The Perfect Situation
Learning from the Life of Jeremiah
In Jeremiah 2:11-13, we find that the prophet lived in a less than perfect time: "Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
1:1-3: We never find ourselves in the "perfect" situation. Many times I have heard young people say, "I will be more responsible when I get my own place." The truth is that they will not get their own place until they are more responsible. We all have that vision of when we are going to change and try harder at all the tasks of life. These are fixed points like graduating from a school, or getting that first big job. Or it could be getting engaged or married. Sometimes I hear people say let kids be kids and I agree to that to a certain extent. But it is never too early to teach love, respect, responsibility and righteousness. On Wednesday nights this summer, I have helped my church with our booth at the downtown market. We meet a good number of people with our free games for kids. The vast majority of the children are well behaved, even those who are not with their parents. But one seven year old has come to play box hockey for two weeks in a row, and my two year old brother throws less temper tantrums than he does. The little boy is that way because better behavior was not expected of him. I work with too many children who are past thirty. One man at work is such a computer genius that he has had a book written about him. Yet, this same person is so childish, he must park in the closest parking spot to the building, which happens to a handicapped spot. It is never too early to obey God.
Jeremiah was not in a perfect situation. From verse one, we see he was from a family of priests. His future should have been serving God in the Temple in Jerusalem. His perfect situation would be to be married, have a family, and to be serving in the temple in Jerusalem. But his future was uncertain, as the king of Babylon kept plundering the temple and taking the best Jews back to Babylon as slaves. Jerusalem was in the balance and ready for destruction. This must have caused Jeremiah must worry. Jeremiah would not be doing what his father or his father’s father did. He faced uncertainty.
God allows the same to happen to us. We have these goals in our minds as to what we will be when we have arrived. The weird thing is that we are often stuck doing something we never expected or being in a certain state for longer than we thought. Though I really don’t want to be single for the rest of my life, my job right now is to be the best single guy I can be. Some people have children when they don’t want them or get married too early, but it happens anyway. Their job is not to bellyache about the poor decisions, but to be the best parents and spouses they can be. If you are a teenager working in a supermarket, you are to be the best grocery clerk you can. If you are in college, you need to the best student for the Lord. We need to stop thinking that we need to prepare ourselves to serve God in some future task, but to meditate on how we can serve God now (by the way, beyond meditating on obeying, we need to actually obey). If we keep looking to a future date to serve our Lord, we may find ourselves ten years down the road and very far from God. God wants us to live for Him now. He does not want our money, our power, or our prestige. He wants us now.
1:4: "Then the word of the LORD came unto me…" God communicates with us. In the darkness of uncertainty, God spoke with Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a young man heading into a job that was being destroyed. Not only was Jeremiah’s nation under dominion by the pagan empire of Babylon, it was ripe for the judgement of God because of the sin of the people. Any righteous person could see the idolatry and wickedness and know that the Just God could no longer suffer such behavior. Though God is so great and so good, He spoke to this young man facing a dark future.
We are in a day and culture that deserves judgement. I am amazed when I meet people who are truly optimistic about our future. Though I love America, our nation has come to accept the unthinkable. When unborn children are murdered for the sake of convenience, we deserve the judgement of God. When our leaders are immoral and unfaithful, we deserve the judgement of God. When a bunch a people laugh hysterically and roll in the aisles and call it "revival," then we deserve the judgement of God. Though we deserve judgement, God has given us guidance and has spoken to us. Though we were lost in our sins and hated him, he showed Himself through the Word.
1:5: "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." God has a plan for each of us. Though Jeremiah saw an uncertain future, God had a clear task for Him. When we despair and have failures, we should always remember that each of us is here for a purpose. I do not believe has merely a general path for our lives. Some say that we are not special people like the prophet Jeremiah – I do not believe that for a second. God has a plan for the whole universe, He does not merely stand by a machine and watch it work and whatever come out is fine with Him. God spoke and there was light and stars and the universe. Just as real is His will for us.
