A dear friend and I were discussing the end times.
"It's daunting what the future holds," she confessed.
"I know that feeling, I really do." I agreed.
"It's so soon! It feels like it could almost be tomorrow," she added.
"I know. That's why I'm so grateful Jesus gave us signs to know when it's at the door. Even though it's extremely soon, not all the signs are fulfilled, so thankfully, we can know it won't be tomorrow!"
There was a thoughtful pause.
"Hey you know, I've been meaning to tell you something! I have a new best friend! Well, sort of. He died a few thousand years ago." I announce chirpily.
"...but in his story I feel a real connection. Like he could've been my brother. He inspires me - despite being long gone. He was young. I think he might've even been a teenager, like me. His name? Jeremiah.
"It all started when God spoke to him one day. Told him of His special watchcare over him since He formed him in his mother's womb. He told how from that early time, He'd chosen him to be a prophet unto the nations." I animatedly tell her.
When Jeremiah heard this, he was shocked. "But, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child!"
"When I read this, my heart leapt." I told her.
"You know, That's how I feel! I know God has called me to be a missionary, and yet constantly, I feel my inadequacy. I hear myself saying those words."
I continue my dynamic narrative.
"As I read on, I heard God's answer to Jeremiah -- and His answer to me,
"Say not, I am a child... be not afraid of their faces... they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee."
"Everyday I've been reading through Jeremiah. Even though I've read the Bible a few times through before, each new day, I've been surprised by a new twist of events in his story. When I read of God's promise to be with Jeremiah, I was comforted. Those who follow God, have wonderful lives, with His promised blessings! At least, that's what I thought...
The next day or so though, I was stunned by God's answer to a complaint of Jeremiah's. He had said,
"Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me."God answered,
"I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you."Jeremiah pleads, "O LORD, you know!...that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke."
God continues, "If thou return, if you are faithful, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me..."
"You know it amazed me," I told my friend, "when Jeremiah asked if he had to go through it all, God said he did. Yet, God's promise was -- if you are faithful through all this, you will receive your reward."
"Oh Christella, that's just what I needed to hear!" my friend interrupted.
I resumed my story, but only for a moment.
"Oh, I need to go for now, Stella. Mum's calling me, but I'll talk to you again tomorrow, hey?"
Our phone conversation ended. My thoughts didn't. The story continues. I remember back to a few days ago when I read of Jeremiah's experience.
What?! I'd thought. This isn't the way it's supposed to work! If we're obeying Him, we can escape what everyone else is going through, can't we?
I keep reading. Things get hard for young Jeremiah. The priest's son, "smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks."
Ouch! Poor guy!
I stand back though, as I read Jeremiah's response. He's not intimidated. God's given him something to tell this Pashur, and he tells it.
"And you, Pashur, and all that dwell in your house will go into captivity: and you will come to Babylon, and there you will die, and will be buried there, you, and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies."Boy, Jeremiah had courage! Flogged, yet he was un-flinching in speaking out!
Apart from the scene of action though, Jeremiah cries out to God.
"O LORD, You have deceived me... I am in derision daily, every one mocks me."
I watch as Jeremiah's courage weakens. The conflict within him is intense. Firstly, no one wants to listen to his warnings. They don't just ignore these warnings, but they mock it. On top of it all, he is physically hurt. It's all too much.
In his own words, "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name."
The struggle doesn't end there though. "But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
Once again, Jeremiah takes up his disappointing duty. This time though, he trusts, and works. Trusts God, even when he is thrown into prison. Even, into a dungeon, left to die. As he calls out to God, my heart goes out to him. This abused messenger, is only a young person?! God hears his cries. An Ethiopian friend hears of Jeremiah's location in the dank mire of the dungeon. He makes his way to the king's house; speaks to the king. It's serious, the young man being stuck in there. He'll die of starvation! The king sees the issue. He sends a group of 30 men to help the Ethiopian in rescuing Jeremiah. He is drawn up with chords, having old rags between the rope and him, for protection. God delivers him.
Things don't get rosy though. He is kept in the prison until the day of doom that he'd been foretelling. It's the king's prison though. Not a dungeon, so not as bad.
Questions fill my mind as I read more. Why did he have to suffer so much? That's not the way it's supposed to work!
Did my friend ask these questions? I don't know. Yet, I can only believe that he just kept trusting God to be faithful and keep his promises.
I see Jeremiah, captured along with the rest of the wicked nation. As the Babylonion armies maraud the city, there is a turn of events though. "Look after Jeremiah well," Nebuchadnezzar instructs. I can only imagine the smile on the young prophets face as he recalls God's now-fulfilled promise, "I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction."
Despite this good treatment, Jeremiah is still in chains.
Unexpectedly, he is set free, with the choice of going to Babylon or staying back in Jerusalem. He chooses to continue his calling among the few left in their own land.
I stop reading. Lift my gaze from the page to the hills across from me. I see the picture. God was testing him, testing Jeremiah. It's not until the last moment that he is given freedom. I see the smile on God's face as He sees His servant pass the final test. Sees him be faithful. I see God's joy in fulfilling His promise of bringing him back again.
~~~~It's dark, everyone is in bed. As I kneel and pray, my thoughts go back to my morning reading. How did they relate to my day? The happenings of the day came back to mind. Awe fills me. It was a hard day. A very difficult one to get through. Tears and discouragement kept welling up and almost overwhelming me. I'd felt like giving up the fight. As I think of my morning reading and my day, I'm fully in awe.
"Why Father, you planned it perfectly! Only this morning I read about how Jeremiah had to suffer, yet you promised that if he was faithful anyway, then he would see his reward. I know I haven't suffered like him -- yet, it's perfect. I needed this today and by your power I will be faithful in what you've called me to do. I love You!"
I didn't get to finish telling Jeremiah's story to my friend. How did it relate to the end times anyway?
Well, that Ethiopian friend came back into the story. While still in the king's chains, God gave Jeremiah a message to pass on to Ebedmelech.
"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee.... because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD."I have wondered, especially as a little girl, how can I go through that all? Will God deliver me?
In God's message to this Ethiopian, I hear the answer.
"You will not be given into the hands of the men of whom you are afraid," He promises.
"Because you have put your trust in Me."