TODAY’S READING: Jeremiah 41–45
Jeremiah, the “all nations” prophet, exhorted national surrender when patriotism ran high. Jeremiah urged exile when everyone wanted to stay home. When the popular will was to run from home to the apparent safety of Egypt, Jeremiah again went against the grain and stated that flight solves nothing. These chapters of Jeremiah have two essential missionary applications: First, the missionary voice is constantly out of step with what is popular, and second, in this life we cannot run from battle, but we must face our fears.
An upstart named Ishmael murdered the appointed authority and the people, tired of a litany of national disaster, attempted to manipulate a prophetic endorsement to escape it all: “We will go to the land of Egypt where we will see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor be hungry for bread, and there we will dwell” (Jer. 42:14). Collectively, it had been about 500 years of strife (civil and international), and the people of God just wanted to stop fighting. They wanted to withdraw from all conflict, mind their own business, and live in peace. In this age that is not an option. We have no choice but to face our fears, to fight for the glory of God from all nations, or to lift up our voice bearing a message as unpopular on earth as it is fixed in heaven.
Missions is a thing of earth—it will not exist in heaven. Earth is not our home. It is not where we belong. We are pilgrims, strangers, and aliens. There are beautiful things on earth, but they are shadows of the grandeurs of glory. The reason we remain on earth is that God’s grand passion to be worshipped by every tongue eternally be fulfilled. As long as we have breath, we speak for the glory of God among all nations. As long as we have strength, we must fight for the glory of God among all peoples.
The uniting theme of this life is that we live and speak for the glory of Jesus among all peoples. Neither this life nor eternal life is centered on us or our glory—all must focus on the magnificent King of kings. Jeremiah’s prophetic partner was Baruch who also felt the wear and tear of bearing a prophetic message in a world gone mad. Baruch sought relief from the burden of constant battle for the souls of men, and God told him: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh… But I will give your life to you as a prize…wherever you go” (45:5).
It’s simple, really. Life is war, and it is wartime. As long as we live, we must strain against the popular. We must fight that men and women be saved. Yes, it is exhausting, but we are delusional if we think we can go anywhere that escapes the battle. One way or another we will have to war to the end—either we run to battle or the battle will run to us. The only safe way to navigate the fray is to be sure we fight for the honor of Jesus. If we do anything, including win souls, as a means of seeking great things for ourselves, we have already lost.