“The LORD gave me a message. He said, ‘I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.’
” ‘O Sovereign LORD,’ I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ ”
” ‘Don’t say that,’ the LORD replied, ‘for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.’ ”
” ‘And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the LORD, have spoken!’ ”
“Then the LORD touched my mouth and said, ‘See, I have put my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. You are to uproot some and tear them down, to destroy and overthrow them. You are to build others up and plant them.’ ” Jeremiah 1:4-10 NLT
Jeremiah like his fellow prophets was born destined for greatness and hardship. From the beginning this man, this priest, was chosen to have the Holy Spirit rest upon his soul in a supernatural way that would cause him to carry God-vision to the people he served.
Jeremiah had the dubious privilege of being the final warning bell before judgment. He then was permitted to see the fulfillment of all which the prophets, himself included, had promised was coming. By the time the circle of destruction was complete this man of God, called the weeping prophet, had lived through a two-year siege of Jerusalem. He had watched as her citizens were reduced to drinking their own urine and eating their children as the little ones succumbed to starvation. Jeremiah himself lived under almost constant threat of prison and death. His detractors accused him of treason and tried to drown him in a well of mud.
His solace came in the promise of God chronicled at the beginning of the book which bears his name. God knew who Jeremiah was, had chosen him, and was going to be with him through the whole ordeal. That didn’t mean Jeremiah would live a pain-free life. It meant that though he “walked through the valley of the shadow of death”he could fear no evil for God was with him.
Some of us today know what it is like to be Jeremiah. I think of a friend from Bible college whose wife divorced him and whose family disowned him when he was called into the full-time ministry. I think of a missionary couple I know who work in Indonesia. They contend with volcanoes and earthquakes on the right and the threat of being strung up by the locals on the left.
Many more of us will know what Jeremiah felt like in the days ahead. You see like Jeremiah we have been destined for greatness and hardship from the beginning of our lives. In Jeremiah’s day only a select few were privileged to have the Holy Spirit rest upon their souls. But today that gift is open to all believers. Now the Holy Spirit dwells within all believers. As with Jeremiah that will cause us to be sent out into the wide world with a God-vision for the people we are called to serve (at least if we are obedient).
Jesus said it this way, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Mat 10:18-20 NIV
Our solace is the same as Jeremiah’s. He knows us! He knows our situation. He is with us in it and through it. This is no small thing. You see it was God’s presence that gave Peter the ability to bring healing to a crippled beggar in Acts 3. That same presence caused the apostles to “rejoice” after they were beaten for preaching two chapters later. It was God’s presence that caused a ninety year old apostle John to endure exile on Patmos with faith powerful enough to pen the Book of Revelation. It was God’s presence that gave Chrysostom the power to stand in faith in the face of martyrdom. It was that presence that kept Luther through the reformation. It was the presence of God that walked the martyr’s trail with Bonhoeffer and turned Corrie Tenboom into an evangelist after her family was murdered in the Nazi death camps. It was the presence of God that sustained Lillian Trasher as she worked tirelessly for the children of Egypt. It was the presence of God that held Jim Elliot as he faced the arrows of the tribe he was sent to. And it was the presence of God that went with his wife Elizabeth into that same jungle after he was martyred to preach to the very people who had murdered her husband.
You see these people could all stand because God was with them. He knew them. He knew what to give them to make them able to stand. He also knows you. He will be with you if you are open to that. He will give you what you need to stand through all that is to come for you. Stand for Him! Stand with Him!