Today’s prayer in our 52 days of prayers is almost the last one that we are going to look at in the Old Testament. It is prayed by Jeremiah.
Jeremiah lives at time when there is tremendous political turmoil and the people of Judah are caught in the middle of it. Initially at this time the people of Judah with Jerusalem as their capital have lived with a king who is in allegiance with Assyria who has encouraged the worship of false gods. Then as the Assyrian kingdom begins to fall, a new king, King Josiah introduces some spiritual reforms and begins to correct the ways of the Israelite people.
But as Egypt marches through the land in an effort to support Assyria against the rise of the Babylonian kingdom the army of Judah gets in the way and the Egyptian pharaoh kills King Josiah. Pharaoh puts in a weak king that he thinks he can control but this king keeps switching sides from Egypt to Babylon and back to Egypt again.
These battles go back and forth and Judah goes through kings every few years and in some cases, months but eventually King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sacks Jerusalem and the downfall of Judah is completed. So this is going on all through Jeremiah’s life.
We don’t know how old Jeremiah was when God first asked him to speak out and be the voice of God to his generation but I estimate that he is maybe 17 or 18 years old. For Jeremiah it is a terrifying thought and his response is ‘I can’t do that, I’m not old enough, I don’t know enough, no one will listen to me!’
God tells Jeremiah, that even before he was born, God knew him and knew what he was going to do. God had a plan for him before he was even conceived.
David spoke about this generations earlier and we considered it yesterday when we looked at Psalm 139. ‘you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ ‘My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.’
God has a plan for you too. He set it in motion before you were born. Before even your parents were aware of you.
Let’s just marvel at that for a minute. Two days ago we heard about Job and the conversation he had with God. Where Job was reminded of how mighty, and awesome and wonderful and powerful God is. It is that God, that knows you intimately. That God who thinks that you are so awesome that he has chosen you to be a part of His wonderful plan.
It is that God who knit you together with the unique mix of character traits, abilities, imagination, strengths and weaknesses and set you in a place where you can demonstrate God’s loving kindness and encourage others towards discipleship.
I’d like to tell you that Jeremiah did as God asked and because of that he lived a wonderful, happy life, but that is not the case. Jeremiah was imprisoned, thrown into a cistern, taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and rejected by the king, religious leaders and his peers because he was speaking against the popular opinion. Don’t let anyone tell you that following Jesus and doing what God asks is going to be easy!
I don’t know what your individual purpose is, or if it will be as dramatic as Jeremiah’s but it will fit into God’s purpose as found in Matthew 28 which is to go and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
If you are not sure what your individual purpose is, firstly ask God to reveal it to you.
If you are still not sure, ask your youth leader, or a spiritual friend that you trust. Think too about your natural interests and abilities. God gave them to you. How can you use those to honour God?
And if you are still not sure, just be patient, God will reveal it to you when you and He are ready.
I urge you to remember too, our 2:52 Challenge key verse, Luke 2:52. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and with man. The word that we have translated as grew is an active word that means ‘to advance’ or ‘to drive forward’. Jesus growth was done deliberately, with effort and on purpose. When you have discovered something of your purpose, I urge you to grow into that purpose deliberately, with effort and with determination.
Have you ever thought that God wanted you to do something and then made an excuse about why you shouldn’t do it? Jeremiah thought that he couldn’t speak the words of God to the people because he didn’t really know how to do it and he is too young! But God doesn’t accept that! God knows exactly what Jeremiah is capable of. God knew Jeremiah before he was born he isn’t going to ask Jeremiah to do something that he knows he can’t do!
And its the same for you me. When God asks you to do something, don’t make excuses. You are never too young, I’m not too old, we are not too inexperienced, too small, too poor, too oppressed, or too anything to do what God has asked.
We might feel that can’t do as God asks, but in this situation our feelings shouldn’t really come into it. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘I can’t see the wood for the trees?’ Very often we can’t see what we are capable of because we can only see what we can’t do! Quite often our feelings don’t match up to the truth. We just have to trust that God knows us better than we know ourselves and then step forward and be obedient.
Yes, it is scary. Yes, we might feel inadequate. Yes, we may even feel a bit of a fraud. But God will give us everything we need to do what he asks us to do.
Tonight let’s spend some time thinking about what God’s plan might be for our life, what we might do to purposefully grow into that plan and how we might overcome any excuses that we may come up with.
Tomorrow, Jess is going to talk to us about Jonah. Jonah who, when God spoke to him about his purpose, didn’t just make an excuse for not doing as God asked, he actually tried to physically run away from God.