The word of the Lordcame to me, 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.” “Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the Lordsaid to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” Jeremiah 1:5-7
He hated being a celebrity, but he was always in the news. He longed for a simple life yet his was often complex and confusing. He was a young and inexperienced speaker, yet he spent his life confronting world leaders. His name: Jeremiah. If you check that name out in a dictionary, you’ll find a definition, taken from the life of this seventh century prophet, which tells you that a Jeremiah is “one who is pessimistic about the present and foresees a calamitous future.”
Who was this Jeremiah and why was he such a pessimist? He was born about 4 kilometers southeast of the city of Jerusalem into a strongly religious family. His father was a priest--perhaps the Hilkiah who brought the book of the law to King Josiah and started a revival.)
At about age 21, Jeremiah had an encounter with God which changed his life, one which he didn’t ask for, and one which at time caused such grief that he cursed the day he was born. Called the “Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah’s whole career centered around one purpose: delivering bad news. Not only had the people of Judah exchanged the Lord for worthless idols, but they were sacrificing their children to them by throwing them into the “fires of Molech” (Jeremiah 32:35).
When God called him, Jeremiah gave three reasons why he considered himself to be a poor choice: (1) He said “I’m too young!”; (2) He explained that he wasn’t a speaker (something which God already happened to know, and (3) He argued that he had no experience to qualify him for the job. But God told him: “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’” (Jeremiah 1:4-10). Then we read that God actually reached out his hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth, putting His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.
Jeremiah bore the sad burden of knowing in advance that God’s disobedient people weren’t going to listen to God’s Words and he knew what was going to happen to them. He bore this burden alone, for God told him not to marry or have children. Jeremiah was much like the single mom who raises her children in the way of the Lord, only to watch them choose to go their own ways—and she can do little more than sit and wait for the coming train wreck.
How did Jeremiah do it? Cynthia Heald wrote that the answer is that “Jeremiah woke up each day and greeted it as a day with and forthe Lord.” That’s it. No matter what circumstance that day held, good or bad (and in Jeremiah’s case they were pretty much all bad), if the day began with God, the day was a success.
“The secret of his longevity was to be found in Jeremiah’s “purpose-driven life,” explained Heald. “Jeremiah did not resolve to stick it out for 23 years no matter what; he got up every morning with the sun. The day was God’s day, not the people’s. He didn’t get up to meet with rejection, he got up to meet with God. He didn’t rise to put up with another round of mockery, he rose to be with his Lord. That is the secret of his persevering pilgrimage.”
God promised to be with Jeremiah, and he was in the midst of the constant battle which he waged. When Jerusalem was overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar and his army in 597, Jeremiah escaped to Egypt according to tradition.
The same words—God’s words—that sustained Jeremiah in the worst of times will also enable us to persevere on the journeys our loving Father has apportioned for us. Think about it: What would your level of satisfaction in life be if your sole purpose was to connect with God each day?
Resource Reading: Jeremiah 15:15-16