Don’t Baal on God

April 3, 2020 at 9:04 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:5

Do you know someone who used to attend church faithfully, but doesn’t anymore? What are some of the reasons that you’ve heard as to why they walked away from church? Perhaps their feelings were hurt by the real or perceived bad behavior of a church member or leader. Perhaps they identified hypocrisy in the church. Maybe they felt like they “just weren’t getting anything out of it.” Maybe they got involved in other activities and didn’t have time. It could be that their underlying motivation for coming to church was that they believed it was good for their children, but then, one day, their kids got too old for youth group.

We tend to give people a pass on these issues: “Well, they got of church, but that doesn’t mean they left God.” The Bible sure doesn’t look at it that way. Jeremiah 2:5 is a scalding rebuke, and it’s in the form of a rhetorical question because no one could actually give a satisfactory answer to the question, “What iniquity did your fathers ever find in God Himself?” And, by extension, “What iniquity can YOU claim to have found in Him?”

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

There are no imperfections in God’s character, in His will, or in His Word, and there is no “dark side” to God’s nature. He is immutable, so He does not turn from evil, because He never has and never could or can turn TO evil. It is logically impossible for God to sin. Therefore, while you might find a universe of faults with any and every church member, pastor, teacher, or leader you encounter, God has demolished this is a reason for walking away from HIM – and therefore from walking away from His covenant people.

The idea in the use of the term “walking” is not really physical footsteps; it is the idea of “following after” someone or something, the way Jesus recruited disciples by saying “Follow Me.” He didn’t mean just going to the same location He was going to in Judea (although in His earthly ministry that would have been part of it). He meant following His teaching and example – obeying Him and worshiping Him with attention and emulation.

God had Jeremiah tell the leaders in Jerusalem that they and their fathers (their ancestors) had a long history of “following” – of walking after – “vanity,” a play on the Hebrew word for “vain” (habal) and the similar sounding word for the false god Baal (bahal). In other words, they “Baaled (bailed) on God,” who HAD helped them, and was the the only one who COULD help them, because the other god is not even real – he’s vanity. He’s emptiness masquerading as fullness.

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was always “full,” because His “meat” was to do the will of His Father – the will of God.

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 4:31-34

The surest way to become empty is to follow after emptiness. If we become silly, vain, ineffective, then we will only have ourselves to blame, because God Himself is an endless source of satisfaction, purpose, joy, meaning, and fulfillment in this life and the next.

Camels as Booty

April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Question: We studied Jeremiah 49 yesterday in my Sunday School class, and I think I’m on to something in Jeremiah 49:32: “And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the LORD.” It says their camels shall be a booty. I know the word used in the Bible for a donkey is a** (Genesis 22:5), and sometimes people use that same word for “booty.” So I think Jeremiah was telling them that their camels would behave like donkeys – like they would be dumb or stubborn or whatever. Tell me if I’m right.

Answer: I follow your logic, and I like you’re enthusiasm, but I think you’re seeing the word “booty” anachronistically. It’s true that we do sometimes use the word “booty” for someone’s backside in modern times, for instance, when we tell our kids not to “shake their booties” when they are doing their praise motions, but it wasn’t used that way when the King James translators were translating the Hebrew text into English. For them, “booty” meant material possessions that were seized and stolen after a conquering enemy vanquished an opposing nation or tribe. You might recall hearing cartoon pirates saying, “Aaargh, me booty!” when they realize their ship has been raided, and that is closer to the meaning of the word when it’s used in the Bible.

So, I can’t really go along with your interpretation, although I’ll give you points for effort and cleverness. And, while we’re on that verse, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that many of Jeremiah’s oracles were in the form of poetry, rather than strict prose, which we can note in this verse by looking at the parallelism.

“their camels shall be a booty”
“their cattle [shall be] a spoil”

You can see the way these two thoughts parallel each other and explain the same concept with poetic variation. Their “camels” (the animals used to carry things) would be “booty” (stolen and used by the enemy), and their “cattle” (the animals used for food and milk) would be “a spoil” (taken away and possibly killed just for spite). God often used Jeremiah to paint very vivid and evocative images in his prophecies.

S.W.I.M. Up through the Depths with Beowulf

March 31, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Soon that great swimmer, who struggled to victory,
Who bested demons in battle, breasted and kicked his way up.
The currents were cleared, the sea creature was gone,
From that watery waste, since the wandering ghoul
Left this life, lost to the world.
He then swam to the shore, that sailor-protector,
Solid in soul, in the spoil rejoicing,
Holding that head, and the hilt of the sword.

