Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 13:10-17
Called by name – I knew you
The Bible tells us that Jeremiah’s first message from the Lord comes in 627BC and that he receives further messages over a 40 year period, until the exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah to Babylon in 586BC. Israel, the Northern Kingdom had already been exiled in 722BC. Jeremiah is also credited with the message that said Israel (both Israel and Judah) would be in exile for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12).
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart”
This says so much more than that God knows everything. There’s something in here about God’s purpose for humanity and about how human being are an integral part of God’s plan for bringing his kingdom, fulfilling his purposes and extending his victory over darkness, sin and death.
The call of Jeremiah is the call to each of us. The God who declares “I knew you”, “I set you apart”, knows the plans and purposes he has for each of us. That plan includes being ‘sent into exile’ to live in a world where it’s hard to do the right thing and easy to do the wrong thing; where the temptation to go our own way is ever present and where the lure of false gods is all around.
It was (and is) part of God’s plan that Israel would live in exile so that they might recognise the darkness of sin within them and around them and call out to God to save and then turn away from the darkness to the light. Those who do so are called to become part of God’s rescue plan for creation, centred on the mission and purpose of his own Son, who through his death and resurrection, is bringing forth the new creation.
Jesus prayed to his Father not to take his followers out of the world but to “keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:15). It’s part of God’s purposes for human beings to remain in the darkness in order to work with God in overcoming evil by extending Christ’s victory.
This is the call that each of us is invited to respond to, and reaffirm daily in our lives. And yes, there will be excuses, reasons to wriggle out and withdraw – like Jeremiah’s “I can’t speak. I’m too young”. When the excuses come, we’ve got to listen to what God is saying – hearing his Word, listening to each other – for his voice counters the excuse with “don’t say I’m too young, for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people for I will be with you and will protect you”.
Called to be co-workers with God
God’s kingdom will not come unless you respond to his call. There are good things that won’t happen until you and I begin (and I mean begin because there is a sense that we are only ever beginning) to hear and obey.
John Wesley famously said that “God does nothing on earth save in answer to believing prayer”. Prayer is a vital human activity. God chooses to work with his creatures. The Bible refers to humans as co-labourers. We have our part to play just as Jeremiah had his. God didn’t reject Jeremiah when he made excuses. God wanted him as his co-worker. God in heaven, Jeremiah on earth.
The full picture of that is God the Father in heaven, God the Son on earth. Psalm 115 declares that the heavens belong to God and the earth to humankind. Psalm 24:1 states that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. So those “in Christ” have the authority of the Lord. Jesus gave it to his followers staying behind on earth when he ascended to heaven (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jeremiah is tasked with uprooting, tearing down, destroying and overthrowing some nations and kingdoms, whilst building up and planting others. Our task is to build up and plant God’s kingdom, to bring people back to God and to extend Christ’s victory over darkness, sin and death, wherever it is.
Called to become like Jesus our model
Jesus guides us and shows us how to do it. In the encounter with the crippled woman he declares boldly in faith, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness”. He released her from bondage by Satan after 18 years. Jesus saw something that was not fitting for a daughter of Abraham (a child of God) and he spoke the word to overthrow and destroy the kingdom of darkness and let the light in. The woman would have rejoiced and followed Jesus with her life transformed physically and spiritually to the way God intended it to be.
The God who knew us before we were born has made us to conform to his likeness and to bend our whole life towards the light of his coming kingdom through co-working with Christ as our guide and our model. May we give ourselves afresh to his eternal purpose through Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour.