Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
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Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet

Who, When, Where...
God's Call to Jeremiah; Historical Context.
Rev. Ron Friedrich
July 2, 2006

Jeremiah 1:1-5
(New Century Version)
1 These are the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah. He belonged to the family of priests who lived in the town of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. 2 The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon was king of Judah. 3 The LORD also spoke to Jeremiah while Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah and during the eleven years that Zedekiah son of Josiah was king of Judah. In the fifth month of his last year, the people of Jerusalem were taken away as captives.
4 The
LORD spoke his word to me, saying:
 5 "Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you.
Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

Jeremiah's story actually begins 800 years before he was born.

God led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  He established His covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai.  There He gave them His law and His promise.  He said, "I will be your God, and you will be My people."  

There on that mountain the people promised, "Everything the Lord has said, we will do."  Forty years later, their children repeated that promise before they entered the Promised Land.  But for the next 800 years the nation of Israel failed to keep that promise.

Some people were faithful to worship only the true Creator God, but most ignored His Law.  Many became attracted to idol worship, especially to the false god Baal, and the goddess Asherah.  Together, those demon spirits formed a religion that had worship practices that included temple prostitution and child sacrifice.   Most of Israel's kings encouraged idol worship among the people.  God had appointed the descendants of Aaron (Moses' brother) to be priests, who were responsible to lead the people in worshipping the only true God.  But the priests also gave into idol worship.  The priests belonged to the tribe of Levi, and the Levites were responsible for teaching the people of Israel God's Word.  But they failed to fulfill that responsibility.

For 800 years God sent prophets to the people of Israel, urging them to turn back to God.  But the people ignored the prophets… or worse, they persecuted and killed the Lord's prophets.  The people kept a false "show" of religion by offering sacrifices to the Lord in His temple.  But they thought that they could worship both the Lord God of Israel, and Baal at the same time.  God said that was like having an affair.  The nation of Israel was "married" to God, but in their idol worship, they were "committing adultery" against Him.

For 800 years God warned them that if they would not turn back to Him, He would have to seriously punish them.  Now God decided that the time had come to stop warning, and do as He had promised.  The person God chose to bring this sad message was Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was a descendent of Aaron, so he was able to be a priest.  But God had different work for Jeremiah to do.   God said to Jeremiah:

"Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you.
Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
(Jer. 1:5)

God had planned Jeremiah's life long before Jeremiah was born.  We will learn more in the coming weeks about what was God's plan for him.  

Today we learn two important lessons about Jeremiah that also apply to us.

First, we see that for everyone who sins -- that means all of us -- time for repentance will one day come to an end.  God gave Israel 800 years to turn back to Him.  None of us have that much time.  Each one of us has only the time that we live on earth.  Then when we die, that is our "Judgment Day."  And Jesus promises that one day there will come a Judgment Day for planet earth, and the whole universe. Just as for Israel, so it will be for us.  There will come a day when it will be too late.

A prophet who lived 100 years before Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah, said:

So you should look for the LORD before it is too late;
you should call to him while he is near.
The wicked should stop doing wrong,
and they should stop their evil thoughts.
They should return to the
LORD so he may have mercy on them.
They should come to our God, because he will freely forgive them.
(Isaiah 55:6,7)

God certainly punishes sin.  God already punished the sin of all sinners in His own holy sinless Son, Jesus Christ.  He promises that everyone who receives that gift in faith, their judgment is finished.   But He also warns that everyone who rejects His gift and chooses to hold on to his sin will also experience the eternal consequence of sin -- eternal separation from God in hell.  As long as our bodies are living and breathing, God is giving us time to repent and to receive complete forgiveness.  We cannot know when our end will come, so the Bible urges us to trust Jesus now, before it is too late.  "Now is the time!  Now is the day for salvation!" 
(2 Corinthians 6:2)

The second thing we learn about Jeremiah is that God had a plan for his life even before he was born.  In the same way, God has a special plan and calling for your life.  You are not here by accident.  God knows you and loves you.  

He chose you to be in His Family through faith in His Son Jesus.  
He chose you to forgive all of your sins.
He chose you to be in heaven forever with Him.  
He chose you to live His life on earth in your through His Holy Spirit.

God chose Jeremiah to tell people about Him.  
God chooses each one of us to do the same -- let people know about Jesus, so they also can know His love and forgiveness and live forever with Him.

It does not matter who you are, where you are, how old you are, or what you have done.  God still has a plan for your life.   

You may have made bad mistakes that really messed up your life.  God's love and mercy can forgive and heal all that mess.  God can turn around the bad things you have done and He will use you to do good that will help other people understand that they also can experience His love, mercy, and forgiveness.  Through you, people will meet Jesus.