Can you name someone who really, really, REALLY knows you? (And loves you anyway?) It might be a parent, a spouse, a lifelong friend … there is a blessing in that kind of understanding and acceptance in a relationship. I have a friend who I only see three or four times a year, but I feel that he ”gets me” in ways that others do not. I made a joke recently about being ”vaxxed, maxed, and relaxed” and he burst out laughing and said that my statement was such a ”Bets thing.” (I don’t know if that is good or bad ….) He has called me ”Bets” since we first met, and I feel a special affinity for him because he intuitively uses my family name. It is like we have known each other for much longer than we actually have. When these little moments occur in our all too brief interactions, he makes me feel like I am known. There is great joy in that.
Who knows you like that?
In our lectionary passage today, we meet the marvelous prophet Jeremiah at the very beginning of his ministry. Jeremiah was ”only a boy” when God called him to be a prophet, and I would imagine that this calling to be a prophet to the nations at such a young age was quite a surprise … not to mention terrifying.
The first four verses set the stage for the startling revelation of who Jeremiah really is:
Jeremiah 1 (The Message)
1 1-4 The Message of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah of the family of priests who lived in Anathoth in the country of Benjamin. God’s Message began to come to him during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon reigned over Judah. It continued to come to him during the time Jehoiakim son of Josiah reigned over Judah. And it continued to come to him clear down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah over Judah, the year that Jerusalem was taken into exile. This is what God said:
5 “Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that’s what I had in mind for you.”
God tells Jeremiah that he shaped him in the womb and had holy plans for him. Let’s ponder that for a moment. God is truly the one who knows all about us from our conception. God forms us in his image and has PLANS FOR OUR LIVES. We scarce can take it in! Even before we are born, God knows what he has in mind for each of us. Mind you, as we exert our free will in making choices and decisions that fall out of God’s will, God’s plans take a back seat to how we choose to live our lives. Perhaps that is life’s greatest challenge: to discover what God had in mind for us at our birth and try to align ourselves with his vision for our future.
Jeremiah is reluctant to put on the mantle of ”Prophet to the Nations.” Who could blame him? He tries to hide behind his young age:
6 But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me.
I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!”
God had a ready answer for Jeremiah, one that brings confidence and the assurance that his abiding presence would bring:
7-8 God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’
I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.
I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.
Don’t be afraid of a soul.
I’ll be right there, looking after you.”
I’ll be right there, looking after you. This is God’s word for us today. If your life has taken a significant turn, take heart! God is right here, looking after you.
So if illness, the death of a loved one, a job loss, a relationship break up, or a major disappointment has derailed you, know this: God formed you in the womb with holy plans for your life. Keep looking to him to help you find your way forward. He will never leave you or forsake you. Don’t be afraid … God is right here, looking after you.