By Paul Koch –
Jeremiah 1:4-10 is simply a text containing the call of Jeremiah into the service of Yahweh. Now most of the major prophets have a section similar to this, and it is not terribly unusual as far as such calls go in Scripture. However this particular call of one of God’s great prophets contains a few nuggets that are worthy of our time to consider. This call establishes the credentials of the prophet. In other words, this little section at the beginning of Jeremiah’s writing establishes why we should listen to him in the first place. God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Now Jeremiah is called as a prophet because the people of Judah have turned away from their God. They have embraced all matter of vice and idolatry. In fact, the people killed other prophets who had tried to rebuke their actions. And so Jeremiah wisely second guesses his own calling. I mean, these people don’t seem too willing to listen; he might simply be another dead prophet along the way. And so he says, “Look, I’m too young, I don’t know what to say to these people.” To which God replies, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” And if that wasn’t enough he then touches the mouth of Jeremiah and says, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” So not only does he call Jeremiah to be his servant, but he provides Jeremiah with the very words necessary to stand boldly before the people. He will not be speaking on his own but the very Words of God.
But when we hear the seriousness of this call, when we think about the need to have the word of God spoken in the midst of a sinful people, we can’t help but think that this could be us today. Our society may not be ancient Judah, but we are certainly a society that is saturated in vice and idolatry. The greatest good that most people value today is their own desire. They say, “Do whatever makes you happy.” Any appeal to the rule and judgment of God is simply dismissed, it’s not even considered. How many people consider and weigh the Word of God when they are faced with ethical dilemmas? How many in our society even know what the word of God has to say about their lives and how to live so that He is rightly honored as Creator and Lord? Our society has long since sought its identity, security, and meaning in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No, we are encouraged to find our identity in habits or passions, find our security in our retirement funds, and find our meaning in our jobs. These things then become our idols.
And perhaps the pinnacle example of our society’s depravity is our treatment of the most vulnerable in our midst. The continual practice of aborting unwanted pregnancies in staggering numbers is so normal that we hardly even speak about it. But in a strange twist, this call of Jeremiah brings it to the forefront. For our Lord puts to rest the question of whether or not a fetus is a baby when he says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” This means the whole of his life, from before the moment of conception on through his birth he was known by God, known as a person, known as one He would consecrate to be His prophet. If God knew Jeremiah, certainly then He knows all of us. He knows those children born and unborn. The killing of the unborn is not a matter of simply removing tissue but the ending of a life that is formed and fashioned by God himself.
When you read the statistics regarding abortions in our country they will simply shock you. 4 out of 10 unwanted pregnancies are aborted, 21 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, by the age of 45 almost one in every three women will have had an abortion. Now with these numbers alone it is easy to see that this is not just a battle that is to be fought by marches in Washington. This turning from the things of God is not an “us versus them” battle. It is a reality that we all struggle with. When people argue for pro-choice legislature, they aren’t arguing for more abortions but for autonomy. The idolatry of the self is on full display. After all, who are you to tell anyone what they can or cannot do with their own body? Never mind that this idolatry leads to death; that it pulls us all down into a place where we become so mired in sin that the killing of the unborn no longer drives us to action.
In the wake of all of this is a massive wound that doesn’t easily heal. Beyond the loss of life, there are the wounded and hurt mothers. Those who bought into the lie that they could be their own god and do with their bodies as they pleased. There are those who are racked with guilt, who long for healing but are afraid to say anything. And we are all guilty at some level as to why young mothers end up in that place to begin with. When they found out they were pregnant, where were we? Why weren’t we able to help, to provide for the care and nurturing of that child? Where was the love? Where was the encouragement to know that they would never have to do this alone, if they would come to the church for help? Well, we weren’t too focused on making that message clear. We were condemning the abortion doctors on the TV and forgetting the hurting in our own midst. We too chased after our own idols of self-righteous glory declaring “It’s a travesty,” yet doing nothing to make it better.
Perhaps we are actually far worse than ancient Judah. Perhaps we have wandered even further into the darkness. We no longer kill the prophets sent by God, now we just make them irrelevant.
But not today. Not for you. Not this moment. For this moment I have been called to stand before you. I have been given a Word that I am afraid to speak. A word that plucks up and breaks down, a word that destroys and overthrows. To all the vices and idolatry that you cling to, I say it is a sham. It is a false god, a false hope, and will leave you wounded or worse. You are sinners! Each and every one of you have tried to find your identity and security in something other than the true God. Repent! Repent before it is too late.
But like Jeremiah, the Word I am given to speak to you today is not only of destroying and pulling up. The Word of God is also a Word that builds and plants. It builds out of the ruins of a society that prizes autonomy over human life. It brings forth new life from grieving mothers and guilt ridden congregations. For there is a Word of healing for you, a Word of hope; and that Word is Christ.
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. He who knew no sin became sin so that he might set you free. Jesus becomes your complacency. He becomes your self-righteous anger. He becomes them so that he might die for them on Calvary’s cross. Our hope is found only in his life. Our life is found only in his death and resurrection. But our Lord is not a Lord of half measures; he goes all the way, leaving no part incomplete. His love is not bound by our limits, so, he becomes the mother who aborted her child. He becomes her guilt and fear, and he dies for that too. To confess our sins and cling to Christ alone is to cling to the one who was there, who died in our place and who lives to promise us, each and every one of us, a greater life to come.
This word of the cross is a word of hope for you today. For no matter how dark your journey has been, no matter how far you think you are from deserving the gifts of Christ, no matter how desperate your sins have made you, in Christ there is forgiveness. For I declare to each and every one of you, each and every broken and hurting sinner, each one filled with guilt and shame, in the name of Christ I forgive you. I forgive you all of your sins. Go in peace. You are free. Amen.