Can you hear the call?
(Part 1 – Excuses)
There is a clear call to young people from the pages of Scripture. Many refuse to listen! Many refuse to respond! Many hear, but they give excuses for not responding! What about you; can you hear the call?
Throughout the pages of Scripture we find examples of God calling young people to fulfil His purpose and plan. For thousands of years God has been calling young men and woman for His glory and even today, God is still calling young people.
Young people called in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament we read of young people like Daniel and his 3 friends; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to eat the food of a gentile king because they wanted to honour the God of Israel. According to Josephus, a first century Jewish historian Samuel was a 12 years old boy when God called him to be a prophet. David was a teen of about 17 years old when he defeated Goliath. Joseph was young when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. There was the young girl who told Naaman, the Syrian Army commander to go to Israel and see the prophet Elisha so he could be healed from his leprosy.
Young people called in the New Testament
In the New Testament we find the boy who provided the five loaves of bread and two fish which Jesus used to feed the crowd of five thousand men. We also read about Timothy who was like a son to the apostle Paul and from a very young age he knew the Scriptures. All through Scripture we see God calling young people to fulfill His purpose and plan.
God is Jeremiah’s Creator
The Bible teaches that God is not caught off guard when a baby is born. He is Almighty and knows all! It is not by chance that a child is born into this world. God knew us before we were born. He knew exactly when we would be born. He knew the exact year, month, day, hour, minute, and second we would take our first breath. He knew who our Father and Mother would be. He knew where we would be born; which country, town, suburb, at which street address, and He even knew in which room we would stay. God knows every little detail about us.
It was God who allowed you to be born! Not only did He allow you to be born, He has a reason why you were born! We find a beautiful example of God’s purpose in the life of Jeremiah the prophet. We read in Jeremiah 1:4-5 “Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “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. “
God formed Jeremiah in the womb of his mother. It wasn’t a man ordained process. It wasn’t by chance that Jeremiah was born. God knew Jeremiah before he was born and before his birth God already had a purpose for his life. It was God who called Jeremiah and appointed him to be a prophet. What a privilege it is when the Creator of the universe gives us the breath of life and decides to use us for His purpose.
What was Jeremiah’s response to God’ call? Did he accept God’s call with gladness and immediately started walking in obedience? The answer is unfortunately, NO! When God called Jeremiah, he had an excuse. We read in Jeremiah 1:6 “Then I (Jeremiah) said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” Jeremiah said that he couldn’t speak for the Lord because he was too young!
Just like Jeremiah, young people still come up with excuses. They might say: “My school friends will think I’m crazy!” or “I’m too busy!” They might even say: “I’m not ready for this kind of responsibility!” Young people’s lives are filled with school, college, university, extracurricular activities, TV, computer games, Social media, cell phones etc. There is a mindset today that young people must do all the cool stuff while they are young. One day in the future, when they get “older” they will spend time thinking and talking about the things of the Lord. Their attitude is born from a wrong understanding of who God is and how much authority He has.
Jeremiah made an excuse when God called him to be a prophet. Following closely in his footsteps we find some young people making excuses why they cannot spend time in prayer and Bible study. They have excuses for not sharing the Gospel. They have excuses for not reading good Biblically sound books. They have excuses for not being involved in the life of the church. They have excuses for not listening to their parents.
Jeremiah had his excuse ready when the Lord called him. It is possible that he thought he was giving God a good reason when in fact he was only giving an excuse. Listen to the Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s excuse. We read in verse 7 “But the LORD said to me (Jeremiah), “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak…”
God’s response to Jeremiah’s excuse
God responds with a rebuke: “Do not say, “I am only a youth”. It is clear that God was not going to play Jeremiah’s “game”. God is not Jeremiah’s play mate. Jeremiah needed to be reminded that God is God and that he is God’s creation. God is the Creator of the universe, God is the One who formed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb, God gave Jeremiah the breath of life, and it is God who can take it away in an instant. How can Jeremiah give such an excuse to the One who formed him in his Mother’s womb? Who does Jeremiah think he is?
