“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
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 things… and 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.