Monday Musings: Jeremiah
Updated: Feb 25, 2019
The story of Israel's captivity in Babylon is the birthplace of a great many biblical heroes. There's Daniel, the survivor of the lion's den, Esther, the queen who risked her life, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, standing strong in their faith even in the fiery furnace. These figures were strong in a time of captivity, a dark age in Israel's history.
But what about the guy who was there at the beginning? The one who saw destruction brewing on the horizon, and the one no one wanted to hear?
In working through my Bible-reading plan the second time around, I was super excited to dive into one of last year's highlights: the book of Jeremiah. Partway through Jeremiah's account now, I'm blown away by a biblical figure that had never really struck me before. In the midst of the nation's sin, blasphemy and idol worship, he's called out by God to be a mouthpiece, a messenger, to bring to the people the words of God that no one is interested in hearing. I noticed a verse this time around that made me think differently about Jeremiah's identity. When God chooses him to be a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah 1:6 reads:
"O Sovereign LORD, I said, "I can't speak for you! I'm too young!" (NLT)
That verse in itself was enough to shatter my long-time vision of prophets in general: long beard, white hair, excessive wrinkles. It made me think twice about who Jeremiah was, what he might have looked like. Was he a young man? Twenty? Thirty? A teenager, even? Could this verse in context mean that he was middle-aged, or perhaps spiritually young?
I'm inclined to take it literally, especially since later in the book he is commanded not to marry, and for some reason, that makes him more fascinating. He wasn't necessarily a pious old wise man, a lifelong spiritual warrior of unattainable judgment and faith. Maybe he was just... a guy. One with a good, faithful heart. A guy called by God for a purpose that he didn't feel worthy of, but accepted anyway.
One of the things I love most about this book above the accounts of other prophets is the fact that Jeremiah has a voice of his own included in the scripture. We can hear him get discouraged, hear him ask God why; he gets scared when people are after him and confused when he can't make sense of God's plan, and we as the readers can feel his emotion and see not a mouthpiece, but a real, fragile man. It's heartening to me, to be reminded of the fact that God's followers have been fighting human weakness since the very beginning, and that even the ancient men whose names are preserved in the Word of God weren't always strong against doubt.
But Jeremiah kept going. Kept following. Kept obeying. He went to the Temple to cry out to the people, to beg them to turn back to God. He held his course when an angry mob threatened to kill him for telling them what they didn't want to hear. He stayed true when the king put him under lock and key, a captive just for speaking the truth. Abused and discouraged he cried out in grief, but kept doing what he was called to do. Kept doing God's work to the end.
I'm so excited to finish this account and see the full picture of Jeremiah's life. Though to his own peers he was known as a failure, we know he was so much more! An emblem of obedience, of drawing strength from God, of the power to endure any trial, any hardship, with God as one's dearest, closest friend.
So, on my list of epic biblical faith warriors, Jeremiah just rose through the ranks. He hasn't dethroned Moses just yet, but hey....