Believing in God’s Belief in Us: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Jeremiah, known sometimes as “the weeping prophet,” is believed to have written both Jeremiah and Lamentations. Jeremiah was twenty years-old when God called him. At first Jeremiah believes that he is not up to the responsibility, but God insists that he is the right person. Jeremiah recounts his call story to bolster the legitimacy of his call in the eyes of those around him—that he did not seek out this position, but God insisted. God planned this for Jeremiah since before his birth (just as with Jesus).
God gives Jeremiah the unpleasant task of warning the people about the destruction of Jerusalem—and worse, to make clear that this destruction will happen because the people turned their backs on God. Jeremiah became quite skilled in doom-forecasting. So much so that the term “jeremiad” refers to a long prophetic work which warns about the imminent destruction of society. Cataclysm, holocaust, the end of the world as we know it–those are heavy subjects for one so young to speak about with authority. No wonder Jeremiah feels the need to establish his bona-fides.
Jeremiah’s self-doubt contrasts with the self-assurance of Jesus that we find in the fourth chapter of Luke, to be read this Sunday. Jesus speaks with authority, unlike Jeremiah with his self-doubt and hiding behind his young age.
Yet even Jeremiah understood that people need a glimmer of hope. That’s why even the book of his prophecies includes the section known as the “Little Book of Consolations,” which makes a decided turn from doom-saying to looking for the hope that shines out even in the darkest night.
This gets back to the idea of God’s purpose for human life: not fear, not dread, but the assurance that God has loved us and known us from before we were even aware of that love and tenderness. That love is the source of the wondrous hymn of hope “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” derived from the third chapter of Lamentations—a reading often chosen at funerals because of the certainty with which Jeremiah lays claim to the mercy upon mercy we receive from God.
Most of us no longer believe that bad things happen to us as a punishment from God. God values us as we are—and too often we find that idea the unbelievable one. How often do we fail to believe in ourselves? How often do we fail to believe that God is calling us? This speaks of a personal relationship with God that so many of us long for. Jesus will be the fulfillment of the prophecies recorded here, just as he claimed last week. Seizing ahold of the reality of God’s love for us, as daunting as that can seem, brings all that we have been promised by God into focus, and allows us to see ourselves as we really are: beloved by God.
How can we apply this lesson to ourselves? There have been plenty of times in most lives when we felt that we just couldn’t do something, or faced an obstacle or a sorrow that was overwhelming. There have been times I have felt this– and in the midst of prayer, I feel a calm descend upon me. God promises us that we will be strengthened for whatever challenges we need to face, even at the end of our lives. God has faith is us—how can we fail to reflect that faith in ourselves, and to be beacons of hope to a world that desperately cries out for hope?
Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.