A godly conditioned heart is of far greater value to the Lord than charisma and eloquence.
HYMN: WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS
TEXT: Jeremiah 1:1-19
It is not unusual to be overwhelmed by circumstances and challenge that a new venture presents. After proper assessment of our capabilities in relation to the imperatives, demands and responsibilities of such a venture or project we either decline or proceed with it. The call of God on Jeremiah to present His divine perspective to the kings and people of Judah (Southern Kingdom) during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah was an enormous task. It meant that Jeremiah will be the voice of God to the nation. The task would not have been overwhelming if it was nation whose people and leaders followed the Lord, but for most of the time that was not the case.
When Jeremiah began his ministry, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been in captivity to Assyria for nearly one hundred years. Of the five kings during whose reigns Jeremiah prophesied, two ruled only for 3 months. These were Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31-33) and Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:6-16). They were both evil kings who perpetuated the evil deeds of previous kings like Ahaz (2 Kings 16:1-4), Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-6) and Amon (2 Kings 21:19-22). During Josiah’s reign when Jeremiah began his ministry, an attempt was made by the king to restore Judah to the true worship of God. This was after the evil reigns of Manasseh who ruled for 55 years and Amon for 2 years. The state of moral decay the nation was in can only be imagined. Called as a young man at this time of reformation, Jeremiah could only see his limitations. He knew the enormity of the task ahead of him as it relates to a nation that had largely forsaken the Lord. Jeremiah needed the reassurance form the Lord to take up the responsibility of being the spokesperson for God in a depraved nation. The depravity of our times is truly daunting. To speak the mind of God that reflects His holiness is certainly not popular, hence few do so. The call of the Lord is not to swim with the tide of wickedness and moral bankruptcy but to join with the redeemed of the Lord to declare his righteousness.
The objectives of this study are:
- To know how God called Jeremiah.
- To learn from the response of Jeremiah when God called him
- To understand the implications of God’s call on His children
- To know that excuses have no place in the scheme of God’s plans
- To appreciate how God’s grace and provisions overcome every excuse we may have
WHEN DID THE LORD START TO PREPARE JEREMIAH FOR THE MINISTRY? WHAT DOES THIS TEACH US ABOUT THE ENDOWING GRACE OF THE LORD?
Every human being comes forth to the earth through the womb of a woman. Although this process of birth is a natural one, all persons in the medical profession who have deeper insight into it know that it is a most fascinating and intriguing process. The Psalmist’s insight into it comes from Psalm 139:13-14. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. The outcome of every birth process is unique, even when it results in twins or triplets, each of whom has his/her unique traits. When the word of the Lord first came to Jeremiah, he thought he was like every other child that resulted from the natural process of birth, and that is how most of us think of ourselves. The Lord had to remind him, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5. Who is born that is not known to the Lord in his/her mother’s womb? Who is born without a God-given assignment to fulfill on earth? While everyone has a divine purpose to achieve on earth, some of such tasks are more enormous than others. Jeremiahs was truly an enormous one: to be the voice of God to a nation and its kings who are sold to idolatry and wickedness. Reading from 2 Kings 21:1-9, we observe the array of wicked practices that Manasseh, one of the kings of Judah, perpetuated. It is no different in our time with greed, corruption, immorality, wickedness, and violence (murders, aggression) being the order of the day.
There is a call of God on every human being. Every human being has been formed of God to fulfil a divine purpose. This divine purpose is only realized through the work of redemption of Christ on Calvary. This is the grace of God that is freely available to everyone. Outside of Christ’s redemption, man is sold to the devil as a result of the fall (Gen. 3:1-7). Many persons fail to accomplish the purpose of God for their lives because they reject this amazing grace. Those who have received this grace can look up to the Lord to know and follow His call upon their lives.
WHAT WERE JEREMIAH’S EXCUSES TO HEEDING THE CALL OF GOD?
Jeremiah had two excuse: “Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” Jer. 1:6. Jeremiah’s first excuse of not being eloquent or having an impaired speech is similar to that of Moses when he was called. Moses said to the Lord, “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Exodus 4:10. The same excuse is given by the people of God today. It is because we use the standards of the world as the yardstick for the call of God. We think we must have a certain accent to be used of God. God looks for our obedience and not our eloquence.
Jeremiah’s second excuse was that he was only a child. In Jeremiah’s thinking, the assignment of the Lord far exceeds his human capabilities. There is no assignment form the Lord that can be accomplished by our human abilities; they require his supernatural strength. This is the case so that we might depend on Him, not on ourselves, every step of the way. By doing so, our eyes are always firmly on the Lord.
WHY DO WE MAKE EXCUSES?
We make excuses for many reasons. One major one is fear. Fear is a crippling, debilitating experience. Fear imprisons its victim. We fear to fail; we fear to be ridiculed; we fear what the future hold for us and our children. From time to time it grips every one of us. It reveals our true self, humans with all its frailties. It is constantly exploited by the devil in order to make us under-performers and blind us to the greater realities of what the Lord has in store for us. One major strategy of the devil is to use fear to cause us to doubt that God’s promise will come to pass. 2 Timothy 1:7 states: ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. When overtaken by fear, we should acknowledge it and lay it before our Father and Lord. He is there to help us overcome our fears. With our fears overcome, we can rise to become and do what He has in store for us.
