Don’t Be Afraid…Or Else

baby on the beach, clenching sand in fist, silly face

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching[b] over my word to perform it.” The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.”Then the Lord said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you. –Jeremiah 1:11-19

While reading this, I thought it was interesting that the branch that Jeremiah saw was of an almond tree, since the branch that Jesus and Paul talked about was of an olive tree. The notes in my New Living Translation Study Bible explained that the Hebrew word for almond is “Shaqed“. A similar word, “Shoqed”, means “awake and ready for action”. Also, the almond tree’s the first to blossom in Israel, normally around late January to early February. The purpose suggested then is that God’s always awake and on the job to accomplish His purpose, for as He said in v.12, “It means that I’ll be watching, and I’ll surely carry out My threats of punishment.”

Another thing I thought was interesting is why God told Jeremiah not to be afraid of anybody. I mean, we’re always reminded of the fact that God is always with us, so I expected to read that: ‘don’t be afraid of them because I’m with you’. But instead, God threatened Jeremiah, saying that if he fears the people and doesn’t carry out his mission, then God will cause Jeremiah to look foolish among them. Sort of makes sense, since Jeremiah is said to have been in his middle to late teens when God called him to this mission, and when you look at the fact that it’s in the teenage years that we struggle with or deal with our identities, or are more concerned about how people view us.

I mean, think about it. If you don’t have kids, look at movies and TV shows. What are the main topics that teens deal with? Identity, how people see them, acceptance, love, feelings, looking cool among their peers, image…so God’s threat of public humiliation sounds pretty bad for a teen (or even an adult), even something that would surely make him think twice before disobeying. The only downside of this, though, is that if he obeys God, he will still be everybody’s enemy. So either way, Jeremiah would still suffer, only one way would be with God and the other would be without God.

In 1 Samuel 15:24 though, we see God carrying out His punishment on King Saul when he disobeyed the Lord’s command for this reason: “I was afraid of the people and (instead) did what they demanded.” So Jeremiah probably already knew of this and what his suffering would consist of if he was to disobey God’s command, also. But on the other side, even though others would hate him, God’s promise was that He wouldn’t leave him, and He would take care of him.

Interestingly enough, God made the same promise to us through Jesus Christ when He said “If the world hates you…”. The world has always hated people from God because the light shines in their darkness. They prefer the darkness where they think their sin is hidden, but the light from God shines on them and shows them their ugly sin, giving them 2 options for response:

  1. Grieve over their guilt, turn, repent, and follow God
  2. Anger and insult, turning against us in violent words and/or actions

Unfortunately, most respond with option #2. But Jesus reminds us that He’s overcome the world, that He’ll be with us in our persecution and trials, and that if we stand firm, we’ll be saved.

1 Comment

  1. 1 John 2:15–“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”. As we mature in our relationship with Jesus Christ, the more we care about what our eternal king says and less about what fallen people in this temporary world think. Jesus says “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mark 13:13). “The end” is nearer, which will be a great new beginning for those who are saved (Revelation 21-22).

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