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It is a great thing for a man to believe that he is where God means him to be; but it is a greater thing for him to believe that, in order to put him where he is, God has been shaping all his past, and that He was even thinking of him and planning for him before he was born. Such was the feeling with which Jeremiah entered upon his great career, and it is this that explains his lifelong fidelity to his mission, continually assailed as he was by warrings without and fears within. It was not only the sense that God was with him, but that, even before his birth, he had been in the mind of God.
I. We must remember that such a vision comes only to the man who is worthy of it, and, in a measure, prepared for it. Jeremiah, like Isaiah at his call, was a young man he cannot have been over twenty-five, if as much; but so thoughtful and tender-hearted a man must have often brooded over the sins and the follies of his people. To such a people somebody must speak for God; and there gathers within him half unconsciously the feeling that his is the voice that must be lifted up that he is the man; till, in one sublime moment, the whole wonderful meaning of his career his birth, his youth, his special and peculiar experiences is flashed upon him. He sees that God had been thinking of him, caring for him, preparing for him, before he was born. Clearly, if the past and present have any meaning at all, he is God's marked man. No human life is hidden from God.
II. It is often the greatest who hesitate. To shrink is at least to show that we have measured the magnitude of the task and the slenderness of our own resources. But the man who has heard the voice must obey it, unless he is prepared to see his future filled with desolation and remorse. There is a humility which is perhaps even more disastrous than pride. The proud man injures himself; the man who, in mistaken humility, makes the great refusal, injures the world by depriving it of the service he is fitted to render. Think for a moment of the incomparable loss to the world had Jeremiah finally yielded to the voice that spoke within him. His sense of weakness was, after all, a high qualification; it gave him sympathy with men, and it threw him back upon God. In some important directions Jeremiah's contribution to the religion of Israel is profounder than that of any other Hebrew, and there is no Old Testament character who is such a marvellous prototype of Jesus. And all this would have been lost to the world had he listened to the voice that pled so plausibly for keeping aloof from the public life of his time.
III. The whole career of Jeremiah is a proof that this Divine promise had been kept. In his own strength he could never have faced the fearful odds that were arrayed against him. Look at him as he calmly stands before a howling mob that demands his execution. At such a moment he is, indeed, in his own words, firm as a brazen wall against the whole land kings and priests and people. Why is he, the timid and the tender Prophet, so calm amid these cruel shouts? Is it not because his God is with him, as He promised to be? With Jeremiah, as with Paul, power was made perfect in weakness. Each of these great men had to contend with serious natural disadvantages: their intrepid careers are proof abundant that the power which they displayed was not their own, but that their work was done in the strength of Him whom they served. Of themselves they were weak; but the grace of Another was sufficient for them, and the power of Another rested upon them.
J. E. McFadyen, The City With Foundations, p. 117.
Lifting my eyes in the sunshine of yesterday to the flowering orchards above me, the 'summer snow' that stretches away southwards to the hills, and the very avalon of apple-trees that makes an 'awful rose of dawn' towards the east an impulse seized me to tempt you with a description of their beauty. But I threw down my pen, guiltless of a line or a word, helpless before this unapproachable world, and able only to cry out, with the prophet, in my heart 'ah, Lord God, behold I cannot speak; for I am a child'.
Sydney Dobell to Charlotte Brontë.
References. I. 6, 7. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 275. I. 6-9. J. B. Lightfoot, Ordination Addresses, p. 3. I. 8. "Plain Sermons" by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. v. p. 248. I. 10. P. M 'Adam Muir, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 339. I. 11, 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2678. I. 30. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 172. II. 1-19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2926. II. 2. Ibid. vol. xli. No. 2399; vol. li. No. 2926. Hugh Black, Christ's Service of Love, p. 316. II. 9. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 245. II. 11. Ibid. p. 246. II. 13. Ibid. p. 249. W. M. Punshon, Broken Cisterns, a Sermon, p. 601. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 322. II. 18. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 356. II. 19, 20. Jesse Brett, The Soul's Escape, p. 42. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 252. II. 20-37. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2931. II. 26. Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 153. II. 32. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1634.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany