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Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
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Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet

#2
"No, Lord!  I am too young!"
Rev. Ron Friedrich
July 9, 2006


Last week we learned about God's call to Jeremiah, and God's plan for Jeremiah's life.  Now we see how Jeremiah responded to that call.

Jeremiah 1:5-10 (New Century Version)
4 The LORD spoke his word to me, saying:
5 "Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you.
Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

6 Then I said, “But Lord GOD, I don’t know how to speak. I am only a boy.”

7 But the Lord said to me, “Don’t say, ‘I am only a boy.’ You must go everywhere I send you, and you must say everything I tell you to say. 8 Don’t be afraid of anyone, because I am with you to protect you,” says the LORD.

9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth. He said to me, "See, I am putting my words in your mouth. 10 Today I have put you in charge of nations and kingdoms. You will pull up and tear down, destroy and overthrow, build up and plant."

Jeremiah 16:1-2
Then the Lord spoke his word to me:  "You must not get married or have sons or daughters in this place."

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God called Jeremiah to serve Him as a prophet.
But Jeremiah gave a "thumbs down" on that call.
Jeremiah told God two reasons why he should not be a prophet for God.

The first reason:  "I don't know how to speak.

Can you remember someone else in the Bible who gave the same excuse?

It was Moses, who said that same thing 800 years before.  Moses met the angel of God in the burning bush on Mt. Sinai, and there God commanded Moses to tell the king of Egypt, "The Lord God says, 'Let My people go!"  But Moses' excuse was, "I can't speak well.  I talk too slowly."  (Exodus 4:10).  God did not accept Moses' excuse, and He also did not accept Jeremiah's excuse.

No doubt Moses felt he was too old to start a new career.  He was 80 years old when God spoke to him in the burning bush.  Jeremiah thought he was too young and too inexperienced.  The Bible does not report Jeremiah's age, but we read that Jeremiah told God, "I am only a boy" (NCV translation).  Other English translations translate the Hebrew text, "I am only a youth."

God did not accept this excuse, too.

APPLICATION:
Neither Moses nor Jeremiah felt they were qualified for God's service.
That is the way it should be.
God's servants should feel unqualified -- not good enough, not skilled enough -- for the great task God gives them. 

It is true that we are ALL not qualified to serve God.

Indeed, if anyone thinks that he or she is good enough, smart enough, skilled enough to do God's work, that person is not fit for service.   That kind of service comes from pride, not faith.   That kind of servant gets the praise for his service, not God. 

If you feel that you are qualified for God's service, then you aren't!

But a person who is aware of his own unworthiness is a person that the Lord can best use as His vessel.   As we confess our unworthiness, God shows us His total mercy in forgiving us, receiving us as his child, filling us with his Holy Spirit, and sending each of us back into the world, for HIM to do a special work through us.  When God works through our weak efforts and our clumsy abilities, He accomplishes a great work and He receives all the credit.  The praise belongs to Him alone.

But the Lord said to me, "Don’t say, 'I am only a boy.' You must go everywhere I send you."
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Story:
In my 30 years of ministry since graduating from seminary, I have served in three different places:  Northern Illinois, Dallas Texas, and Metro-Washington.

The call to Northern Illinois was a surprise.    I thought I knew where all the Deaf Lutheran vacancies were, and which Districts were wanting to call a pastor.  Illinois was not on my list.  When I saw those papers on Call Day at the seminary, I actually put them all back in the envelope and took a second look at the name on the outside of the envelope, to be sure that it wasn't a mistake.

God gave me a wonderful, fruitful ministry in Illinois.  He also gave me a wonderful wife and family there.

My second call was to Texas.  I really resisted that call.  I knew about two very hot places where I didn't want to live.  One was hell and the other was Texas.  But God show us - my wife and myself - that Texas was where He wanted us.

When my work in Texas came to an end, it was clear that God was preparing us to move to do Deaf ministry in another place.  But we didn't know where.  Again, I knew where the vacancies were, and I had my favorite places picked out.  I knew Silver Spring, Maryland, was interested in calling me as your pastor, but honestly, I was not interested in moving to Washington DC.  But one by one, God closed the door to each of the places that I wanted to go.  It was clear that the place He had picked out for me was Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf in Silver Spring.   More than anything else, I want to be where God wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do.  I could not have joy any other way.
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...the Lord said to me, "...You must go everywhere I send you, and you must say everything I tell you to say.   Don’t be afraid of anyone, because I am with you to protect you," says the Lord .

At the time the Lord told Jeremiah this,  Jeremiah could not have understood what this meant.

"Don't be afraid.... I will protect you..." from what?

