“When God Calls” – Jeremiah 1

April 28th, 2019 10:50 Communion

Jeremiah 1

“When God Calls”

Possible Aux. Texts: Matt 16:13-20

Call to Worship: Psalm 81

 

Service Orientation: When God calls, we must listen and obey.  To fail to do so is to bring disaster for both ourselves and those around us.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” — Luke 11:28

 

Background Information on Jeremiah – the Man:

  • Jeremiah did not volunteer for service. He was drafted.  All his life, he remained an unwilling spokesman.  The lad did not want to begin, and often he wanted to quit.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 16)
  • He patently did not seek the office on his own. Realizing that ability in public speaking was essential to the prophetic office, he stated his lack of eloquence.  But what God required for Jeremiah’s ministry, which was to be so sad and denunciatory, was a tender heart able to sympathize with the condemned.  Little could the young man know how difficult, hopeless, and heartbreaking his task would be.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 383)
  • The prophet was born into a family of priestly lineage in Anathoth, a scant two or three miles from Jerusalem. Although born of priestly lineage, his own family would eventually oppose him (11:21-23; 12:6); the reasons for their plot against him are not given. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 289)
  • The ministry of a prophet, however, was quite another matter, because you never knew from one day to the next what the Lord would call you to say or do. The priest worked primarily to preserve the past by protecting and maintaining the sanctuary ministry, but the prophet labored to change the present so the nation would have a future.  When the prophet saw the people going in the wrong direction, he sought to call them back to the right path.

Priests dealt with externals such as determining ritual uncleanness and offering various sacrifices that could never touch the hearts of the people (Heb 10:1-18), but the prophet tried to reach and change hearts.  At least sixty-six times the word heart is found in the book of Jeremiah, for he is preeminently the prophet of the heart.

Priests didn’t preach to the crowds very much but ministered primarily to individuals with various ritual needs.  Prophets, on the other hand, addressed whole nations, and usually the people they addressed didn’t want to hear their message.  Priests belonged to a special tribe and therefore had authority and respect, but a prophet could come from any tribe and had to prove his divine call.  Priests were supported from the sacrifices and offerings of the people, but prophets had no guaranteed income.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 16)

  • Prophets did more than reveal the future, for their messages had present application to the life of the nation. They were forthtellers more than foretellers, exposing the sins of the people and calling them back to their covenant responsibilities before God.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 21)
  • Jeremiah preached to the nation for forty years, giving them God’s promises and warnings; yet he lived to see Jerusalem and his beloved temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army and his people taken captive to Babylon. Jeremiah ministered in turbulent times and yet remained faithful to the Lord.  He exposed the futile foreign policy of the rulers, pleading with them to turn to the Lord with all their hearts and trust God instead of trusting their political allies.  Jeremiah is one of Scripture’s greatest examples of faithfulness and decisive action in the face of physical danger and national decay.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 19-20)
  • The forty plus years given for Jeremiah’s ministry (ca. 627-584 B.C.) cover some of the most tumultuous and tragic events of the nation’s history. Included among them were rebellions against foreign control, the death of Judean kings at the hands of foreign powers, the demise and virtual destruction of the nation itself, and the forced descent of the prophet into Egypt in the aftermath of the destruction.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 45)
  • Jeremiah becomes a prophet to the nations by virtue of what he says, not through a job given him in Jerusalem or by popular vote. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 50)
  • Under God-fearing Josiah, he remained unmolested by the government and enjoyed such cordial relations with the king that he composed an eloquent lamentation at the time of the king’s death at the battle of Megiddo. Yet, even among his fellow priests and relatives, Jeremiah had built up considerable ill will because of his forthright rebuke of their infidelity to the covenant and this condemnation of their worldly practices.

After Josiah’s death, with the rise of the idolatrous faction and the pro-Egyptian party, a serious reaction resulted against Jeremiah and all he stood for.  It was only through the interposition of a few God-fearing elders and princes that Jeremiah escaped arrest for his unpalatable arraignment of the nation in the temple sermon of chapters 7-10.  From that time on he seems to have been forbidden to enter the temple precinct, for he had to send Baruch as his spokesman whenever he had a message of God to proclaim before the people.  He therefore dictated his prophecies to Baruch that they might be read to the people of Jerusalem.  (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 360)

  • Much of Jeremiah’s preaching is aimed to produce repentance on the part of his hearers (e.g., the temple sermon, 7:1-5; 26:2-6), whereas in other parts of his preaching there is only the announcement of certain doom and disasters to come (e.g., 4:5-8, 19-21).

These differences may well reflect different stages in Jeremiah’s preaching, such that there was a transition to a time when repentance and averting disaster was no longer possible, and there remained only the certain expectation of judgment and exile. The prohibitions against the prophet’s intercessory prayer (7:16; 11:14; 14:11-15:1) presume such a transition. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 291)

