February 3, 2019 “The Word of the Lord Comes” Jeremiah 1:4-10
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ
Jer.1:6: Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” Jeremiah thought he couldn’t speak well enough; that his age disqualified him. He thought there was no way the Lord could use him. Every honest, humble Christian has had the same thoughts run thru their minds. But, Jeremiah was wrong; …and so are we.
Because of the living-word of Scripture in his day, and from the lives of the saints who lived before him, Jeremiah didn’t need to doubt God’s call; he didn’t need to try to talk God into something else. Likewise, before we tell God what He can’t do with & around us, let’s remember what He’s already done, and thru whom.
We have a pretty good picture of Jeremiah, as a prophet; but not so much about his life before. Some of the prophets were farmers or herdsmen; Jeremiah was evidently just ‘young’. Chpt.1 v.1 says that his father, Hilkiah, was “one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.” Jeremiah was maybe 20 yrs old at the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC; which means he could’ve known about the prophets Habakkuk, & Obediah, and likely did know about Ezekiel and Daniel.
Otherwise, that’s about it. We don’t have information about his birth or childhood or schooling. Perhaps the most descriptive part of his youth we heard in verse 4 as a single sentence: “Now the word of the Lord came to me.” That actually is the most important part of knowing any of the prophets & who they are; not their own personal history, but that ‘the word of the Lord came to them.’ We get the impression that this is the single most important event in Jeremiah’s life; more important than his family history, or his education, or what kind of friends he hung out with.
Our Lord wants US to know the same thing about OUR lives. We can certainly value our personal history, family, education, training, & the friends we keep. But all those things are of earth & for earth; so there’s something more, & better. And we may not remember when the Word-of-the-Lord came to us with the Saving Name in our baptismal new-birth, & the renewal of the Holy Spirit; but ……with Jeremiah, you can be confident: The Word of the Lord comes to you. And regardless whether we think its for better or for worse, the Word of the Lord forms & shapes US for our callings in this world, and for life in the world to come.
The Word of the Lord has that effect on people; it’s the word of the Scripture you receive, esp. in preaching & teaching; the word of the Lord has always had its effect.
Think of your favorite author. You like the way that writer-of-words turns a phrase, or weaves a story and causes you to keep reading to see what happens. A mere human author can have some effect on you. That’s child’s-play compared to God.
God ‘breathes out’ his Word whenever it’s properly proclaimed. His Word is not just communicating an idea for humans to ponder, he says it is living, active, & spirit-filled.
So, His Spirit comes to you to move & transform us. We always use this example, because it always applies: In the beginning, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” = God’s Word affects nature, and so it affects your soul, too. (Gen 1:3).
God’s word can do anything in an instant, even impossible things. But more often God’s word is like a seed; it is working over time. It’s planted in a person, as in baptism;
it germinates & sprouts, then it grows, blossoms, & bears fruit in that life. Who hasn’t looked at a weather map this week to see a polar vortex pour its frigid air down into our states; that’s still God’s original Word at work, when he said: ‘let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ That’s atmosphere & weather.
And in a few months, God’s Word =from Day 3= will be at work again; that’s when he said: ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation.’ God’s Word is powerful & effective for nature; and yet nature is not eternal, and it only serves his higher creation = the creatures in his own image. This is why we are certain that God’s Word is effective in you & me.
God has Jeremiah show us this. The word of the Lord came to him; he was not seeking it. At school, he didn’t choose a class called ‘how to be a prophet’, & think ‘Hmm, looks like a good career, with good benefits.’ No; God’s word took him by surprise, & led him in directions he didn’t expect. Even later on, he wasn’t sure that being a prophet was right for him, and he definitely was not always happy with it. There were times when his work felt far less rewarding than whatever job his friends were doing each day.
But Jeremiah heard a powerful word, which God wants US to hear, too. Such as vs.5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” And yes, this is what God does, which is what makes Him-alone God. He knows all people, and He forms them =like jars of clay= & sets them apart for his purposes. We are creatures of dust, but also chosen & loved by him.
Jeremiah was picked, but not because he was /a great speaker, /or outgoing, /or charming, /or that desirable. But God’s word choses, shapes & molds a life. Six centuries later, St. Paul says: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:28–29). God still works the same way, with His gracious will. Our Creator is not ashamed of humans; man was created ‘very good’ in body & soul. Even now, God is not scared off by sin or weakness, because His powerful word can make things new.
So God called Jeremiah and appointed him to be a prophet to the nations, says vs 9: “Then the Lord stretched out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put MY words in your mouth.’ ” God fills his mouth with an active word. This word, the Lord says, will be “over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
And =like us= Jeremiah says, ‘Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m just a kid.’ ‘You must have me confused with the son of that other priest.’ And the Lord said, “Hey! I’m not looking for a hero, or a know-it-all; sure, Moses was 80 when I called him, but I can work with a youth. With My word in your mouth, it will affect people. You don’t need to be smart or creative; I’m sending you to speak MY word, to preach repentance to MY people; to call them back from idolatry and sin.”
So, that became Jeremiah’s calling & life. The powerful, merciful Lord sends young Jeremiah to preach repentance to sinners, and to restore them in forgiveness, life, & peace with God. WE also know from Scripture that this did not make Jeremiah’s life easy. He was sent to proclaim terrible judgment as the call to repent: /Jerusalem would be destroyed, /the temple would be torn down, /the king would be taken away, /& all the people would suffer in their lack of faith.
