accidental prophet—cohen (priest) turned vessel of holy fire
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The Bible is our instruction manual, history, present, future. God's words, drawing us into the hidden, His deep. We read what's written. But what about what’s not said—between the lines and within the strokes of each Hebraic letter? Those crevices are often where revelation and backstories emerge.
This soul-arrow story is part of a series, birthed from my Soul Remodeling post. In the Bible, God calls individuals—and the entire nation of Israel—into a soul-wilderness journey, where He takes them off the grid . . . away from the common and into a holy, deeper understanding within their soul.
There are three components of God’s soul-remodeling process:
(1) The love call (a going into yourself, for yourself, to yourself, known in Hebrew as lech lecha לֶךְ-לְךָ ).
(2) The deconstruction-reconstruction soul process.
(3) The emergence.
READING TIME: 15-18 MINUTES.
Personally, I love the 1998 Lux Vid film Jeremiah, directed/written by Harry Winer and starring Patrick Dempsey as the weeping prophet. It may weave in a non-Biblical plot line here and there—like a budding relationship with a never-to-be girlfriend—but it also breathes life into Jeremiah’s story. Not to mention that Dempsey’s easy-on-the-eyes looks and pithy performance give a whole new perspective on the mighty prophet. No wonder I watch it semi-frequently. If you’ve never seen it, check it out.
The real Jeremiah’s story begins with God’s voice awakening the soon-to-be prophet’s soul, pronouncing his destiny. There would be no discussion, no fiery bush, no staff-turned-snake demonstrations as Adonai had done with Moses. It would begin as it does for each of us—with God’s destiny calling known and voiced even before the womb.
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.
—The Hound Of Heaven, Francis Thompson
Born in Anatot—a town given to the tribe of Benjamin, per Joshua 21, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives—Jeremiah’s call-to-action probably occurred sometime before he was 25 or 30 . . . old enough to marry, but not yet beginning his rightful cohen (priestly) duties, as son of the High Priest, Hilkiah.
Then the L-rd reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
Today, I have placed you over nations and kingdoms
to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.”
A soul-focused interpretation of what God was saying?
There, Jeremiah. As counterintuitive as it seems to you, it’s done. What your soul will grow into and what it will do for Me are already accomplished in the spiritual realm . . . I have spoken and My words are quick to perform. With the breath of My word, all that is—and will be—has been brought forth. So now with you, it is accomplished in the interwoven crevices of your unseen soul . . . yet it will be manifested in the natural at My appointed time and place.
Jeremiah was going to be strategically placed in God’s archery bow with all kinds of tensions—dark moments taking him to near death—pulling him back so he could be launched higher, further for the sake of God’s mercy, love, covenant with His people.
In fact, God’s orchestrated deconstruction/reconstruction soul process in Jeremiah would mirror the work He eventually would do in the soul of the wayward Southern Kingdom of Judah—deconstruction (captivity) and reconstruction (redemption, restoration).
Jeremiah would be the prophetic voice of God to Judah . . . just as Jeremiah
(a cohen/priest), would also stand in for Judah before the Lord,
the Hound of Heaven—whose relentless love would chase Judah into captivity
for a national deconstruction-reconstruction process.
Back story: Around 755 BCE, Amos and Hosea prophesied to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who had long meshed their Judaism with paganism. Israel ignored the warnings and landed in the middle of God’s divine discipline: Assyrian captivity, 721 BCE after a three-year seige. But Judah was not so quick to learn from the idolatrous falterings of its fellow tribesmen.
And so, along came God’s love call. Jeremiah.
For 20 years, Jeremiah sounded the alarm of the impending 70-year Babylonian captivity—gradual, in waves, beginning around 605 BCE, taking princes (like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) for positions, then toward the end, deporting the poorest of the poor Judeans as slaves. He also encouraged them, prophesying about Judah’s restoration . . . and a new covenant in the future, where Torah would be written on our hearts.