  • Commentators have long recognized a probable relationship between Jeremiah and Hosea. The two prophets made common use of some figures and language. Jeremiah lived a bit north of Jerusalem, just at the southern edge of the northern kingdom, and he may have known of traditions about Hosea in part through geographical proximity to the north. Some have suggested that Jeremiah’s own family was descended from a line of priests through Abiathar (1 Kgs 2:26-27) reaching back to Eli and Shiloh (7:1-2; 26:6) in the north. It is particularly in Jer 2-3 that Jeremiah’s debt to Hosea is prominent. Hosea spoke often of God’s “loyalty, faithfulness” (hesed) to Israel (4:1; 6:4, 6; 12:6). Just as Hosea had typified Israel as an adulterous wife, so too Jeremiah describes Israel as an unfaithful wife turned to pursue her lovers (3:1-5, 20; Hos 2:14-15 [MT 16-17]). Jeremiah longs that Israel return to the devotion (hesed) of her youth as a bride in the wilderness (2:2). But like Gomer, the wife of Hosea, Israel too became promiscuous and a harlot (3:1-20), even though the Lord would remain her husband (3:14; Hos 2:2, 16 [MT 4, 18]). Jeremiah’s instruction to Israel, “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns,” may be a citation of Hos 10:12. Both prophets were also concerned with “the knowledge of God”: Hosea complained that there was no knowledge of God in the land (Hos 4:1) and that the people were destroyed for the lack of that knowledge (Hos 4:6). Through Jeremiah God complained that those who dealt with the law did not know him (2:8) and declared, “My people are fools; they do not know me” (4:22). Both prophets foresaw a day when Israel would “know” the Lord (31:34; Hos 2:20 [MT 22]). Both prophets indicted the nation for lists of offenses that violate the Decalogue (7:9; Hos 4:2). These are a few of the items that appear to indicate some possible familiarity with Hosea on the part of Jeremiah. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 296-7)
  • For Jeremiah Israel was God’s elect nation, those whom he had chosen (33:24). The prophet uses many images to portray this unique national status: Israel was the Lord’s “firstfruits” (2:3), his “choice vine” (2:21), his beloved bride (2:2; 3:14), his “flock” (13:17), his “vineyard” (12:10), his own inheritance (12:7-9); the Lord was father to a wayward son, husband to a faithless wife (3:19-20). (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 298)
  • God’s word for Jeremiah was powerful and self-authenticating (1:12; 4:28). It could not be restrained; the prophet himself could not hold it inside: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (20:8-9). It was overwhelming for Jeremiah: “My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and his holy words” (23:0; cf. Acts 2:13). God’s word was the hammer that smashed rock, the consuming fire in the straw (23:29). (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 299)
  • It was perhaps the fact that both Jeremiah and Jesus made pronouncements against the temple and city or the fact that there was a resemblance between the “Man of Sorrows” and the broken-hearted prophet Jeremiah that prompted the populace to associate Jesus with Jeremiah (Mt 16:13-14). There was a conspiracy against Jeremiah, and he compared himself to a lamb on the way to slaughter; this became reality for Jesus (11:19; Isa 53:7; Acts 8:32). (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 301)
  • Hosea suffered shame and reproach because of a wicked wife; Jeremiah was deprived completely of marriage and fatherhood to symbolize the barrenness of a land under judgment (16:1-13). Such celibacy was rare among the Jews and undoubtedly reinforced questions about his normalcy. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 404)
  • Jeremiah took sin seriously because he took God’s righteousness seriously. It remained for a later Sufferer to show how to hate transgression, and yet make intercession for the transgressors. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 408)
  • This need for and hope of total transformation beginning with the new law written in new hearts shapes Jeremiah’s view of the future. It is expressed more in spiritual and personal terms than in political, as would be expected of a prophet who witnessed the tragic failure of a political system and sensed that no superficial reformation could provide lasting remedy. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 426)
  • The vitality of his religious experience and his sense of intimate communion with God virtually preclude logical formulations. Consequently, a better approach is the consideration of specific emphases in the prophetic outlook of Jeremiah. His concept of God had much in common with that entertained by the eighth-century prophets, in that he acknowledged the Deity as the creator and sovereign overlord of the universe (Jer 23:23; 27:5; 31:35) as well as the ruler of history, who could commission individuals such as Nebuchadnezzar to do his bidding (Jer 27:6). The God whom Jeremiah worshiped knew the inner hearts of all men (Jer 17:5ff.), and was an ever-invigorating “fountain of living waters” (Jer 2:13) for those who trusted in Him. While He showed tender love towards Israel, He demanded their implicit obedience (Jer 2:2; 7:1ff.; 31:1ff.) and abhorred both sacrifices to pagan deities (Jer 7:30f.; 19:5) and oblations offered to Him by a disobedient nation (Jer 6:20; 7:21f.; 14:12). (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 818-9)
  • At a time when the popular view of religion gave esteem only to the ritual performances demanded by cultic tradition, Jeremiah consistently emphasized that true obedience to God could be engendered entirely independently of either Temple or cults. On such a basis the hallmark of his concept of personal religion was the elevation of the mortal law over the ceremonial, a principle that he applied resolutely to such matters as reverence for the Ark of the Covenant (Jer 3:16), the tables of the Law (Jer 31:31), the sign of circumcision (Jer 4:14; 6:10; 9:26), the sacrificial system (Jer 6:20; 11:15; 14:12), and other material adjuncts of Israelite religion. (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 819)
  • For Jeremiah the sole remedy for the sin of the nation lay in sincere repentance and following a life of obedience to the divine will (Jer 9:23f.). (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 820)
  • The messianic prince, a righteous branch of the house of David (Jer 23:5; 30:9; 33:15f.), would insure that justice and equity were prevailing features of life in the land. Jeremiah had nothing to say about a restored Temple and cultus, for his predominant concern was with a future that would be characterized by spiritual regeneration and moral purification in the lives of the Chosen People. (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 820)
  • Tough-minded but tenderhearted, Jeremiah was the most introspective of all the prophets. He dared to dialogue, even debate, with God.  This great man never wanted to preach.  Only the fire shut up in his bones kept him from quitting.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 22)

 

Background Information on Jeremiah – the Book:

  • In the Hebrew text, the book of Jeremiah is the largest book of the prophets, longer than the twelve so-called minor prophets combined. The prophet Jeremiah is among the most accessible personalities of the OT: we have a wealth of historical and biographical material bearing on his life, and the prophet openly bares his soul in a number of his prayers. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 285)
  • The material begins with an account of the prophet’s call and earlier prophecies. The successive chapters, however, wander hither and thither over the long and rugged course of Jeremiah’s active life.  Without warning, the scene shifts.  The same chapter may contain sections that belong to widely different periods in the prophet’s ministry.  In other sections, the reader may not find any specific indication about the situation or period of the prophet’s life reflected in the portion he is reading.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 4)
  • In the OT the prophetic books of Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Nahum, and Ezekiel address audiences whose life spans overlap with those first addressed by Jeremiah. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 46)
  • Part of the challenge represented by Jeremiah is that the materials in the book are not presented in a sequence or structure that is readily discernible, or at least an overall coherent structure for the book has eluded interpreters. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 294)
  • A sudden change of person takes place frequently in the book. It occurs most often in Jeremiah’s prophetic oracles.  One has difficulty determining when the prophet is speaking and when the words are directly from Yahweh.  The prophet so identified with Yahweh that his word actually became Jeremiah’s word.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 14)
  • The book vividly describes the nationalism, the paranoia, the competing interests of pro-Babylonian and pro-Egyptian groups, the struggle between the “hawks” and the “doves” in Judah. In the midst of it all, Jeremiah was called to proclaim the word of God, first offering God’s blessing if the nation would repent, but then assuring her of a future restoration when divine judgment could no longer be averted. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 287)
  • Part of the difficulty in studying the book of Jeremiah is the seeming disarray of the materials. Oracles from many different periods of his ministry are arranged in sequences for reasons that are difficult to discern, and most are not assigned a specific date whereby one can assess how Jeremiah responded to the various international and social crises he encountered (see the appended list of datable materials in Jeremiah at the end of the chapter). The assignment of undated materials to various periods of his life can only be done on the basis of the “fit” various interpreters find between the oracles or narratives and the particular socio-geo-political situation of Judah at a given time. For this reason there has been wide disagreement over the historical setting for much of the book. The materials are not in a chronological sequence and do not seem to follow a coherent plan, or at least, if there is some inner logic to the arrangement, it has escaped interpreters. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 289)
  • Here in Jeremiah as in other books of the OT we meet this paradox of the relationship between God’s promises to David and his insistence on obedience. On the one hand, God’s covenant with David is conditioned on obedience (17:24-25; 21:12; 22:1-5, 20). On the other, it cannot be broken irrevocably, for God will make a new covenant with David and his descendants (23:5; 30:9; 33:14-17, 21-22), a covenant as sure as the day and night (33:23-26). (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 299)
  • Jeremiah had warned that the temple could be abandoned just as God had abandoned Shiloh (7:12, 14; 26:6). As he himself left the temple precincts for the last time, Jesus also warned the people that their “house” [temple/city/country] would be left desolate (Mt 23:39-24:1). But in Matthew’s gospel, the God who abandons the temple is none other than Jesus himself (Winkle 1986, 171); he goes out, never to return. (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 301)
  • After Jehoiakim brazenly burned the first scroll, Jeremiah dictated a second, even longer scroll (36:32), which probably corresponded even more closely to chs. 1-25. That substantial portions of the first half of the book are in the first person suggests that they had been either dictated by Jeremiah himself or preserved as originally preached. The second half of the book uses the third person and contains much more prose in proportion to poetry. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 409)
  • Virtually all of chs. 26-52 is prose (even the recorded speeches), in contrast with the preponderance of poetic oracles in chs. 1-25. Chief exceptions are chs. 30-31, which form part of the Book of Consolation (chs. 30-33), and the oracles against the nations in chs. 46-51. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 409)

