set me afire

That’s one tough

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

Jeremiah was one tough prophet. He made everyone angry – but not for the purpose of inducing anger.

Jeremiah was a priest born in Israel around 650 BC. The Lord spoke to him and told him that he would be His prophet. Jeremiah was afraid, but the Lord promised to make him strong. God gave Jeremiah the words he was to use.

Jeremiah did as God asked. Afraid as he was, and knowing God’s message wouldn’t be well received, he went and told the people what the Lord was asking of them. He did this for 40 years among great difficulty. Jeremiah was attacked by his brothers, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, as we saw today – thrown into a cistern by Judah’s officials, and was opposed by a false prophet. The people mocked him.

God’s words to the people called them back to faithfulness – they needed to worship God, and only God. God asked them to express sorrow for their unfaithfulness. If they would do this God would bless them once again.

We wish there might have been a happy ending, but there wasn’t. The people continued to worship false gods. They world not listen to Jeremiah or God’s other prophets, choosing instead to listen to false prophets because they gave the people what they wanted. Because of this continuing unfaithfulness, Jerusalem fell.

Jeremiah’s experiences made him lament. The key to understanding how Jeremiah felt is in understanding how much he loved God. He suffered primarily because of this love. He not only said what God wanted said, but felt God’s anguish at the people’s unfaithfulness. Jeremiah knew that even if he wanted to, he couldn’t stop speaking out. He said: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

Jesus asks us to have that kind of closeness to Him, that deep and passionate love. God indeed is a burning fire – and Jesus wants us to be filled with His fire. This isn’t just perseverance in faith, it isn’t even a life dedicated to God – it is more. It is a life that is so in tune with God that we cannot hold it in. It is a life that has to bring God’s fire into other’s lives. It is a fire that burns away the words of today’s false prophets. Faithfulness to God can be tough. We have to be that kind of tough.