LIKE MOSES, EXCUSES
Jeremiah’s calling was not going to be easy. He pretty much knew that going in. What was up ahead—a lonely soul experience with twists, turns, and chasmic drops—would break off any hardness and self-focus to uncover the soul’s holy hiddenness.
By God’s further command, there would be no wife. And no children. And no living his priestly heritage. No normality on any level. Only risks and danger—on the wings of a prophetic calling that would voice sorrow, pain, surrender, exile, and the promise of a future redemption for Judah, a nation whose “soul” was under the power of its earthbound vessel . . . unwilling, prideful, rebellious, delusional.
But you [Jeremiah], dress for action, stand up, and tell them everything I order you to say. Don’t break down or I will break you down in front of them. For today, I have made you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its cohanim [priests], and the people of the land.
They [Judah] will fight against you, but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the LORD.
Jeremiah’s knee-jerk reaction? Like Moses, he thought God should look elsewhere. His “I’m only a young man” response—the word is na’ar (נַעַר) in the Hebrew—reveals Jeremiah’s take on his lack of abilities and readiness.
A na’ar is a young man, defined by age (teen through twenties) or of marriageable age, and sometimes, rabbinically defined as not yet ready to fulfill his duties/position. (As an aside, 17-year-old Joseph in Genesis 37:2 was called a na’ar.)
Based on Jeremiah’s writings regarding his prophetic calling spanning five kings, his birth is set around 655 BCE. His prophetic calling began in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign—putting him around age 25 – 29, as mentioned earlier in this post.
וָאֹמַר, אֲהָהּ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, הִנֵּה לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי, דַּבֵּר: כִּי-נַעַר
And I said, “You are my LORD, ADONAI, here I am (or alas/behold), I don’t know a thing because I am a young man.
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, אַל-תֹּאמַר נַעַר אָנֹכִי: כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר
שְׁלָחֲךָ, תֵּלֵךְ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוְּךָ, תְּדַבֵּר.
And the LORD said to me, you shall not say I am a young man: because wherever I send you, you will go and all that I command you, you will say.
In the natural, I get why Jeremiah tried to excuse himself. To a young man who had yet to spread his wings, the call sounded well beyond the norm. You can almost hear him logically deduce it like this: At least a man trained in spiritual matters, matured, married, and long observant in his priestly duties would be far better suited to attempt the task.
Jeremiah may have studied Torah, but he had yet to swim in God’s deep, secret place.
He may have been a cohen, but he had yet to personally know the dunamis (power) of God.
It was never about Jeremiah’s strength, knowledge, bloodline, or abilities.
It was—and always is—about God and His strength, plan, power, abilities.
God never goes for the obvious. Or the best suited, smartest, most educated, strongest. Remember how God reduced Gideon’s army of 32,000 down to a mere 300—and then gave Israel a mighty victory over the Midianites?
God will do what He will do . . . will be what He will be. His name and character are one and the same.
He is the ineffable, holy name: יהוה
The real issue is the state of Jeremiah’s soul-body matrix, which was out of sync.
That caused him to see his destiny call the way many of us do in confusing, fearful times—through the eyes of human viewpoint/human standards vs. God’s heavenly perspective and power.
But God was on the move—again. He used the soul deconstruction/reconstruction process to part the Red Sea, so to speak, inside Jeremiah’s soul. Peeling away the common—cultural mindsets, religiosities, human expectations, spiritual compromises—so Jeremiah could go on that wilderness-call journey, “lech lecha” (לֶךְ-לְךָ) . . . go to yourself, for yourself, into yourself . . . and submerge into God’s secret place, His holy, murmuring deep. Truly seeing with God’s perspective of what is good and right.
Yet, this wasn’t a mission built for a single man. Besides working in Jeremiah’s soul for his own edification, God was working through Jeremiah’s soul—making him an instrument in His hands. An instrument that would see what God saw, feel what God felt, and experience in the physical what Judah was doing to God in the spiritual.
Two realms were clashing—with Jeremiah as both the scapegoat of Judah’s contempt for God’s ways and the conduit for God’s convictions, discipline, and hope.
Jeremiah had become God’s prophetic lightning rod.