Jeremiah was physically attacked and his life was in danger many times, as we will see later in our series.   We see a hint of it from this instruction God gave to Jeremiah:

Then the Lord spoke his word to me:  “You must not get married or have sons or daughters in this place.”  (Jeremiah 16:1-2)

Jeremiah was young and still unmarried when God called him.  But God told Jeremiah that He did not want Jeremiah to get married.  His life was going to be hard, and God did not want Jeremiah burdened with the responsibilities of a family, and God did not want a wife and family to endure the trouble which Jeremiah was going experience.

[Jer 1]
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth. He said to me, "See, I am putting my words in your mouth.  Today I have put you in charge of nations and kingdoms. You will pull up and tear down, destroy and overthrow, build up and plant."

The Bible has two basic teachings: 
    Law and Gospel
    Bad News and Good News

Bible teaches us that we are sinners, deserving eternal punishment.
The Bible also teaches that God loves sinners, and that He offered His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.  Through His sacrifice, He earned for us total forgiveness for all of our sins.

We wish that the Bible did not tell us the bad news.  We wish that God would not judge sinners guilty.  But the truth is, we are guilty.    And if we don't understand that, then the Good News means nothing.  If we have no sin, we don't need a Savior, and Jesus died for nothing.

But we must know both, the Bad News (the Law) and the Good News (the Gospel).
If a sick person goes to the doctor, the doctor will not hide the truth about what is wrong.  When a patient knows he has cancer, then the doctor may be able to do surgery to save the patient's life.  When we know the truth about our sin, then the News about Jesus really is Good, and in that Good News we receive eternal life.

God gave Jeremiah both messages, Law and Gospel, Bad News and Good News.

"You will pull up and tear down, destroy and overthrow..."

That's the Bad News, the Law.

"[and you will] build up and plant."

When we teach God's Word - Law and Gospel - God Himself speaks.

"See, I am putting my words in your mouth."

God told Jeremiah:

"If you speak things that have worth,
not useless words,
then you may speak for me." (Jeremiah 15:19)

That last line "you may speak for me," literally says in the Hebrew text, "you will be My mouth." 
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Story:
When I was a student, in that summer between college and seminary, I happened to attend a wedding shower for a high school friend.  The groom was a soldier who was soon to be discharged back to civilian life.  The bride was a young woman who was just eager to get married. 

During the party, one of the bride's girlfriends asked her, "After you are married and start having children, will you continue to work [an outside job]?"

She said, "Yes."  And he said, "No."

Then the both smile at each other, and each of them said the same thing:  "After we are married, you will change your mind and think my way."
 
I was just a dumb, inexperienced single college kid.  But even I could see that they were both wrong.   So I simply said, "It won't work."  

Nothing more was said about that subject, and people at the party talked about other things.

I completely forgot about this event, until a year later.  The next summer I was home again.  One day while I was working on my car, the mailman came, and I was surprised to see that he was the former army soldier that I had met the previous summer.

We greeted each other and chatted a little.  He delivered the mail, and then he continued his work.  I few minutes later I broke a part on the car, and so I needed to go the auto parts store to buy a replacement.  I jumped on my bicycle and headed down the street.  I passed the young mailman, still walking his route.  We waved at each other. 

When I was coming back from the store, the mailman called out to me and asked me to stop so he could talk to me.

He said, "Do you remember last year at the shower?  You said that our marriage wouldn't work.  You were right.  How did you know?"

I was stuck because in that moment I couldn't remember what he was talking about.   I had not said that his marriage wouldn't work.  I meant only to say that they would not be able to change each other's minds about the wife working outside the home.  But he heard it as if I meant that the marriage wouldn't work.  And it wasn't working.

He asked me, "What should I do?  Can my marriage get better?"

I didn't have any idea what to say to him.  (Remember that I was an inexperienced single college student.)  But I heard myself answering his question, "Oh, I believe in miracles."

He said, "I'm not asking for a miracle.  I just want to know what I should do."

Again I heard myself say, "When two people stop thinking of only themselves first, and each of them starts putting the other person first, I call that a miracle."

He looked stunned.  Since I could think of nothing more to say, I got back up my bike and continued my ride home.

I am still not sure where that counsel came from.  I hope it was from the Lord.  It certainly didn't come from me.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth. He said to me, "See, I am putting my words in your mouth.  Today I have put you in charge of nations and kingdoms. You will pull up and tear down, destroy and overthrow, build up and plant."
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God called Jeremiah for special work as a prophet in a very difficult time in Israel's history. 

The Lord also calls each of us for a special work.  Some of us are called to be married; God calls some of us to serve Him as singles, as was Jeremiah.   Our age doe not matter.  Our natural abilities, or inabilities, are not an obstacle for God.  For any good work that God does through us, He receives all the praise and glory.

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God has save you by His grace,
which you receive by faith.
Your salvation is God's gift,
not your works.
So no one can boast.
God made us
to do good works,
which He already prepared for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10