Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Calling

I think I have been amiss in my use of a verse that, at first glance, seems very encouraging. When I am talking to people who are looking for some encouragement in their Christian walk I will often quote Jeremiah 1: 5:
Jeremiah 1: 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
At first glance this looks like a very positive and encouraging verse, and to a certain extent it is. God knows each and every one of us before we are ever formed in the womb. He has called us to serve Him in some special way. But notice what Jeremiah says in verse 6:
Jeremiah 1: 6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
What? How can he make an excuse like that?! Surely if you or I heard God say that to us we would say: "Ah Lord thank you, please, send me where ever you will, to say whatever you want to whomever you wish."

Are we sure about that. As I read the book of Jeremiah I began to wonder if Jeremiah knew what being called by God would entail. Prophets were not treated well and many were killed for speaking out for the Lord:
II Chronicles 24: 20 - 21 -  20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, "This is what God says: 'Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.' " 21 But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD's temple. 
Jeremiah 26: 20-23 -  20 (Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did. 21 When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. 22 King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt, along with some other men. 23 They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.)
I think that the idea of living a life of ease, luxury and blessing materialistically speaking is inaccurate. We can see God calling His people to do difficult things all the way back in the Old Testament. Take a look at what God told Jeremiah to say:
Jeremiah 21: 3- 7 -  3 But Jeremiah answered them, "Tell Zedekiah, 4 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath. 6 I will strike down those who live in this city—both men and animals—and they will die of a terrible plague. 7 After that, declares the LORD, I will hand over Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who seek their lives. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.'
Not a word from the Lord I would want to hear! How about this one:
Jeremiah 25: 8 - 11 -  8 Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: "Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon," declares the LORD, "and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy  them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
I think I am beginning to understand why Jeremiah may have wanted to get out of his calling. If I knew God had called me to to do what Jeremiah was called to I may have had the same response. This calling is not unique to Jeremiah. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Paul's calling in Acts 20 being full of suffering and prison but you can also see something similar in the book of John when Jesus is talking to Peter:
John 21: 18, 19  - 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
I am not sure I would have taken Jesus up on his offer if it were me. The more time I spend in God's word, the more I realize the life He has called me (us) to is much different than what I am currently living. I find myself living for the here and now and not for eternity. I believe God is still looking for men and women who will follow Him where ever He leads. Do we truly believe He knew us before He formed us and He has called us to something greater than how we are living now? I think I know the answer but the question is do I really want to follow Him where ever He calls?

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