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The Word of God declares that both John the Baptist and Jeremiah were called before they were born. We will take a brief look at Jeremiah Then we will look at the life of John the Baptist and view his remarkable ministry as prophet proclaiming the coming Messiah. Both Jeremiah and John were of priestly lineage. They were called out the ordinary in order to accomplish their prophetic tasks. These two men were diverse in lifestyle, yet, God called each of them to do a special task - the task of proclaiming the Word of the LORD.
|Psalm 139:13-16 For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb.  I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.  Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (NAS)|
God has a call for every man. There is the prevalent idea that God only calls special men. That is certainly not true. What was true for the Psalmist in this passage is true for all men. Yes, it is true that man is desperately wicked but it is also true that God plays an active role in the birth of every child. The picture here is that God weaves the inward parts of man much as a complex work of tapestry. Not only that but He has a plan for man before he is born - these details are kept in a sort of dossier. So, not only is the man himself designed by God but that his path is designed by God - all this before birth!
|Ezekiel 16:20-21 "Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me, and you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter?  "You slaughtered My children, and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. (NAS).|
Ezekiel the prophet proclaimed God's Word during an especially evil time of Judah. One of Jehovah's complaints was the sacrificing of children to idols. When He brought His complaint before Judah He made it clear that all the children were borne not as the inheritance of the family but they were borne to Jehovah. In fact, it is here that the strongest argument against the slaughter of children is made. That is, that children are His children - they all belong to Him. No one is excluded from God's claim - no one is to be excluded from the call of God to serve Him.
|2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count
slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to
1 Tim. 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (NAS)
I'm still trying to figure out the doctrine of Election along with Predestination - one fact that is inescapable is that Christ died for the sins of the world and that our Heavenly Father desires that all men come to a saving knowledge of the truth - even the evil kings for whom Paul had instructed the church to pray. So then, the call is out for all men to repent and to receive Christ as personal Savior. Let us look at two examples of the call of God to men.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Jeremiah was chosen by God before his birth. He was the son of a priest - of the tribe of Levite. He knew of his call by God very early in his life. He was told not to marry - by inference he would have been young as most Jewish men married at an early age. Jeremiah's apprehension regarding Jehovah's call because he was a mere "child" was a legitimate one. Who would listen to such a young man a "squire" if you please? Our passage brings us to the moment that Jehovah called Jeremiah to be the prophet to Judah. Jeremiah's commission was given as six Hebrew verbs - all infinitives:
|To pluck up.||To break down.||to destroy.|
|To overthrow.||To build.||To plant.|
Four were verbs of destruction denoting the judgement to come and two were verbs of construction and restoration of life. All this was before not just Judah but unto the powerful gentiles. It was given to this sensitive young man - perhaps we could even say timid and having an inferior complex the job of standing bravely before kings and members of his own fellow priests and tell them of the judgement of God to come.
Jeremiah's message from the LORD was so unpopular that he made the "hit list." Men were conspiring to kill him. Nevertheless, Jeremiah was to proclaim the message of judgement and restoration fearlessly. No small task for a timid, young man. Finally, if that wasn't enough, Jeremiah was to deliver a blistering denouncement of judgement upon powerful Babylon that they would be utterly destroyed:
|Jeremiah 50:23-25 How broken and shattered is the hammer of the whole earth! How desolate is Babylon among the nations!  I set a trap for you, O Babylon, and you were caught before you knew it; you were found and captured because you opposed the LORD.  The LORD has opened his arsenal and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Sovereign LORD Almighty has work to do in the land of the Babylonians. (NAS).|
There is no limit to a young man's capacity to effectively serve the LORD when he heeds the call.
|Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (KJV).
John 1:19-23 And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"  And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, "I am not the Christ."  And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."  They said then to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"  He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said." (NAS).
