Standing Up to God
Scripture - Jeremiah 1:4-10
Let’s begin this morning by understanding who Jeremiah was. Verse 1 tells us he was the son of Hilkiah. Hilkiah was the high priest who found the Book of the Law during the time of King Josiah. It was the finding of the Book of the Law that sparked a revival during the reign of Josiah. Revivals are not caused by human beings; they are caused by God – specifically by the Word of God. The Word of God is responsible for every revival that has taken place in the Church. It is true that God has used human beings, but it is the Word of God that brings revival. We also learn that Jeremiah is from Anathoth, which was a few miles north of Jerusalem.
The Lord’s word came to me. The Lord’s word came to Jeremiah. I can’t emphasize that too much. If you are not prepared to go along with that, you might just as well leave the worship service now. This sermon will have no message for you. I am talking about the Word of God. I am not able to tell you how God got it through to Jeremiah, but God did get it to him, & it is recorded for us as the Word of God.
Before I created you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I made you a prophet to the nations. I’m glad Jeremiah’s mother did not practice abortion – otherwise he never would have been born. One of the big political discussions today is, “When is a child a child?” (How biology became politics we will save for another day!) May I say to you, a child is a child at the very moment he/she is conceived. Read Psalm 139. David says: My bones weren’t hidden from you [God] when I was being put together in a secret place, when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth. That is, he was formed in the womb of his mother; & at that moment life began. Doctors know that there is tremendous development in the fetus at the very beginning. Life begins at conception – perhaps even before! That, friends, is the Word of God. God said to Jeremiah: Before I created you I knew you; before you were born I set you apart.
Now why did God say these things to Jeremiah? Because, brothers & sisters, God is going to ask Jeremiah to give a message to the people of Judah that will be rejected. Jeremiah is going to be imprisoned because of his stand for God. His message will break his own heart because he loved his people, & he hated to tell them what was going to happen to them.
But God wanted a man like this, a tender man, to bring his message. To the court of old Ahab & Jezebel, God has sent a hard-boiled prophet by the name of Elijah. But before the kingdom of Judah goes into captivity, God wants his people to know that he loves them & that he wants to save them & deliver them. It is for this reason that God chose Jeremiah.
So, God is saying these things to Jeremiah to encourage him. He said, “I want you to know, Jeremiah, that the important thing is that I am the One who has called you, I have ordained you, & I have sanctified you.”
Sanctification simply means ‘to set aside for the use of God.’ The old vessels that were used in the tabernacle & temple – old beaten-up pots & pans used in God’s service – were called holy vessels, sanctified vessels. When they looked as if they should be traded in for a new set, why were they called holy? Because they were for the use of God. Anything that is set aside for the use of God is sanctified.
God says in effect, “Before you were born, Jeremiah, I set you aside for my use. So, don’t worry about the reaction to your message. You just give the message.”
Frankly, God expects the same of us. I feel very comfortable as I prepare these messages. I’m not pulling any punches; I want to present the Word of God just as it is. That is my responsibility. I say this kindly; I am not responsible to you; I am responsible to God, & I will have to give an account to God. I am sorry if what I say doesn’t please you. I wish it did. People often say, “My, how people love you!” But you know, in every church I’ve served there was a little group of dissidents – troublemakers who were not always honest. However, if you are sharing the Word of God, you are responsible to God & set aside for that ministry.
God goes on to say: I made you a prophet to the nations. This gave authority to Jeremiah. It offered him encouragement that would help him through his darkest days.
How did Jeremiah respond? Ah, Lord God, I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child. Jeremiah was probably about 20 years old, but you wouldn’t think so from this verse. He was not a child as we think of a child. ‘Child’ here is the same word that is translated ‘young man’ in Zechariah 2:4: Run! Say to this young man… Jeremiah was actually a young man. What he is trying to say is, “I’m young & inexperienced. I’m not capable of doing this job. I’m not prepared for this.”
Have you ever noticed that the person whom God uses is the person who doesn’t think they can do it? If you think you can do it today, then I say to you that I don’t think God can use you.
A young preacher complained with jealousy about another preacher in the same town. “I’m a better preacher than he is. I’m a better pastor than he is. I’m a better speaker than he is. I want to know why God is using that man & not using me! My ministry is failing fast.” A much senior minister said, “You think you can do it. I know the other man & he really doesn’t believe that he can do it. God always uses that kind of man. God chooses the weak things of this world.”
