Jeremiah 1:4ff 4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “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.”
This wasn’t welcomed news to Jeremiah. Being a prophet was very hard work. So, when Jeremiah heard God disclose all of this to him, I am sure he was thinking, “How did I draw the short straw? Why me?” And he immediately started making excuses.
Verse 6: 6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak.”
Jeremiah didn’t have confidence in his speaking ability and being a prophet was going to require a whole lot of talking.
I don’t have the ability. (I’m not a gifted speaker.)
Have you ever felt under-qualified to serve the Lord? Have you ever hesitated to sign up to serve because you didn’t think you could do the job as well as someone else? Have you ever run from serving God because you didn’t think you knew enough about the Bible and wouldn’t be sure you could answer every question you might be asked? Have you ever wondered if God really knew what HE was doing in asking you?
Listen, Our ability or inability aren’t what matter to God. Our obedience and faithfulness are. Did you ever think that God calls people to do stuff who can’t ordinarily do stuff so that He alone gets the credit? If your calling depends on your gifting or prowess, how is God gaining glory in and through your life?
Look what happens in verse 9 of our text: 9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I HAVE PUT MY WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Because God has all-power, He can enable us to do what we could not otherwise do. God put the words in Jeremiah’s mouth! God gave him the message and ability to be His mouthpiece.
Well, that excuse wasn’t working so Jeremiah tried another one. Here is what he said at the end of verse 6: “I am only a child.”
With excuse number 2 Jeremiah basically said, “It isn’t the right time.” (I am only a child.)
Not only was Jeremiah arguing that he didn’t have enough life experience to be a prophet since he was young, but maybe he was also saying, “It’s not the right time. This is the time in my life when I am supposed to be carefree. This is the time in my life where I am supposed to live it up. This is the time in my life that I am not supposed to be burdened with responsibility. It’s just not a good time for me to be a prophet.” Have you ever felt that way?
I have heard this excuse used a lot—this excuse about it not being the right time to serve the Lord. When we make these kinds of excuses we are basically saying, “Don’t bother me, God. I am busy.”
What was God’s response to this excuse that Jeremiah made? 7 But the LORD said 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.
Don’t let your age or season in life keep you from being used of God when He calls.
Moving on in the text: 11 The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. 12 The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” 13 The word of the LORD came to me again: “What do you see?” “I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” I answered. 14 The LORD said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.
Who would want to deliver this message? God used the image of a boiling pot to communicate his coming wrath. This wasn’t cheerful news!
It would be one thing if God was sending Jeremiah to give Israel a pep talk, but this was no pep talk. This was a doom and gloom speech. This was a “You’re going down” talk. There was wasn’t a happy ending to this message.
Excuse number three wasn’t one that was stated by Jeremiah, but it had to be going through his mind. Here it is:
I am afraid of what will happen to me.
We cannot let fear diminish our faith and we cannot let fear keep us from following Jesus.
God said: 17 “Get yourself ready!
What God was saying to Jeremiah is, “In spite of your fear, in spite of your inexperience, in spite of your feelings of inferiority, you need to get yourself prepped because I have a job for you to do.”
Look what God went on to say in verse 17 to Jeremiah:
Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
We read in the opening of Jeremiah 1 that God knew Jeremiah. I would say that based on the 40 years of service Jeremiah gave as a prophet, that Jeremiah knew God as well. He knew God could be trusted. There was a relationship that allowed Jeremiah to exercise great faith in God’s plan. Do you know the God who will never fail you? Do you know the God who can empower you to do what you could never do on your own? Here is what I know: Real relationships with God, ones that are growing, are going to produce the fruit of faith. Faith is what enables us to be fueled forward when we don’t feel qualified. Faith moves us forward when we don’t feel ready for a task. Faith moves us forward when we are afraid.
Here is another thing I know for sure: God never issues a call without giving us a promise.
Jeremiah had many promises from God. God would put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth. He had the promise of God’s presence and notice something interesting. God said he was making Jeremiah invincible. He was going to be like a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. That is pretty sturdy stuff there. The entire nation would oppose him and come after him, but he would remain standing.
As you spend time growing your relationship with God, allow your faith to go deeper than it has ever gone before. Ask God to show you if you have been putting Him off, if you have been making excuses about why you can’t be “all-in” with Him. Ahead of the plan God may reveal to you, can you step out on faith and say, “Whatever You ask, wherever You lead, whatever You need me to do, I trust You.”