• Biblical scholars have questioned the Jermianic authorship of some sections of the book. The text itself seems to indicate that ch. 52, which closely resembles 2 Kgs. 24:18-25:30, is not to be ascribed to Jeremiah, since the last line of 51:64 says: “Thus far the words of Jeremiah.” This chapter must have been added to the edition of Jeremiah and Baruch to show by its graphic account of the fall of Jerusalem how Jeremiah’s prophecies had been fulfilled literally. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 409)

• By destroying the scroll containing these indictments and threats (ch. 36), Jehoiakim did more than show disdain for the prophet; he sought to break the power of the prophecy. Its power, however, lay not in carbon scrawls on Baruch’s parchment but in the word of the eternal Lord that could not be broken. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 415)

• (v. 10)  God next made Jeremiah’s task explicit.  It consisted of two essential elements.  He must tear down.  He must build up.  Good preaching is always thus divided.  Today’s secular world cries loudly and insistently for the “positive approach.”  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 17)

  • “To uproot” is to dig up nations by the roots and turn them under. It is a word that Jeremiah uses more than all the other biblical writers combined, often to describe the uprooting of idols (e.g. 12:14-17).  To “tear down” is to tear down a standing structure, like knocking down a city wall or toppling a tower.  “To destroy” is another word for knocking things down.  To “overthrow” is to demolish, to bring to complete ruin.

Once the Lord uproots, tears down, destroys, and overthrows a nation, there is not much left.  There is a great deal of that kind of judgment in the rest of Jeremiah’s book.  This verse is not only Jeremiah’s job description, it is also a helpful plot-summary of his book.  He lives in such evil days that judgment will outnumber grace two to one.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 26-7)

  • But grace will have the last word. When the cities of evil have been torn down and plowed under, God will start afresh.  He will begin a new work.  He will “build” and he will “plant.”  He will bring renewal out of demolition. . . . . This is also God’s plan for salvation in Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (Jn 2:19).  The temple of Jesus’ body was uprooted and torn down from the cross.  It was destroyed and overthrown to the grave.  But God built and planted resurrection life into the body of Jesus Christ.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 27)
  • (v. 11) The Hebrew word for almond tree sounds like the Hebrew verb to watch (cf. NIV note). The almond tree becomes a sign to Jeremiah that God is watching over his word to bring it to fulfillment.  This is another way to define the work of a prophet.  The prophet is called to obedience, and God is responsible for using the word for his own purposes.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 50)
  • (v. 11) What is the sign that winter is over and spring is on the way? In the northern United States, the first harbinger of spring is the robin.  In my Midwestern childhood, a better indicator of spring was the forsythia bush on the side of the house.  When tiny yellow blossoms started to appear on the forsythia, spring was definitely on its way, and the urge to get out a baseball glove was irresistible.  In Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms mean spring. In Oxford, England, it is daffodils.

In Anathoth, where Jeremiah was born, it was almond blossoms.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 29)

  • (vss. 11-12) The almond tree: God’s Word will be fulfilled. In the Holy Land, the almond tree blossoms in January and gives the first indication that spring is coming.  The Hebrew word for almond tree is saqed; while the word for “watch” or “be awake” is soqed.  The Lord used this play on words to impress Jeremiah with the fact that He is ever awake to watch over His Word and fulfill it.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 24)
  • (v. 13) A “boiling pot” can only signify calamity. It is not stated that the pot was facing toward the north but that it was “tilting away from the north,” that is, facing toward the south, where its contents would be poured out.  It would strike from Babylon.  Though Babylon is located east of Judah, her armies–and all invading armies from Asia–would invade Palestine from the north because of the impassable Arabian desert.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 385)
  • (v. 13) When the Babylonians come, they will be marching to God’s orders. God is the one who will tip the “boiling pot” and pour it out over Judah.  Judging sin is God’s prerogative.  He is the righteous judge who uproots and tears down nations, who destroys and overthrows kingdoms (v. 10).  As he says in verse 16, “I will pronounce my judgments on my people.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 32)
  • (v. 15) The setting up of the thrones at the gates of Jerusalem, the place of public business, implies complete subjugation. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 386)
  • (v. 17) When God told Jeremiah to gird up his loins, what he was really telling him to do was to put on his combat fatigues. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 35)
  • No OT prophet used a wider variety of literary forms or showed more artistic skill than Jeremiah. In its remarkable marriage of form and content, Jeremiah’s poetry has both power and pathos. Given what Jeremiah was called to say–in his messages of doom and hope, his pleas for repentance, his confessions of personal struggle–it would be difficult to have said it better.

Like his fellow prophets, Jeremiah used literary patterns familiar to his hearers, but in fresh and striking combinations that gave his oracles a vitality, a vividness, and an urgency unsurpassed in the Bible. (William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard & Frederic Wm. Bush, OT Survey–The Message, Form, and Background of the OT, 418-9)

  • Some expositors have judged Jeremiah’s prophecy to be the most difficult in the OT. Many passages have eluded the comprehension of diligent commentators.  Jeremiah, it has been claimed with some justification, is the least read and least understood of all OT books because it reveals no clear arrangement and demands so much extrabiblical, contemporary history for its understanding.  Not surprising, then, while many commentaries have been written on the Book of Isaiah, Jeremiah has suffered from neglect.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 357)

 

Background Information on Jeremiah – the Historical Context:

  • Jeremiah’s career runs from the time of his call to prophetic ministry during the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (627/26 B.C.; Jer. 1:2) through the destruction of Jerusalem and his subsequent departure into Egypt (41:16-44:30). (Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 287-288)
  • The boy-king Josiah had begun to seek the Lord in his teens, and at the age of twenty he began to purge his country of idolatry. One year later, in 627, Jeremiah began his long career as a prophet.

Meanwhile, abroad, Assyria was at last beginning to falter.  For some years the edges of its vast empire had been under threat: with serious trouble in the east from Elam and the Medes, with steppe-dwellers raiding from the north, Arab tribes pouring into Edom and Moab from the Arabian desert, and disaffection in Syria and Palestine.  Asshurbanipal was a strong enough king to suppress these movements, but his death in 627 (the year of Jeremiah’s call) precipitated civil war over the succession, and, most ominously, saw the important city of Babylyn breaking away to independence under a Chaldean named Nabopolassar.  In 626 this man defeated the Assyrians outside Babylon and became its king.  If his name is not a household word, his city and his son made up for this: Babylon as the centre of the neo-Babylonian empire which he founded, and Nebuchadrezzar as its king from 605 to 562.  (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 15)

