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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, August 16, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Jeremiah 1:4–10

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy,’
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.” (NRSV)

And you thought you had a tough job. God hires Jeremiah when he’s barely old enough to be an intern, and God puts him in charge of disparate, competing departments: the Department of Destroying and Overthrowing and the Department of Building and Planting.

The prophet’s work will not be one of those things over the other, but both simultaneously. How is that? Can a new house be built in a slum? Can an abandoned factory be detonated next to a new garden? Wouldn’t a prophet stand a better chance of success if her job was either to destroy and overthrow or to build and plant? Who can do both?

Jesus (himself a prophet) had something to say about new wine needing new wineskins (Matthew 9), “otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed.”

He also told a parable (Matthew 13) about a landowner whose field got sown with weeds. When his laborers asked if they should pull them out, the landowner told them not to, that “in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.”

And so the spiritual life comes to be about discerning the difference between that which needs to be overthrown and that which needs to be built. The wisdom of Ecclesiastes is that there is a time for both, but neither of those times comes clearly marked. For that we must listen, pay close attention, pray, and meditate.

The prophet’s work (and ours) is not all talking.

God, you sent Jeremiah to speak truth to power and to encourage the powerless. Grant us the courage for that work after his example and grant us the wisdom to know who is who. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry and Worship

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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