Friday, October 02, 2015

“The Prophetic Calling of Jeremiah”

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Prophetic Calling of Jeremiah"
For the week of October 3, 2015

     Jeremiah's messages were given during times of stress, upheaval, and need. There is a theme of lament running through this prophet's book. The message is rich with its mournful notes offset by some of the purest expressions of hope that are to be found anywhere in the Old Testament.

     The first three verses of Jeremiah chapter one presents information on Jeremiah's family background and place of residence. He descended from the priestly line of Aaron. His hometown was from the village of Anathoth, which was about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. Anathoth was allocated by Joshua to the priests (see Josh 21:15-19). Jeremiah began functioning as a prophet when he received God's call in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah which was 627 b.c. Jeremiah continued as God's chosen spokesman for more than forty years. Jer 39:11–44:30 records events of Jeremiah's ministry that occurred after August 586.

     In verses 4-6 God revealed to Jeremiah that He singled him out to be His prophet to Israel and to the nations. However, Jeremiah responded from his inadequacy as a "youth" (probably a late teen or early 20s). He claimed a lack of eloquence and speaking ability required for such a public ministry. God then gave Jeremiah three answers to his objections. First he was told that he was to go to everyone God sends him to and to say whatever He commanded. All that was required was that Jeremiah be a faithful messenger.

     Second, God encouraged Jeremiah with the fact that He would protect him. Evidently Jeremiah feared for his personal safety based on his awareness of the times in which he lived. (Later his people did try to get rid of him). Yet God told Jeremiah not to be afraid of the people, because He would be with him. Lastly, God reached out and touched Jeremiah's mouth assuring him that He would give him the very words to speak. The content of Jeremiah's message was summarized by God in that the message would contain both judgment and blessing (1:10).
     God used two metaphors, mixing them to describe Jeremiah's mission. Comparing Jeremiah to a farmer, God said he would uproot (announce judgment) "and to plant" (announce blessing). Next by comparing Jeremiah to an architect, God said he would tear or "throw down" (pronounce judgment) and "build" (pronounce blessing).

     God next confirmed His call to Jeremiah by giving him two visions. The first (vv. 11–12) focused on the nature of the message Jeremiah would deliver and the second (vv. 13–16) pointed out the content of that message. God caused Jeremiah to see the branch of an almond tree. The Hebrew word for "almond tree" is from the word "to watch or to wake." The almond tree was named the "awake tree" because in Palestine it is the first tree in the year to bud and bear fruit. Its blooms precede its leaves, as the tree bursts into blossom in late January. The branch represented God watching to see that His word is fulfilled. God used a play on words to associate the almond branch with His activity. Jeremiah's vision assured him that God was awake and watching over His word to make sure it came to pass.

     God's second vision given to Jeremiah was that of a boiling pot. The pot tilted away from the north indicating that its contents were about to spill out toward the south. The tilting pot represented disaster to be poured out on those who lived in Judah. The direction from which the pot was facing represented the northern kingdoms whom God summoned to punish the nation of Judah. This referred to the coming invasion by Babylon and her allies (cf. 25:8–9). Although Babylon is located to the east of Judah, geographically, the armies followed the trade routes along the Euphrates River in their march to Judah. The armies approached from the north. Their thrones were to be set up in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, indicating the city would fall and be ruled by the invading armies. Jeremiah recorded the fulfillment of this prophecy in 39:2–3 after the Babylonians captured Jerusalem.
     Judah's fall to Babylon would be God's judgment for her idolatry. Among other things they burned incense to Baal and to other gods (v. 16; 7:9). In the Temple service incense was offered at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices – at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The times were known as "the hour of incense" (see Luke 1:10). That incense offered to the God of heaven typified the righteousness of Christ. As the incense was being offered people prayed. Their prayers, their praise, their works, their very persons were dependent upon the merits of Christ symbolized by the incense. The people and what they did was to be covered by the righteousness of Christ.

     "The incense, ascending with the prayers of Israel, represents the merits and intercession of Christ, His perfect righteousness, which through faith is imputed to His people, and which can alone make the worship of sinful beings acceptable to God." (PP 353).

     "Man's obedience can be made perfect only by the incense of Christ's righteousness, which fills with divine fragrance every act of obedience." (AA 532).

     "Lift up your eyes toward the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ your Mediator stands before the Father to present your prayers, mingled with His own merit and spotless righteousness, as fragrant incense. (CT 241).

     In offering incense to pagan idols made with their own hands they were simply worshipping themselves with their own self-righteousness. All idolatry is image worship. These images are the product of the imagination of man's carnal mind.

    The term image comes from imagination. Thus we have man bowing down to himself as an equal with God. Thus it was in the days of Jeremiah; so it is in this our day.

     In forsaking God and worshiping what their own hands had created and offering the insulting incense of self-righteousness to Baal, the people of Judah violated the law of God and thus brought about her downfall.

     After explaining Jeremiah's assigned task, God charged Jeremiah to take up the challenge and to get ready (1:17–19.). God gave him the needed grace and strength to stand against the people of Judah. Through God's protection Jeremiah would be as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. God's strength to withstand attack would be necessary because all the people would oppose Jeremiah's message. God promised that although the people would fight against Jeremiah, His assurance was that they would not overcome him. "They shall not prevail against you. For I am with you," says the Lord, "to deliver you." (Jer 1:19). May this be our assurance today.

~Pastor Jerry Finneman