  • In 621 B.C., during the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah initiated a systematic reformation of religion and morals in the southern kingdom (2 Kgs. 23:3ff.). This was provoked by the discovery of a law-book during the course of renovations to the Temple fabric. (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 804-805)
  • During the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-597 B.C.) the fortunes of the prophet Jeremiah were at a low ebb. This situation was precipitated by the so-called “temple address” (Jer 7:1-8:12), delivered about 609 B.C., in which Jeremiah castigated the people of Judah for their superstitious trust in the Temple at Jerusalem as a source of deliverance in time of crisis. When he prophesied that God would destroy the Temple as He had previously obliterated the shrine at Shiloh, and cast the people of Judah out of His sight, he provoked an angry uprising that almost cost him his life. (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 806)
  • The Assyrian empire had disintegrated, and its place in Mesopotamian affairs had been taken by a powerful Babylonian regime. Egypt had once more asserted its claim to a voice in the political doings of the Near East after more than a century of decline, and appeared certain to challenge Babylonian military might sooner or later. If Judah was to become an ally of Egypt she would naturally suffer severe consequences if an Egyptian defeat took place, or if the Babylonians decided to invade southern Palestine and use it as a base for future operations against Egypt. Painfully aware of what the future held, Jeremiah foretold that Judah would be engulfed by the might of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 25:9), and in consequence of this foresight he made dramatic, if unavailing, attempts to influence the foreign policy of his country so that Judah might become a vassal of Babylon, and thus be spared the horrors and agonies of destruction (Jer 27:6ff.). (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 806)
  • After the attack of 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah (Mattaniah), the uncle of Jehoiachin (2 Kgs. 24:17), as a puppet ruler in Judah. He thereby inadvertently sealed the doom of the southern kingdom, for Zedekiah was essentially a weak and vacillating person. Despite an oath of allegiance to Babylon he was unable to prevent intrigue with Egypt, particularly among the members of the new ruling class in Judah. The latter were continually urging him to ally with the Egyptians, and the accession of the pharaoh Hophra in 589 B.C., who himself had political ambitions in Palestine, added impetus to this movement, despite the most solemn warnings from Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 37:6ff.; 38:14ff.). (R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 807)
  • When Jeremiah began his ministry, Assyria, not Babylon, was the dominant power in the Near East, and no doubt many of the political experts thought Jeremiah foolish to worry about Babylon in the north. But the people of Judah lived to see Assyria defeated and Egypt crippled as Babylon rose to power and Jeremiah’s words came true.  Indeed, the thrones of the conquering Babylonian leaders were set in the gate of Jerusalem (39:1-3), and the Holy City was eventually destroyed.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 25)
  • (v. 13) During the century and a half in which Judah and Israel had been subjected to the imperial control of Assyria, the most humiliating defeats and the most serious threats had consistently come from the north-easterly routes linking Judah with Syria and Mesopotamia. Furthermore in the old Canaanite mythology the north as the location of the dwelling-place of the god Baal could have acquired a certain sinister and threatening connotation.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 21)
  • (v. 13) What was the significance of “north” in the vision? The contour of the land of Judah almost demanded that any invasion must come from the north.  The adjacent land on the east and south was barren desert.  On the west lay the Mediterranean Sea.  Almost always invasion came from the north.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 18)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What do we need to know about the Call of God?

 

Answer: God’s call is always in time but from eternity, infallible, enjoys God’s support, and is, in fact, God’s call.

 

His commission was not only dangerous, it was often depressing.  We have already been given a clue that the book of Jeremiah does not have a happy ending.  It ends with the people of Jerusalem being sent into exile.  Thus the book of Jeremiah is a tragedy rather than a comedy.  It is about the unraveling of a nation.  It is the sad story of the decline of God’s people from faith to idolatry to exile.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 26)

 

He lived in a time very much like our own, when people no longer think God matters for daily life.  Public life is increasingly dominated by pagan ideas and rituals.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 26)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Call

 

Every Christian has a calling.  There is a general call, of course, to believe in Jesus Christ.  But everyone who believes in Christ also has a special calling to a particular sphere of obedience and ministry.  Jeremiah was not just set apart for salvation, he was set apart for vocation.  God had work for him to do.  The prophet had a mission to accomplish and a message to deliver to his generation.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 21)

 

Calling, Call.  This is one of the most common words in the Bible, representing over twenty words in the Heb. And Gr. text.  In the OT the emphasis is on Israel’s corporate destiny; whereas in the NT the emphasis is on the call of the individual to repentance, faith and service.  The “called” comprise a larger group than the “chosen” who respond (Mt 22:14).

In Pauline theology the verb “call” and the noun “calling” almost always denote that sort of call which is issued by the Father, and is made effective through the Spirit.  It is such a call that produces a response of faith in Christ (Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 1:9; Gal 1:15; 2 Thess 2:13f.; 2 Tm 1:9; Heb 9:15; 1 Pt 2:9; 2 Pt 1:3; etc.).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, 694)

 

“To call” means “to summon or invite.”  Thus God called to Adam in Gn 3:9.  Moses called the elders together in Ex 19:7.  God called an assembly against Judah in Lam 1:15.  Joel issued the command to call a solemn assembly in Joel 1:14.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 580)

 

“To call” may be used in the sense of “to call one’s own.”  Actively God calls Israel His people (Isa 43:7; 45:4), and for this reason Israel may be described as called by the name of the Lord (Dt 28:10; Isa 43:1; cf. The temple in Jer 7:30).  This calling of Israel stands closely related to its election (Isa 45:4).  It thus points to the covenant relation in which Israel is called to salvation, is given its name, has the function of a divine witness, and receives the possibility and privilege of calling on God’s name with the assurance of prior response (Isa 65:24).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 580-1)

 

We are called to salvation, holiness, and faith (2 Thess 2:13f.), to the kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess 2:12), to an eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15), finally to fellowship (1 Cor 1:9), and to service (cf. Gal 1).

The means of calling also is clearly stated.  Calling is through grace (Gal 1:15) and comes through the hearing of the gospel (2 Thess 2:14; cf. 1 Thess 1:4f.; Rom 10:14ff.).  Since God, or Christ, is the author of the call, one might also refer to the Holy Spirit as the mediator of calling through the gospel (cf. 1 Thess 1:5).

The ground of calling is specifically established in 2 Tm 1:9.  Not works but the purpose and grace of God in Christ Jesus form the starting point for the divine calling.

The nature of God’s calling is described as well.  Along with God’s gifts, it will not be revoked (Rom 11:20).  It is a high or upward calling (Phil 3:14), heavenly (Heb 3:1) and holy (2 Tm 1:9), associated with hope (Eph 4:4).  Believers are exhorted to lead lives that are worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1; cf. 2 Thess 1:11).  If not all the called are chosen, the link with election holds fast.  The chosen of 2 Thess 2:13 are the called of v. 14.  Believers are exhorted to confirm their calling and election (2 Pt 1:10).  The “called and chosen and faithful” are with the Lamb in Rv 17:14.  Those whom God predestined He called, and those whom He called He justified and glorified (Rom 8:30).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 581)

 

In Christian history calling has been worked out more specifically in the two areas of calling to salvation and calling to sanctification and service.  Calling to salvation, which is also calling into the divine community, is accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the administration of the word and sacraments.  Within this generally accepted understanding a debate has arisen due to the fact that not all who are called are observed to be chosen.  Perhaps the most common view here is that calling carries with it the possibility of response, which in some cases may be negative.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 581)

 

When you study the OT prophets, you discover that three strands of truth wove their messages together: (1) past sin: the nation has disobeyed God’s law; (2) present responsibility: the people must repent or God will send judgment; and (3) future hope: the Lord will come one day and establish His glorious kingdom.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 23)

 

The Lord didn’t give Jeremiah a joyful message of deliverance to announce, but rather a tragic message of judgment.  So dangerous was this message that people hearing it called Jeremiah a traitor.  He would be misunderstood, persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned–and more than once, his life was in danger.  The nation didn’t want to hear the truth, but Jeremiah told them plainly that they were defying the Lord, disobeying the law, and destined for judgment.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 24)

 

Jesus like Jeremiah:  (Mt 16:13-14)  When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” {14} They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 

What do we need to know about the Call of God?:

I-  God’s Call is in time but from eternity.  (Jer 1:5; see also: Jn 15:16; Acts 13:2; 16:10; Rom 1:1; 9:11-24; 1 Cor 1:9, 26; 7:17-19; Gal 1:15; Eph 1:3-4; ; 2 Thess 2:13-16; 2 Tim 1:9; Heb 5:4; 1 Pt 2:9; 2 Pt 1:3)

 

God sanctified Jeremiah even before he was born.  This means Jeremiah was set apart by the Lord and for the Lord even before he knew the Lord in a personal way.  God would later do the same with Paul (Gal 1:15).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 21)

 

While Jeremiah was being carried around in his mother’s womb, God was making preparations for his salvation and his ministry.  To set something apart is to sanctify it or to dedicate it to holy service.  Long before Jeremiah was born, God chose him and consecrated him for ministry.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 21)

 

God formed Jeremiah in the womb.  Jeremiah had biological parents, or course, but God himself fashioned him and knit him together in his mother’s womb.  Telling children who ask where babies come from that they come from God is good theology.  And it is not bad science either.  The Lord of life uses the natural processes he designed to plant human life in the womb.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 20)

 

God’s claim on his life was prior to all other relationships, as with the Servant of the Lord (Isa 49:1-5), the psalmist (Ps 139:13-16), and Paul (Gal 1:15).  Jeremiah’s consecration was his being set apart for a definite spiritual purpose.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 383)

 

To be told, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, was to be given at once a new centre of gravity, away from his sole self and from the confines of the immediate scene, back to the Creator himself and to the master-plan.  The very expression, I formed you, brought its own hint of the potter’s care and skill (one day to be expounded further and applied more widely at the potter’s house, in ch. 18)–lest it should ever seem to Jeremiah that his sensitive and vulnerable nature was a cruel accident.  He was handmade for his task.  (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 25)

 

God’s choice is not unique to Jeremiah; it is true for every believer.  This is known as the doctrine of divine election.  “You did not choose me,” Jesus said to his disciples, “but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (Jn 15:16a).  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:3-4).  This promise is for the whole church.  Therefore, it is for the comfort of every Christian.  God not only knows you, he chose you; and he did so long before you were ever conceived.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 21)

 

He placed his hands on the knobs at the bottom of each roll.  “You can only see what’s inside the scroll,” he said, “as it unrolls.”  At that, he began unrolling it.  “So you can only see the fullness of God’s plans for your life as they unfold. . . as the scroll unrolls.  And unlike the books you’ve been used to reading, with a scroll, you can’t skip ahead to a future section.  Everything has to unroll in its order.  So with your life, you can never be shown all that lies ahead of you.  You wouldn’t understand it, and you wouldn’t be able to deal with it.  Everything must unfold in its order, in its place and time.”  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 115)

 

II-  God’s Call is infallible.  (Jer 1:6-7; see also: Ex 4:10-13; Isa 6:1-7; Rom 8:28-30; 11:29; Phil 1:6)

 

Your Plan B that you are going through right now is God’s Plan A for your life.  –Sandra Peoples

 

God never promises that our lives will be free of obstacles, problems, crises, and adversities.  He promises something better.  He will use every obstacle in your life to bring to fulfillment the very purposes He has planned for your life.  Every problem, every crisis, every adversity, every setback, and every sorrow will be turned around to bring breakthrough, blessing, and triumph.  And in God, every mountain, every obstacle that has hindered God’s purposes in your life, will, in the end, be turned around and become a capstone to bring about the completion of those very purposes.  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 313)

 

If you do not know what God is calling you to do, take an honest look at the gift he has given you.  If necessary, ask others to help you figure out what your gifts are.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 24)

 

Spiritual leaders must resist the temptation to insert their own best thinking where God has promised a miracle.  Attempting to hurry the process or to adjust God’s plan to make it more achievable are both signs of immature spiritual leadership.  Spiritual leaders must continually remind themselves that what God has promised, God will accomplish completely in his time and in his way (Phil 1:6).  (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 72)

 

If you obey only when you understand or agree with what is being asked, you are not obeying, you are only agreeing or affirming what is being commanded.  When you really obey, you do what you are told whether you agree or understand.  —Tim Keller

 

Either we will obey Acts 1:8, or we will experience Acts 8:1.  In the first text, Jesus calls us to be his witnesses beginning in Jerusalem and on to Judea, Samaria, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.  Acts 8:1 tells us that “on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria.”  (Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness, 89)

 

III-  Never Fear:  God’s Call enjoys God’s support.  (Jer 1:8-9, 18-19; see also: Isa 55:10-11; Rom 8:31; Phil 4:11-19; 2 Thess 3:3; Heb 13:5-6; 1 Pt 5:10; 2 Pt 1:3-4, 10)

 

You are absolutely safe as long as you are in danger.  (Alistair Begg on Jer 1:1-19)

 

“If God ordains it, God will surely find a way.”  (Marjorie Holmes, Two from Galilee)

 

As God’s children, we are chosen and set apart by Him and for Him (Rom 8:28-30; Eph 1:3-14).  This truth ought to give us great courage as we confront an evil world and seek to serve the Lord.  “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 21)

 

God’s gifts and presence should make us bold to do God’s work. — Pastor Keith

 

God did not disqualify Jeremiah on the basis of his youth and inexperience.  In fact, he treated him the same way he treated Moses.  He did not deny the basis for the prophet’s objection.  He did not argue with Jeremiah about his speaking credentials or quibble with him about his age.  Jeremiah may have had reasonable doubts.  But God exposed his false humility for what it really was: a lack of faith.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 24)

 

When God calls us, however, He isn’t making a mistake, and for us to hesitate or refuse to obey is to act on the basis of unbelief and not faith.  It’s one thing for us to know our own weaknesses, but it’s quite something else for us to say that our weaknesses prevent God from getting anything done.  Instead of being an evidence of humility, this attitude reeks of pride.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 20)

 

No matter what his age, however, God urges him to act and promises to be with him.  In his weakness, God will make him strong.  In God’s economy, it is not one’s inherent strength, abilities, or credentials, that count, but rather God’s presence.  For that reason, Jeremiah is not to be afraid to go to the people with God’s message.  Indeed, in the light of the divine command (“you must go” v. 7), he should only be afraid of not acting.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 22)

 

God begins by motivating with fear.  If Jeremiah is terrified by the people, he should be even more terrified of God.  But fear is not the only method of encouragement that God uses at this beginning point of Jeremiah’s ministry.  He not only insists Get yourself ready, he also informs Jeremiah that he has readied him for the task.  By using a series of military metaphors–fortified city, iron pillar, bronze wall, God describes how he has prepared the prophet to encounter hostility.  No one will be able to overcome him.  Why is the prophet so resilient?  God tells him I am with you and will rescue you.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 24)

 

When God ordains, He sustains.

