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Friday, June 28, 2013

Created for a Purpose (Jeremiah 1)

Jeremiah 1:4-8, 19 (NASB)

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." 6 Then I said, "Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak because I am a youth." 7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.” 8 “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD.
19 “They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD.

          In first looking at the book of Jeremiah, you wonder what God would have you learn from such an old book. After all, the book of Jeremiah is about the Israelites’ idolatry and God’s punishment upon them, their future restoration, and the coming Messiah. For Christians today, seeing God’s activity in the world of that time reminds us that God is active and He requires faithfulness from His children. Before Jeremiah spoke of these things, though, we read of his call by God and His plans for him before He formed him in his mother’s womb (verse 5). Before God tells Jeremiah he is His chosen prophet to the children of Israel and other nations, God tells Jeremiah He created Him for a purpose. Is that not what we each want to hear? God created you because He has a purpose for you, which requires being in a relationship with Him, the omnipotent and omniscient LORD. It matters not if you are young, old, a poor speaker, a persecutor, weak, sick, strong, poor, or just plain human. What ultimately matters is God created you because He loves you. He can accomplish what He wants through a yielded heart and life.
          Let us consider the lives of Samuel and David. Samuel was an answer to the prayers by a tearful woman (1 Samuel 1:1-20). His name came from Hannah’s tearful prayer to God. Hannah named him Samuel, which means, "God has heard" (vs. 20). He was a young boy of three or four years of age when Hannah gave him to Eli as a minister to the LORD (1 Samuel 1:11 & 28). Did Samuel do anything of great value? Did he own anything of great worth at this tender age? No, Samuel did not, but whose he was became why he was important to God. When Hannah birthed Samuel, she gave thanks to the LORD. Hannah gave him back to God for His service because God listened to her cries for a child. Samuel was important because He was God’s.
Jesse loved David. His mother, Nitzevet, doted upon him. David was the youngest of eight boys in his family. He was the lowest on the totem pole in his family and given the most menial jobs in the family - guarding the sheep and serving his brothers. God did not choose David for his great physical stature or for being the best guard of sheep. He chose David for his heart (1 Samuel 13:14 & 16:7). David was the least important man in his family. He owned no riches and won no accolades. David was just a young man with a heart for God.
          We can continue to look at others called by God for His purpose. Consider Esther. She was a young woman with whom the king fell in love. Through Esther’s position with the king, she could thwart prejudice and injustice towards the Jews (Esther 8:4-10). Did she have anything of personal or monetary value? Esther had a heart for God.
Consider Paul, too. He held a high public position as a Pharisee who had great learning and zeal for the LORD. Paul was an enforcer of the law and a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. It looks as if he had great knowledge and wisdom to offer God. Did God need any of these things for His Word to spread and believers to come to Him? No, God just needed a heart tuned to Him. Paul, though well educated, had nothing to offer God but his heart. His teachers trained him to perceive and listen to God’s voice. Through this doorway, Jesus came to him. Paul heard Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus did not ask Paul to enforce the law. He told him to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Jesus gave him the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9).
          Now, let us go back in time again to Moses. God called him to His service through the burning bush experience (Exodus 3). Moses’ mother and people taught him about the God of the Israelites. Pharaoh’s daughter raised him in Pharaoh’s home. Moses had the advantage of an excellent education. He had the power of being Pharaoh’s second in command. When God crossed Moses’ path via the burning bush, Moses was a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro. By then, He lost his stature, his power, and his money, but he did not lose Yahweh. God stood with him and called him to his service. Moses objected to the LORD’s calling because he felt unprepared and an inadequate speaker. God did not let him go that easily. He appointed his brother, Aaron, to speak for Him. Moses became the leader of the Israelites leaving Egypt. He knew who God was. Moses recognized the sound of God’s voice and was in awe of His presence. He recognized he was in Yahweh’s presence and removed his shoes, covered his face and in humility, stood before God’s presence in the burning bush.
          Finally, let us consider Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the son of a priest of Israel. His father and the priests taught him about Yahweh since his birth. Jeremiah learned how to perceive and listen to God’s voice and how to make petitions and sacrifices to God. His teachers taught him the purpose priests since he would one day become a priest in the temple. What he did not realize was that God knew him before He formed him in his mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). God had a plan for his life before Jeremiah existed. He dedicated and set Jeremiah apart to be His prophet to the nations, not just to Israel. God had plans for this young man from before his birth. What made God desirous to use him? Was it how he looked? Was it his position as a priest’s son? Did he have great wealth that God might need? No, it was none of these. God needs nothing because He is the creator of everything. What God wanted was Jeremiah’s heart, which God consecrated for His holy purposes before He created and birthed him. He wanted to use Jeremiah as His voice calling out to the Israelites and other nations to stop worshipping idols and turn to Him. Nothing Jeremiah did, said, or owned was the reason Yahweh picked him for His service. God prepared him to be His servant from before his creation. He set him apart for His purposes.
          What does this mean for us? Nothing we have done, are, or own can make us valuable to God for His use. Whose we are determines our value, not who we are. God chose David because of his heart for Him. He chose Esther because of her love for Him and His purposes. God chose Paul because of his heart and his ability to recognize, hear, listen, and obey Him. He chose each of these people because they had a heart for the LORD. Nothing they did, were, or possessed convinced God to use them.
God calls each of us because of His grace and mercy. This brings us to our final point. God does not call people today because of who they are, what they can do, or what they own. He calls us because He loves us, has mercy on us, and knows our hearts. We each must decide what is important for our own selves - money, power, stature, beauty, possessions, deeds, or relationship and love. I hope, after reading this lesson, you choose the latter. The former five things you do not own; they own you. The last indwells you through the Holy Spirit and you become a relational person seeking God’s heart of love, mercy, and forgiveness. We must decide for ourselves who we will serve. God has gives us life, food, shelter, clothes, protection, guidance, love, and salvation. We ultimately come to where Joshua arrived at the edge of the Jordan River and spoke to the Israelites. Whom do we serve - ourselves and our idols or God? Joshua made a definitive statement in Joshua 24:15,
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods, which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
          What matters to God is a yielded heart and life to Him, not who we are, what we have, or what we have done. God loves us and chooses us because He created us. David said, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14 NASB). God made us in His image. We are His glory and show His glory. WE must choose whom or what we will serve.
For whom will you decide your life is to be devoted - yourself or the LORD?