Gleanings in Jeremiah : 4 : Picture and Word Prophet
Jer 1:11,12 The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
The ‘mechanics’ of a prophetic gift is remarkably simple but does require faith. Already in this chapter we have probably taken for granted the ‘conversation’ that has been going on between the Lord and Jeremiah. How easy it is to read the words and fail to see the wonder of what is happening. In verse 4 we read, “The word of the LORD came to me.,” and that was followed by a long and profound statement from the Lord that Jeremiah ‘heard’. There was no mention of a word out loud and so it is probable that Jeremiah heard this in his spirit or, to be more precise, in his mind, because that is where the intellect picks up words.
Accepting that what you are ‘hearing’ is in fact God speaking to you is a most basic act of faith. The proof, if there is such a thing, that it is the Lord is the fruit of it. Does it bring a sense of goodness to you, does it build you, strengthen you, encourage you, challenge you, teach you, bless you? Does it conform to His written word for He will never speak contrary to it? Illustrations, I believe, are probably the best way to communicate in this subject. I’m sure I’ve given these examples on these pages before but people seem to find them helpful so I will repeat them here. Perhaps the earliest ‘words’ tend to be the most memorable.
The first one happened when my daughter was only a few months old. I crept into our bedroom where she was sleeping in a crib and gazed down at here and as I did, it seemed like a voice came in my mind and asked, “What do you think of her?” I was surprised but in my youthfulness assumed it was the Lord and so thought back, “She’s wonderful Lord.” And then came a strange question and it is such questions or things that cut right across the flow that so often convince me it is the Lord: “What does she do?” How strange, but I answered back, “Well she cries a lot, wakes us up in the middle of the night, continually wants feeding and wants her nappies (diapers for you Americans) changing all the time.” “And what do you think about her?” “Oh, she’s just wonderful Lord.” “Why do you think that?” “Because she’s mine Lord.” “And that’s why I love you, son, because you’re mine” and suddenly I realised for the first time that He loves me just as I am, despite my misunderstandings and getting it wrong, and it changed my life.
The other incident that comes to mind, must have happened a few years before that time. I was leading a youth team for a Scripture Union beach mission in Wales. That week we had been teaching the teenagers basics about God. Near the end of the week we were planning an evening barbecue a mile or so down the beach from where we held our daily meetings. As we went back into the team house about lunchtime, one young team member came bounding in saying, “It looks like it’s going to rain this afternoon.” Rather cynically I replied, “You’d better pray about it then.” At that time I did not believe in a God who changed the weather but this youngster that morning at early prayers had prayed for good weather and I had already made a negative comment about it. Nevertheless the rain held off for the afternoon and we collected a massive pile of timber on the beach (I wouldn’t dream of doing that today without numerous permissions, but ignorance is a wonderful thing!) courtesy of some builders who were pulling out a load of timber windows from a small house they were renovating nearby.
Our house was located near where the barbecue was to be and so we had to drive down into the town to collect the teenagers and bring them along to this part of the beach. As we started to get ready to go, my young team member came rushing in saying, “It’s starting to pour with rain.” “Pray about it,” I said, while inwardly thinking, “Well, that’s it. We’ll have to do something with them in the hall in town.” As I said, it was about a mile drive along the seafront to where we were to collect the teens. As I started off along the road in my empty car, it seemed like there was this voice in my mind, “What have you been teaching them all this week?” So much did it just cut across my thoughts that I found myself answering, “That you are the Creator God.” “And?” “And you are all-powerful.” “And? “And you can do anything.” “Including changing the weather?” I paused a few seconds. “Er, yes, I suppose so.” “Then ask me now out loud to change this weather.” And so feeling a fool I prayed out loud (because I hadn’t got round to that sort of thing by then, I was only a very young Christian), “Lord, please will you stop it raining. Amen.” And that was it.
A few minutes later I arrived at the hall where the teens were huddled under an awning keeping out of the rain. As I climbed out of my car, I was greeted with calls of, “Is it off then? Are we staying in the hall this evening?” By then something had happened in me and so I replied, “No, it will be all right, get in the cars,” as other team members turned up in their cars. Now when I tell this story I am careful not to exaggerate. We drove along the beach and in this particular place there was a high concrete sea wall with steps every hundred yards or so up an over the wall onto the beach. As the first teenager stepped onto the stones of the beach it stopped raining and remained like that for the rest of the evening. Here’s the even more amazing thing – the timber on the beach was still dry. We had a great barbecue. We took the teens back to town, cleared up and as the last member came through the front door of our house, it started to rain again and poured for the rest of the night.
Most of the time today I see pictures and then get the interpretation, but when I’m having my personal time with the Lord every morning, every now and then He breaks in and speak directly into my spirit. I have learned to distinguish, I hope, between His gentle but firm voice and other ‘voices’. Tomorrow we’ll consider what Jeremiah ‘saw’ and what it meant, and how to interpret such ‘pictures’.