Open Up and Say “Ah”

January 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

There have been many Jeremiahs, but two Jeremiahs really stand out in the history of the world. One was the famous prophet of the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible. The other one was a bullfrog featured in the 1971 hit song, “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, which starts starts off with the lyric, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.” Okay, I will admit I am little biased about the latter Jeremiah due to the fact that I performed that song, to much consternation, in front of my K4 class at the First Baptist Church preschool back in the day, along with dance moves that were more enthusiastic than graceful.

For now, we will stick with discussing the Biblical Jeremiah, whose book is found in the Old Testament section of major prophets between Isaiah and Lamentations. It was written by the Holy Spirit through Jeremiah himself.

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

Jeremiah 1:1-2

Jeremiah’s father was a priest, so this means that Jeremiah probably thought he was going to be a priest also, but the Lord had other plans for his life. The Lord spoke to him directly in Josiah’s 13th year as king, when Jeremiah was probably about 20 years old. The life of a priest was not necessarily easy, but it could be very mundane: teaching the law, overseeing temple sacrifices, inspecting lepers and other clean and unclean citizens, and a steady income. It was a noble profession, but it dealt much more with external religion than with the hearts of men and women. The job a prophet was way different.

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 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 1:4-5

Prophets were often unpopular. They had to say exactly what God told them to say. Their lives were unpredictable. They didn’t get a steady paycheck, or even room and board. Their provision came directly from God, but that requires more palpable trust. Additionally, prophets were needed when the people were disobeying and getting involved in idolatry. Whereas priests were concerned with external religion, prophets spoke directly to the heart. In a time when God’s people had forsaken His law, Jeremiah was supposed to tell them the truth about God’s justice, wrath, faithfulness to His promises, and, yes, His love.

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people were engaging in fornication as a means of pagan worship, they were doing this in order to promote fertility in their agriculture, and they were sacrificing their own children. You might think, “How barbaric!” but I’m afraid their wickedness would not hold a candle to us today. Our culture promotes fornication (sex outside of marriage), which results in unwanted pregnancies, and, therefore, sadly, sometimes abortion and other complications and and cruelties, and this is now considered okay in order to keep the population down and protect the environment. The devil does not have lot of new tricks. He’s been lying and tempting people with the same sins since the beginning.

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was created: before he was “formed in the belly.” God chose Jeremiah way before Jeremiah even had any consciousness, much less an ability to decide whether he would choose God. God set him apart for a special purpose. He was sanctified to serve God with his life (“and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,”). God chose his career (vocation) for him (“and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”). You and I need to recognize those same truths about ourselves.

God knew you before He made you. He chose you for himself before you were born. He is in charge of your life, so, whatsoever you do, you are called to do it for Him. But what was Jeremiah’s response?

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

Jeremiah 1:6

He did not receive this news with pride or even confidence. How would you receive it? Do you like to speak in front of large groups of people? How about when you know they are going to absolutely hate what you have to say? How about speaking before “the nations” – the whole world?

Jeremiah said, “Ah.” How do we read this? Did he sound like a patient having his tonsils examined by a doctor?

tongue depressor

Was he nearly speechless? Was the “ah” a gagging sound, an attempt to prove he wouldn’t be a good spokesman-prophet? Or was he saying “ah” in the tone of Sherlock Holmes finding a clue” “Ah-ha!”? Perhaps he sounded philosophical, like Confucius rubbing his beard thoughtfully and saying “ahhhh.” I don’t think so.

Like many of us, if suddenly God came to us and said, “Forget all your life’s plans, I need to you to get up and give a speech to the whole world telling them exactly what they don’t want to hear, and, by the way, as a prophet of God, if you get anything wrong, you have to die,” we would probably say “Ahhhhh!” in a terrified exclamation like the wide-eyed and open-mouthed passenger on the world’s scariest roller coaster.

roller coaster scream

That is probably closer to what the word means in the original Hebrew. It was used to express a grunt of pain. I hope you and I have not gotten so comfortable with the Word of God that it no longer produces in us a guttural, primal reaction – yes, even an emotional response – a palpable and passionate cry, depending on the condition of our heart when we read or hear it, that God is not pleased… or that God loves us… or that He has called us to the greatest service that we could never deserve… or that He would send His Beloved Son to die for a sinful worthless wicked wretch like me.

Clear Calls for Christians: Point Upward

September 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, Uncategorized | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As Christians:

I. We are called to Pure Upgrade.
II. We are called to Proper Unity.
and
III. We are called to Point Upward.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

I Corinthians 1:26

We are called to recognize our weakness, our foolishness, and our lack of nobility, and to still believe and act as though this message from our King and Redeemer will confound the mighty.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

I Corinthians 1:27

We are called to believe and act as though the message will conquer the world. We are called to admit that we do not deserve to be loved and helped by this King. God calls the weak and the foolish, not because He has a weak spot for the helpless, not because it’s His fault that we are like that, not because He has to take what He can get. No, the primary reason He uses the weak and the foolish is to show off His glory.

That no flesh should glory in his presence.

I Corinthians 1:29

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

We are called to preach and live the Gospel, and – when it works – to point straight upward.

