The child prophet

The prophet Jeremiah was unique in that his calling to serve as God’s mouthpiece was not a secondary  occupation that temporarily fulfilled God’s need to deliver a message to his people, but a lifelong vocation that Jeremiah had been specifically created for. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). The Hebrew word translated formed is yatsar (yaw – tsar´). “Yatsar is a technical potter’s word, and it is often used in connection with the potter at work. The word is sometimes used as a general term of ‘craftsmanship or handiwork’…Yatsar is frequently used to describe God’s creative activity, whether literally or figuratively” (3335).

The prophet Isaiah used the word yatsar in connection with God’s  relationship to the nation of Israel and redemption of his people. In general, it could be said that yatsar refers to someone that has been saved or born again. Isaiah spoke of this when he said, “Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:6-7). These words were spoken in the context of God’s redemption of his people. Although it could be said that every person is a child of God, only those that have been redeemed or saved go through a transformational process in which they are conformed into the image of Christ. This process is referred to as sanctification. God said of Jeremiah, “before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee” (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, it could be said that Jeremiah was born a fully matured Christian in order to accomplish his vocation as a prophet unto the nations.

One way of looking at a fully mature Christian is to see him as someone that has completely submitted himself to God. He does this because he understands God’s role as Creator and sees himself in the context of a divine order that is intended to accomplish God’s will. Sometimes it is easier for a child to get this perspective than an 80 year old man. When Jesus was a child, he was found in the temple “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). Even though Jesus was only twelve, he had the ability to discuss deep theological issues with men that had been studying the scriptures their whole lives. It is possible Jeremiah had this same or a similar capacity and began his ministry as young as 12-14 years of age (Jeremiah 1:6-7).

Jeremiah’s ministry began in 626 B.C., in the fourteenth year of king Josiah’s reign. Josiah was only 22 years old at that time. In the eighth year of his reign, Josiah began to “seek after the God of David his father” (2 Chronicles 34:3) and by the eighteenth year of his reign, he had purged the land of idolatry  and begun a building project to repair the house of the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 34:8). So, Jeremiah’s ministry started under positive conditions in the nation of Judah. The people may have expected peace and prosperity to return to their nation because they were doing the right things. Unfortunately, time had run out for God’s people and his judgment was inevitable. The LORD warned Jeremiah of an impending disaster that would come soon. Jeremiah received two visions from God about this event (Jeremiah 1:11-14).

Although is must have been difficult for Jeremiah’s young mind to comprehend all that was about to take place, his ability to “see” the future helped him to grasp the situation ahead for Judah and to communicate it clearly. Twice, the LORD told Jeremiah to not be afraid of or dismayed at the faces of those he had to speak to (Jeremiah 1:8, 17). The Hebrew term for face, paneh (paw – neh´) refers to the look on one’s face or one’s countenance (6440). In other words, Jeremiah was going to have to confront some scary people, but God assured him that he would protect him. He said, “And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:19).

 

A woman after God’s own heart

After the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt, they became God’s servants and were required to worship him. Animal sacrifices were not optional and were required on a continual basis until the Messiah came. In order for the sacrifices to be made there had to be a large population of priests to maintain the tabernacle and later the temple of God.

The tribe of Levi was selected to fulfill the roles of priests and musicians and were given the job of guarding the ark that contained the Ten Commandments. Moses and Aaron were from the tribe of Levi. Their sister Miriam is the only woman listed in the genealogy of the Levites found in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6.

Miriam is mentioned several times during the Exodus from Egypt. Her role as prophetess is unique for the time in which she lived. She is the only woman that had a special role during the Exodus. The name Miriam means rebellious (4812) and is derived from a word that means bitterness (4805). At one point, Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses’ calling and she was punished with leprosy.

Miriam was clearly a strong willed woman and may have been abused by the Egyptians. As a prophetess, she probably proclaimed God’s word boldly and did not hesitate to join in activities typically reserved for men. She is most likely mentioned in the genealogy because she distinguished herself from other women in her service of God and unlike the men who were required to serve God, she served him voluntarily.

The moment of truth

Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah…And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering a town that hath gates and bars. (1 Samuel 23:2, 7)

The moment of truth in every Christians’ life comes when we put our trust in the LORD and he delivers us into the hand of our enemy. For most people, this kind of crisis is more than they can handle, but the seasoned Christian that is used to handling adversity will walk away with a renewed resolve to press on and finish the race they have been called to run.

