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Friday, February 27, 2015

Cannot Do It

The call of Jeremiah, found in the first chapter, serves as a potent reminder that no great hero of the faith is spared the human condition. Following a brief chronological note, the first words of the prophet refer to God's message to him: before I formed you in the womb, I knew you...I consecrated you...I appointed you.

This special call is not for all of us. In our more democratic times we might be offended by the idea of a special calling. We have grown up being told that "everyone is special" and probably everyone is, but we are not all alike. And some differences are more note worthy than others. No, we are not Jeremiah, but we do share in the call to be prophetic in our own ways.

The call of the young priest Jeremiah is a reminder that God intervenes in our world, this one, and His communication meets with resistance. Jeremiah responds, "I am too young!" Nor is this the only time this sort of thing happens. Moses says, "but I stutter!" Long before that, Abraham doubted God's promise to His face--"we are too old for a baby." And Sarah laughed (in a derisive way) when she overheard the same promise from the Three Visitors. We do well to consider our own "excuses" for unbelief, our own reasons to reject our vocation. No doubt they are very reasonable, but then, God is not so limited as we.

Jeremiah's work as a prophet to the nations catches my eye (but not the commentaries I looked at). Nations refers to Gentiles, the goyim, as differentiated from Jews. It is a universal audience which Jeremiah is to address. Other prophets do the same, but in Jeremiah it is emphasized from the beginning. There is no "outsider" to God's view and concern. Granted that Jeremiah will have a message which is predominantly negative judgments and threats, the fact still remains that the God of Israel concerns Himself with all the peoples of the earth.

Jeremiah's career is a reminder that special calls are not always a blessing. It is fair to say that Jeremiah suffered greatly for his Lord, and probably battled depression. He (like Elijah, Jonah and Moses) asked to die rather than continue with his work. God would prove to be a stern, demanding figure. It was a time of extreme crisis and in such times "coddling" is not possible.

Jeremiah is clearly a type of Christ and the remarkable similarities between his time and the time of Jesus find their fullness in the destruction of the Temple (I&II) when the people of God failed to heed the message of God.

We are all called, perhaps we have buried that vocation. Maybe our reluctance reached the level of outright resistance. Maybe our "I cannot do it" grew and came to fruition in the words "I will not do it."

Every age has its own heresies, its own apostasies, and its own infidelities. Individually and corporately, we are called to seek out "God's Word" and proclaim that to the world. At times it is a threat and challenge and at other times it is a healing balm and word of hope. The authenticity of the message is borne out by the events which follow.

To be discourage or afraid is a common response to God and the work of the church (literally, the "ones called out"). In recent days the church seems intent on selling out to the wider culture (whether liberal or conservative expressions of that culture). We take our cues from spirits which are not The Holy Spirit. As a result, our "Temple" is always at risk. The center of our identity and the source of our confidence (whatever the particular expression of the temple is in our culture), the temple can be a sacrament to encounter God or a blasphemous idol to replace Him, the temple can be a sign of God's promise to be among us, or the religion which mixes all manner of falsehoods to appease the crowds. Jeremiah died in exile times. Our fate is yet to be revealed, but we do well to hear his words and encounter God's Word in them. We do well to respond to God and live the vocation to which He calls us (corporately and individually). The time is ripe: will we repent and experience deliverance, or will hard hearts and stiff necks reap doom?  

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