October 25 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“‘I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,’ declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 15:20

OLD TESTAMENT

The people cry to God in the midst of a famine, but He refuses to hear their prayer. He even tells Jeremiah to stop interceding on their behalf: “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword…” (Jer. 14:11-12). So Jeremiah argues with God and begs Him to reconsider. “For the sake of your name do not despise us; do not dishonor your glorious throne” (Jer. 14:21). However, God has made up His mind. He will discipline His people. So great is His anger that even if Moses and Samuel, the greatest spiritual leaders in the nation’s history, begged for His mercy on the people, it would do no good! “[T]hey have not changed their ways,” He explains in Jeremiah 15:7. God knows that the people are crying crocodile tears. They are upset over their circumstances, but they are not sorry about their sin.

The result of all of this wrangling is that the prophet is upset with God. When he was first called into ministry, he was excited and filled with joy (Jer. 15:16). He was God’s man—God’s messenger! He hoped that God would use him to bring revival to the land. Instead, his preaching has brought him nothing but pain (Jer. 15:18). He is excluded from get-togethers. No one wants to have lunch with this guy. His own family gossips about him. He remains unmarried and has no kids. Who would want to marry a guy with this kind of career? He’s the prophet of doom and gloom who never has anything nice to say, and it’s making his life miserable. Jeremiah is re-thinking his whole approach to ministry and maybe rethinking his calling. He feels like God has deceived him (Jer. 15:18).

God tells the weeping prophet to repent and get back to work! Wow! His admonition is not without mercy and assurance though. God promises that He will restore Jeremiah (Jer. 15:19-21). He encourages the prophet to trust that He knows what He is doing—the people are not truly repentant. They have been brought low and are crying uncle, but they have every intention of getting right back up and worshipping their idols. The prophet must side with God; preach the truth; and trust that God will protect him and give him success, even if that success looks different than what Jeremiah has in mind.

What a calling Jeremiah had! Honestly, I feel for the guy. I would struggle with his job. Jeremiah, go preach My word. No one will listen to you. Don’t even bother praying for them; I’m going to judge them. Just when it looks like Jeremiah is making some progress, God calls the people’s repentance false and sends him back to his fruitless work. Sometimes, God asks us to do incredibly difficult things. We must trust that He knows best and be obedient to Him. May the life and example of Jeremiah inspire us to be on the right path! Success isn’t always what we expect, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his Advent Letter of 1938, “God’s cause is not always the successful one…we really could be ‘unsuccessful’ and yet be on the right road.”

NEW TESTAMENT

The young pastor has a lot of things to organize in the church at Ephesus. Timothy has all kinds of people to minister to—young and old—and different ways to go about reaching them. He ministers to the older men and women like they are his mother or father and reaches out to the younger men and women like they are his brothers and sisters. He has to ensure that a widow-care program is in place, a burden the church is to only undertake if there is no family to care for a woman (1 Tim. 5:16). Otherwise, it is expected that her family will take up the responsibility.

Timothy bears the responsibility for ordaining elders (pastors). He is to make appointments only after carefully examining a candidate’s life for a while. Once elders are in place, Timothy has certain guidelines to follow regarding their pay. Those who do their jobs well are paid well, especially those who devote their lives to teaching and preaching (1 Tim. 5:17). In addition, he is to protect the elders from rumormongers, who want to tear them down. (Leaders, by nature of their position, face criticism. Paul tells Timothy he doesn’t have time for unsubstantiated complaining.)

Timothy, like every pastor, had his hands full providing leadership for the church, but such was his calling. Take some time to pray for your pastor today. Like Timothy (and Jeremiah), sometimes he really has a lot on his plate—a lot more than people realize.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.