Clear Calls for Christians: Proper Unity

August 11, 2014 at 11:49 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last time we saw that, as Christians:

I. We are called to Pure Upgrade.

Additionally:

II. We are called to Proper Unity.

The fellowship with Christ to which we are called is a good segue into another fellowship to which we are called: the fellowship with each other.

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

I Corinthians 1:10

“All speak the same thing” = “all be on the same page.” This is not what was going on in Corinth:

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

I Corinthians 1:11

According to Proverbs 13:10 contentions only come by pride. They often lead to factions – choosing up sides – and that’s what happened here.

Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

I Corinthians 1:12

Paul’s response to this was his usual response, in a way. He pointed to Christ.

Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

I Corinthians 1:13

Christ is not divided, and He never has been – neither bodily (one of many reasons why the Roman Catholic practice of the “eucharist” is heretical), nor doctrinally. Only Christ died for us, and we are to be baptized in His name, not in the name of the preacher who does the dunking.

Paul did not preach that baptism saves.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

I Corinthians 1:17

He preached a message that has always sounded foolish to unbelievers.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

I Corinthians 1:18

But it is a message that is incredibly exciting and transformative for new believers. Why such a simple message? Why a crucifixion? So God would get all the glory and credit, not His messengers.

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

I Corinthians 1:23

The Jews tripped and fell over the idea that their King would be crucified. The Greeks could never be impressed by a message which said that the Savior of the world was a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. But we need to see ourselves as having a third specific calling, which we will look at next time.

Clear Calls for Christians: Pure Upgrade

August 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, Uncategorized | 18 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Have you ever heard someone say that he was “called to preach?” Or “called to teach?” Or “called to join the choir?” How does this work? Is it like when someone says, “God laid this on my heart?” “God told me to go back to that person and ask her if she’s okay?” Have you ever felt left out and lonely because it seems like everyone but you is getting private messages from the Lord telling them what to do? Did it make you feel like the sterotypical broken-hearted lover staring at the phone – just trying to will it to ring?

https://i0.wp.com/www.nea.org/assets/img/pubTomorrow/2010/TT10_06PHone.jpg

Christian publishers and booksellers have capitalized on this idea with books and devotionals like Jesus Calling, in which a young lady claims to have written down what Jesus told her privately, so she can pass it on to the readers.

I will confess that I am not sure what to do with all this. I have never to my knowledge heard the audible voice of God. There have been a few times when I have felt like He wanted me to do something, and I am often convicted about my sin – in my heart – but I never know for sure how to discern whether I’m hearing directly from God, or if it’s just something that occurred to me.

I don’t know what God might be calling you to do, but I do know that there are some things that He calls all Christians to do in the Bible. I like these much better than ambiguous feelings and nudgings which are open to my own private interpretation. Some of them are pleasant, some are not. “Die to self daily.” That’s a calling, but it’s not always easy to do. “Give your spouse a lot of hugs.” That’s easy (for me, anyway. My wife may see it differently!) In this short series I want to point out three things that you have been called to – in the Bible. They are specifically for Christians (and even more specifically for church members), and they are found in I Corinthians Chapter 1.

I Corinthians is a letter that the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to write to the church at Corinth. Paul had been there for about 18 months before moving on, and now he was writing to address the problems they were having.

I. We are Called to Pure Upgrade

Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

I Corinthians 1:1

Now, Paul was directly called by God. He didn’t become an Apostle by finding a Bible verse that told him to do it, but the age of the capital A Apostles is over, so that call – in the truest sense – is not for us. It is the next verse that lists a calling which every Christian has received, and which every Christian needs to answer.

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

I Corinthians 1:2

Notice that the Holy Spirit is addressing the church of God which is at Corinth. This was a local church body – an organized local fellowship of believers meeting together. You don’t have to go to a local church to be a Christian. You also don’t have to go home to be married, but I would be a terrible husband if I never went home, and I would be a poor Christian if I didn’t go to church frequently and regularly.

Notice also the two types of sanctification in Verse 2: positional (“are sanctified”), which means that Christians are set apart in Christ Jesus, marked by God as belonging to Him; and progressive, which deals with our participation (“called to be saints”). God has called us to be special – sacred – set apart – set apart from the world – and set apart unto Him.

Our sanctification classification comes with gifts, too. The Corinthian church members were wealthy in gifts.

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

I Corinthians 1:4-5

They were especially wealthy in revelatory gifts. Our spiritual gifts are given to us by God so that we can use them not as trophies to brag about, or toys to play with, or weapons to fight each other with, but as tools with which to build Christ’s Church.

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

I Corinthians 1:7

We are building a building of fleshly stones – believers brought into the Kingdom and placed in the body of Christ to serve and glorify Him.

This is one of the clearest callings for Christians: the call to pure upgrade. When we get saved, the blame for our sins is taken away, but we are still blameworthy on a daily basis. Our sanctification is about going from being blameworthy to blameless.

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 1:8

Blameless is not sinless, but it does have to do with the purification of our motives.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

I Corinthians 1:9

God is faithful to get us to a state of blameless sanctification. We could not do it on our own, but we are “called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ,” and that fellowship is promoted and enriched by our sanctification, just as it is hindered and strained when we move backward from blamelessness.

Next time, we will see another clear call for Christians: the call to proper unity.


Entries and comments feeds.