The prophet Jeremiah ministered over 600 years before the birth of Christ. He is sometimes referred to as the “weeping prophet.” The Lord tasked Jeremiah with a difficult assignment: declare his coming destruction of Jerusalem and its people because of their unrepentant idolatry (Jeremiah 1:16-17, ESV). Before the prophet closes out the very first chapter of his prophecy, he records the Lord informing him that the people will not receive his message. They will fight against him, but the Lord will cause Jeremiah to prevail (Jer. 1:19, ESV). There is so much to explore about this Old Testament (OT) prophet’s call to ministry.
When I hear about ministers today flying on private jets, sporting the latest fashions and hairdos, and the like, I wonder what they think about Jeremiah. He lived well before Pentecost, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. In Jeremiah’s day, he used oil lamps to light up his home at night. Running water meant the Jordan River. Basically, this OT prophet lacked most of the amenities that many Westerners enjoy today. The simple truth of the matter is that Jeremiah had been appointed by the Lord as a prophet (Jer. 1:5, ESV). This meant that Jeremiah enjoyed a favored or blessed status.
Would any of those high-flying ministers consider Jeremiah as living a blessed life in the Lord? Over in the twelfth chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet records the Lord rebuking him over complaining about his present difficulties because things will only intensify within his own family (Jer. 12:6, ESV). It seems to me that those ministry clowns on television proclaim a vastly different Lord than the one who commissioned Jeremiah. If there is one thing that I do know, it is that despite the circumstances, the Lord promises to deliver his chosen prophet and to be with him (Jer. 15:20-21, ESV). I wonder if those televangelists have the same relationship with their Creator like Jeremiah.
In fact, allow me to quote the words of the prophet himself. They give us a glimpse into Jeremiah’s relationship with the Lord:
“O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation.” (Jer. 15:15-17, ESV)
Behind the prophet’s words is a waterfall of emotion. He implores his Lord to not only remember him, but to come to his aid for deliverance. Jeremiah points out to the Lord that his suffering is due precisely because of his obedience to him. Do those aforementioned celebrity ministers experience hardship or trial simply due to their undying allegiance to the Lord and his commands? This was Jeremiah’s experience. His joy and delight in the God and his word isolated him from society (Jer. 15:17, ESV). Jeremiah truly longed for the Lord to deliver him, but instead he rejoiced in being called and identified by the Lord (Jer. 15:16, ESV). He was not ashamed of his God.
I am not saying that following the Lord always leads to suffering and loneliness. I am not suggesting that obeying God and his truth always places the believer in the fires of persecution. What I am saying is that all those who follow the Lord and his truth should not exhibit surprise or shock when persecution comes. Many followers of Jesus Christ face the threat of death each day in various regions of the world. They persevere in the faith in spite of the suffering because they know that God has chosen them, appointed them, to follow him in that way just like the prophet Jeremiah.
In fact, these persecuted believers see themselves as participating in Christ’s sufferings, which Jeremiah’s ministry foreshadows. Together, Jeremiah and the persecuted church comprise the great cloud of witnesses exhorting today’s church to keep running the race with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV). Let us maintain the faith, staying true to the Lord and his word. May the Holy Spirit empower and sustain us in the days to come.