Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand 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 will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,declares the Lord.Jeremiah 1:16-19
I remember that when I was a boy in high school, sixteen years old, I was arrested once — served a warrant because it was alleged, wrongly, it was proved, that I had been hunting out of season. I remember yet how fearsome it was to receive that warrant for my arrest, to open it up and read these words:
The People of the State of Montana versus Ray C. Stedman. I thought,
What unfair odds! The whole population of the state of Montana against me!
That is what this prophet Jeremiah had to face. All the people of the land, and its kings and priests, would all be against him. But God said,
Don't you worry, you shall stand. I'll make you a stone, an iron, and a bronze against them. Nothing will shake you. And the amazing thing is that though this young man was thrown into prison, put in a dungeon where he was mired in the mud, put on a bread-and-water diet, though he was ostracized and isolated, set aside, rejected and insulted, and finally exiled into Egypt, never once when God asked him to speak did he ever fail to say the thing God told him to say. What remarkable courage this young man exhibited!
Yet, through all of it, he learned four things: He learned the sovereignty of God, his control over the nations of earth. He learned the ruthlessness of God, whose judgments would be unmerciful against his people who persisted in turning away from him. He learned the faithfulness of God always to fulfill his word, no matter what was said. Finally, he learned to suffer with the heart of God, the tenderness of God. This man suffered, he wept. He lost hope for a while and cried out,
O that I had never been born! He felt the awful hurt of his people, and wept over them. But through it all he realized that he was but feeling the suffering of the heart of God over people who turn him aside, and the tenderness of God that draws them back at last, despite all their wandering.
Almighty God, how grateful I am that whatever I must face in this world, you will give me the grace I need to face it.
Do we want to merely know about God -- or do we want to intimately know God? What was the process by which Jeremiah learned four essential elements of God's character? How did this knowledge of God fortify Jeremiah to endure unremitting testing and hardship?