Bringers of bad news are seldom popular. Enter Jeremiah.
Like so many of those called by the LORD to speak his word, Jeremiah is at first reluctant, more aware of his own limitations than of the power of the one who is going to speak through him.
“Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the LORD said to me “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” (1:6,7)
God calls, then equips and provides. He doesn’t promise Jeremiah an easy ride, or a comfortable life. He does promise that he will not leave his servant alone in the dark times, and that he will make Jeremiah like a fortified city – though the image makes it clear that it’s going to be a city under siege by powerful enemies.
So Jeremiah’s call stands as a challenge to all of us called to speak for God – not to be afraid to declare the uncomfortable truths that need to be spoken, and to be confident in our LORD’s presence and final protection as we follow where he leads. I suspect that this is true for all who are called to speak out in politics, business or anywhere else, not just in church life – though even there, speaking the truth is not always comfortable.
As Jeremiah goes on to begin God’s warning of judgement, we get an insight into what it means that God is ‘jealous’ – demanding faithfulness from Israel and Judah. The image is one of a husband suffering betrayal by a promiscuous and adulterous wife. The deeper his love for her, the more the pain of her betrayal. So God is pained by the unfaithfulness of those he loves so deeply. That includes us.
Our relationship with God has many aspects – child to parent, servant to master, subject to King, friend to friend – but the one that is in focus here is that of marriage. Our commitment to God should be as pure, exclusive, joyful and lifelong as marriage is meant to be. Then it can also be as fulfilling, giving the confidence to grow in love and in personhood within a secure relationship of mutual trust. God’s devotion, love and care will not waver.
It’s not an image of relationship to God I’ve thought about much in the past – I’ll need to spend some time praying it through to work out what I make of it!
I do know, though, that I love him.