1:6-7: "Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7 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." We do not trust God. The big problem with Jeremiah is that He cannot take the focus off himself. As long as he could only see a young priest in a destroyed nation, he was doomed to failure. But notice how Jeremiah said "Ah Lord GOD" – it could be translated, Ah Sovereign Lord!! Jeremiah recognized that God is Sovereign, that He is the one in control. If Jeremiah knew that God is in control, why did he look upon himself in doubt. His eyes were on a man. As long as our eyes are fixed upon ourselves or some other human, we are doomed to failure. We could focus all our attention on the godliest person living on Earth right now, and we would loose faith. No matter how great your pastor is, how big your church, how wonderful your job, or how much wealth you have, none of those are able to save you from sin, death, and hell. To have the faith to live for Him, we must look to anyone but the God who is in charge. We can trust the Creator (14:22): "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things." If the stock market crashed tomorrow, the weather patterns would not change. If our government fell, the planets would not veer off course. If all our friends and family left us, we would not loose our salvation. But if God took His mighty hand out of the universe, all would dissolve. We trust and look to the wrong things.
Jeremiah was right in one way – we are small and unable to change much. We are small, but we have a Big and Mighty God. We cannot do anything without His help. In my power, it is foolish to plead you to trust God. But God has empowered His Word and we cannot escape it. It is true that we are all children, but we are children of the King. Jeremiah, though young and uncertain, is promised guidance from the Greatest Source.
1:8: "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD." We should not be startled when people will react poorly to our presentation of God’s Word. Speak to most everybody in your town about what the Bible say about their need for a Savior and you know exactly how they will react. But when the God of the Universe says He is at our side to help us, why do we worry over reactions and mocking. We need to fear failing to serve our God more than the reactions of a sinful world.
1:9: "Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth." God will give the tools that we need to do His work – He is the Best Employer. The Hand of God touched Jeremiah’s mouth. Jeremiah knew that he was much of a speaker, but enabled him to speak the Word. We should never think that God sends us into a task and does not prepare us or give us the tools to do His work.
1:10: "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." God will ask us to do frightening things. God made Jeremiah a prophet to the nations. In that day, the word nations referred to the Gentiles. Jeremiah, though in Judea, is called a Prophet to the Nations. I think this is the case because judgement was certain for the Jews. They had so violated God’s Law that they were a lesson to the Gentiles. Jeremiah understood this and it was terrifying. Jeremiah’s job was to primarily tell future people, namely the Gentiles, of this terrible judgement. Jeremiah’s ministry was not primarily to convert the Jews, but to announce and chronicle their near destruction. Jeremiah did not even die in the hills of Judea, but deep in the heart of Egypt on the Nile River.
Living as a Bible-believing Christian right now can be frightening. Our culture has turned from God’s truth to man’s musings. Our nations have turned from the Fountain of Living Waters to dry wells. The broad path of destruction has never had more travelers. In this environment, God has called us to serve Him. Whatever He has called us to do specifically, we should be sharing the Good News to those dying and going to hell. Sharing the Good News is scary – it is dying to self. The task that the Lord may call us to may shake our foundations. We may feel totally ill equipped and uncertain, but we must trust God.
Jeremiah must have thought that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He never found his "perfect situation." Jeremiah never married, had a family, or served in the glorious Temple of Solomon. Instead, Jeremiah was mocked, hated, imprisoned, thrown in a cesspool, and exiled to Egypt. Sometime we look at where our lives have gone, and we wonder the same thing. We are born-again Christians in the last decade of the 20th Century, but we are not here by mistake. God has put us here for a purpose. He has communicated His will to us through the Bible. He has promised to be at our sides, helping us. He has promised to equip us to do His will. Though He may ask us to serve Him in a way that frightens us, we must trust in Him. God still used Jeremiah deep in the heart of Egypt with the temple gone and Jerusalem burned. We must serve God, no matter where we are and what we are doing.