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 (Showers of Blessing 6)
Jeremiah, What do you see?
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Jeremiah, What Do You See ?

            "Jeremiah, what do you see?" (Jer 1:11,12).

Historically, Jeremiah's ministry spans the period of time between the reign of Josiah, ca. 626 BC (Jer 1:2) and the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC (Jer 52; 2Kgs 24:18-25:30).  In the years before 598 BC Jeremiah prophesied doom and destruction against Judah (eg. ch 6).  He warned that the Lord would punish them because of their apostasy, disobedience (7:21-26), complacency (5:11-17), oppression (5:25-29), injustice (8:10), pride (13:9), and especially adultery.  All had sinned greatly, from the people, to the priests, to the prophets, to the king (5:1-5, 30, 31).

The first chapter of Jeremiah shows how God's decision to destroy the rebellious nation is irrevocable.  Another prophet, Amos, had already been sent to proclaim the imminent destruction to Israel.  In a vision (Amos 8:1-2) he saw a basket of fruit (Hebrew qais), which in fact represents the end of the nation (Hebrew qes, meaning the end). Now Jeremiah receives a similar visionary truth, that Judah, like her sister nation, Israel, will soon confront God's righteous judgment.  In reply to the divine interlocution, Jeremiah says that he sees an almond staff.  In a word play, God goes beyond the natural image of almond (Hebrew shaqed) and expounds the meaning of the prophetic vision as an absolute divine sovereignty in human history.  God is watching (Hebrew shoqed) His will being carried out.  In this instance, Jeremiah sees only a part, a natural object, the almond rod, but God gives a more dynamic and profound dimension of meaning.  To man's limited vision there is always an omniscient divine perspective.  And so a substantive shaqed is now turned to the divine action shoqed.  A natural object which is seen in the confines of space and time has now become a sweeping historical development.  This divine transformation proves that the Lord is not only a just God but also the author and arbiter of human destiny.

It will be of interest for us to look into the divine dialogue with Jeremiah in the vision of the almond rod.  Almond is known to be one of the early blooming, trees in the spring.  In the Bible the rod is a stem of a growing plant (Eze 19:11-14), a soldier's weapon (1 Sam 14:27, 43), a king's scepter (Ps 110:2), or the wonder-working rods of Moses and Aaron (Ex 4:7,8; Num 17).  It is used by the shepherd to marshal and count his sheep (Lev 27:32, Mic 7:14) or defend his flock (Ps 23:4), but it is usually taken to be a scourge (I Cor 4:21), an instrument of punishment.  Assyria is, for instance, the rod of the Lord's anger (Is 10:5).  In Jeremiah's vision, chastisement is intended for the people of Judah at this critical historical moment.  The coupling of the image of the scouring rod with that of an almond tree implies that the destruction of Judah is coming soon.  The imminent divine retribution through the agent, the army of the enemy is further confirmed by the vision of the boiling pot in 1:13,14.  The tribes of the east come to invade Palestine from the north like the downpour of the unbearable, seething, boiling pot.

The vision of Jeremiah teaches us several things.  First we learn of the limited vision of man and the discrepancies between the divine and human perspectives.  God may reveal to us something profound through an everyday event or natural object, but we fail to grasp the transcendental meaning of His overall purposes.  As stated in the Bible, God's thoughts are not human thoughts and are always higher than human supposition, just as the heavens are higher than the earth (Is 5S:8, 9).  Joseph's story serves as an example of how the higher divine will works good for those who love Him.  By human judgment, it would be inconceivable that Joseph should be first betrayed by his own brothers and then falsely accused by the wife of his master.  Imprisoned, Joseph interprets through his God-given wisdom the dreams of his two fellow prisoners.  But Joseph is forgotten and must suffer for another period of time.  It seems unfair, but God again has His higher purpose.  Not until Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh and suggests how to overcome the coming years of famine is he promoted to a noble status in Egypt.  With his position, Joseph is able to deliver his family from famine and make possible an eventual family reunion.  His words of consolation to his brothers are attuned to the overall divine purpose: "Fear not, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me: but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear: I will provide for you and your little ones" (Gen 50:19-21).  And so God's covenantal promise in Genesis 15 also comes to fulfillment: Abraham's descendants would go down to Egypt, to be followed by the Exodus and re-entry into Canaan.

