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July 16 lesson: Jeremiah's Call and Commission

July 10, 2017
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Jeremiah's Call and Commission

Summer Quarter: God’s Urgent Call
Unit 2: Calling of the Prophets

Sunday School Lesson for the week of July 16, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell

Lesson Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Background Scripture: Jeremiah 1

Key Verse: “‘Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jer.1:8)

Purpose: To recognize that we can be reluctant and afraid when confronted with a divine challenge.

Bible Lesson
The last two weeks’ lessons examined the call of Moses in the Book of Exodus and the prophet Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah. In those lessons we discovered that the prophetic calls were unexpected and led to self-examinations and the declarations of imperfections, and hesitancy. This week’s lesson examines the prophet, Jeremiah, again, a prophet’s call of reluctance, and a prophet coined as the “weeping prophet.”

Historical Background
The “Adult Bible Studies’” author’s historical account: The prophet began his career during the reign of Josiah, around 626 BCE King Josiah is famous in Jewish history for his religious reforms, including an attempt to align the national policies of Judah with his concept of the Mosaic covenant. Jeremiah was encouraged by Josiah’s attempts at reform but became increasingly disenchanted with Judah’s kings who ruled after Josiah’s death. He was an unpopular prophet for a number of reasons, not least of which was his call for submission to the Babylonian Empire, which he believed was being used by God to punish the people and the kings of Judah for their sin. While Jeremiah was pleased with some of Josiah’s reforms, even these did not go far enough for the prophet. He believed God required much more than proper religious rituals. He insisted God cares more about righteousness and justice than religious rites and ceremonies.

Jeremiah’s Background
Jeremiah is reluctant to receive the call to prophesy. His mission is to speak a critical prophetic message from God to the kings and the people of Judah. The consequences of their sinful ways would be calamity and destruction if they did not repent and turn back to God.

Jeremiah is the son of Hilkiah, a priest who was in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. (Jer. 1:1) He is very young when God calls and commissions him. According to the author of “Reading the Old Testament,” he estimates that he was born in 627 and called to prophesy in 609. So, possibly Jeremiah was 18 years old when he began his ministry. Jeremiah realizes that a call of this magnitude is daunting because of a corrupt and disobedient Judah, a youngster called to do what would seem to be a grown-up mission:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you
in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God!
Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” Jer. 1:4-6

God knows our purpose(s) before we are formed and spiritually developed. He calls us into action according to his purpose and provides care and protection, even when the times are frightening and challenging in our lives. God’s divine power provides prevenient grace for Jeremiah’s call to action. (He already knows Jeremiah's age, but that wasn’t a challenge.) We see this as He provides reassurance to Jeremiah’s renunciation in Verse 6:

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.” Jer. 1:7-8

The guardian spirit of God is not only provided for the young but for all who love Him. His prevenient grace exists before and without reference to anything that humans have done. God is almighty and all-powerful, and there is no other higher power. Jeremiah's commissioning is during an era of idolatry, injustices, political turmoil, and nefarious leaders and countries. His message also confronts the acts of ritualism absorption and the decay of righteousness, and lost land. Jeremiah’s message of condemnation is just as strong as the prophets Amos, Hosea and Isaiah. He warns against the policies of going first to Assyria and then to Egypt for political gain (Jer. 2:1-18), he admonishes the people for their acts of lusts after pagan idols (Jer. 2:23-24), condemnation of the oppression of the poor and powerless (Jer. 2:33-34), and widespread adultery and fornication (Jer 5:7-8). Even though Jeremiah’s message was an admonishment of their sins, it was also a call to repentance and to turn back to Yahweh. Unlike, the other prophets, Jeremiah is emotional and weeps for the people. He is coined as the “weeping prophet” because of the sinful ways, his great sensitivity to what God asks and to what humans need to find. Jeremiah carries personal pain when the people refuse to hear the message and reject God.

Questions to ponder:
Where are weaknesses and the need to receive God’s reassurance of His prevenient grace in your life?
Where is God calling you to action in your home, community, church or the world? How will you respond? If you have responded, what were the experience and the outcome?

The examination of self may prove to be challenging and uncomfortable, but it is a worthy exercise to draw closer to God. It will help to develop, strengthen us to hear and act on God’s purpose for our lives, and to reprove those things that are not beneficial and cause us to be distant from Him.

Closing Prayer
God, we pray that we be cognizant that age, gender, ethnicity, community, governing body, and other factors, do not hinder your call in our lives. Let us hear, obey and respond. Amen.

Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at earnestine@sgaumc.com.

Footnote: Adult Bible Studies Series Fall 2017 and Reading the Old Testament, Lawrence Boadt. (Paulist Press) are used as content sources for this lesson.

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