Friday, September 9, 2011

Be Not Dismayed!

But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.
Jeremiah 1:17-19

Jeremiah is often referred to as the "weeping prophet." His prophetic ministry to the nation of Judah spanned some forty years--from the reign of King Josiah (627 B.C.), beyond the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.). And during that four decades of heralding the words of the Lord, Jeremiah was heckled regularly and he did not see even one of his countrymen repent to God.

At first, Jeremiah questioned the call of God, even though God made it clear that He had chosen Jeremiah for the role of prophet, before his physical life began in his mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah questioned the call of God because he was fearful. Yet God assured Jeremiah that He was sovereign over His choice of him and the direction his preaching ministry would take (Jeremiah 1:6-8).

God told Jeremiah that all of Judah would oppose him and his message--multiple kings, politicians, disobedient religious clergy, and the people themselves. And then God told Jeremiah what he should do in preparation for and response to the opposition he would soon face.

God commanded Jeremiah to dress himself for work. More literally, God commanded him to gird up his loins. It was a command to ready himself for battle by putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).

God commanded Jeremiah to tell the people everything the Lord spoke to him. No hedging. No beating around the bush. No equivocating. No parsing of words. No compromising. No fear. He was to declare to the people the whole counsel of God, as the apostle Paul would more than five centuries later (Acts 20:26-27).

God promised Jeremiah that he could speak, even in the most hostile and threatening circumstances, with confident faith and heroic boldness; for God had changed Jeremiah with a word. No longer did Jeremiah have to live in fear and doubt, for God had made him a fortified city--one who like his predecessor Isaiah (Isaiah 50:7) and his successor Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:8-9) was given a thicker skin, a harder exterior, to withstand the mocking insults and derision of his people.

God promised Jeremiah that he would stand like an iron pillar. He would have the same uncompromising spirit that would later be displayed by the Church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). Even though, like that future church, Jeremiah had little power in himself, he had God's word that his faithfulness would one-day be rewarded, as Jeremiah and the Church of Philadelphia would stand as strong pillars in the heavenly temple of God, for their strong and uncompromising stands on Earth.

God promised Jeremiah that he would appear and speak before the people like the bronze walls of a magnificent city. No matter how hard the opposition fought against him, they would not prevail, for the Lord would be with him to save and deliver him (Jeremiah 15:19-21).

Jeremiah could believe God when He told him not to be dismayed by the onslaught of a rebellious and wicked people--his own people. Jeremiah could speak to the people with confidence because the Lord was with Him. He need not be fearful or dismayed. And so it is with you, Christian!

To herald the gospel in the open-air or in open conversation is to be, to a certain extent, a prophetic voice for the Lord--not in the sense of foretelling (declaring future events or new revelation--the canon of Scripture closed), but in the sense of forth-telling (declaring truth already revealed by God in the Word of God). Though you have little power in yourself, you can stand before sinful people as a fortified city, as an iron pillar, and as a bronze wall.

Therefore, dress yourself for work, my brethren! Gird your loins and ready yourself for battle! The Lord is with you and the lost are perishing every minute! Fear not! Go and invade enemy-occupied territory to set captives free (Isaiah 61:1-2)!

Do not be dismayed by the lost. Rather, be dismayed for the lost. Weep for their souls. Weep and mourn for their present depraved and deadly state. Let them hear the love in your voice. Let them see the love on your face. Love God! Love people! Herald the gospel 'til your dying breath!

Don't quit!