Jeremiah's Talking Helped Keep Him Walking
Jeremiah was not agreeable at first to be God's spokesman, but He enrolled him in the University of Hard Knocks at Jerusalem. God would be his professor, teaching him what to say and how to say it. God promised Jeremiah that his sermons would greatly influence "the nations and the kingdoms," and that they would be used "to pluck up and break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant" (Jer. 1:10). Jeremiah had God's promise that he would be one of the most powerful speakers ever made. Jeremiah was in for a ride.
Jeremiah became a great preacher, not because he was a mighty or intelligent man, but because he trusted God in all matters (Jer. 10:23), regardless of a trial's surface appearance. Because of this trust, he preached when he was mocked (20:7), in the face of death (26), when he was beaten (37:15), and when he accused of derision (38:4), just to name a few instances. The people of Jeremiah's time believed that they were invincible, living within the temple vicinity. Most had no moral sense of religion, thinking it was "enough to perform with strictest punctuality the ceremonial part of God's Law."1 Their religion was external, material, and ceremonial. While Israel's spiritual status was one bathed in pseudo-security, Jeremiah knew the truth. To Jeremiah, righteousness started internally, was spiritual, and based upon a personal relationship with God. Israel had become spiritually rotten to the core and God assigned Jeremiah to say so.
How did Jeremiah do it? How could he keep preaching in the face of such fierce opposition? It all started with a personal relationship. In order to do a work for the Lord, one must be intimate with the Almighty. Jeremiah kept a close personal relationship with his Master through prayer. Jeremiah's prayer life channeled him into the source of strength to face the fire of people's anger and the ice of their rejection. Adhering to the Lord at all times, even the hardest of times, allowed God to create perseverance in Jeremiah. Jeremiah's prayers and perseverance indicate an undying love for his fellow countrymen, a certain type of patriotism that was never understood by his contemporaries. What made Jeremiah a great preacher? His prayer, his perseverance, and his patriotism.
Jeremiah's Prayer Life
Jeremiah would not have been the man for the job had God been seeking a superstar. God wanted someone who was teachable, willing to confess his fears, someone willing to say, "I don't know what You want me to do." Jeremiah was just what He wanted. God wants men like Jeremiah who are moldable to His will and are willing to be devoted completely to His cause. Those who boast about being God's superstar are probably the furthest thing from being "super" in God's eyes.
Jeremiah developed a close personal relationship with God from the very beginning. He had such a dependency upon God that he never concealed any thought from Him. His first recorded words to God were, "I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth" (1:6).
Jeremiah never lost his sense of awe and wonder for God's greatness, and praise was never far from his lips. "There is no one like Thee O LORD" (10:6), "Righteous art Thou" (12:3), and "For Thou art my praise" (17:14) were a few of his common utterances. When Jeremiah wanted to make sure God heard him, he said things like, "Do give heed to me O LORD, and listen to what my opponents are saying" (18:19).During times of persecution, Jeremiah reminded God of his own faithfulness. A man of great stature can appeal to God on the basis of his own integrity in order to obtain divine favor. He prayed, "For Thy sake I endured reproach" (15:15) and "Thou Thyself knowest the utterance of my lips" (17:16). When a prayer like that goes through to the Almighty, the claims must be true!
However Jeremiah was not always filled with praises. Oftentimes he complained. When a plot was revealed that some men planned to take Jeremiah's life, he went to God and asked, "Why does this happen? How can You let it happen" (Ch. 12)? Although Jeremiah was totally devoted to his people's welfare, he was trapped into telling them the painful truth about themselves, causing his listeners to lash out at him. He complained, "I have not done anything to anyone, yet everyone curses me. Woe is me!" (15:10). Apparent frustration with his fellow countrymen led Jeremiah to pray to God for justice in return for the injustice he had received. Some of these prayers contain Jeremiah's combined curse and imprecatory language that give the readers a special insight into the extreme frustration and mental anguish he endured. Chapter eighteen holds one of Jeremiah's fierce imprecations upon his own people.
Although Jeremiah was often treated unjustly by those about him, the consequence of sin on his fellow countrymen led him to pray fervently many times on their behalf. Chapter fourteen is devoted totally to intercession on behalf of his people, confessing sins and begging mercy.
From praise to imprecation, Jeremiah held nothing from the Lord, and the Lord sustained and strengthened him. Today's preachers and Christians alike could study Jeremiah's prayer life and learn that he laid it all on the table before the Lord, some things even at the risk of blasphemy2. When He felt God's awe and wonder, Jeremiah praised Him. When he was persecuted and suffering, Jeremiah reminded God of his own faithfulness and asked for justice. Whether it was praise, complaint, or call for judgement, Jeremiah's open and honest prayer life reveals the inward struggles he daily endured. Unless Jeremiah had worked to sustain his relationship with God through prayer, he would have never persevered. Christians can learn to be like Jeremiah and lay it all on the table before the Lord. Start today.
By Steve Quillian
From Expository Files 7.9; September 2000