This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on January 31, 2016
Most congregations will be familiar with this passage in Jeremiah. The description of Jeremiah being knitted together in his mother’s womb under the careful watch of God is a favorite reference of the pro-life movement. Indeed, this is a tender moment for any of us when we think about the imminence of God. A God who, Jesus tells us, knows the number of the hairs on our heads. Yet, in context, the description is even more meaningful to the prophet in the context of his ministry and, of course, richer in meaning for us as well.
Jeremiah was called to confront a corrupt political system and an immoral society that really didn’t want to hear what he had to say. He would pay dearly for his willingness to speak the truth. For bringing God’s word to God’s people he would be beaten, thrown in a well, imprisoned, and hounded. Beside the physical suffering he endured, he would agonize over a nation that wouldn’t respond to the salvation God was offering. He would beg for his eyes to become fountains so he could weep and weep for his people whose choices were taking them further and further away from God.
And God’s consolation to Jeremiah? You were designed for just such a moment. I created you, the Lord tells Jeremiah, to endure and indeed, to thrive, in the situations in which you have now found yourself.
That may not be the comfort Jeremiah, or we, are looking for. Yet, as we think on God’s words to Jeremiah, we begin to see the good news that is coming to us as well.
First, God is always at work. In the chaotic and unstable times of a corrupt and evil king caught in the closing vice of the Babylonian army, it would have been hard for Jeremiah to see what God was up to. Yet, our God isn’t limited by circumstances or frustrated by the cultural situations of our world. He is always working and always finding a way to work. Like water running downhill, if one way is blocked the water will flow around the blocking object. In the same way, if there is someone who doesn’t believe, God will work around them. God promised Jeremiah His judgment, even when fully executed, would not be ultimately destructive. God’s judgment is always tempered with mercy. For that reason, God always finds a remnant. He’ll always have a people.
Because God is always working, He’s always aware of how time will flow and moments will develop. He’s aware of how things will be developing and what kind of person will be needed in the moment. What kind of gifts will the person need to possess? What kind of experience will the person need? What kind of temperament? When he complained about the moment being too hard or that he was too young for the challenge, Jeremiah was reminded he was created for just such a moment. He was “knitted together” in his mother’s womb in order to fulfill the prophetic need in this moment of Israel’s history.
Esther received this same affirmation through Mordechai’s words to her, “for such a time as this.” Jeremiah was to be encouraged and strengthened by knowing that God had all of this in mind when He created Jeremiah. He had the stuff he needed not only to survive the adversities he would encounter, but to thrive in them.
As we follow Christ, we should be encouraged to know that we too have been created with divine intention. We are made to serve the kingdom and the King’s agenda. We were created for certain places, times, and events. As the old preachers say, “We were made on purpose for a purpose.” God knew, long before we did, the kind of mess the world would be in when we got to that moment. For that reason, He has created us in a certain way, gifted us with particular attributes and characteristics in order to serve His kingdom and our world with the greatest effectiveness.
In modern and postmodern evangelism, this part of the gospel is left out of the good news. Not only does salvation include justification (the rightful alignment of the person with the laws of God), but also sanctification. Sanctification is more widely known as the person’s journey to become more like Christ. Day by day, the believer goes through the process of becoming more holy. That’s true, but there’s more. Each of us is called to join Christ in His redemptive work. There’s something for us to do in the kingdom ministry of Christ. In finding this calling, we find our true identity and purpose in this world.
Now, many of us may recognize this as the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” line of evangelism. While that’s true, there’s more to it than that. Following Christ in our world is a costly decision. One of the things we don’t understand is that when you’re walking in the world, you’re flowing with culture. When you start following Christ, you turn into the flow of culture. Everything that was once flowing with you is now flowing at you. Yet, God in His wisdom, has created us, “knitted us together,” to be able to live and serve in these kinds of moments. God has not been surprised by these moments. He knew they were coming and He has divinely prepared us to be able to live to His glory in them.
Jeremiah was right. He lived in a time when it was tough to be a prophet. (When has it ever been easy to be a prophet?) God knew the time would be tough, so He made Jeremiah tougher. Like Jeremiah, we live in times that do not want to hear what we have to say. The times are tough. Our consolation is knowing our God has known this and made us tougher.
Dr. Mike Glenn
Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, TN
Tags: gifts, sanctification, identity, calling
It does feel like I’m not doing it right. I’ve no house of my own. I’ve no financial planner. My spouses health is not always great. And yet, I know much love. Sometimes I sense I need to just make a decision for changes. But I wait for God’s call.