimum that the law demands. It reminds us that we can achieve little of lasting worth without the Spirit of God within our minds and heart.
It remind me of a prayer from the Anglican Prayer Book…
who alone can bring order to our unruly wills and affections:
give us grace to love what you command
and desire what you promise,
that, in all the changes and chances of this uncertain world,
our hearts may surely there be fixed
where true joy is to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.