Do the Old Testament pages in your Bible stick together? Do you gravitate toward the shorter, more practical books found in the New Testament? I totally understand. It is easy to get lost and confused when I try to read any of the Major Prophets and so my tendency is to avoid those books. However, I’m here to tell you God has some important lessons for us to apply in our lives today. We are going to tackle 2 books – Jeremiah and Lamentations – over the next two months. I hope you’ll join us on this walk through some difficult years in the history of God’s people.
Jeremiah, the clear writer of the book of Jeremiah as well as the assumed author of the book Lamentations, is what we know as a “classical prophet.” Of the three overarching “types” of prophets seen during Old Testament time, I personally would not want to be chosen to deliver this type of message to this wayward people.
There were “pre-monarchy” prophets such as Moses and Deborah, who gave the nation guidance and were overseers of Israel’s spiritual state. Sounds like lots of hope and promise in that job description. Then, there were “pre-classical” prophets such as Nathan and Elijah who were advisors to the kings and courts, giving royalty direct guidance and promises of blessing or possible destruction. Sure, one might have to be the bearer of bad news at some point, but hey, a direct line to royalty, delivering news of blessings and good times…not too shabby! And then of course, we have Jeremiah. The “classical prophet.” And his job, as seen throughout the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, was quite honestly, a horrible job.
His message was not one that rang with chords of hope or deliverance. He wasn’t chosen to speak before the nation’s highest esteemed men, to share words of blessing or promise. Jeremiah’s job was to rebuke and condemn the entire nation of Israel. His role was to warn of the coming captivity, destruction, and exile that his people would very soon experience. He was to demand repentance and call for justice among a people who had a track record for not responding well to such calls. In truth, Jeremiah’s calling sucked.
As we will discover through Jeremiah’s words, warnings, and rebukes within the book of Jeremiah, as well as his response to such prophecies within the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah’s call from God was not a pleasant one. His calling was not an easy one, and at times it was one that seemed near impossible. Nevertheless, it was one we can all truly learn from.
“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.” ~Jeremiah 1:5
What a beautiful message Jeremiah receives from the Lord upon his calling into prophetic ministry. However, I am sure in this initial moment of bestowal, the last thing on Jeremiah’s mind would have been the words he would soon share.
“Announce this to the descendants of Jacob and proclaim it to Judah: Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: ‘Should you not fear me?’ Declares the Lord. ‘Should you not tremble in my presence?’” ~Jeremiah 5:20-22
“Through your own fault you will lose the inheritance I gave you. I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger and it will burn forever.” ~Jeremiah 17:4
Furthermore, I am sure he never imagined saying this:
“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.” ~Lamentations 3:1-3
“I became the laughing stock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink.” ~Lamentations 3:14-15
So what is to be learned from this? What is to be gained through these books and the life and ministry of Jeremiah? Remember: Not all of our callings will be that of “pre-monarchy” prophets. Not each of us will get to serve God in a way that is reflective of “pre-classical” prophets. Some of us, I might even say that many of us, will be called into ministries like that of the prophet Jeremiah.
Not everyone will be called to speak to the masses like Beth Moore or Kay Arthur. We are not each guaranteed or promised ministries of joy, multitude, or excitement. Our roles may not be to change the face of modern Christianity or to write books that sell millions of copies. The jobs and roles that God has predestined for us could be challenging.
Being a millennial, I see many women my age fall into this trap. We believe because God has a purpose for us and has made us for specific services, this automatically means our purpose will be fun, the service will be exciting, or the completion of our callings will be met with joy and happiness. And Jeremiah is a perfect example of the exact opposite. Sometimes our callings will be hard. Some of our roles will be painful. Many of our ministries will not be ones of fame or grandeur. But, just as we see in the life of Jeremiah, that does not make them any less fruitful or useful to God.
My prayer in these coming weeks, as we read the books written by such an incredible man, is that we are able to see ourselves in Jeremiah.
- Do we have the self-denial necessary to pick up a difficult cross?
- Would we put ourselves in his shoes and contemplate our willingness to go places that are not glamorous or easy?
- Will we share the message our sovereign God asks us to speak?
Just like Jeremiah, God knew you before you were born. He has set you apart and has equipped you for something very specific and sweetly special. However, like Jeremiah, that something is not necessarily going to be fun, easy, or what you want for yourself. It could be extremely hard, extremely painful, and extremely uncomfortable. Are you willing to deny yourself and take up the call anyway? Would you be ready to carry a heavy, nasty cross simply because God asked?
Take time to sit and ponder your own purpose, and truthfully reflect on whether or not this purpose is centered on yourself, your own hopes and dreams, or centered in God, His vision, and His glory.
For your time of worship and prayer, listen to this song:
Lord, I thank you because I am chosen, not forsaken. And, I am who You say I am. Give me the strength and boldness to live each day according to Your Call on my life. Amen.