God gave the prophet Jeremiah words of warning to share with the late King Josiah’s sons, the final kings of Judah before its fall, and to all of their subjects. He warned them for the last time to turn away from gross injustice and the worship of false gods and idols, and to return to a worship of the Lord, who had put them in the good land.
But like the Apostle Paul centuries later, Jeremiah found out that when the Lord gives us a task to do, it will not always be easy to do or well-received. In fact, Jeremiah suffered quite a bit for it at the hands of the kings, priests, and his fellow Judeans. This is also a foreshadowing of what Jesus Christ Himself would go through at the hands of the High Priests under King Herod and Pontius Pilate.
Jeremiah delivered the message he was given, and the response was not kind.
1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord. Jeremiah 20:1-2 NKJV
Like Jesus weeping over Jerusalem centuries later because of the coming wrath of Titus of Rome, Jeremiah wept for what he knew his people would suffer under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. His was the final attempt to overcome the people’s unwillingness to heed God’s warnings. Despite Jeremiah’s caring heart, he was personally punished as retribution for delivering the Lord’s message, which Judah believed to be false. It was not.
Surrounded by discouragement and hardship, Jeremiah was tempted to give up his mission of delivering the Lord’s warnings. He thought about no longer talking to them about God.
9 Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not. Jeremiah 20:9 NKJV
Despite Jeremiah’s many trials, the Lord never allowed him to be defeated or abandoned. In fact, God would preserve Jeremiah, who would escape unharmed from the coming wrath, which would finally arrive after so many warnings.
Whenever God calls us for a task, we may face discouragement or danger in carrying it out. But nothing will happen to us that He will not sovereignly permit. Even the suffering He allows will go through a filter of His great love and protection for us.
God continues to call each of us to do His work, always relying upon Him to see it through. Jesus spoke of this call to His disciples just before He went to the cross.
16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. John 15:16 NKJV
Jeremiah, like us, could ask for protection and deliverance, and the Lord gave it to him. The only thing he could not do was to force another to accept God’s word. That only comes by a free will entrance into each human heart. The invitation is always there, but it is each person’s right whether or not to receive it, and to accept or reject God’s eternal word.
When we accept Christ and His sacrifice into our hearts, all sorts of new blessings and benefits will flow into us. First and foremost, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will live within us. We become a part of God’s global temple, which resides in the hearts of people rather than in a building. The Holy Spirit then works within us to purify our hearts and motives, part of a lifelong project to make us more and more into the image of a holy God.
When the Holy Spirit was first given to believers at Pentecost, He was manifested as a tongue of fire upon each believer’s head. Similarly, the Spirit will reside forever in our hearts as a burning fire, and we, like Jeremiah, will be unable to shut it up within our bones, desiring instead to share God’s burning love with the world.
What tasks has the Lord given you to do so far in your life? Which have been easy and which have been hard to do? What is the biggest challenge facing you today?
Lord, thank You for caring about me. Your grace and forgiveness are bountiful and without limit. Help me to be successful in following You to perform the tasks you have set before me to do, be they easy or difficult. Use me as an instrument of grace and peace to draw others closer to You and to Your kingdom – the most priceless gift they could ever receive. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.