Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Do not say, ‘I am a youth'

You might have thought I would have outgrown this particular temptation but there is a delicate balance to be found between a consciousness of weakness and a debilitating consciousness of weakness. A B Simpson once wrote "The biggest enemy of true spiritual power is spiritual self-consciousness."

The title comes from the first chapter of Jeremiah. Jer 1:4-8. Jeremiah's prophecy begins with a statement about the 'word of the Lord' coming to him; Jer 1:1-3. When the 'word of God' comes it changes everything. Jeremiah came from priestly stock and might have been expected to follow in his father's footsteps but 'the word of the Lord came' and that changed everything; it always does. God had planned that Jeremiah would be a prophet even before he was born but it was the coming of 'the word of the Lord' that changed his career path.

Jeremiah is one of the great men of history. In fact, he caused quite a bit of it. The circumstances of his life were not impressive; a would-be country priest who ultimately spent a fair bit of his life in various captivities. His CV would not have been very impressive; he spent part of his life imprisoned in a well, and another part as a hostage. His prophecies were 'published' and then publicly shredded by the ruler of his day. And yet this man's link with God changed the destiny of empires. His words changed the destiny of millions.

When God first spoke to him he protested that he was far too inexperienced to be trusted with such a responsibility; "I cannot speak, for I am a youth". Jer 1:6. At this point he had not realised that the only qualification a prophet needs is 'the word of the Lord'. God brushed aside his protest; you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jer 1:7. It is the coming of 'the word of Lord' that makes a man a prophet. The prophetic ingredient may show itself in prayer or preaching but prophecy must not be confused with either of them. It is not desire nor truth but God's timely word which 'comes' at God's right moment and it has almost unbelievable power.

It is a challenging fact that if anything might be called the 'proof' of the coming of the Spirit it is prophecy; And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. Acts 2:18. It is recorded, in the account of the Ephesus outpouring, that when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:6. To be the bearers of God's present word is a key element in this New Covenant.

Jeremiah became the agent of God's living word. The words came through Jeremiah's mouth but they were 'spoken' by God. Those words had in themselves the power To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant. Jer 1:10. Only 'the word of the Lord' has this power. The same is true today. It is not eloquence or skilful Bible teaching that 'roots out, pulls down, destroys or throws down.' Nor yet that 'builds and plants'. Prayer and teaching and preaching are necessary but without that prophetic edge they are powerless to pull down or build up. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he counselled the church in Corinth; Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1Cor 14:1. Such words are 'the word of the Lord' that may come in many ways and through many servants of God... even a youth.

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