4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Seven Verses That Will Change Your Life Jeremiah 1:1-10 Epiphany 4C, Feb 3, 2019
Several years ago, author Robert Fulghum wrote an essay entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here are some of the things he learned way back when:
Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
I wouldn’t disagree with any of the above items, or much of what Fulghum wrote in that essay, but as we were gathered in our morning prayer and study group last Thursday, it dawned on me that if one were to fully believe and apprehend what was covered in those four Bible texts you just read, I would suggest one would know more existential truth than Fulghum learned in kindergarten, and more than most of the greatest philosophers and thinkers who have ever lived. That’s a pretty bold claim, so let’s look at just one text from Jeremiah and see if that claim has any merit.
4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations One of, if not the greatest questions of philosophers and scientists alike throughout history has been that regarding origins and the meaning of life. “Where does life come from?” “Where did I come from”? “Why am I here”? In this single verse the Holy Spirit speaking through Jeremiah states about as clearly as can be stated that Jeremiah came from the mind of God in eternity past…before his biological conception…and certainly before his physical birth. From God’s eternal imagination, and through God’s creative act through the biological/relational union of his mother and father- God created Jeremiah. The best answer you can give a child (or anyone else for that matter) as to the origin of human life…is that life comes from the mind and hand of God. If you learn only this one thing today…you will have learned something incredibly significant.
What comes next is Jeremiah’s purpose for his existence- he was appointed to be a prophet to the nations. Not all of us can be quite as exacting as to our vocation in life as Jeremiah, but make no mistake, God has a call on our lives, and desires that we live out that call out to its fullest. Some deem happiness to be our greatest goal in life. Others pleasure. Some think personal fulfillment (self- actualization). Many are increasingly postulating that life has no ultimate meaning at all. Such a philosophy often goes by the name Nihilism. Jeremiah’s life has value and meaning because he was both formed and called by the God of the universe. The same is true for you and I and every other person on the face of the earth. As to discovering our exact vocation and calling, that may be another sermon for another day, but know that God has a purpose and plan for every single one of us.
” 6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you…” I’m not sure if this one is covered in the Fulghum’s kindergarten list or not,
but it certainly has been covered by the best-selling author Jordan Peterson in his recent book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Although Jordan would not posit the ability to live out the call in the power of God necessarily, he declares a similar truth in his first chapter of his book; “Stand up straight with your shoulder’s back”. Don’t start whining about the fact you’re “only a boy”, or some other such claim to victimhood, but rather “sit up straight with your shoulders back” … and get on with life. God is more than capable to supply the called with the tools and capacity necessary to fulfill their calling. God had Jeremiah in mind at the dawn of creation. God formed him in his mother’s womb. God has now called him to be a prophet to the nations and be a mouthpiece for Him. God can certainly give him all he needs to fulfill that mission.
8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” I rather expect that the root of much of the neurosis seen in our day can be traced back to fear. Many of these fear-based neurosis (Phobias) have been named. Here are the top 10 according to one website;
1. Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders.
2. Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes. …
3. Acrophobia – The fear of heights. …
4. Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces. …
5. Cynophobia – The fear of dogs. …
6. Astraphobia – The fear of thunder and lightning. …
7. Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces. …
8. Mysophobia – The fear of germs. …
Although I can’t verify this from my own study, I have read that the command to “have no fear” appears over 360 times throughout the Bible. That’s one for every day of the year. Although perhaps not always easy to enact, God’s word against fear is consistent throughout the pages of the Bible and based in the fact that he will be with us in and through our trials and tribulations. Although having a “healthy concern” may serve us well in life, fear never does. If we let it, fear can debilitate us and cause us to remain silent when we know we should speak or remain inactive when we know we should act. The antidote for fear in the psychological realm is gradual exposure to that which we fear, and in the spiritual realm its not so very different- only now exposing ourselves to the God who can deliver us from all our fears.
” 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.” We touched on this briefly before, but big concepts are worth repeating. With the call comes the ability to fulfill the call. This may not always be as supernatural as what Jeremiah experienced. In my case it involved going to seminary as part of my training for the call. In your case it might be going to trade school or learning another language and a different culture. God can use “natural” means to achieve supernatural results. Some of this enabling will happen within the call itself (how many of you knew fully how to care for babies the minute your first baby was born?). Jeremiah should have had no concerns as to the actual content of his prophetic ministry, as God promised to look after that. With the call, God will provide you with all you need to live out that calling (either naturally, or supernaturally).
10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” In the book of Jeremiah, God called him to bring a message of judgement to the people of Israel. They had broken the covenant God had made with them, and as a result God was sending them into captivity. On some occasions in the Bible, the word of the prophet comes with the possibility of contrition and repentance (an example of this would be that of Jonah, and
his call to the people of Nineveh). There is no such indication here that such is the case here. Judah is about to be destroyed, their king will be overthrown, and many will be taken into captivity. There would be a day of restoration, but that day would not be anytime soon. Many nations have come and gone since this time. Some have imagined millennial reigns to their kingdoms (Hitler’s Nazi Germany comes immediately to mind, but also the Roman Empire). When we are tempted to fear about the future of our own country, and the nations of our world, we do well to consider these words from God. It is God who “plucks up and pulls down”, “destroys and overthrows”, “builds and plants”. Statues of the most despotic and evil leaders of the past are now memorialized as roosting places for pigeons. Most have long since died, and all will die one day. Their would-be millennial reigns can come to an end in a moment in time, for it is the Lord who raises up, and the Lord who brings down kingdoms.
That’s only 7 verses of Holy Scripture, but if we were to secure those verses in our minds and hearts, I would suggest we will be better equipped for life than most. The Bible makes some incredible claims. Other books with other authors can make equally incredible claims. The Bible’s claims are centered in the person of Jesus- his eternal existence, birth, earthly life, death, and resurrection. Although we don’t find this teaching in these verses, it’s not hard to find them elsewhere. The ultimate “proof” of these texts (and all Bible texts for that matter) would be his resurrection from the dead on the third day. Given the circumstances surrounding that event (particularly the power of the Roman officials, and the weakness of the disciples), it should have been easy to produce his lifeless body for all to see. Displaying his dead body would have brought an end to both Christianity, and these texts that inform our faith. But they could not produce his dead body, because he was no longer dead, but alive. Before ascending to the Father, he revealed his resurrected body to his disciples, the women, and at least 500 others (1 Cor 15:6). The disciples convinced of this truth, took the message to the then-known world at point of death, and as a result we believe, teach, and follow Him to this very day.
Seven verses that can change your life. Read them. Believe them…and live them out! Amen