Today’s reading: Jeremiah 10-13.
Jeremiah began to feel the pressure as the security of his country crumbled. The politically minded overlooked him when he was young and unknown, but after decades his unrelenting message of doom could not be ignored. As the danger drew near, the powerful people blamed him rather than their own spiritual failures. Then Jeremiah gave a particularly sobering message: God was canceling the contract between himself and the Jewish nation. The people had failed to live up to the agreement which they made as they entered the Promised Land. Now God declared it null and void.
“Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers. Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.'” Jeremiah 11:10-11
God was through listening to his people, and the people were through listening to Jeremiah. The men of his own hometown plotted to kill him. When Jeremiah heard about it he credited God with saving him, but he also complained to the LORD about the prosperity of the wicked. God told Jeremiah to brace for worse things.
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5
There’s little comfort in God’s question. It’s full of warning rather than sympathy. God said, “Jeremiah, you’ve had a little trouble so far – get ready for bigger enemies. You’ve had sure footing in the past, but now you’ll be fighting in the swamp.” Jeremiah was looking for explanations, but all he got was a question, and a pretty alarming question at that. Warren Wiersbe said that we live on God’s promises rather than his explanations, and fortunately Jeremiah had some promises that he could fall back on.
- God told him that he appointed him for the task before he was born.
- He told Jeremiah that he would be with him and would rescue him.
- He told him that he had made him “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall” that would stand up against everyone, from the highest king to the common people of the land.
God wasn’t just warning Jeremiah. He was preparing him for bigger conflicts. He wanted to renew the prophet’s strength so that he would be able to tackle those bigger obstacles. Jeremiah’s struggle would be difficult because of the personal attacks he would suffer, because of the lack of response to his message, and because it was his own country that was being destroyed. But Jeremiah would be fighting with God’s strength rather than his own.
Perhaps God has given you a difficult ministry that has sapped your strength. Maybe you’re speaking God’s word but not seeing any response to it. You may even be experiencing criticism or persecution because of your work. God says, I appointed you for this work and I will give you the strength to do it, even if it becomes more difficult. I am with you, and I will rescue you if that becomes necessary. I have made you as strong as iron to withstand the pressure that will come against you. Measure your success by your faithful obedience to perform the work, rather than the reaction of people who may accept or reject my word. Do all this, and you will survive the tough, and even the tougher, times.
Image by Stijn Bokhove on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0