I began 2018 with a goal to thoroughly immerse my time of study in the major prophets of the Old Testament. I had never really spent much intentional time there and had been feeling drawn to them, so I started with Isaiah. The Book of Isaiah was rich in painting the context of the character and intent of God. It taught the honor that comes from being a true message carrier for Him and all that can be done through us, despite circumstances.
Then, I moved into Jeremiah, who succeeded Isaiah as God’s primary prophet to Judah. The flavor and tone changed drastically and it was not long before I was tempted, and even looked, to move elsewhere in the Bible. However, I pushed through and as I did so, I grappled with what was bothering me so much in these ancient writings.
This was a man, who much like Isaiah, was given the burdensome gift of prophecy and the difficult charge to confront an entire nation, almost always, alone. But there was something different in the tone of Jeremiah and I hurt more for Jeremiah as I studied. And then I realized what was missing.
It was to Jeremiah that God said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart…” (Jeremiah 1:5). But what was Jeremiah set apart for and called to do? God had examined the hearts of the people and the first half of the book, He lays out His case for their destruction. And this was the hard message Jeremiah was to deliver.
Jeremiah’s calling was a bitter one; one he did not enjoy. But unlike Jonah, he went and served God. Again and again, he never deviated.
On July 7th, 2018, I journaled this after reading Jeremiah 8-9:
I feel sorrow for him (Jeremiah). Isaiah was a serious man with a similar calling. But it seems he was given insight (from God) into the larger plan. He was allowed to speak more hope.
Pushing into chapters 14-20 it is apparent Jeremiah began to grow weary and even resentful. He confesses to God that he is tormented by his zeal for Him. In Jeremiah 20:9, he writes: “If I say, ‘I won’t mention Him or speak any longer in His name,’ His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail” (HCSB). He even confesses to God that he wishes he was never born! (see Jeremiah 15:10, 20:14)
Then, in the aftermath of his heartfelt confessions and continued obedience, there is a gradual shift in Jeremiah’s tone. As God gives him words of graceful encouragement and a call to endure, as he continues to go on dangerous missions and deliver hard truth to stubborn people, more insight was granted to him.
In chapters 32 & 34, as Jerusalem is on the brink of falling to the Babylonians, a strange, almost out-of-place story is told. God basically tells Jeremiah to go buy a piece of property that has come available from his cousin. God tells him to make it legal, draw up the contracts, sign them, and tuck them way in secure place. I really had to think on this, but it did eventually dawn on me: this was a lesson of reconciliation. He tells Jeremiah that even though the land is being turned over to Babylon, it’s temporary, and not without purpose.
For this is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land… I will give them one heart and one way so that for their good and for the good of their descendants after them, they will fear Me always… I will take delight in them to do what is good for them, and with all My heart and mind I will faithfully plant them in this land. –Jeremiah 32:15, 39, 41, HCSB
My journal entry on Sept 28, 2018 reads, “Jeremiah is recognizing that seasons, good and bad, will come and go. But he can buy into God’s promise. The contract will endure. He can literally take it to the bank.”
Through the fire of adversity, God was sharpening Jeremiah’s vision, so that he could see hope and gain peace in his heart. It was always there. After all, God formed him in his mother’s womb, He knew what was needed to bring out his best, just as He knows best for us. Jeremiah’s life reminds us “hope” is learned through endurance, resolving to go forward, wherever God sends us. Faith comes first!