A “Hearty” Conversation

I started reading Jeremiah (again) yesterday. My goal is to read five chapters each day which will allow me to finish the entire book in just over one week. Sure, I could read more at a setting. But I’ve found five chapters to take about 35-45 minutes and when complete it allows me to “chew” and “digest” on what I’ve read. Care to take the journey with me?

Jeremiah has been deemed “The Weeping Prophet.” By the time we’re done, you will understand why. If you read certain portions of the book without knowing the context, Jeremiah could be perceived as discouraging if not depressing. However, if you understand the context, I believe you’ll appreciate Jeremiah and his candor. Let’s just say, “He’s real.”

The scene: Jeremiah (a prophet) speaks to Jerusalem in the 7th cen. – 6th cen. B.C.

Jeremiah receives his call from God right off the bat.  Most of us are familiar with Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…  How often is that taken out of context?  But the verse continues …and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.  The text says God “knew” Jeremiah.  “To know” in Hebrew signifies an intimate relationship.  God knew Jeremiah’s make-up – what would make him happy, sad, frustrated, etc.  He gifted Jeremiah with what the prophet needed.  Yet he also knew Jeremiah’s limitations.

Do you realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves?  When I think about my own life – my struggles, failures, etc., I’m amazed that although God knows me inside and out, He chooses to call me for a specific purpose.  By the way, He does the same with you!  The text states that God consecrated Jeremiah.  He was set apart.  No one could play Jeremiah’s role.  God would take Jeremiah’s limitations and use them as opportunities for Jeremiah to grow.  God would use Jeremiah’s giftedness and teach him about humility.  Make no mistake about it.  God chose Jeremiah for this task, at this time, in this place.  Coincidence?  Nope.

God then gives Jeremiah opportunities to see certain visions and promptly describes what the prophet is seeing.  It’s clear that what God calls Jeremiah to do will not be considered popular.  In fact, being unpopular would be an understatement.  Not many people … okay, no one… likes to be told what they’re doing is wrong.  And the Israelites were no exception.  Exactly how many times can a preacher accuse a people of being a “spiritual whore” without getting run out-of-town?  Jeremiah was set on finding out.  But he also offers hope if they will repent.  Here’s the charge that I’ve highlighted:  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of your evil deeds.  4:4 (ESV)

Okay.  That’s strange!  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD?  Foreskin of the heart?  If we look at the latter part of the verse, it seems vital that we figure out what Jeremiah is saying.  The obvious meaning is repentance.  Without repentance, there’s no reason to move ahead with the conversation, relationship, etc.  The people of Jerusalem (and you and I) are called to turn away from worldly things and turn back to God.  The word pictures of circumcision and foreskin speak to the excising of one’s flesh.  Later, Paul would say “crucify yourself.”  If we don’t do away with the flesh, the Spirit is not allowed to rule.  Too often, people attempt to get religion and live in the world at the same time.  It’s impossible!  But we’re slow learners.

This theme will come up over and over throughout the book.  And that gives us a good basis to think about what we need to change.  But are you willing?


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