As we continue our study in worship on the topic of faithfulness we take a focused study on faithfulness as exemplified through the prophet Jeremiah. We will be exploring Jeremiah this week and the month of September working through this book.
As with most of the Old Testament there is a good amount of debate over this book, from its authorship to its arrangement. It does not follow either a logical progression or narrative. Rather it is a collection of events that spans the time of four kings using Jeremiah’s own life as an example of the pending demise and restoration of the Hebrew Nation.
But with every good prophetic story Jeremiah starts with the call. Like most prophets, Jeremiah is not the very best candidate, at least in societal measure. His deficit is his age. When Jeremiah questioned God because his youth, God comes back and tells him not to worry for the words and actions he does will be God’s. For me, especially in my early days of ministry, this particular passage, like Paul’s charge to Timothy, instilled a comfort knowing that God uses all of us to do his work, regardless of age, or anything else.
The importance of Jeremiah’s call is the comfort he receives from God that the words he speaks will not be his but God’s. That means that God has set him aside to be a vessel of God’s word. This setting aside for a specific purpose is the very basis for all calls. As God sets aside Jeremiah to be his voice, God does this knowing all that Jeremiah is and that he has the gifts and talents to be able to follow through with this call. We know through later passages that Jeremiah does not always enjoy his calling as exemplified by the struggle of Faith and his candid and honest relationship with God.
In the greater context of the book of Jeremiah, the call mirrors the life of the Hebrew community. You could say, looking to the fathers of the Faith like Abraham, that God called them to faith before there was even a real example of faithfulness, but a faithfulness that was new and foreign to the world. Through the ebbs and flows of history, the Hebrew nation loses their way only to find it and lose it again until the ultimate destruction. While Jeremiah does not lose faith, his struggles and life journey is a retelling of the history of that community.
In Jeremiah we see a journey that pits him against political powers and some in the Hebrew community. The prophetic speeches that he gives, as we know, are not often followed and consequences ensue. But in the end of the book we see that there is a greater story both told in the words Jeremiah speaks and the life he lives.
What we learn from the Book of Jeremiah is that with faithfulness to God, we are able to survive even the greatest of tragedies. We are able to overcome the tragedies in our lives because we live not to ourselves but to God. Here is where and why the call of Jeremiah is important, because, though there is a struggle in accepting the call, and there are moments Jeremiah has some frank words with God, at that moment Jeremiah gives himself completely over to God.
As you prepare for worship this week, ask yourself how you have been called and how you have accepted or rejected that Calling.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen