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Sermon 4/6/08
Jeremiah 1:4-5 - Electricity

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Electricity

The word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

The other day we were returning from Arizona, and as we drove away from Phoenix, we passed the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Plant. Electrical wires from the plant crossed the road and we went under them as we drove west along Highway 10, on our way back to California. Some have objected to nuclear energy because of the danger of contamination, but humanity’s need for electrical power is also real. Without such power, lives would be lost in hospitals and in other settings that otherwise could be saved. Many homes have lights so people can see, refrigerators that stop food from spoiling, and other gadgets that improve the quality of life in most of the world. But why does the plant provide that service?

I have no idea if the electricity that comes into my home is in any way connected to the power that comes from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Plant, but I do know this: there is nobody in an electrical company who truly knows anything about me. I am only given the electricity needed to light our home because they periodically send me an invoice and we pay the amount stated in that bill. For those who do not pay, the power will soon be gone. There may be someone in the billing department who has access to my name and address; possibly even my telephone number. But my height, weight, the color of my eyes, the hurts and victories I have received in life – Bless their hearts, they know none of that, and it must be added – they don't care.

For many years I was what they call a “bridge-burner” - someone who doesn't continue relationships.  I would complete some segment of my life, such as high school, or the military, or college, some lengthy employment, or whatever, and then completely lose contact with others from that environment. I assumed they would not want to stay in touch with me, and so I did not stay in touch with them. Later, when I did start trying to re-establish relationships, I found that in most cases it was too late.

For instance, during my years as a young man in the military service, I worked in a compound in northern Japan. We all had top secret clearances, did very interesting work (which was declassified in 1997, by the way), and we had much in common. During those years, I worked with just a handful of men in a small room and have wondered what happened to them. A few years ago, I looked for their names on the internet, and actually found one of them, a man who lives in Alabama. The email I sent to him recounted some of the times we had together and I thought, “he will remember.” An answer came a couple of days later and I opened it with excitement. His response? – “I’m sorry, I don’t remember you.”

We need to be KNOWN, don’t we? Even those who put up an emotional wall that is designed to keep everybody out – they have the need; it’s just fear of being hurt that keeps the wall in place. If they knew they could be safe, the wall would come down.

There was a song, some years ago, based on Jeremiah 1:5, our Scripture for today, and the words of that song included, "He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls, and He hears me when I call." The words in today’s Scripture were spoken by the Lord to a very young man, a boy actually, at the time he was called into God’s service. The words were both shocking and reassuring. This shy, unassuming boy learned by the “word of the Lord” that God had an intention for him. We can see from this encounter that it is not merely the uniting of the sperm and egg in the womb that gives us life and individuality; it is the Lord who tenderly and with love, FORMS us inside our mother’s womb. And amazingly, God KNOWS us even before that moment. As He said about Jeremiah’s life: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” The Lord continued, “Before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.

David, the shepherd boy who became a king, spoke to God in a similar manner: “You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:13-14). You might think, “Well, that’s nice about Jeremiah and David, but what’s it got to do with me?” Good question; and here’s the answer: Just like He did it for them, He formed YOU. He carefully fashions us all and He has a purpose for you, just as you are. Those parts of you that you like and those that you don’t care so much for – God carefully planned it all, with a very good outcome in mind. Just as surely as God had good intentions for the lives of Jeremiah and David, He has had a plan for you and your life since before your parents even knew you existed.

Unlike the electric company, who doesn’t know anything about you, or someone from your past who doesn’t remember you, the words of the song apply. You can shout, you can sing, for the Lord KNOWS you. The words, "He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls, and He hears me when I call." Those words are for you.

As we all should, Jeremiah recognized his limitations. He clearly saw that he was not able to do what God wanted. He said, “Ah, Lord God! I Behold, I cannot speak (as a prophet), for I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). And that’s precisely what every pastor, minister, Rabbi, missionary, every leader in the world needs to see – It is GOD who fashions us, it is GOD who elects us to office, it is GOD who calls and sends us. And it is important to know that we are not able to perform the work that God has called us to do. We need help. Just like the electricity that comes into our homes is from an outside source, whether it’s from a nuclear power plant or solar panels on our roofs, we need an outside Source – we need the Lord!

God was not angry with Jeremiah because he admitted weakness. Instead, he encouraged the young man that He would be with him: “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:7).

Paul the Apostle, the wonderful Hebrew man who speaks eloquently to us from 2000 years in the past, observed that “God has chosen the foolish things and God has chosen the weak thingsand the base things…” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28). The Lord is helping us all to understand, as He did with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The apostle Paul accepted his limitations, just as Jeremiah did, and this is his response to the Lord: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God has called you, offering a power much greater than electricity or nuclear energy. Will you answer His call?

Father, I cannot do what You have called me to do, but I say “yes” to Your call. I trust that You will bring it to pass. I am Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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