Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah belonged to a family of priests in Benjamin. In Jeremiah 1 we read how God calls Jeremiah to be His prophet.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
When God says something so profound and clear with a specific plan for you, you might think that you would feel thoroughly equipped, emboldened and well positioned to step into the role and carry out the task God has laid out for you.
How does Jeremiah respond? He does not jump at the opportunity; his initial response is an excuse. He says “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”
How does God respond to Jeremiah? He says “Do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord.”
Inexperience does not disqualify when God calls. He equips and sustain those He commissions.
God does recognise and acknowledge the underlying reason for Jeremiah’s hesitation – Doubt and Fear. We see God’s heart here; He was understanding and patient with Jeremiah. God comforts him and reassures him of His presence along with the promise of rescue.
We also observe an insistence on obedience when God says ‘You must’ and God also specifies that He is to speak to everyone that God will send him to and say all that God commands him to.
Obedience in its entirety is what God is wanting from Jeremiah and also from us.
Speaking God’s word cannot be governed by what is more palatable to hear or only spoken to those who seem more inclined to listen. For Jeremiah, the people were not very inclined to listen to a prophet of God and Jeremiah was to speak to the kings, officials, priests and the people about the doom God was to bring upon the nation if they did not change their ways.
Jeremiah knew he would not be welcome and hence the hesitation and fear to take on the role of prophet to those he knew were not disposed to listen to him and probably cause him harm for what he spoke. And there is also that added element of knowing that he would be constantly met with hostility and opposition, it is not the most inviting of situations to step into and facing that disappointment would take a toll on his soul.
For us: How often do we respond like Jeremiah with doubt and fear? How often do we allow fear to chart a course for us, to drive our decisions and actions? I know that I have allowed it at times to influence my decisions. In addition we can sometimes tie wanting to do God’s work with how we feel or if it would be successful in our eyes rather than if it is in alignment with what God is asking of us.
Proverbs 29:25 says “Fear of man will prove to be a snare.”
Let’s look at a couple of instances from scripture where this verse above proves to be true.
In 1 Samuel 15:24 we read king Saul say to Samuel “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”
King Saul was instructed by Samuel who had a message from God to attack the Amalekites. This was punishment for the Amalekites from God for what they did to the people of God. God’s word was very clear when he says to destroy them and all their possessions too.
But Saul does not heed the word of God entirely, he does attack the Amalekites but we read in 1 Samuel 15:9 “But Saul and his army spared king Agag and the best of the sheep and the cattle, the fat calves and lambs- everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak, they totally destroyed.”
This act of disobedience by Saul grieves God and leads God to turn His hand and favour away from Saul.
Saul chose to keep that which would please His men above God’s will. He prioritized the approval of his men. The fear of not being favoured or popular among his men indeed proved to be a snare for him, it led him down a path of disobedience to God.
In John 12:42-43 we read “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him (Jesus). But because of the Pharisees, they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
When Jesus taught and performed many miracles, this led those who were leaders among the Jews to believe in Him and yet they did not acknowledge it outwardly for the fear of man. For fear that they would not belong.
For us: May the fact that we belong to Him and identify with Him take precedence over a position or sense of belonging in this world. We are His, may the Lord give us the courage to always boldly and freely proclaim that we are His.
“For they loved the praise from men more than praise from God” – that hits really hard doesn’t it. I hope that we can reflect on this and question if we allow that to be true in anything we do. One of the truths that we glean from this initial phase of Jeremiah’s life is that we are not to use either our environment or our perceived inability as an excuse to not follow what God calls us to do.
After the initial hesitation, Jeremiah obeyed God and was a prophet to the nations, his path was not trouble free, in fact Jeremiah did face a lot of hostility but God honoured His promise to Jeremiah of always being with him through it all.
May our response to God not be riddled with doubt and fuelled by fear. May the fear of man not direct our path or the praise of man be not what we seek or regard. But like a humble servant and child of God be obedient to His will and word. May we step out in faith and step forth in His strength to what God is calling us to do. Let God be your fuel and your fire.