Paul expresses it perfectly when he writes from prison “But I would have ye understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil 1:12). Paul goes on in his letter to the Philippians to explain why we must press on when things turn out as we expect them to. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

The word translated mark, skopos means to watch as in a sentry or scout (4649). After David saved the inhabitants of Keilah,, he kept seeking the LORD for guidance because he “knew that Saul secretly practiced mischief against him” (1 Samuel 23:9). It was revealed to David that Saul was on his way to Keilah and the People of Keilah would deliver him into the hand of Saul, so David and his men fled from the city and once again escaped Saul’s army.

Whose side are you on?

Spiritual warfare is a constant activity that is rarely detected by the average Christian. It’s signs are subtle. In order to detect its existence, one must pay attention to things like fear, anger, and irrational behavior. One way to know for sure you are under attack is that you want to run, to get away from whatever circumstances are causing the attack.

“And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath” (1 Samuel 21:10). The problem with running when you come under spiritual attack is that you can’t see the real enemy, Satan, and will likely end up in a worst circumstance than the one you started with.

And the servants of Achish said unto him, is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. (1 Samuel 21:11-12).

In order to escape Achish, David changed his behavior “and feigned himself mad in their hands” (1 Samuel 21:13). David’s reputation as a valiant warrior was something he should have been proud of and yet when he found himself in a situation where he was alone and at the mercy of his enemy, he decided to trash his reputation and make himself out to be a crazy person. In one sense, it may seem as if David was being shrewd and that his  ability to disguise himself as a madman was a great way to avoid being killed, but when you look at it from a spiritual perspective, David was running away from his responsibility and trying to avoid his calling to be king of Israel.

As a result of David’s action, the enemy, Satan gained ground and launched an all out attack on God’s consecrated servants by inciting king Saul to seek revenge on Ahimelech because he helped David escape. “And the king said to Doeg, Turn then, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear the linen ephod” (1 Samuel 22:18).

David learned the hard way that the consequences of his wrong actions did not always end up harming him, but doing damage to God’s kingdom. When he hears what has happened to the priests, he takes responsibility and acknowledges that he is being guarded by the LORD’s army.

And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house. Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard. (1 Samuel 22:22-23)

A new way to relate

A key indicator of having a relationship with someone is communication. Moses had a unique relationship with God in that “the LORD spake unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto a friend” (Exodus 33:11). The whole congregation of Israel was able to hear the voice of God, but only Moses saw his likeness.

Prior to the Israelites reaching the Promised Land, God told them there would one day be a prophet among them and he said, “I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num 12:6). Over time, God communicated less and less with his people and became more distant with them because of their sin. The purpose of having a prophet was to keep communication going so that God’s people would not be cut off completely. You could say that a prophet was God’s mouthpiece. The LORD said he would put his words in the prophet’s mouth, “and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Duet 18:18).

Samuel was similar to Moses and Abraham, but he was technically the first person in the Bible to have the specific title and purpose of being God’s prophet. Samuel began to minister unto the LORD when he was just a child, probably around the age of eight. When Samuel began serving in the Tabernacle, he was trained to be a priest by Eli, the chief priest at the time. Communication from God was rare and Eli and his sons were about to be excommunicated because of their corrupt practices. It is unlikely Samuel spent much time learning from Eli, otherwise his character might have become tainted by Eli’s bad influence. Samuel may have been as young as twelve when he was called to be God’s prophet.

Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: And it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth. (1 Samuel 3:9-10)

Samuel’s election to be God’s prophet at a young age indicates that maturity or experience ministering before the LORD were not requirements for becoming a prophet. The main quality that God may have been looking for was innocence. Samuel may have been naïve about what was going on with Eli and his sons, but he understood that they had been disobedient and were going to be punished. Samuel was afraid to tell Eli all that had been revealed to him, but Eli threatened him by saying, “God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide anything from me of all the things that he said unto thee” (I Sam 3:17).

Samuel’s induction into being a prophet was a turning point. God’s message for Eli was the beginning of the end of the sacrificial system God had established to cleanse the Israelite’s so that he could have fellowship with them. Samuel was to be an example of a new way of God interacting with his people. Samuel had to listen carefully to God’s message and pass it on to others. There was to be no interpretation or expounding on what God said, just an exact repetition of the words that were spoken to him. “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).