The Christian minister can learn much from the life of the prophet Jeremiah. He is an outstanding example of a man completely surrendered to doing the will of God even in the face of the most negative circumstances and opposition. The current religious climate has some similarities to that of Jeremiah's day. There were few true prophets of God in Jeremiah's day as there are few today. The greatest need in the church today may well be that of courageous prophets of God who will stand and proclaim the Word of the Lord even when it is not well received. Jeremiah was called of God to such a ministry and did it faithfully. Jeremiah, therefore, stands as a model of faithful proclamation of the Word of God to a less than faithful covenant people. Jeremiah was faithful in his character, faithful to God's message, and faithful in spite of opposition and indifference.
Faithful in Character
Jeremiah is a model of faithful character. He always obeyed the Word of God, even if it humanly did not make sense (e.g., buying the land, Jer. 32:6-25). Jeremiah possessed a deep love for God and for God's people. He is known as the "weeping prophet" because of the great sorrow he felt for Judah's unrepentance and judgement. Sad and despairing because of the rejection of his message, he yet loved, prayed for, and agonized over his people. No greater and truer Jewish patriot ever preached the truth to them. Even when the Lord forbade him to pray for them, he continued to intercede. At times he felt that God himself had forsaken him. He even cursed the day of his birth.
Jeremiah's life was one of uninterrupted misunderstanding and persecution. He had encountered more opposition from more enemies than any other OT prophet. Much of it stemmed from the fact that, unlike Elisha, Isaiah, and others, who urged the nation to withstand their enemies and promised God's help, Jeremiah continually preached one theme: unconditional surrender. Had not the Lord protected him, he would have been martyred.
Jeremiah possessed great courage in standing for the Word of God in the face of opposition. He boldly preached God's message of repentance in the temple (ch. 26) and defended the message even when standing alone and threatened with his life by the angry religious leaders. Jeremiah possessed great endurance in his ministry. He never gave up, even though he may have felt like giving up. He trusted God and obeyed God even though the demands for such faithfulness were great (e.g., God prohibited him from marrying; God told him to buy land he would never be able to use; he was imprisoned in a dungeon; etc.). Jeremiah is a model of faithful character because he valued trust and obedience to God more than anything else. The church today needs prophets who are faithful in character. The church today has had too many ministers who are deficient in character. The result is not only bringing reproach on the name of Christ, but also deeply wounds the people of God and hinders God's work.
Faithful to God's Message
Jeremiah is an example of faithfulness to the message of God in the face of opposition and indifference. The message God gave to Jeremiah was what the people needed to hear even though they did not want to hear it. Jeremiah was not swayed by popular consensus but was steadfast in proclaiming the message of both judgement and hope for God's people.
The two focuses of Jeremiah's life and ministry were God–his goodness, his claims on man, his requirements of repentance and faith– and his wayward people– their welfare, physically and spiritually. Jeremiah enjoyed a high concept of God as Lord of all creation (27:5). The gods of the nation are nonentities (10:11, 14; 14:22). God knows the malady of the human heart (17:9-10); yet he loves his people deeply (31:1-3), longing to bless those who trust him (17:7). Idolatrous worship and heartless, impenitent service are alike an abomination to him (19:4-6; 14:12). No greater insult can be offered God than to represent him under the form of dead idols. Idolatry was the special sin Jeremiah tirelessly preached against. Three kinds of falsehood stirred him: (1) false security that refused all calls for repentance, (2) false prophets who lulled the people into dangerous complacency, and (3) the false worship of idols.
There does not appear any instance of Jeremiah refusing to proclaim any part of the message God gave him or even of downplaying or distorting any part of the message. He preached negatively against sin and positively for God's love and restoration. The church today needs prophets who will likewise faithfully proclaim the Word of God without focusing on one part to the neglect of the other. Sin and disobedience must be confronted as well as offering the hope of forgiveness upon repentance.
Faithful in Spite of Opposition and Indifference
Jeremiah is a model of faithfulness in the face of opposition and indifference. Jeremiah endured the hostility, threats, and even apathy of a wayward people. Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed the Word of God for over forty years, yet the people of Judah did not listen to his warnings. Jeremiah was put in prison, thrown into a well, and taken to Egypt against his will. He was rejected by his friends, neighbors, family, false priests and prophets, and kings. Jeremiah stood alone in his call for the people to repent and turn to God. He warned them time and time again of their impending punishment. And even though much of what he prophesied came true during his ministry, the people and the leaders continued to ignore him.
Yet through all the hardship and humiliation he was forced to endure, Jeremiah remained obedient and faithful to God. Although at first he questioned God's calling, once he accepted his position he became a model of perseverance and devotion. After enduring decades of abuse, threats, and outright indifference, Jeremiah could easily have turned his back and walked away. But he knew that was exactly the problem God had told him to warn the people about. The people had turned away from God's will, and Jeremiah was not about to do the same. Some may look back at his ministry and consider it a failure because the people did not respond to his call. In reality, his life was a glorious success because Jeremiah remained faithful to his God. He may not have seen immediate results, but his struggle to obey God in a world that had turned wholesale away from its Creator has inspired generations of believers.
The church today needs prophets who will have the courage to proclaim all of God's Word even if it means bearing opposition and indifference. The church needs a strong voice to confront the subtle and not so subtle compromises taking place in the church. The church is in danger of going adrift in postmodernity without the fixed reference of the Word of God to guide it. May the Lord raise up prophets who will boldly proclaim his word and may those who are called follow Jeremiah's example to be faithful in character, in message, and in spite of opposition and indifference. Those who do may find themselves standing alone at times, but the Lord promises to be with them forever.
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