Jeremiah felt inadequate, unfit & unequipped. He stood up to God. Listen to God’s reply to him: Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’ Where I send you, you must go; what I tell you, you must say. What I tell you, you must say. While there are many liberal pulpits in this country, it is the evangelical churches which are really growing in the size of their congregations. It is the Bible-believing churches where things are moving today. The problem in the liberal churches is that the person in the pulpit often doesn’t believe what they are saying. They are giving out theories & ideas. They hold panel discussions where they tell you what they think. God says, “You give what I command you to give, & give it with authority.” I tell you, when you are giving out God’s Word, it can be uncomfortable, yet it is very wonderful. I love Jeremiah, & I would love to have comforted him. He surely has comforted me.
Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you, declares the Lord. Don’t be afraid of them. J Vernon McGee once wrote that he was comfortable teaching the Bible on the radio because his listeners could not get to him when he said something that displeased them. “I heard from a man in Oakland, CA, who is now a wonderful Christian. He wrote that he had belonged to a certain cult which believed in certain rituals that he had to go through in order to be saved.” He listened to McGee’s broadcasts on his way to work as a contractor. He said, ‘You made me so mad. You kept telling me I was a sinner. If I could have gotten to you, I would have punched you in the nose.’ McGee says, “That is one reason it is comfortable to be on the radio, because when I stay true to the Word of God, I will say things people don’t like to hear. Yet, this man kept listening morning after morning, & one day he turned to the Lord J & said, ‘I am a sinner, save me.’ He accepted C as his personal Savior. That is why God says to go ahead & give out his Word with courage & with conviction – it will never return void; it will accomplish God’s purpose.”
Our pulpits today desperately need preachers who speak with authority what God has written down in His Word. That is all God asks us to do. It is a simple task in one way, & in another it is a most difficult task.
God says to Jeremiah: Don’t be afraid… because I’m with you to rescue you. God is saying, “Look, I’m on your side.” Martin Luther said, “One with God is a majority.” This is always true. As Christians we may feel that we are in the minority, but we really are the majority!
Then the Lord stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, & said to me, I’m putting my words in your mouth. I’m putting my words in your mouth. This is very important. God has inspired the words of Scripture – not just the thought & ideas of Scripture. For example, Satan was not inspired by God to tell a lie, but the record in Scripture that Satan told a lie are inspired words.
This idea is too often misunderstood in our day, which is why I caution about certain translations of the Bible. There are many good interpretations, but some very poor translations. The very words of Scripture are inspired.
Let me illustrate the importance of accurate translation. A young girl aspired to be a singer & the time came for her recital. After her performance she went to her friends & asked, “What did my teacher say?” A very diplomatic friend replied, “He said that you sang heavenly.” She got excited! “Did he really say that? Did he say those exact words?” No, the friend answered, not those exact words. The girl said, “I want his exact words.” The friend said, “Well, I’m sure that is what he meant. He said, ‘What is that unearthly noise?’”
It is very important to realize that the words of Scripture are inspired by God. God said to Jeremiah: I’m putting my words in your mouth.
This very day I appoint you over nations & empires, to dig up & pull down, to destroy & demolish, to build & plant. Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, & Zedekiah. All these kings had various offices & government projects. They were all going to improve Jerusalem. They were going to deal with the ecology & get rid of the slums. They each had a poverty program. But none of them paid much attention to Jeremiah – they ignored him. Now almost 3,000 years have passed. Having been in Jerusalem, I can tell you that you don’t see anything of those projects. Can you find anything of lasting value done by Zedekiah? Can you see anything that Jehoiachin or Jehoiakim did? Nothing is left. Yet in their day everybody thought they were doing the right thing; they did the popular thing. Jeremiah was ignored. But whom do we read today? We read Jeremiah.
Friends, the Book of Jeremiah is the Word of God. It has survived & is going to survive for all time. America as a nation no longer hears God. They don’t listen to him in Washington, DC. They are not hearing him in the classrooms of our universities today. And they are not hearing God in the military. Our scientists do not listen to him. But God is speaking & his Word is alive.
In our reading this morning, God is telling Jeremiah that he is going to put him in charge of giving his Word to the nation of Judah. And Jeremiah stood up to God! Jeremiah told God, “I think you’ve called the wrong person.” But God assured Jeremiah he was the right person, & that God would be with him through thick & thin. God’s call - & God’s promise – is still in effect today.