6th Sunday after Epiphany
In the name of Jesus, our newborn King and Savior. “I want you!” Ominous words, right? “I want you” that phrase has consequences doesn’t it? “I want you to go to bed at your bed time.” Kids, doesn’t it stink when your parents give you a bed time or a curfew and then all of your friends laugh at you because their parents don’t? Parents, don’t you hate it when you tell your children, “I want you to follow the rules.” Where does that get you? All of a sudden you’re labeled “un-cool” or “mean” or “behind the times”- even to other parents. Your boss says, “I want you… to go clean the bathroom.” Where does that get you? Your coworkers look at you and smirk. “I want you…I want you to do…whatever.”
At first glance it seems like doing what others want has negative consequences, right? But think about the long-term. The child who listens to his/her parents learns the importance of sleep and is happier. The parents who have rules for their children teach them respect and responsibility. The boss who sees hard work rewards the worker with respect or promotions. So, often doing what someone wants can turn out to be something very positive and wonderful. And take it one step further… “I want you” can actually be a very good thing: the college football player who thought he wasn’t going to be drafted and then an NFL team drafts him; the person who thought he wasn’t going to get the job and then the company hires him.
Well, put yourself in the prophet Jeremiah’s shoes. God wanted him and called him to be a prophet when he was probably a young man (probably somewhere under 20 years old). The nation of Judah (where Jeremiah was sent to preach) not only had spiritual problems, but also physical trouble. The small nation just saw their comrades in the northern kingdom of Israel carried off by an enemy, never to be heard of again. Now Judah was facing the looming threat of Nebuchadnezzar and his mighty Babylonian empire. God wanted Jeremiah to tell the nation about God’s impending judgment and destruction because of their spiritual apathy- so they might turn back to God. What will God’s assignment get him? A ministry of rejection by his people, invasion by foreign countries, and physical abuse by his own people. Jeremiah’s preaching will result in the people wanting to kill him, people calling him a traitor, and they would even imprison him in a well. So, how might you feel if you were Jeremiah and God came to you and said, “I want YOU to be MY prophet?” Oh boy! (All of sudden the “mean” parent thing doesn’t look so bad). Might you be a little hesitant too? Maybe a little afraid? Yet, notice what God, who reads hearts, told Jeremiah. (read text)
We can relate with Jeremiah’s hesitation can’t we? God wants us to do many things too. God says, “Honor those in authority over you.” “Are you kidding God? My parents are so old-fashioned!” “Honor the government? Are you joking! They have no idea what they’re doing!” God tells us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But don’t we say, “Wait a minute, Lord, after what he or she did to me?!! I’m supposed to turn the cheek! No way!” “You mean, when I lie or deceive and no one seems to get hurt I’m still turning my back on You, Lord?” “And You want me to do what? Go and tell people about You? But…doors might be slammed in my face, friends might think I’m crazy, and what about my reputation? This stuff about being a Christian is hard. Lord, you really don’t know what you’re telling me to do.” We can relate with Jeremiah’s hesitation to the Lord’s call, can’t we?
But did you notice what our gracious God did with Jeremiah and his hesitations? God could have struck him down for challenging the God of the universe; God could have turned away from Jeremiah and picked someone a little more willing. Instead, what does God do? God gave him tremendous encouragement! Look at the long term, Jeremiah, look at who your God is and what He’s going to do for you! It’s an awesome and wonderful thing that God wants you! Why?
God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Before you were born, before your heart beat its first beat, before God miraculously knit you together, God says He knew you. He knew your entire life- the big picture. He knew your greatest achievements and your most shameful failures. He knew your sins, fears, and objections. He knew you and yet… He continues to love you. In Jesus, He set you apart as His holy child who will inherit heaven. And now He comes to you and says, “I know you, better than you know yourself, and I WANT you to spread My love to all people in your words and actions. I want you to be My face to those who don’t know Me yet.”
“Oh wow, God, you want ME to be YOUR face to those around me? But wait a minute, what if they reject me, or think I’m old fashioned, or treat me differently?” God said, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” God tells you, “I’ve sent My Son, Jesus, to be your Savior so you know for sure you will inherit eternal life, is there anything to fear?” God tells you He will always be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. And finally God will rescue you. He has rescued you completely from your sin. Yet, He’s never promised that your life will be a cake walk. Instead Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Jesus has promised that no matter what happens He’ll work it out for your good. No matter what happens in your life you can be confident that the Lord Jesus is standing right with you! And finally, God will rescue you completely and totally by taking you to life eternal with Him in heaven.
“Wow! That’s great God! You knew me before I was born, you’ve promised to be with me and to rescue me, but just wait Lord, I don’t know what I’m going tell people. I’m inexperienced; I don’t know what you want me to say to people.” God said, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.” In incredible love God doesn’t leave His message up to our design. Far from it! In fact He doesn’t want us to speak our words to others, no, no, He WANTS us to speak His Words and His Words alone. He’s given us His Word to tear down and uproot the stubborn and impenitent sinner. He’s given us His Word to build and to plant the humble and repentant sinner with His life-giving Words- All sins forgiven in Jesus.
What incredible encouragement! The Lord knew you before you were even born, the Lord promises to continually be with you and rescue you, and the Lord even gives you what to say in His Word. “But, but, ME, Lord? Surely not I! Look, the wide and broad road looks so much easier! It’s so much easier not to talk with other people, it’s so much easier not to fight against Satan’s temptations, it’s so much easier not to read God’s Word; surely you don’t want ME!” And as we consider the struggle of being a Christian and even see the great encouragement God gives us, fear still whispers in our ear, Satan still knocks at our door, and our sinful flesh still pulls us away from God.
And so in the face of all of our objections and fears, take a look at God’s call to someone else, not to Jeremiah, not to us, but to Jesus. God wanted Jesus to live our lives for us. Where did that get Him? He was born in a barn and lived in this sin infested world. God the Father wanted Jesus to go and preach in His hometown. Where did that get Him? The people wanted to push Him off a cliff! God wanted Jesus to pay for the sins of the world. Where did that get Him? Jesus knelt praying at Gethsemane where His sweat was like drops of blood. Jesus was beaten and mocked before Pilate. Jesus was nailed to the cross for our sins! What good can come out of death?! Even death on a cross!
Jesus did exactly what His Father wanted! Look what happened to Him! But look a little closer; look as the tomb bursts forth that Easter morning! Look as Jesus gets out of the grave! Look at Jesus as He defeats sin, death, and Satan once and for all for you and for me! Look at Jesus as He sits at the right hand of the Father ruling all things for the good of His kingdom! Look at Jesus take all of our fears away! Brothers and sisters in Christ, be encouraged: God knew YOU before you were born; God will always be with YOU and will rescue YOU; God has given YOU His very own Words! Can you live on the narrow path that leads to life? Can you go out and live as God’s child? Can you go out and spread God’s love? Absolutely, because God Himself says to you, “I WANT you!”