Tuesday, October 15, 2013

God's Strange Way of Using Us

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Saturday, October 12, 2013: Jeremiah 19:1-21:14

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)

Ornery Old Testament Prophets

Jeremiah was in jail for preaching.  There is no doubt he had been delivering a scathingly hard word.  The priestly establishment heard about it and threw him in stocks (20:2).

These Old Testament prophets were an amazingly tough and ornery bunch.  In Chapter 19, Jeremiah had gathered the elders of Jerusalem out by the filthy landfill (the Valley of Hinnom).  If you read the word he delivered to them, it will make your hair stand up.  He said things like, "your corpses shall be eaten by birds" (19:7), and "you will eat the flesh of your sons and daughters" (19:9) -- that's cannibalism! -- and "you stiff-necked people are all going to be slaughtered" (19:6).  Whoa!  How's that for a seeker-friendly message?

Jeremiah had then done a "prophetic act."  He shattered an empty earthen pot in front of them.  He declared that God was doing to Jerusalem exactly what he did to that pot. 

In passing we should note the dramatic change in prophetic message and tone when we move from Old Testament to New.  The tenor of New Testament prophetic ministry is REDEMPTIVE.  Prophecy in the New Testament is for "exhortation, edification, or comfort" (I Corinthians 14:3).  The thrust of these Old Testament prophets tilted strongly toward severe, inescapable JUDGMENT. 

"I Quit!"

Prophesying in the New Testament church can be thrilling.  Prophesying to Old Testament Israel could be dangerous.  As a result, Jeremiah cried out to God about the dilemma of his ministry.  "O Lord, you enticed me and persuaded me to take this assignment!" (20:7).  "Then you gave me this really hard word to preach."  "Now, everyone is either hating me or laughing at me."

Jeremiah tried to quit.  "Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His Name'" (20:9).  There comes a time in the life of every servant of God that he or she feels they can't go on any more.  The resistance is too strong.  The pain is too great.  It seems that God has hung you out to dry -- to be a laughing stock.  He has set you up for rejection and failure. 

The Fire Inside

Jeremiah made a discovery.  At this low point, he came face-to-face with the nature of all true calling.  Jeremiah had not called himself into the ministry.  God called him.  He had not invented the Word he was to deliver.  God had given it.  The Word in his heart became a force to be reckoned with.  The Word was alive.  The ministry was not the man Jeremiah; it was the Word he carried.  Once God placed His Word in Jeremiah's heart, it became like "fire in his bones.

There is an inevitability to all true, God-ordained ministry.  It is like fire that cannot be contained.  Paul echoed this truth when he wrote, "woe to me if I do not preach" (I Co. 9:16).  He told the Corinthians, "the love of Christ COMPELS us" (II Co. 5:14).  Jeremiah says that he grew weary trying to hold the Word inside.  It HAD to be released.

God's Strange Way of Using You

It seems like a strange way to do business.  God entices us to do His work.  Then we find out that some folks don't appreciate us like we thought they would.  How often have you felt the sting of unfair criticism only because you tried to do God's will?

The world, the flesh, and the devil will try to shut you down.  They want you to fold.  But this can be your finest moment.  You will find a power rising from deep inside -- from the marrow of  your being.  His Word working through you will ATTRACT opposition.  But it will ultimately prevail. 

Though strange, this is the way of the prophets.  This is the way of God's Word.  This is the path that you walk.

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