If John were to show up on the steps of the average Bible School today, he would be shunned by those who were grooming for the ministry. I can remember my days at Bible School and the different young men who showed up. Some really didn't fit in with the ministerial wanna-be crowd. There is a natural bias to shun these young men. John was such a man but was still called to be the herald of Christ.
John was the son of Zechariah a priest of no small stature - one who was deemed worthy to serve in the very Holy Place at the altar of incense. John's birth was no less than a miracle for both his mother and father were too old to have children. John was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born.
Luke 1:14-15 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
Just like Jeremiah, John was called to be a prophet of the LORD before he was born. Zechariah, unlike many of his fellow priests, was looking for the true Messiah. It would be a source of great joy to Zechariah and many others - reference to the response to John's prophetic ministry. Even the corrupt religious leaders looked at John's arrival as unusual and perhaps a prophetic fulfillment to the return of the great prophet, Elijah, or the coming of the Messiah. It was evident to the "many" that John was going to be great in the sight of the Lord. The reference to "'In the sight of the of' (enopion), includes the ideas of judgement or opinion.". That is, John would enjoy a high position and relationship before the Lord. His ministry and power would be similar to that of Elijah. The reference to his abstinence from wine was in view to his special dedication that was similar to the dedication of Samuel. John's special birth and life was recognized from the beginning by his parents. All this was known around the religious circles - Zechariah was well know, especially after his "bath qal" experience and the eyes of the religious community was probably fixed on John as he grew up.
|Luke 1:16-17 "And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.  "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (NAS)|
Not much is made of John's ministry but John was to have the same power of the Spirit of God as Elijah. John's ministry was so remarkable that many of the Jews wondered if John was a fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.  "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." (NAS). In fact, the angel's prediction regarding John was a direct quote from our passage in Malachi. Family relationships that were fractured in John's time were going to be restored and many of the Jews' hearts were going to changed from disobedience to an attitude of righteousness. There are no records of miracles performed by John in the power of the Spirit. The power of the Spirit that John was to wield was that of great persuasiveness and to affect a great revival in Judah.
|Matthew 11:7-15 And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?  "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces.  "But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet.  "This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.'  "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  "And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.  "He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (NAS).|
The circumstances leading up to this passage was very poignant. John was in prison. He knew his life was all but over but apparently had not heard much of Jesus' ministry. Frankly, John was discouraged, probably much like Elijah at the brook of Kidron. So he sent his followers to ask if Jesus was the Messiah. On the face of it, we might be harsh with John - "Of course Jesus is the Christ!" we might say. Most pastors and Christian workers would find it easy to place one's self in John's situation - I know the experience called the "Monday morning blues" of the preacher who preaches his heart out. Come Monday morning it is not unusual to question one's effectiveness and to be discouraged - this could probably apply to anyone who serves the Lord to the best of his ability with great effort only to wonder if one's efforts would yield any legitimate results. John's experience is not unique. All of God servant's need encouragement - not just the superficial "nice sermon" or "enjoyed that" although I certainly appreciate these comments. At any rate, God's servants do experience these "blues" and John was no exception.
Jesus sent John's followers back with the message that "the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM." Matthew 11:5, (NAS). This was a clear reference to Isaiah 35:4, 5 and 61:1. Jesus, knowing the godliness of the man and his tremendous grasp of the scriptures and the fact that he was filled with the Holy Spirit would take heart in this message.
Jesus then goes on to testify of John as a man of God. John, was the last of the prophets who was going to point to Jesus as the Messiah. He did not receive his honor because of his dress or demeanor - rather, he was called of God and he responded to that call. That was the key to John's approval and effectiveness as a man of God.
We need to understand that God calls every man to the Gospel. Not every man will respond. Not every man's calling is the same.
In short, God calls all men to salvation and service for Him. We need to, as a church, be involved in an active ministry to emulate His policy.
1. Jer 16:2.
2. Jer 1:10.
3. John 1: 19 - 23.
4. The Complete Biblical Library, Luke volume, page 25, 26.
5. See also Isaiah 26:19; 29:17ff.