Pent. 4A

TEXT: Jeremiah 20:7-l3; Matthew l0:26-33


Prophets have been with humankind since the origins of time. They have been called, Shaman in primitive cultures, --cultic Priests in Pagan cultures, --and Prophets in Hebrew tradition and early Church life as well. All received messages and felt compelled to spread the news –and in the end to be 'witnesses'. Jeremiah gives us a typical picture of the life of Judeo/Christian type of prophet.

FIRST, he tells us in his own words that he has no choice but to preach, he is compelled as if a fire burns in his heart, and he cannot, --even to save his life, keep quiet. His message is not popular, to say the least, – he is whipped, scorned, and shunned. Such was the lot of many prophets, and yet they persisted – both then and now.

Jeremiah was called as a young man of about l5 years of age. He was a Temple prophet, living life in the outer court of the Temple where men congregated in groups called “sodh” in the Hebrew, which means “my intimate friends”. The sodh provided an audience for gossip, --solid news, --poetry or a psalm reading. It was the means to express feelings of joy, sorrow, or even hate. Here a prophet could produce an “oracle” or message from God for the people.

The outer court of the Temple provided a home for intellectual life of Jerusalem and Judah. It was here that Jeremiah was drawn to preach his message. The main thrust of that message was the destruction of Jerusalem and the punishment of Israel at the hand of the foes from the North.

You see, Jeremiah was a political commentator for his times. He read his political facts, added the laws of Moses, allowed room for the working of God's Spirit, and – “with a burning faith,” --he made his proclamation and witness.

It was not a popular message, --and with it, --he had made his bed, as the saying goes, --so now he had to sleep in it. But peace was not what this prophet got. You see, --he was a gregarious fellow, --or so historical facts tell us. He loved people, but because of his witness, he was shunned and mocked, whipped and tossed in an abandoned cistern (or well), and held under arrest for a good part of his life.

He died in exile in Egypt. Jeremiah suffered because of his witness.

Matthew tells of the next generation of Prophets –the witnesses of Christian mission and outreach in the world. He warns them that they will find themselves like sheep in the midst of wolves and tells them they must be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. The witnesses for Christ will encounter the deceit of men and women, and will face hardships, being flogged, dragged into courts, and yes, some will face death. Matthew also promises that those who bear faithful witness will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and through that Spirit will speak words of wisdom and be able to endure those hardships.

The Rev/doctor Reginald Fuller claims that the scriptural text, “You are of more value” is not a general statement about the value of human personality: it's an assurance for the messenger. While they are delivering their message, they will be guarded. However, this does NOT exclude martyrdom-- for one way or the other, the message gets delivered.” (Fuller) We are to fear more for our souls, then for our lives.

So to be prophet, – to witness for God, – to witness for Jesus, is not always a NICE JOB. In fact, – most people don't consider that they are prophets, let alone that they are called! And yet, --aren't we all called to be witnesses? What is the relationship for us between “witness and suffering”?

Matthew l0:29-32 tells us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from you Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;...”

God knows who and where we are!! As we witness for God, in our actions, trying to be “LIKE” the master or the teacher, --not above, – only trying to be like, – we live our lives as human beings. We may fall, and we often fail, our lives fade and flow, and yes we sometimes feel joy, but we also suffer – that too is part of life. Some of us suffer more, – some less. There are the long suffering servants, and those who embrace life with a smile. Remember the old spiritual that says, “Only God knows the trouble I've seen” – yes, – God knows where each one of us are – and we know where we stand as witnesses in our suffering.

Each of us must stand in relationship to God, acknowledging Him as witnesses and prophets of this age. As Christians today, we stand in the crowd of witnesses that have gone before us, and we can take comfort in the sure knowledge that God gives us no more then we can bear. (Though sometimes we think it is beyond our endurance, – still we survive.) But friends, when it hits that point, – that it becomes too much, God has promised that He will bear it for us – He is there in the pain and the sorrow as well as the joys of our lives. So, let us stand in our relationship with and to God, acknowledging Him as witnesses and yes, even as prophets of this age. Amen.

*We here at Life-Light Ministries Graciously Thank Pastor Susen LaBlanc of the East Iron Hills Church from rural Maquoketa, Iowa 52060 for permission to share this message for it came in a most timely way. We thank the Lord Jesus Christ for his supernatural coincidences (?) that confirms his word through two or more witnesses. (See David Wilkerson's message also on 'End-Time Witnesses'

included in our website.)