Jeremiah’s excuse examined
Jeremiah’s excuse was more than just an excuse. Firstly, he was questioning God’s authority. Does God have the right to form him in his mother’s womb and then command him to be a prophet? Does God have the right to tell him what to do with his life? Does God have the right to demand anything from him?
Secondly, Jeremiah was questioning God sovereignty. Does God know what He is doing? According to Jeremiah, he couldn’t speak for God because he was too young to speak. Who said that Jeremiah wanted to be a prophet? Jeremiah should make his own decisions about his own life because it is his life, isn’t it? Maybe Jeremiah wanted to do something else, maybe he wanted to do something “cool”, maybe he wanted to do youth stuff! Maybe his parents wanted him to become something other than a prophet of God! How does God know what is best for Jeremiah?
When God called Jeremiah, he didn’t understand who God was. He didn’t understand that God is God and that God can do with him whatever He wanted. We read that after God touched Jeremiah’s lips, he submitted to God’s authority and sovereign will for his life. In Jeremiah 18:5-6, we hear Jeremiah prophecy to Israel that God can do whatever He pleases and whenever it pleases Him because He is God. We read: “Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
Isaiah 64:8 echoes the same principle: “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” God has the right as creator to do as He pleases and in His capacity as God, Jeremiah was commanded by God to obey, without excuse. In modern society where everyone is “fighting” for their rights, the question comes to mind: “Where is the right of the Almighty Creator of the universe to demand obedience from His creation?” Does God have the right to tell His creation what He wants done and then expect them to obey His command? The answer is a resounding YES! We read in Hebrews 10:31 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (ESV)
Thirdly, Jeremiah’s excuse to submit to God’s command was more than an excuse because it shows rebellion and stubbornness on his part. We read in 1 Samuel 15:23 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry …” Rebellion and stubbornness is sin. It violates the Holiness of God. Jeremiah was in rebellion against the very command of God. He stubbornly made an excuse to disobey God. Did he think that he could change God’s command through his rebellion and stubbornness? He was mistaken. God is not moved by every little rebellious action on our part. God will fulfil His purpose no matter what!
Fourthly; to make excuses is not only rebellion and stubbornness, it also shows deep rooted selfishness. In making excuses he was saying that he will do things his way; he will do it when he wants to do it and he will do it the way he wants to do it and nobody is going to tell him what to do! Jeremiah’s attitude was not the attitude of someone who understands who God is and that God is sovereign. His action was the action of a rebellious, stubborn young man who refused to submit to the authority and sovereign will of the creator of the universe.
We need to ask ourselves the question: “Who are we to make excuses to obey God’s commands.” How dare anyone use an excuse when the Almighty Creator of the Universe calls him/her by name and commands them to obey Him!
God reaching out to Jeremiah
We see the reaction of the Creator of the universe in Jeremiah 1:7 as He rebuked Jeremiah who dared to make an excuse when commanded to fulfil his purpose in life. In the next verse we see God reaching out to Jeremiah and encouraging him to realise that the Creator of the Universe who formed him and called him will be with him and enable him to do what He commands. Jeremiah does not have to fear people, he should fear God. God is the One who can protect him. People can do nothing to him which the Creator of the universe does not allow. God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and placed His words in Jeremiah’s mouth to enable him to do what God called him to do. We read: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:8-9)
Do you realise that God formed you in your mother’s womb, that He consecrated you and called you to fulfil His purpose and plan? Do you realise that He will be with you and enable you to do what He wants you to do? Please don’t do what Jeremiah did. Don’t think you will get away if you give an excuse to the One who created you. God has all the right to do with you as it pleases Him. Do what Samuel did when God called him to be a prophet. Answer immediately and set out to do what God wants. When reading about the call of Jeremiah; there is a call to all who would listen. Can you hear the call?
In our next session we will (God willing) look at the life of the prophet Samuel.