In order to illustrate the inscrutability of the divine perspective, let us see Jesus' description of Himself in John 3:13.  After a conversation with Nicodemus focusing on the need for everyone to be reborn from water and the Spirit as prerequisites to the entry into the kingdom of God, Jesus reveals His own divine origin and omnipresence.  He states that He comes from above and remains above while on earth, and that His Resurrection-Ascension has already come to pass.  The historical Son of man has been recognized as a Jew (Jn 4:9), or a son of the carpenter (Mk 6:3).  However, the mystery of the Godhead is thus: as the Son of God (in the Gospel of John) or the Son of man (in the synoptic Gospels), Jesus must obey and do the will of the Heavenly Father and glorify Him (Php 2:6-9; Jn 4:34; 5:19; 8:29,54; 9:4).  But Jesus is the Incarnated Word and the full embodiment of the invisible God (Jn 1:18; Col 1:l5; Heb 1:3).  The Name of Jesus is the name of the Father (Jn 17:6, 11, 26; 12:28; Mt 28:19 = Acts 2:38; 4:12; 10:43; 11:47-48; 19:2-7), also the name of the Holy Spirit which is none other than the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; I Pet 1:11), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), or the Spirit of the Son (Gal 4:6,7).  God is not limited by time and space, and cannot be measured by physical dimensions, and so He can be simultaneously on earth as well as in heaven (Mt 3:16).  Jesus, who is one with the Heavenly Father (Jn 10:30), declares that those who see and know Him have seen and known the Heavenly Father (Jn 14:9; 8:19).  For this reason, we must see the Lord Jesus Christ not only in His sonship (High Priesthood or the Mediator), but also in His divine origin and eternal power as God Himself.

Another enlightening incident in Jesus' ministry warrants our deep reflections.  This is the sending of the seventy to fulfill their task as harvesters: Israel is ripe for the sickle and must be gathered into the garner of the kingdom while the season lasts (Lk 10:17-20).  When the missionaries enjoy their success as exorcists, Jesus reveals a more far-reaching vision. He points out a primordial past when the fallen angels were cast out and became the legions of the evil force (cf symbolic portrait of the fallen angels in Eze 28:12-17; Is 14:12-15).  Meanwhile, Jesus points to the ever-present spiritual struggle between light and darkness, and as described in Revelation, the Devil and its kingdom will finally be thrown in the lake of fire (Rev 20:7-l5).  The victory over evil and death comes from the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 2:14, 15).  And so from this one event, the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us how His divine vista stretches from the present to the past, and to the future.

While the disciples rejoice at their dominion over the evil force, Jesus Christ calls their attention to something more important and more rewarding: their names are to be recorded in Heaven.  The value of one's life does not lie in the power to exercise miracles, but in the ultimate salvation.  Jesus shows a higher view than the ordinary person's and shows a way to discern the difference between what is the priority and what is of less importance, what is substance and what is phenomenon.  Miracles pertain only to this world.  It can solve the physical problems but not salvation of the souls.  Moreover, the special spiritual gifts in performing wonders and healing can be abused for personal gratification, causing those lacking spiritual discernment to fall away from the grace of God.  Jesus Christ wants His disciples to spread the gospel of the Kingdom with the support of the divine power (Mk 16:15-20; Rom 15:8, 9; Heb 2:3, 4), but they must watch and pray and not stray from eternal life (Lk 21:36).  It is necessary for the believers to fix their sights on the permanent, heavenly blessing that the Lord wants to grant us.

Now let us imagine what we would answer to the divine question, "My child, what do you see?" Is our vision a limited one, or a broad one which is able to relate our own thought and deed to the divine precepts?  The Lord wants us to have a farsightedness about the development of church ministry and how we the workers of God plan, coordinate, and execute the tasks wholeheartedly and effectively for His glory.  In our daily life, are we able to see things in their "wholeness, symmetry, whatness?" Are we able to have more creative imagination and transformational vision is the spheres of art, while having a more analytical faculty in scientific thinking and discovery?

Do we see how great the effect of a genuine faith is, as exemplified by the men of faith in the history of the chosen people (Hebrews 11)?  A correct view of life determines a person's course of action.  A perceptive person will give up things of this transient world for things of spiritual magnitude.  Moses, for example, forsook wealth, position and the enjoyment of this life to become a worthy vessel of God.  The Bible describes that he chose to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin, and that he considered abuse suffered for Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward from above (Heb 11:2S, 26).

Let us examine ourselves.  We ought to see how God requires us to be holy and to offer an acceptable spiritual worship and spiritual sacrifice (I Thes 4:3; Rom 12:1, 2).  In our service of the Lord we must learn from the Lord's parable of two men praying in the temple.  The Pharisee falls short of the glory of God, because while thinking only about his own ritualistic conformity, he judges the tax collector.  However, the Lord reckons the tax collector as righteous, because he prays for the forgiveness.  Here and now the Lord wants to see that the worship of God conducted in the spirit and the truth (Jn 4:23-24). lie treasures humility, sincerity, and mercy more highly than the routine worship or regular offering:

            He has shown to you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)

            "Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee" (Ps 63:3).

Life would be meaningless if God should forsake us; we would have nothing to live for, no one to comfort us, no one to rely on.  With His love we are assured of peace and support; this is worth treasuring!  In return, we should always praise Him and glorify Him.  This would be the least we could do to repay His precious love.


Audrey Li