From Beowulf, a New Verse Rendering by Douglas Wilson
Twenty-Fifth Fitt, lines 1680-1689

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

Psalm 130:1

The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.

Psalm 77:16

From Investing to Interceding

March 30, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.

Luke 19:11

People were expecting a political and military revolution, but instead Jesus taught a parable. It is a parable about a nobleman or a king who had to leave his kingdom for a while, but is going to come back.

And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

Luke 19:13

He leaves some of his funds with these servants and tells them to “occupy” – to put the funds to use – to get busy investing or using the funds to advance the kingdom to show their loyalty or faithfulness. “Pounds” is translated from the Greek word mna, which was about three months’ wages or the rough equivalent of $5000 today. When the nobleman gets back, he asks three of them for an accounting.

Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.

Luke 19:16

That’s a pretty good return, like investing $5000 and receiving another $150,000 in return!

And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.

Luke 19:7

The nobleman tells him he has done a good job, and that his reward is… more work! But it’s honorable work.

And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.

Luke 19:18

This is not as much, but still really good.

And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:

Luke 19:19-20

I’m no investment expert, but I’m thinking “hide the money in the napkin” is not the wisest investment plan – and certainly not the most proactive. Here’s his excuse:

For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:

Luke 19:21-22

The nobleman basically tells him that he’s dug his own hole. The servant knew “about” his master, but he didn’t “know” his master. We need to be aggressively investing our lives, our talents, our funds, and especially the Gospel, because our Master is kind, but He is also going to demand an accounting.

And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.

Luke 19:35

In the record of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem we see four attitudes about Him:

1. The Roman soldiers saw Jesus as innocuous.

This parade would have looked pretty silly to them. Do you have trouble taking Jesus seriously? You shouldn’t. He is eternally serious and significant.

2. The Jewish people saw Jesus as insurrectionary.

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

Luke 19:37-38

They wanted to see salvation in a visible way, and to see it right at that moment. They sang a Psalm of deliverance. They hoped Jesus would deliver them from Roman rule and re-establish the kingdom of Israel on earth the way King David had done. Do you see Jesus as only the answer to your financial or health or or marriage or parenting problems? I hope not. He is much more than that.

3. The religious leaders saw Him as inconvenient.

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Luke 19:39-40

He was a threat to their religious profiteering. Do you see Jesus as inconvenient, as though He is in the way of your “fun” or your career or your social climbing? I hope not. Jesus is more important than all of those things combined.

4. Jesus saw Himself as intervening and interceding.

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

Luke 19:41-42

Jesus loved the people He came to live and die for, and He loves you today. Jesus got involved and He prayed and He did something about the problem. We must do these things also. The love of Jesus is real love.

The Gospel of Luke emphasizes Jesus’s humanity: He is shown joking, crying, compassionate, concerned, and even angry:

And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Luke 19:45-46

Matthew 21 and Mark 11 talk about Him turning over tables and casting out the religious profiteers who were desecrating the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus was not a faker. We should not be either. Be passionate rather than fake.

Expecting Jesus

March 27, 2020 at 9:11 am | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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The final chapter in the Gospel of John teaches us how we, as believers, are to relate to our risen Lord.

First, we must be ready for Him to appear at any moment – both “spiritually” (figuratively) and literally.

After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

John 21:1

Second, we must obey Him

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

John 21:5-6

We fish for men, but we must do it according to Jesus’s instructions. He has fish waiting for us to catch, but we don’t catch them with a depth finder, a fancy rod and reel, or a stick of dynamite tossed over the side of a boat. Those methods are exciting, but they are our own contraptions. We simply lower the net of the Gospel message and Jesus arranges it so that we haul in as many as He has prepared to be caught.

Third, we must love Him more and more.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17

We love Him more by knowing Him more but also by loving and serving (feeding) His people (His lambs and His sheep).

Fourth, we must follow Him.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

John 21:18-19

This was not merely Jesus’s recruiting pitch. It is an ongoing command for all of us. Our lives are inextricably linked to Him now. Just as He died, our old selves died with Him; and just as He rose, we are raised with Him to a new life. This may very well mean following Him into pain, sorrow, persecution, trials, struggles, and what we think of as premature death.

Loud and Clear

March 25, 2020 at 11:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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In Chapter One, Jeremiah was called and commissioned by God as a prophet to the kingdom of Judah. He was warned that this would not be a pleasant task, but he was also encouraged by the dual promise of God’s Word and His presence. We, too, have these same promises – in some ways to a greater extent: not just periodic revelations and instructions, but the full Book. And not just an intellectual and faith-based experience of God’s presence, but the constant in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We DO have those promises and assurances, but we DO NOT have the promise that our attempts to speak “prophetically” will be well-received, nor that they might not put us in danger. Just like Jeremiah, we should expect skepticism, anger, rejection, struggle, and even battle.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.