Another reason why we make excuses is when we assess our capabilities in relation to what the Lord wants us to do. We must realize that there will never be a time when our natural abilities will ever match what the Lord wants us to accomplish. This realization is fundamental to every plan of God for our lives. It is a realization that instructs us to always trust and depend on Him. The Lord wants us to depend on Him as the next breath of air for our lungs. We should depend on Him in heeding the call to the ministry as much as the same way as reaching a friend with the gospel or in carrying our daily tasks as work or in school. Anytime we feel adequate in ourselves, we fall short of realizing the supernatural power of God. When we feel inadequate, there is no reason to make excuses but to turn to the Lord for wisdom, strength, and grace to achieve His divine purpose.
We also make excuses because of unbelief. Unbelief puts focus on ourselves and circumstances, rather than on the Lord. Observe the excuses made when Jesus called some individuals, “follow me”. But the man replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father”. Still another said, “I will follow you Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus’ response was, “No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” Luke 9:57-62.
We must put aside our unbelief and trust the Lord by putting faith in His word.
HOW WERE JEREMIAH’S EXCUSES OVERCOME?
Jeremiah overcame his excuses by the reassuring presence and words of the Lord to him. “But the Lord said unto me, say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jer.1:7-8). Every excuse is overcome when our perspective changes from self to the Lord. With self, there are limitations, but with the Lord the impossible becomes possible. The word of the Lord is always most reassuring. The same applies in our day. We should always walk in accordance with the word of the Lord, particularly the written word. “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”. (1 Corin. 10:11). One of the errors of our day is the manipulations of the written word to suit our circumstances. God’s word in the Holy Scriptures has been made available to us to that we can live to please the Lord always.
An understanding of the continual presence of the Lord helps us in overcoming our fears and excuses. God has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Heb 13:5. Every venture may look impossible at first, but the Lord’s presence in our lives makes it possible. This applies to all aspects of our lives entering the ministry, marriage, school, examination, work, trials, etc. The Lord’s presence was accompanied with these words, “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” Jer. 1:8. With these words, Jeremiah’s fears melted away. The same applies to us today. The Lord speaks to our hearts so that we can overcome our fears. When we take the Lord’s words to heart we become overcomers and our fears give way to confidence and hope.
Furthermore, the Lord touched the mouth of Jeremiah and said to him, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” Jer. 1:9-10. The Lord’s supernatural touch on Jeremiah gave him the strength to take on the task ahead of him. At critical moments, believers need the truth of God in their lives. With such supernatural interventions, they are able to rise and soar as the eagle over every obstacle in their paths.
HOW DID THE LORD’S INSTRUCTION TO JEREMIAH SET THE TONE OF HIS MINISTRY?
In verse 9 of Jeremiah chapter 1, the Lord declares to Jeremiah that he is appointed over nations and kingdoms. That is a position of authority that puts him above the intrigues of the kings and peoples of these nations, including Judah. In that position, Jeremiah was expected to tear down, destroy, and overthrow the works of darkness that were being perpetuated by the people of Israel. Believers today should be very troubled and agitated when sin and the works of darkness reign. The spirit of the believer should be stirred to see the uprooting of wickedness in our land.
In addition, God appointed Jeremiah “to build and to plant”. When evil is uprooted, it must be replaced with righteousness. When corruption is uprooted, then truth, honesty, integrity, and straight forward dealings should become the order of the day. That should be the yearning of every believer. A believer who is comfortable with corrupt practices because of the personal comforts that he/she derives should re- examine him/herself if he/she is in the Lord.
Thereafter, the Lord reveals to Jeremiah what will happen to Judah (the Southern kingdom), with the rod of chastisement (Jer. 1:11) and “the boiling pot, tilting from the north” (Jer. 1:13). These were illustrations of the invasions by the Babylonians and subsequent captivity of the land.
DAILY LIVING APPLICATION
Believers might not receive the same kind of calling that Jeremiah had. However, every believer is called to fulfill the purpose of God for his life. That could be as a pastor, medical professional, trader, businessman, teacher, metal worker, carver, student etc. Whatever the calling or profession one is in, the believer can make a mark and a clear statement for righteousness. The Lord does not accept excuses for failing to take one’s stand for him. Excuses like, “everyone is involved in ungodly practices, so I have to be a part of it” do not receive the blessings of the Lord. What is pleasing to the Lord is to acknowledge one’s frailties and weaknesses, and to trust His grace to overcome them for instance, when fear comes, one should commit it to the Lord and ask His grace to overcome it. The Lord is always faithful to help us in our weaknesses. What must characterize our ministry is to promote godliness and eschew every form of evil. This must start from the personal life of the believer, and with an influence on larger circles of persons the believer interacts with.
“See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant”.
DAILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
Monday: Called to build.
Tuesday: Called to help the poor.
Wednesday: Called to resist opposition.
Thursday: Called to restoration.
Friday: Called for a purpose.
Saturday: Called with a mission.