Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting A Job You Don't Want!

Hmmn... Have you ever had a conversation with God like this…

Lord, I’m not sure I’m cut out for this. I don’t think I’m ready yet….well, you’ve given me certain spiritual gifts and you know I did that spiritual gift inventory with John so why do you keep calling me to do things that really don’t line up with who I am? My personality, gifting and make up…well, I don’t think we have a match made in heaven. Are you sure this job is for me?

It may very well be about your job, but it is more to do with the assignments that God gives us which can often happen ‘on the job’ so to speak. We are going to begin a series this fall on the life of Jeremiah. He is a real prophet who wears his heart on his sleeve. If you don’t know him very well, you might think he is neurotic.

He isn’t a simple man and his book isn’t really all that simple either. The first 25 chapters are a collection of sermons interspersed with some off the record comments between God and him. Then in chapter 26-45 we have a sketchy biography of his life and not necessarily in chronological order and then finally in 46-52 we find his prophecies against other nations.

Have you even been in a Jeremiah-like spot? It is when you are squeezed in the middle like a go-between and find yourself often misunderstood. It is being a rock in a very hard place. You have been given the job of telling others that they have no job or you are the one who has to confront a family member about their sin. It is often a no win situation and you unfortunately somehow come out looking like the bad one. There is no reward for your job and people don’t want to hear what you have to say. Then, to top it all off, God seems distant and removed from you. Enter the life of Jeremiah. As we wrestle through his problems, we will come to learn how to walk through our own. We can learn so much from his life as a prophet with maybe the exception of Daniel. However with Jeremiah, you will know and feel the inside, the gut level honesty with God that we all need to discover.

Getting to know Jeremiah’s workplace v1-3

He was born around 646BC in a suburb like place just 3 miles NE of Jerusalem. He lived in a community of priests and Levites and the most famous person that had lived there was Abiathar who counseled David for many years.

In Jeremiah’s day, there was more priests than jobs in the temple and Phoenician and Assyrian deities were worshipped more in the temples than God. He was the son of a priest, Hilkiah and they would be supported by the givings of the people but given their apathy and divided loyalties, they wouldn’t have seen very much support at all.

There was so much corruption and infidelity in the country during his time and leading to infants being offered on pagan altars.

Fast forward 20 years and Josiah is well into his reign. He was the young boy who began his reign at 8! When he was 16, he began seeking after the God of David after doing some housecleaning…. (2 Chronicles 34:3) How easy it is to lose God’s Word in the clutter of life..There was a ray of hope under His godly reign, but that soon would be snuffed out.

Getting to know the job description! v4-8

God had no business asking Jeremiah to do those nasty assignments…someone who’s psyche was more suited for the job… He appears to not be the best suited for the position. It is clear that Jeremiah is a poet and God is calling him to be a prophet. He could have easily been the guy that wrote folk songs for Judah to sing. Instead, he is called to a ministry of thunder and lightening instead of a gentle spring rain. From his writings, one commentator describes him as the shy, sensitive type, impatient, given to extreme highs and lows, courageous and yet torn by a sense of inadequacy.

However God gives him an incredible sense of calling. God has his life planned out for him long before He tries to figure it out. He has been appointed, been set aside…born for this mission

Getting to know the power tools v9

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth.

When God calls you, He equips you with His power and His presence. God is used to our excuses and thankfully He is in the business of doing the unexpected with the unsuspecting! You have heard it said before that God doesn’t called the equipped. He equips the called!

He loves to shine in this type of situation because He receives the glory. It is His Name that is on the line. It is His strength that is made perfect in your weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10

He puts His words into our mouth…Hebrews speaks of the Word being alive and powerful.

In Jewish thought a word was more than just a sound expressing meaning. A word actually did things. It was an effective cause like God in creation stating, Let there be light. The heavens and earth were made by the word of the Lord in Genesis 1:3

In Genesis 2:7 God breathed into man the breath of life and he became a living being

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired – God breathed

The Word of the Lord is mentioned 49 times in Jeremiah’s book. When the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, it was an active life giving message. It had this incredible grip on him. It possessed him and burned within him as Jeremiah 20:9 relates it was like a fire in his bones. There was no way he could contain it. He also speaks of eating God’s Word in 15:16. It caused him joy and it also caused him to stagger like a drunk man 23:9 and also caused him pain 38:6,9

Getting to know the fine print… v11-19

There were some bright lights in his message and verses that we quote, but for Jeremiah, he had a dark mission. It was negative in that he would proclaim judgment. God does not call us to be happy go lucky. He teaches us to number our days so we can gain a heart of wisdom. He calls us to repentance, to humility, but He also lifts us up and sets our feet on a rock and gives us confidence, grace, strength and never underestimate the power of His presence.

The challenge for Jeremiah was to show his people that God was not asleep. He knew exactly what was going on and what was happening was far from acceptable. If he lived in our day he might have grabbed hold of that commercial….WAKE UP PEOPLE and put his own twist on it.

However God gave him a vision of an almond tree and his attention was particularly drawn to a flowering branch. The word in Hebrew for almond branch is saqed which literally means ‘the waker’ because this tree was to first to bloom in spring like the peach tree or a robin showing up. It was a sign and the amazing thing is that it flowers even before its leaves begin to unfold.

The almond tree was God’s wake up call to nature and Jeremiah was to be the wake up call to the nations. He is not asleep, we are the ones who are sleeping.

In all of this, Jeremiah needs God’s assurance and He definitely gives that assurance along with a real challenge not to deviate!

In 1521, Martin Luther was summoned before the Diet of Worms. Standing before the secular and religious leaders of the church, Luther was asked to retract his writing which had been condemned as heretical. In his famous reply, the great Reformer answered, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything.”

Jeremiah too was captive to the Word of God. He could not and would not go back on the message that God gave him.

So, what can we learn from Jeremiah…

It is not wrong to admit your own inadequacy for what you are called to do. In fact, God appreciates that type of attitude more than any other.

It is not wrong to be honest and open about how you feel with God. We really would like more fine print, details, more details. The reality is that God does not simply reveal it all up front. We have to learn to trust him more in every situation.

We need to remember that not every mission is necessarily meant to succeed. It is ok to fail. God doesn’t judge success by our standards and definitions. What often looks like success to us is not necessarily success to him and the same is true of what we might look as failure.

At the end of the day, the job, the mission, the most reassuring thing that He gives us is His presence.

The Takeaway

When God gives the job description, His presence and power are all over it!

How to let the Word get to you.

  1. Read the Bible apart from all the helps. Let the HS speak to you.
  2. Flood your reading with prayer
  3. Read different parts of the Word of God
  4. Believe it to be the truth
  5. Read it with an open mind, don’t try to put your own spin on it
  6. Really let it sink into your heart
  7. Take time to memorize it and internalize it.
  8. Let it control all parts of your life, your eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet…
  9. Live on His terms, not your own.

Questions For Discussion and Small Groups:

1. What is your excuse for not following through on God’s calling? What is it that holds you back from sharing your faith or His compassion with others? How can God turn this weakness into strength in your life?

2. How can the Word of God really take hold of you? Can you share an experience where its words gave you the direction, focus or your marching orders so to speak?

3. Can you relate a time where you felt a situation you were involved in was a failure until God showed you at a later time that it was a success.

4. How can you let the word of God captivate you this week?

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