 

Visionaries are never willing to shelve God’s vision simply because the resources appear to be unavailable.  I have learned that if the vision is from God, the resources will become available when necessary.  (George Barna; Turning Vision into Action, 111)

 

We ought to conform to God’s will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train.  It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of most value to us.  Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.

If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better?  Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future?  Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor?  Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father’s wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.

Are we not the children of God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ?  Being so, is there anything we can lack?  Let it be said boldly: whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses.  Everything then is ours.  But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything.  It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things.  Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage.  Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail.  To those gathered round to hear him our Savior said: If you evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father. . .? (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 58-9)

 

God repeated the warning He gave earlier (Jer 1:8)–that Jeremiah must not be afraid of the people who would oppose him, because God would defend him.  Surrounded by his enemies, the prophet would become a fortified city they couldn’t subdue.  Forced to stand alone, Jeremiah would become as strong as an iron pillar.  Attacked on all sides by kings, princes, priests, and people, he would be as unyielding as a bronze wall.  “I am with you to deliver you” was God’s reliable promise (vv. 8, 19), and in the battle for truth, one with God is a majority.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 26)

 

The first of these images speaks of a city with high walls and strong towers that render it inaccessible and impenetrable.  Against it even great multitudes would battle in vain.  The second term points to Jeremiah as a man of steel.  He would be firm and unmovable, a tower of strength.  The third term, “a bronze wall,” involves the toughest metal known to the ancients.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 20)

 

There is a mentality resulting from unbalanced faith teaching that equates continual expansion with walking in faith.  As a result, ministry, programs and newsletters are increasingly dominated by desperate appeals for money; their testimony to God’s faithfulness being that if they do not hear from us soon they will be forced to go off the air.  This has brought much grief and humiliation to the whole Body of Christ.  The Lord promised that His seed would not beg for bread (Ps 37:25).  When the Lord ordains a work, there will be no lack of provision to accomplish it.  When Moses asked the people for a contribution to construct the tabernacle, he had to restrain the people because they brought too much!  When a ministry has to beg, plead or threaten the body of Christ for its support, there has been a sure departure from the grace of God.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 72)

 

For Jeremiah’s ministry, the emphasis is undoubtedly on its destructive element; four verbs are used to express this, whereas two verbs indicate its constructive and restorative element.  God’s appointment brings with it his commitment of authority to carry out his goals for his prophet.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 384)

 

As the book will eloquently display, Jeremiah is not immune from human suffering or doubt, his security does not reside in his cleverness or physical stamina, but in the fact that God is with him.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 50)

 

Jeremiah hesitated as he looked at the work before him and the wickedness around him, and when he looked at the weakness within himself, Jeremiah was certain that he wasn’t the man for the job.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 20)

 

Jeremiah’s name means “Jehovah establishes,” and God did establish His servant and his ministry and cared for him to the very end.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 23)

 

The calling to be strong in the Lord is not just for prophets like Jeremiah.  It is for every Christian because every Christian faces spiritual danger.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 36)

 

IV-  Remember:  God’s Call is God’s Call.  (Jer 1:10-17; see also: Ps 19; 95; Prv 2; Micah 6:9; Mt 28:20; Gal 1:13-17; 1 Cor 1:2; 1 Pt 2:9; 2 Pt 1:3)

 

God’s plan is fulfilled not just through the obedience of inspired men, but also through their errors, yes, their sins. —Paul Tournier  (Ted W. Engstorm; The Pursuit of Excellence, 40-1)

 

When God called the universe came into being.

 

Obedience is the test of love, and it is rewarded by deepening intimacy.  Nothing is said about emotional reactions–only simple obedience.  The key question is not, “How do you feel?” but, “have you obeyed?”  Love is expressed through the will.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God, 100)

 

God so rules in history so that nothing occurs that is not taken into account in God’s plan.  In fact he foresees and arranges the glow of second causes in history and each individual life according to his infinitely wise will.  Yet the evil that occurs among those second causes arises only from the bondage of sin and death upon creation.  God uses them for his purposes, but he is not their author.  (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 144)

 

True obedience is on God’s terms, not ours.

 

In modern evangelicalism, the customary way of doing evangelism is to invite people to place their trust in Christ.  However, that concept is virtually foreign to the Scriptures.  God does not invite people to come to Christ; He commands them to come.  The invitation in Jesus’ parable was no different.  The invitees were given a royal summons.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 627)

 

If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, one to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire, the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village, it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will.  –John Newton  (E.M. Bounds, The Essentials of Prayer, 19)

 

The reason Jeremiah has authority “over nations and kingdoms” (1:10) is that he is not speaking on his own behalf.  God is sovereign over the nations, and he rules them by his Word.  When prophets speak in his name they are mightier than kings.  When preachers preach according to God’s Word they are mightier than presidents.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 25-6)

 

In one of his pamphlets on prayer, Price boasts that at one time he thought it was a mark of humility to end his prayers with the words “Lord, if it be Thy will.” He claims he has since come to a true knowledge of the things of God, and thus no longer ends his petition prayers that way.2 Says Price, “‘If it be Thy will’ is a badge of doubt.”3 Elsewhere he adds, “If you put, ‘If it be,’ on the end of a petition prayer, it will not be answered.”4 Price even has the temerity to write, “I believe the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is not for Christians today.”5

  1. Frederick K.C. Price, What Every Believer Should Know About Prayer, pamphlet (Los Angeles: Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, 1990), [4]. In light of the fact that the Faith teachers promote the error that “confession brings possession,” their dim view of adding “Thy will be done” to prayer is not too surprising. Their system, implicitly if not explicitly, opposes the biblical teaching of submitting prayer petitions to the will of God. After all, petitions in prayer are requests that are subject to God’s will, while confessions in Faith theology are outright demands supposedly guaranteed by God to bring each individual’s personal desires into being. As Price’s role model wrote: “I have found that the most effective way to pray can be when you demand your rights. That’s the way I pray: ‘I demand my rights!’” (Kenneth E. Hagin, The Believer’s Authority, 2d ed. [Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1984], 22).
  2. Frederick K.C. Price, Petition Prayer, or the Prayer of Faith, pamphlet (Los Angeles: Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, 1991), [1], emphasis in original.
  3. Price, What Every Believer Should Know About Prayer, [4].
  4. Frederick K.C. Price, letter to B.G. [name withheld for privacy] (14 October 1992).

(Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity In Crisis, 286)

 

Another famous prosperity teacher once preached the same message. And then something happened: He lost it all. The glitz, the glamour, and the gold all vanished. So did the cheering crowds. Almost overnight his riches were replaced with rags. Stripped of his star status, he found himself alone with Scripture. And so he began to read: I spent months reading every word Jesus spoke. I wrote them out over and over, and I read them over and over again. There is no way, if you take the whole counsel of God’s Word, that you can equate riches or material things as a sign of God’s blessing…I have asked God to forgive me…for preaching earthly prosperity.13

Contritely, he confessed that “many today believe that the evidence of God’s blessing on them is a new car, a house, a good job, and riches.”14 That, he said, would be far from the truth. “Jesus did not teach riches were a sign of God’s blessing…Jesus said ‘Narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it.’”15

Jim Bakker, who in 1989 was convicted of 24 counts of fraud, continued with these stirring words: “It’s time the call from the pulpit be changed from ‘Who wants a life of pleasure and good things, new homes, cars, material possessions, etc.?’ to ‘Who will come forward to accept Jesus Christ and the fellowship of his suffering.’”16

“I believe,” concludes Bakker, “the heart of God is grieved when we cannot delay self-gratification for earthly things in exchange for life in eternity with Him.”17

Perhaps Bakker has discovered the true meaning of prosperity. Perhaps he has truly internalized the words of Spurgeon, who summed it up eloquently: “The old covenant was a covenant of prosperity. The new covenant is a covenant of adversity whereby we are being weaned from this present world and made meet for the world to come.”18

  1. Paraphrased from Charles H. Spurgeon, “A Sermon from a Rush” [commenting on Job 8:11-13, sermon 651 of sermons preached during 1865] in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 63 vols. (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1989), 11:537.

(Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity In Crisis, 214-5)

 

The aim of the missionary is to do God’s will, not to be useful, not to win the heathen; he is useful and he does win the heathen, but that is not his aim.  His aim is to do the will of his Lord. . . Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints.  According to the judgment of the world, God plants His saints in the most useless places [I think of friends slogging their guts out faithfully in the inner city, or in the Middle East, both with apparently very little tangible fruit over many years].  We say, “God intends me to be here because I am so useful.”  God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are not judges at all of where that is.  –Oswald Chambers  (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 3-11)

 

Worship Point: Worship the God Who in all things . . . works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)

 

We live in a world of glandular Christianity.   We do it, we worship, we obey, we follow only  IF IT FEELS GOOD!

 

Gospel Application: We could never hear or respond to God’s Call unless the Holy Spirit enabled us to do so. (Isa 6:9; Jer 6:44; Acts 28:24-27; Rom 11:8-10; 1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 3:5; 2 Tm 1:9)

 

You cannot expect to be ready for God’s call, or even to recognize God’s call, unless you are obeying what God has already revealed to you.  This includes the obvious things, such as spending time in prayer and Bible study, serving the people with whom you live, remaining active in the worship of the church, and being God’s witness in the world.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 22)

 

There was a defining moment in my spiritual life.  It happened when I realized that if I insisted on becoming consumed by every major sporting event or political race, every move of the stock market, or even every worry of parenting, if I let these things seize my heart, I simply could not enter into a true celebration of the Sabbath or the joy of a baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or Christmas or Easter, or any other true and significant celebration.  I have learned the necessity of “guarding my heart” (Prv 4:23) because my heart does not have an infinite capacity to rejoice or be alarmed.  By becoming preoccupied with passing things, I exhaust my heart’s ability to care about the things that really do matter.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 110)

 

In so many ways I can’t explain, fasting puts me in a position to not only hear from God but to be formed by God.  It takes me to a place where I feel a heightened sense of vulnerability and a diminished sense of power.  I’ve come to believe that equates to a certain availability to hear and obey God.

My experience is that when I surround myself with all of the things that make me comfortable, I require little if any power from God.  Surrounded with everything I think I need, involved with my own means, methods, strategies, and plans, I become a product of my own will and wisdom.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 178)

 

(Mt 22:1-14) We know from other passages of Scripture that those who refuse God’s invitation to come to the wedding feast designed for His Son really cannot come, for they are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).  The Lord Jesus Himself said on one occasion, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn 6:44a).  So, it would be easy to conclude that it was not really the case that these invitees would not come; rather, they could not come because their hearts needed to be changed so that they would have a desire or disposition to come.  That is all true, but it is also true that we cannot do what we will not do.  Thus, there is a sense in which these people could not come to the feast precisely because they would not.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 626-7)

 

You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-moral life and attend church regularly.  You can find people of all sorts in many religions doing that quite nicely without Him.  You only need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help if you truly want to follow the Way of Jesus Christ.  You only need Him if you desire to “obey everything” He commanded and to teach others to do the same (Mt 28:18-20 NIV).  You only need the Holy Spirit if you understand that you are called to share in Christ’s suffering and death, as well as His resurrection (Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 4:16-18; Phil 3:10-11).  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 122-3)

 

This, then is the reason why a godly man conducts himself well in duty, not merely because it is commanded but because he has the nature which truly and rightly responds to the command.  The law of God which is in the book is transcribed into his heart; it is his nature, his new nature.  So that he acts his own nature renewed as he acts obedience.  The eye needs no command to see, nor the ear to hear; it is their nature to see and hear…So far as the heart is renewed, it is as natural for it to obey as for the eye to see or the ear to hear…So far as the law of God is its nature, so far does it find delight in obedience.  —Samuel Bolton

 

The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin. — A.W. Tozer.

 

Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace. — Thomas á Kempis.

 

There are two ways of increasing the power of falling water: raise the dam. Or lower the channel. So you will always find that the lower you humble yourself, the more power you will have with God and men. Obey the Spirit, and more of the Spirit will be given you. “And we are his witnesses of these things and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32). To those that obey the drawings of the Spirit, the fullness is given.  (B.T. Roberts; Fishers Of Men, 62)

 

A few years ago I read something rather random, but I’ve never forgotten it: “Dynamic properties are not revealed in the static state.”  Too many of us try to understand truth in the static state.  We want to understand it without doing anything about it, but it doesn’t work that way.  You want to understand it?  Then obey it.  Obedience will open the eyes of your understanding far more than any commentary or concordance could.  I think many of us doubt Scripture simply because we haven’t done it.  The way you master a text isn’t by studying it.  The way you master a text is by submitting to it.  You have to let it master you.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 80-1)

 

If you ask, he has promised to answer.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (Jam 1:5).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 22)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Never forget that many are called but few are chosen (Mt 22:14).  This can only mean we have the ability to commit Cosmic Rebellion against the King of the Universe BY GOING OUR OWN WAY.  (1 Sm 15:22-23; Lk 8:18)

 

Cosmic rebellion is going our own way rather than submitting to God’s way. 

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions:

  1. How should Jeremiah chapter 1 influence the position a Christian or a Jew would have regarding the abortion issue? Why?
  2. Do you know what gifts God has given you? Do you know God’s plan for your life?  What are you doing to discover or pursue these?   What position should you take while waiting for God to reveal these to you?
  3. How do people hear God’s call for their lives? How do you know?

