Jeremiah 29:11 is a pretty common scripture amongst Christians. It’s written in pretty fonts on wall décor. It’s engraved into jewelry. It’s posted on social media to encourage one friend or another. But how many of us have gotten some of–if not all–the backstory to Jeremiah?
You see, the backstory can help take this scripture that some may get tired of seeing (because of overuse) and turn it into something encouraging. To read the scriptures leading up to it gives this particular verse a deeper meaning. The Book of Jeremiah begins with Jeremiah hearing God tell him he is to be a prophet. Jeremiah’s reply–in short– is, ‘Nope. Uh-ah. Can’t do it. I can’t speak and I’m too young’.
“‘But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am too young’. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”Jeremiah 1:7
A verse later reveals that God gave Jeremiah the tools he would need to carry out the plans He had for Jeremiah’s life. Before we got to that point, however, we saw Jeremiah unwilling to go because he feared what the Lord was calling him to do; he feared the unknown. Warren W. Wiersbe is an author of a series called the ‘Be’ series and the one that centers on Jeremiah is called ‘Be Decisive: Taking a Stand for the Truth’. In it, Wiersbe gives us further insight to Jeremiah’s backstory:
“Since serving as a prophet was much more demanding than serving as a priest, it’s no wonder Jeremiah demurred. If I had my choice, I’d take the priesthood! For one thing, a priest’s duties were predictable. Just about everything he had to do was written down in the law. Thus, all the priest had to do was follow instructions…The ministry of a prophet, however, was quite another matter, because you never knew from one day to the next what the Lord would call you to say or do. The priest worked primarily to preserve the past by protecting and maintaining the sanctuary ministry, but the prophet labored to change the present so the nation would have a future” (p.15-16).
I don’t know about you, but this is encouraging. Every time God calls us to move there is a sliver of fear that tries to hold us back. We come up with excuses not to walk up to a stranger and say what God has given us to speak. We pretend not to have heard Him when we are asked to visit someone we don’t want to be around or go on a trip because we are anxious about being too far from home. Or, to top it off, we allow procrastination to override His voice in our lives and push off the task He has given us to care for. Whatever the excuse, Jeremiah tried to do the same thing.
The amazing, inspirational, awe-striking thing is God wouldn’t let him get by with it. God was like: ‘don’t tell Me you’re too young, boy! I knew you before even your mama knew you. You have been set apart to be a prophet’. Then, God wonderfully blesses Jeremiah by putting His words in his mouth and appointing him over nations and kingdoms. On top of this, God teaches Jeremiah as a mentor teaches a pupil.
“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree,’ I replied. The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.’ The word of the Lord came to me again, ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a pot that is boiling,’ I answered, ‘It is tilting toward us from the north.’ The Lord said to me, ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ declares the Lord.”Jeremiah 1:11-15a
We may not be given the task and responsibility of Jeremiah, but as we grow in Christ we will be given tasks and responsibilities to take care of. And not all of these things will transpire within our comfort zone. Just like Jeremiah who probably wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps into priesthood, we fear stepping out passed what we know. Yet, when we put on a brave face, close our ears to the whispers of fear, and take those first steps into the unknown by trusting in God to lead us true He will light our path and will be with us every step of the way.
Now, let’s fast forward a little to chapter 29 so we can circle this journey back to verse 11. In this chapter Jeremiah sends a letter to the elders and priests of the exiles of Jerusalem. In short, Jeremiah was telling the people to take heart, that the situation they were in might seem dire but it wasn’t the end. He encourages them to rest in Babylon for seventy years and to pray it prospers so they too may prosper. Then, he instructions them not to be disillusioned by the prophets or diviners among them for they are false and are liars. Finally, we arrive at the words he uses to inspire them to hang in there:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'”Jeremiah 29: 10-14
So, brothers and sisters, when God calls you forth to care for the task He wishes to give you, do not make up excuses nor listen to that whisper of fear. If it is truly from the Lord He will provide the tools and the way. He will listen to you when you cry for help on your journey. He will be your refuge and your strength. You will find Him wherever you look when you seek Him with all your heart. If the Lord is with you every step of the way, fear cannot stand against you.
One thought on “Jeremiah and the Journey”
Great post 🙂