Last month, this preacher felt like he went to VBS for Pastors, though my squirming was due to paying attention to the lesson rather than trying to escape it.
My family had the privilege of attending our presbytery's family conference called Covfamikoi (a name derived by combining the words "covenant" and "family" with the first letters of the states represented at the conference). I had the opportunity to sit under the mature, masterful preaching of Pastor Ted Donnelly from Ireland as he brought messages to us from the book of Jeremiah. As I listened to the warm, probing sermons, one lesson I learned is how much I am still learning about the Bible. To be honest, having never done an in-depth study of this book myself, I learned such things as:
- The theme God gave to Jeremiah's ministry is contained in the six verbs of Jer. 1:10, "to pluck up and break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." This theme is repeated throughout the book (for instance, see Jeremiah 18:7-10 and 31:38).
- The phrase "a new covenant" is found in the Old Testament and used only in Jeremiah (31:31).
- Just as God promised to write the law of God on hearts in the new covenant, He also threatened to the people of Jeremiah's day to inscribe their sins on their hearts by an iron stylus with a diamond point (17:1).
- Jeremiah's life mirrored Christ's to the point many in Jesus' day wondered if He was Jeremiah reincarnated (Matthew 16:13-14). Both Jesus and Jeremiah were rejected in their hometown, hated by the religious establishment, charged with treason, wept over Jerusalem and killed by their own people.
I share some of the fascinating things I learned as an encouragement that even pastors need to go to VBS, i.e., being a disciple of Christ means being a learner of the Scriptures your whole lifetime. Every week I prepare messages I am amazed at the things I see new or for the first time in Scripture. Maybe you are tentative to jump into Bible study or reading because you do not think you know very much about the Bible. I say plunge in and join the crowd!
Perhaps most encouraging and challenging to me - and the source of my squirming - was to hear that Jeremiah spent over 40 years of ministry being rejected by the people of God even as he persistently told them to turn back to the Lord. VBS 2006 for this pastor means persistently telling hardhearted people of the need to repent of their sins and seek the Lord. Even this very day He gave me the hour and a half opportunity to do that with someone who has been excommunicated. Even as I hung up disappointed for his failure to listen, Jeremiah 7:27 has become my strange comfort, "You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they shall not answer you."