Old Testament prophets had hard jobs. God called them to say things that people didn’t want to hear to people who didn’t want to hear them - messages filled with doom and gloom, with pessimism and despair. Here’s an example from the opening verses of Isaiah:
2 Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!
This is what the LORD says:
“The children I raised and cared for
have rebelled against me.
3 Even an ox knows its owner,
and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—
but Israel doesn’t know its master.
My people don’t recognize my care for them.”
4 Oh, what a sinful nation they are—
loaded down with a burden of guilt.
They are evil people,
corrupt children who have rejected the LORD.
They have despised the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him. (Isaiah 1.2-4)
Just enough time for a greeting before lowering the “sinful nation” boom!
And here’s a bit from Jeremiah:
20 “Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you
and tore away the chains of your slavery,
but still you said,
‘I will not serve you.’
On every hill and under every green tree,
you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols.
21 But I was the one who planted you,
choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best.
How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?
22 No amount of soap or lye can make you clean.
I still see the stain of your guilt.
I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken! (Jeremiah 2.2-22)
You, Judah, are hopeless!
Such is the gig the prophets signed up for. Sometimes, such as did Jeremiah, they try to escape their calls (see Jeremiah 1.6-10), but God does not relent; ultimately, the called comply.
There are many so-called “call stories” in the Bible, scenes in which God calls people to specific missions, most of which include challenging tasks. Today’s reminder is that God rarely gives easy assignments, a fact that makes our choices whether to accept God’s calls in our lives all the more challenging.
Don’t expect God’s invitations to you to be limited to requests for you to have nice days and offer prayers of thanks for the abundance you receive. The prophet Amos declared God’s command for “a mighty flood of justice, [and] an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5.24). Not easy outcomes. God says, pursue them anyway.
The good news is that when God calls, God provides. In response to Jeremiah’s request for an underage exemption, for example, God directs him not to be afraid and offers him presence and protection. Those two provisions – presence and provision – are God’s central rationale for overruling our objections. The life God has in mind for you is one you CAN live – you CAN do those seemingly hard things – because you live in the company and under the protection of God, who will not let you go.
Isaiah and Jeremiah had to decide whether accept God’s tough assignments. So must we. Our choices matter, but we never make them alone.