Prophet or Priest?

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

  • Jeremiah 1:4-8

And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

  • Malachi 1:13a

“Jeremiah’s father Hilkiah was a priest as was his father before him, and young Jeremiah was also expected to serve at the altar. He may even have been at the age when he would have stepped into his place of ministry when God called him to be a prophet.
“Since serving as a prophet was much more demanding than serving as a priest, it’s no wonder Jeremiah demurred.
“If I had my choice, I’d take the priesthood! For one thing, a priest’s duties were predictable. Just about everything he had to do was written down in the law. Thus, all the priest had to do was follow instructions. Day after day, there were sacrifices to offer, lepers to examine, unclean people to exclude from the camp, cleansed people to reinstate, official ceremonies to observe, a sanctuary to care for, and the law to teach. No wonder some of the priests said, ‘Oh, what a Weariness!’ (Mal. 1:13 NKJV).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive

This is how our Bible Study of Jeremiah started in our Sunday school class.

Rev. Wiersbe makes a very simple and compelling argument.  The priest might be busy, but a prophet had his neck in the noose continuously.  And the message that Jeremiah gave the king was destined to not be received well.  In fact, God tells Jeremiah up front that the message will not be received.  They will not listen.

As I explained to the class, prophets are people that give a message from God or explain the message that God has already sent in his Word.  The message is either used to cause the people to repent or to condemn them for not having repented.  Jeremiah was a prophet during the last years of the kingdom of Judah.  There was nothing but bad news, except…

God always placed bits of prophecy regarding the remnant being restored.  Much of those prophecies are two-fold.  Some of it became true when people like Nehemiah and Ezra returned to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  But the total fulfillment of such prophecies will probably be during the millennial reign of Jesus.

But the first thought when I read this passage was, ‘What nasty jobs have I been given?’  There was no way to escape these jobs.

When your military commander says, “Our company needs someone with a NATO Cosmic security clearance and you have been selected.”  You have been trained to reply, “Sir, Yes, Sir.”  But if you had half of a brain, you would be wondering, ‘Why do we need someone with that type of clearance?  What trouble is it going to cause me to be the only one with that clearance?’  It wasn’t too bad, but it was a lot of work added, and stuff that I have still never told my wife about over forty years later.  All she knew was that I occasionally got a call in the middle of the night and I might not come home for a week, but usually only a day or two.

But my worst job of that nature is when my boss’ boss learned that I was painfully honest.  He told me that for every bit of honesty that I had, my boss had too bits of dishonesty or, at least, recklessness.  He then gave me the worst assignment that anyone could give anyone else.  I can empathize with Jiminy Cricket, for he assigned me to be my boss’ conscience – keep him out of prison.

Think about that!  If my boss’ boss wanted me to be his conscience, that means that he knew that my boss had no conscience at all.  If I was successful, I would anger my boss, who controlled my pay and even my employment.  If I was unsuccessful, the superintendent would get rid of me with my boss going to prison.  When the boss did something illegal, he got promoted and I eventually got a letter in my file for insubordination when I refused to go along with his illegal cost overrun, a lot of overrun.

But that wasn’t the last time I had a job that was doomed from the beginning.  Okay, that was melodramatic.  At my last job, the company president made a statement in the presence of all the VP’s and high level managers that since I was the Safety Director, my job was safe because I kept him out of jail.  For one, he rarely listened when I told him the company was not following the safety rules properly.  And as soon as he retired, the new president thought he was above the law when it came to safety and I was no longer needed.  That is how I became “retired.”

But when God calls you to an unwinnable job, He promises to protect you.  Notice how he protected Jeremiah.  Jeremiah had a lot of bad things happen to him and records outside the Scriptures say that Jeremiah had a bad ending of his life in Egypt.  The manner of his death is never recorded in Scripture, but by this point, with no further prophecies to tell a king who ran to Egypt to escape the clutches of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah was probably ready to go to his heavenly reward.

As Tertullian said, Jeremiah’s crime was telling the king the truth.

But when God calls us, the answer should be “Yes” even when we have to leave a job of safety and go where no one would want to go, unless glorifying God was our reason for doing it.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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