Jeremiah 1:17

Girding up the loins was what men in Bible times did when things were about to get real: for running or fighting or working.

For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.

Jeremiah 1:18

A defenced city is a place of protection, but the walls do get battered.

And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.

Jeremiah 1:19

After giving Jeremiah the visions or illustrations of the urgency of his mission (God’s judgment was right at hand), He told him him to go right to the “heart” of the problem.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

Jeremiah 2:1-2

Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, and the geographical capital of God’s Kingdom on earth. There was no “time in the minors” for Jeremiah; he was sent straight to the big leagues. Nor was there any “spying out” period; no “getting the lay of the land.” The command to “cry in the ears” was a command to get right in their faces, to be loud and bold. We think of proximity to the ear as an occasion for whispering, but Jeremiah was told to YELL right in their ears, and he started by delivering the preamble to a legal declaration by God against the people and the nation. This was like an indictment or the service of a lawsuit. It began with the history of the unfaithfulness of God’s covenant people.

Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:3-5

Scars in Heaven?

March 23, 2020 at 10:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: For Christians, if our bodies have scars in this life, will we still have those scars in Heaven?

Answer: I wish I could be more definitive on this one. I don’t know for sure how this will work. It is clear from Scripture that true Christians will have “glorified” bodies after the final resurrection (I Corinthians 15:42-54). These bodies will not experience pain nor sickness nor aging nor decay nor any infirmities, but they will still be “our” earthly bodies which God will somehow transform into a glorified state or form. Most of what we know about these “glorified” bodies comes from what the Scripture teaches us about Jesus’s glorified body after His Resurrection (Luke 24:39-43). They will be magnificent, but I do not know for sure if they will have scars.

I will speculate a little if you will not hold it against me 🙂. Jesus’s resurrected body still had the places (the “imprints” if you will) where His hands/wrists were pierced by the nails and where the Roman soldier’s spear pierced His side (John 20:24-29). I don’t know if those count as “scars” or not, but it may indicate that scars received in our earthly lives which bring glory to God will remain with us for a joyful testimony in our glorified bodies in Heaven. Perhaps other scars will disappear. I don’t know. As my wife has said, scars are, in a sense, evidence of healing, so we might value having those as eternal reminders of God’s grace in Heaven. Whatever the case, God will do what is best, and everything He does will bring eternal joy to true Christians once He calls us home.

Here is an article my wife wrote several years ago for one of our friends, which contains some great encouragement concerning scars: “From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks.”

A Blind Beggar and a Short Order Crook

March 19, 2020 at 11:02 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Luke | Leave a comment
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The Bible tells of two men who at first could not see Jesus – for different reasons. Was there a time when you wanted to see Jesus but could not? Do you remember what your reaction was the first time you did see Him?

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

Luke 18:35

Jericho was on the way to Jerusalem, which is where Jesus and His followers were going for Passover. This blind beggar had probably strategically placed himself in the path of religious people.

And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Luke 18:36-38

He used the Messianic title, pleading for mercy. He understood what the Disciples did not: that the One Who can “save” (sozo) – who could fulfill all the prophecies of the Messiah and truly deliver and heal blind people and cast out demons and make the lame to walk – was here, fulfilling the Scriptures. What an advertising campaign! Is this how you would choose to market your new business? Get some homeless blind guy to shout it out on the side of the highway? Or cause a disturbance somewhere, and when everybody gets mad at you, tell them all about it?

And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

Luke 18:39-42

The man got his sight because of his faith. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing. We walk by faith and not by sight, although a desire to see is a very good thing.

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

Luke 19:1-2

Zacchaeus was not only a crook, but a chief crook and a rich crook. We might also call him a “short” order crook.

And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

Luke 19:3-4

Climbing up in a tree was not very dignified behavior for a rich publican.

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

Luke 19:5

How would you feel about Jesus inviting Himself to your house?

And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

Luke 19:6

When you see Jesus, follow Him, talk about Him, and praise Him with others.

And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

Luke 19:7

These people were talking about Zacchaeus, referring to Him as a sinner. Nobody ever really accused Jesus of being a sinner; they accused Him of being the friend of sinners.

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus’s reaction was the opposite of the rich young ruler’s reaction.

