Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 1-9
Jonah, Amos, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk…God used the faithful obedience of these prophets to make a difference in the lives of His people and their leaders. The obedience of each man in allowing God to use him had an impact on the king and, in turn, on the entire nation. God called another man to make an impact on His people – He called a young man named Jeremiah.
“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 prophet to the nations.”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ 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 will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said,
“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms.
Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow.
Others you must build up and plant.”
Then the Lord said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?”
And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.”
And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out my plans.” – Jeremiah 1:5-12
The almond tree branches were among the first to blossom each spring. What the people of Judah were experiencing was only the beginning of all that was about to happen. To fully understand God’s plans to punish His people and allow for their coming captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem, we need to read the book of Jeremiah and the words God spoke to him as he warned the people of what was to come and why it was happening. Let’s look at the heartbreak of our God as He describes the unfaithfulness of the people He has blessed generation after generation and consider how His words apply today:
“I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness…And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the possession I had promised you…My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,” says the Lord. “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water and they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!…My people have forgotten me (Jeremiah 2:1,7, 11b-13, 32b).
Out of His great mercy, God gave Israel the opportunity to repent through the message spoken to Jeremiah. He told them to do the following: Acknowledge your guilt, admit that you rebelled, confess that you refused to listen to my voice, return home and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
“I would love to treat you as my own children! I want nothing more than to give you this beautiful land – the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me” (Jeremiah 3:12-15,19).
Jeremiah’s advice is also good for us today. Surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord…cleanse your heart that you may be saved. “My people are foolish and do not know me,” says the Lord. “They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!”…I hear a cry, like that of a woman in labor, the groans of a woman giving birth to her first child. It is beautiful Jerusalem gasping for breath and crying out, “Help! I’m being murdered!” (Jeremiah 4:4,14,22,31).
“I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned me. They do not say from the heart, ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God, for he gives us rain each spring and fall, assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’” (Jer. 5:22b-24).
This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ I posted watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the alarm.’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’” (Jer. 6:16-17).
“This is what I told them: ‘Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Do everything as I say, and all will be well!’ But my people would not listen to me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward…They have stubbornly followed their own desires.” (7:23-24; 9:14).
This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (9:23-24)
Lord, help us this morning to truly know you and understand the depth of your unfailing love demonstrated for us day after day. May we be eager to please you today, drinking only from your fountain of living water to sustain us instead of depending on our own cracked cisterns. Lord, do a work in our hearts today deepening our understanding. We long to shed any pride and self-reliance, living in awe of you who brings rain into our lives so that you might reap a harvest of righteousness. We long for you to use us so that our lives can have an impact on the nation in which we live, just as you used Jeremiah. Father God, help us to hear your voice only as we stand at the next crossroads. Give us wisdom from you and place your words in our mouths. Amen.