 

From Matthew 22:1-14:  By the expression “many are invited,” Jesus points to a universal invitation to the kingdom of heaven. . . . (v. 14) The counterbalancing point in the second half of the saying, “but few are chosen,” emphasizes that not all who are invited are chosen.  This does not specify the actual amount but rather points to the divine perspective of the preceding parables.  Those chosen are “the elect,” which for Jesus is an alternative expression for his true disciples (cf. 11:27; 24:22, 24, 31). Israel and her leadership had been known as the “chosen,” but even their privilege is lost through unresponsiveness to Jesus’ invitation to the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, while there is an open invitation to the kingdom, from the divine perspective it is only God’s sovereign choice that effects salvation.  From a human perspective it is only those who respond to the call appropriately that are part of the banquet.  Only an appropriate response reveals God’s divine election.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 718)

 

So What?: When the King of the Universe Calls, you had better listen and obey.  To fail to do so could spell disaster and eternal ruin.  (Dt 5:27; 6:3; 13:4, 18; 27:10; 28:15, 45; 30:2-14; 32:46; Josh 1:18; 22:5; 1 Sm 12:14-15; 15:22; 1 Kgs 3:14; 2 Kgs 17:13-15; 2 Chr 34:31; Neh 1:5; Ps 119:34; 145; Prv 1:24-32; Isa 66:4; Jer 6:19-30; 7:23; 11:4; 22:5; 26:4-6; 32:23; Mt 19:17; 22:1-14; Lk 11:28; Jn 12:48; 14:15, 24; 15:10; Acts 7:39; 13:46; 18:6; Rom 2:13; Gal 1:6-9; 6:7-8; 2 Thess 2:10-11; Heb 2:1-3; 3:7-8; 12:25; 2 Pt 1:10; 1 Jn 2:3; 5:3; Rv 2:5; 3:3)

 

The gospel invitation is sent to everyone, because it is not the Father’s will that a single person be excluded from His kingdom and perish in the outer darkness of hell (2 Pt 3:9).  But not everyone wants God, and many who claim to want Him do not want Him on His terms.  Those who are saved enter God’s kingdom because of their willing acceptance of His sovereign, gracious provision.  Those who are lost are excluded from the kingdom because of their willing rejection of that same sovereign grace.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 313)

 

The point is that God is watching over his world.  He will accomplish it.  This oracle serves as a warning to God’s people who hear of God’s coming judgment on their sin, but doubt that he has the will or the ability to affect it.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 23)

 

Because we love instant everything, sometimes we’re lulled into self-deception when God doesn’t respond instantly to sin.  But Jeremiah reminds us that God disciplines those He loves.  Even if we don’t experience instant discipline for sin, our sin will be found out, and it will have its disastrous effect on our lives.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 7)

 

Punishment is the inevitable consequence of sin.  He regarded the nation’s coming calamities as the visitations of God.  But he did not think of Yahweh as just a vengeful deity who rejoiced in vindicating his majesty through the discomforts of his people.  Jeremiah understood punishment as an integral part of God’s moral character.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 18-9)

 

They did not believe that God punishes sin.  They decided that Jeremiah was just breathing idle threats, and that Jerusalem would never be destroyed.  Their dismissive attitude is summed up in this taunt: “Where is the word of the LORD?” (17:15).  That is a dangerous attitude to take if God is the God of the almond tree.  His threats of judgment are as certain as his promises of grace.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 33)

 

Yahweh and Jeremiah both knew this message of impending disaster would not be a popular one for that day.  Jeremiah must accept the fact that he was not to court popularity to be concerned with the nation’s political future.  He was to be God’s prophet, and he must deliver God’s message regardless of the cost.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 19)

 

Jeremiah’s ministry was difficult because he had to tear down before he could build, and he had to root up before he could plant.  In too many ministries, there are organizational “structures” that don’t belong there and should be torn down because they’re hindering progress.  Some “plants” are taking up space but bearing no fruit, and they ought to be pulled up.  Jesus said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Mt 15:13 NKVJ).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 23)

 

God calls us to be faithful, He did not promise we would be successful.  -Barbara Johnson

 

This once again points to the accountability of everyone’s response to Jesus’ invitation to the kingdom of heaven.  The privileged religious leaders are judged for rejecting the invitation (Mt 22:7), and the populace of Israel, who also are privileged to be the children of God, will be judged for their response to the kingdom.  But even Jesus’ professing disciples, such as Judas (called “friend” in 26:50), are culpable for what they ultimately do with the invitation.  Not all who respond do so from the heart.  This is the point of all three parables of judgment (21:28-32, 33-46; 22:1-14).  Any who insult God’s gracious offer of the kingdom of heaven by presuming on it without honoring the Son will receive due judgment.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 717-8)

 

Jeremiah must have embarked upon his prophetic activity with divided feelings about the changes he saw taking place in the life of his nation.  On the one hand he can only have welcomed the spirit and aims of those who had encouraged and revitalized Judah’s religious life.  Over against this, we can discern throughout his early prophecies a deep suspicion that hope and optimism were easily slipping into complacency and an almost irrational belief that God could be relied upon to guard and protect Judah no matter how the people conducted their affairs.  It was this complacent optimism which proved to be Judah’s downfall; but before the full extent of this was felt, Jeremiah had to spend forty years as an isolated and derided prophet warning against its folly.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 15)

 

This is consistent with what the Bible universally teaches about human responses at the day of judgment, where every human being will be brought to the tribunal of God and the sins of every one of them will be made manifest.  We are told in Scripture that every person will be silent before Him (Ps 76:8-9; Zeph 1:7; Zech 2:13).  When we stand before an omniscient God who knows everything we have ever done or thought, what excuse can we give Him?  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 630)

 

The essence of Satan’s strategy, however, is to weaken a Christian’s faith in such precious and great promises as, e.g., Rom 8:38 (“in everything God works for good with those who love him”), by means of the lie that the tribulations and misfortunes that befall Christians can deprive them of any hope for a bright future (1 Thess 3:2-5).  Satan’s game plan is to destroy the Christian’s confidence that God’s plans are “for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).  So to be victorious against Satan, Christians must understand the necessity of being armed with “the shield of faith” i.e., of having an arsenal of promises from God’s word (cf. Rom 10:17) ready for use as a shield to quench all the fiery darts of Satan (Eph 6:16).  According to 1 Pt 5:9 Christians must resist the devil steadfastly in the faith.  Since the promises of Scripture are the proper object of faith (Rom 4:20), Christians must use, against each temptation to become discouraged, at least one of God’s “many and very great promises” (2 Pt 1:4).  If tempted, e.g., to be covetous and despondent about not having enough of this world’s goods to be financially secure, the Christian must “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tm 6:12) by affirming that, since God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5f.), covetousness is totally contrary to childlike faith in God.  By meditating on this and similar promises of “the faithful God” (Dt 7:9; cf. Heb 10:23; Ti 1:2) until filled by “all joy and peace in believing” (Rom 15:13), Christians perform the essential task of holding their “first confidence firm unto the end” (Heb 3:14).  (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Volume Four: Q-Z, 343)

 

What Jeremiah had said about himself might well be true (God did not deny it) but it was not the point.  The proper question was not, “Who am I to do this?” but “What are my instructions?  Where am I posted?  And will God be with me?”  God’s reply (7-8) put the whole matter on the right footing and related it to its true centre: the master, not the servant.  (Derek Kidner, OT Series:  Jeremiah, 26)

 

If you are a follower of Christ, then you must have within you a deep desire to want to love and obey God’s Word because that is what drove Jesus.  Constantly, Jesus refers to his actions as being what His father told him to do or Jesus does what he does so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.   How can you say you follow Christ and contradict the very principle upon which his life was based . . .  To fulfill the Scriptures.  You cannot call yourself a Christian and do less than read, obey and love God’s Word. Otherwise, to call yourself a Christian and to live contrary to what we have just said, is to make a mockery of Jesus.  (Tim Keller message on Acts 3)

  

JESUS:

CALLS US

 

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