Monday, January 12, 2015

"The Almond Branch"

I saw this picture the other day and I saved it because, let's face it, it is inspirational and Jeremiah 1:5 is definitely one of my favorite verses.

As a youth pastor I have often taught using this verse to inspire my young people to pursue their calling in serving the Lord. Today is no different. I have a challenge to issue to you to step into the things of God to a deeper degree as well!

I didn't know it when I saved the picture but the Lord has a different message today than is normally preached with this verse. Normally, at least for me, I have taught it with the idea of, 'God knows you and has a plan for you in mind' as the central theme of the message. After all it is perfect for such a message! "...Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; And I ordained you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5  Before. What an amazing truth this key word unlocks in the hearts and minds of those who hear its call.  'Before I formed you.' 'Before you were born.' Long BEFORE you were even a speck in your mother's womb you had a history with God or rather a better way of putting it would be, He has a history with you; of knowing you, of loving you and planning a future for you! As awesome as this truth is it is not the message that He has for us today.

Today's message comes from the words He spoke next because the truth is, these were just the first words that God spoke to Jeremiah at this, His moment of choice. God spoke these words to Jeremiah as He was calling and commissioning him into his call as a prophet. As God spoke them to Jeremiah He was putting him on notice. He had a plan. He had 'ordained' him or as some translations put it, 'set him apart' to be a prophet to the nations in Jeremiah's day. God's words, while intending to reassure Jeremiah of His presence in Jeremiah's life, didn't really convince him based on Jeremiah's first response to his call. 'Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.' Jeremiah 1:6 If your going to be a prophet you  kinda need to be able to speak with some kind of authority and Jeremiah immediately goes to what he sees as a weakness in fulfilling the mission God has asked of him. He considers his youth and his inexperience to be the cause of that lack of authority and a valid reason for seeing himself as less than the perfect choice. God of course didn't agree!

God's response is one that again speaks to his plan, his purpose, and most importantly, His presence in the fulfilling of His word. "...Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you." says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant." Jeremiah 1:7-10

To be honest I think the action God took next is what confirmed to Jeremiah more than the words God spoke that God would be with him as he went forth to prophesy both destruction and blessing.  Take a look at what came following God's spoken affirmation that Jeremiah was well equipped with His presence to go and do all that He required. He proceeded to give him two visions, the first being the point of today's message. "...Moreover 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 ready to perform My word."  He gave him a vision and then confirmed it to him. It was a vision of a branch of an almond tree. Jeremiah understood  the meaning of this vision! He knew that the almond tree was often called the 'awake tree' because in Palestine it is the first tree in the year to bud and bring forth fruit. Its blooms precede its leaves as it comes into bloom the end of January. Jeremiah's vision of the almond branch was God's confirmation to him that He is watching to see that His word is fulfilled. Jeremiah understood that it was God's assurance that He was awake and watching over His word to make sure that it came to pass. God himself reassured him of its meaning, "...for I am ready to perform My word."

God's heart, even right now, in this moment as you read this word; is to speak the same reassurance to you and the call that He has on your life! He has set your feet upon a path and He has set your call before you. Jeremiah made a choice to respond and go forth not fearing, but trusting God to go with him to deliver him. To lead him and to guide him in all his ways. He went forth ready to speak every word that God put in his mouth to every person God sent him to. Jeremiah made his choice. He went forth with the fire of God's words shut up in his bones. Jeremiah 20:9

I say all that because today the word that God has for you, His people is this: "Even now in the natural the almond tree is about to break forth and bud. It will blossom and bring forth its fruit as a sign to you, My people that you would know that I am ready to move in the earth today. It begins now with you My people answering My call to go forth in the power of My might. Go where I send you, Speak the words I have put in your hearts, your minds, and especially in your mouths. Stop saying, 'I can't,' and trust that I am with you because I have called you! I know what I have called you to. I am well able to equip you and to deliver you! Don't be afraid!  My power, My Spirit will lead you and guide you. Before I formed you in your mother's womb, I knew you; and before you were born I ordained and sanctified you. I have called you My own, My remnant in the earth today. I have called you My beloved. I have called you to stand in the gap for those I have placed before you. I have given you a choice this day to see the almond branch and know that I am ready to perform My word. Trust Me and obey all that I have given you to do. Speak the words to tear down and to build up when I command it. For I have called you My servant and I am ready to perform My word!"

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