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

Luke 19:9

The true sons of Abraham are those who are truly saved.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19:10

Seeing, Touching, Hearing, Reading, and Believing

March 17, 2020 at 10:23 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, John | 1 Comment
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Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

John 20:19

Jesus’s Resurrection happened on the first day of the week, which is why Christians meet for assembled worship services on Sunday rather than Saturday. Regardless of what you believe about the New Testament Lord’s Day replacing the Old Testament Sabbath, it is clear that Jesus fulfilled the work of God and instituted a new covenant/pattern/dispensation. God finished the initial work of creation after six days and commemorated it with a special holy day of “rest.” Jesus finished the work of redemption after six hours on the Cross, and commemorated it with a special holy day of new life.

A week later, despite having information strongly indicating that Jesus had risen, the Disciples were still in hiding, but also meeting together on Sunday. The resurrected, glorified body of Jesus had the power to appear suddenly inside a room with locked doors. Of course, as God, Jesus could do what He wanted with time and space and material objects, but this is often taken as a sign that our glorified, resurrected bodies will share this ability to move freely through space and objects.

The greeting of “peace” is important, as we remember Jesus’s promise in John 14. He did not condemn their fear; He comforted them with His presence.

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

John 20:20-21

This is John’s version of the Great Commission.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

John 20:22

Some Bible scholars see this as a temporary filling for ministry until the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Others see it as an object lesson or illustrated sermon, indicating that they should go forth with the God-breathed “inspired” Word and with the Holy Spirit once they were indwelt.

Ten Disciples had seen and touched Jesus personally after the Resurrection. Judas and Thomas had not been present to this point, and obviously Judas was no longer part of the team. Thomas needed definite confirmation before he would be convinced.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.

John 20:25-28

This is seen by many commentators as the climax of the Gospel of John. Thomas’s confession seems obvious to us today, but, remember, John was writing primarily for an audience he was hoping to convince of Jesus’s Deity.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 20:29

When we read about those who have not seen Jesus personally with our physical eyes, yet believe the Truth about Him, we can rejoice and say, “That’s us!”

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20:30-31

The somewhat limited scope of John’s Gospel is revealed and clarified. Its purpose is to invoke belief, yes, but not mere academic conviction. It is the kind of belief that is the means of eternal life.

God’s Sugar-Free Calling

March 10, 2020 at 10:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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This is what God said to Jeremiah:

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

Previously, I analyzed Jeremiah’s response:

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

And here is God’s response to Jeremiah’s response:

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.

Jeremiah 1:7

“Don’t say, ‘I’m a child,’” said God. God can not be fooled by our pleas of incompetence. In reality we are way more unfit for the work of the Lord than we even know or are willing to admit, but God was telling Jeremiah that because He was sending him, He would also equip him, and that, because Jeremiah would be speaking for God, God would tell him what to say. This is reason number 3411 why we need to be reading our Bible. How will we know what to say? How will we know what to do? How grieved the Lord must sometimes be to hear His children pleading, “Lord, please speak to me,” in a prayer of worried discontent, or saying, “Lord, speak to my heart. I want to see You,” when our Bibles are right there!

Did God love Jeremiah? Of course He did! There’s no greater love than to be chosen by God – to be elected as one of His servants – and then to be given His Word and the promise of His presence with us, but God didn’t say, “It’s okay, I know you’re nervous. It won’t be that bad. I’ll get you a speaking engagement with a friendly audience.” No, He told Jeremiah:

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:8

He told him not to be afraid of their faces, because their faces were going to be mad. Their faces would be “against him,” but God promised to be with him and to DELIVER him. Deliverance presupposes danger and difficulty and even the threat of death. The sine qua non for deliverance is captivity or threats of bodily harm.

God never sugarcoats His calling. He never uses a bait and switch sales pitch. He never covers up the crown of thorns while promising a rose garden. The call to follow God is a call to die to ourselves, to take up a cross, and to follow Him in a world that, really, at the most basic level, hates Him and His message. What building contractor starts a building without first counting the cost? What King declares war without reviewing His troops and the prospect of great losses in the attempt at victory?

God went on to tell Jeremiah this:

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.

Jeremiah 1:10

This was going to be hard work: pulling down nations, destroying cities, rooting out sin in the heart, building in places where building would be treacherous, planting in rocky, dry, hostile terrain. This list of metaphors is not the prosaic, to-everything-there’s-a-season, rolling-on-the-river-of-life, just-accepting-what-comes-next list that calls to mind the Book of Ecclesiastes. No, this this is a call to war, to battle, to shake the foundations of the mightiest civilizations in the world.

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