Jeremiah 1:4-7 “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ Ah, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, I am only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.”
God called Jeremiah to serve as a prophet. The main purpose of a prophet was not to tell the future. He was not a divinely approved psychic or fortune-teller. The main purpose of a prophet was to deliver God’s message. It just so happened that God’s message often dealt with the future. It doesn’t take a great deal of thought, then, to conclude that a prophet needed at least some ability to get up in front of other people and to speak to them clearly.
Jeremiah was a relatively young man, and he didn’t have any experience at this sort of thing. He protested that he didn’t meet the job qualifications. “I don’t know how to speak,” “Don’t you think you should choose some silver-tongued, silver-haired orator to be your prophet instead?” he implied.
Jeremiah’s excuse may sound reasonable, but it was actually presumptuous. Even more, it was sin. The Lord had just told him he had created him for this very purpose. He was not asking him if he wanted the position. He wasn’t waiting for volunteers. He was appointing Jeremiah as a prophet. “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.’” Turning down God’s call is not an option.
Not every one of us has been called to serve as full-time prophet. Most of us do not have a call to spend our entire lives preaching. But we would be wrong to conclude that God does not have a role for each one of us in the work of his kingdom. Our excuses for not serving are just as sinful as Jeremiah’s. It is presumptuous to say “NO!” to God and his work, no matter who we are.
“But I don’t have the skills,” we protest. “I don’t know how to run a stewardship program. I’m not a gifted evangelist. I can’t put a Sunday School lesson together. I don’t know enough about what is going on in the congregation to know what to say or how to vote at a voters meeting.”
Do we ever really know “how to” until we become involved in doing something? I received a lot of training at my seminary. Did that mean I knew how to be a pastor when I received my first call? I knew very little about how to go after the straying sheep. I had never conducted a wedding or a funeral. I had no classes in keeping church records. Until we get involved in the work itself, we don’t really know how.
Then remember the promises the Lord gave Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Of course, God knows everything. He means more than he knew about Jeremiah’s existence. The Lord was assuring him that, before time began, he knew each of us personally, as his own. He had determined that we would come to faith. He decided that we would know Jesus as our Savior. He planned for us to live in the peace and joy of sins forgiven.
“Before you were born I set you apart.” The Lord made certain that just you, and just I, would not be like the rest of the world. We have been set apart so that we don’t wander around aimlessly in search of the truth. We don’t live futile, frustrated, meaningless, empty lives. We don’t face God’s judgment and condemnation like the rest of our dying world. The Lord has set us apart to belong to him, enjoy his gifts, and serve the purpose for which he made us.
Since he knows each one of us, since he loves each of us personally, we can be sure that he will call us into work which fits our skills. Then we can trust him to give us the gifts we need to do his work.