Yet, even in the suffering, the Lord would uphold them; after a time, the Lord would restore those who were lost and condemned.
Ultimately, Jeremiah was sent to deliver a promise for the people to believe & hold on to. God would again build up his people by forgiveness; because forgiveness means that the sin is no longer held against them. They get to begin again – brand-new. God would grow a ‘righteous branch’ among them. That was good news.
BUT, because the people’s hearts were hard, & their minds were slow to believe, so Jeremiah’s preaching often felt like a burden, & he suffered for it. He was beaten & put in stocks, imprisoned, thrown into a cistern, and even carried off to Egypt. (43:6–7). At times, Jeremiah complained, even wished he’d never been born. Even so, even thru an imperfect & weak man, the Word of the Lord was still at work to create, move, & transform souls.
Why didn’t Jeremiah quit, *why didn’t he give up & die? Because death is not our deliverer; death itself is not the goal, and does not bring peace. Jeremiah didn’t give up because he wasn’t alone; he had a promise. The Lord said in vs 8: “I am with you to deliver you.” God said: “Even when people oppose you… even though you suffer for doing what’s right, even though the work is hard and you can’t see results, I am with you to deliver you.”
God’s Word becomes the life of Jeremiah; he would deliver the Lord’s Word to the people, and The Lord’s Word would deliver him. It’s the same promise the Lord makes to ALL people, prophets or not. The word would deliver because -ultimately- that Word was made flesh. In the fullness of time, The Deliverer arrived. His word had authority to drive out demons, and cure fevers & illness, and fight back death.
The Son of God knew what to expect from a world of hard-hearted people who were slow to believe; he would be rejected, condemned, and crucified. On the cross, God’s Word appeared to have lost its power; and by the 9th hour, He was lifeless.
But The Son also had a promise of deliverance; on the 3rd day, Jesus was delivered and raised up as the Living Word. And as the Father has placed all things under His feet, so the Son has become the deliverance from sin, death & hell, for all those who trust in Him, who are washed in His Name, and who themselves take up their cross & follow Him. That means YOU.
That Word is still living & active; & now the Word of the Lord has come to YOU.
The Lord knew & loved Jeremiah from the womb, and that’s not a ‘one-off’ =as they say= this is what the Creator does for ALL: He has also known & loved YOU from the moment you entered the womb. Prophets had a special job to do, but they were just people = like you= to whom the word of the Lord comes. Like them, washed in His Word, you are called to be a child of God, to live in faith toward Him, and to serve others on behalf of His kingdom.
God choses & consecrates more than prophets. He has chosen & consecrated YOU to be His person wherever you are == /in your home, /your office, /your school, /or neighborhood.
Thru you, His Word is heard & seen, /affecting your children, /your relatives, /your friends, /& the people around you. And this not because you’re special; it’s because of His will, His grace in Christ Jesus. His Word came to you because thru you He wants the work & mercy of Jesus to affect others, so that many will be disciples, called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. This actually became your calling from the womb, and thru your baptism; not to be a prophet, but to be his child, disciple, & servant. So, what is your response?
Every humble believer will struggle with a response. ‘Lord, I really appreciate your call, your correction & forgiveness, but you don’t really mean that I have to know & show this faith, right? I’m /too young, /too old, /too tongue-tied, /too busy, /too shy, /my reputation isn’t too good, /I don’t have skills, /& I have some bad habits. There are far better people to pick from.’
No doubt; but the Lord says what He has always said: ‘It’s not really about you, is it? It’s about My Word. My Word will change you and make something new of you; & it will show others that they can be new, too.’ It was true for Jeremiah, it was true for those Jeremiah preached to == men & women & children who did return from exile, and back to Jerusalem to live a new life. So it’s true for you & me. The Word of the Lord comes, and takes up /your life, /your past, /your childhood, //your youth, /your weaknesses & sins.
He takes them into himself, nails them to his cross, buries them in his grave, and then rises & says, “Now watch what I can do with you!” The Word of the Lord comes to teach us right from wrong; that Word works in us to do what is right, and to help others to get out from under the burden of wrong.
The word of the Lord speaks the truth of life so that we will be ambassadors of that truth, especially to our family; but even to our leaders, & those who are to represent us as a country, so that we might be a light to other nations.
And when being chosen & sent means that /your family /or your neighbor /or nation reacts against you to make this godly life hard, the Word of the Lord gives you the same promise that He gave to Jeremiah: “I am with you to deliver you.” Those who bear the Lord’s Name & His Word are never alone, and never without His strong comforting hand. As Jesus says to you in Matt.28: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Again today God keeps His promise of absolution: I forgive your sins; I am with you. Again today He keeps His promise in a holy communion: “I am with you. Receive Me in My own body & blood.’ It’s the same Living Word for your ears, your mouth, your mind & soul. He calls you as His own, and he sends you from here. His Word has become your faith;
His Word is your life for the good of those around you.
So your whole life, like Jeremiah’s, has been marked by the Word of the Lord.
And your life, like Jeremiah’s, is marked by the promise of His presence. You didn’t choose Him, He chose you. His Word is at work in & thru you, even to your old age & grey hair. Like a seed, when its planted, will bloom & bear fruit. His word makes things happen.
It makes a prophet out of Jeremiah, it makes saints out of sinners, & it makes a servant-disciple out of you.
It’s because ‘the Word of the Lord comes.’ It’s the word that says ‘before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And don’t say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go.’ You are not Jeremiah, but you are God’s child, and a servant of the Word of the Lord.