He attracted the fiery anger of Judah . . . while being consumed by God’s righteous, fiery words. Within those blasts of light, Judah’s soul condition was exposed. There was no place to hide. No place to run. There was only surrender.
Ironically, it was a bit of a replay. Prior, God had commanded Hosea to marry a harlot—a portrayal of God’s relationship to the adulterous Northern Kingdom. In that deconstruction process, Hosea’s soul touched the holy, the uncommon, and lived out God’s experiences with his bride, Israel: betrayal, sorrow, longing, calling for her return to righteousness.
TWO SIDES OF SAME COIN
Moses led God’s nation out of captivity—toward a promise—and for 40 years dealt with their rebellion, grumblings, faithlessness, and near mutinies. And yet, he interceded for the people and pleaded with God to not take His presence from the nation.
Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years to Judah’s deaf ears and stoney hearts, nearly dying by their hands . . . beaten, put in stocks, flogged, mocked, imprisoned. And yet, he stood by them as they moved toward their destined 70-year Babylonian captivity—and waited in his encouragement of God’s promise of their return to Jerusalem and the Land.
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
—The Hound Of Heaven, Francis Thompson
And Jeremiah—like Moses in his soul-remodeling journey—underwent layers of God’s deconstruction/reconstruction process . . . slowly experiencing a holy, softening transformation where the sensitivities of the Father’s heart were infused into his own.
At times, feeling sad, angered, appalled, or overcome with grace, mercy, and hope. But at other times, feeling abandoned by God, then empowered by His presence. Don’t know about you, but that flip-flop of emotions sounds oh so familiar.
I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me . . . so the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.—Jeremiah 20:7b, 8b
But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. —Jeremiah 20:11a
It’s always a matter of who’s on first—your soul surrendered to God or your earth-focused vessel partnered up with a darkened soul. Therein is the battle within the battle.
Jeremiah learned that. The wilderness journey and the battle humbled him. Knocked the wind out of him along the way. The timing. The disappointments. The rage. The angst. The depression.
Tensions rolled over him in every form, on every front. He once was among the privileged, a cohen. Then, he was an outcast.
But he couldn’t, wouldn’t stop. Why? Because he knew his calling. He surrendered to His king. He bore the weight of the Kingdom of God.
RUNNING WITH HORSES
Moses may have wanted to stop at times. But couldn’t. His relationship with ADONAI was too real, too intense, too passionate. Jeremiah got exhausted and wanted out. His soul couldn’t take any more. He was boxed in on all sides—sometimes, literally. And yet . . . he had no choice but to move forward.
If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.—Jeremiah 20:9
God’s fiery voice in Jeremiah’s bones would not be silenced. It would flash within his soul matrix, permeating everywhere he was sent. Atmospheres were challenged by God’s words spoken through Jeremiah . . . but also by his mere presence. The prophetic burden on Jeremiah was heavy. The cost high. Extremely high.
If you’ve run with the footmen and they’ve exhausted you, then how will you compete against horses? You may feel secure in a land of peace, but how will you do in the Yarden’s thick brush?—Jeremiah 12:5
What was God conveying to Jeremiah? If you can’t keep up with the easier battle campaigns on the ground (footmen) when things aren’t that intense, how will you handle the thick of war? A slightly closer look with the Hebrew flushes out . . .
כִּי אֶת-רַגְלִים רַצְתָּה וַיַּלְאוּךָ,
If you’re running/as in “rushing” (רַצְתָּה) with soldiers/footmen and they’re tiring you out (וַיַּלְאוּךָ)
וְאֵיךְ תְּתַחֲרֶה אֶת-הַסּוּסִים;
then how will you vie for/rival against (תְּתַחֲרֶה) horses [symbolic of army strength, an animal used for war times]
וּבְאֶרֶץ שָׁלוֹם אַתָּה בוֹטֵחַ, וְאֵיךְ
and in the land of peace you confidently trust in (or feel secure in), then how
תַּעֲשֶׂה בִּגְאוֹן הַיַּרְדֵּן.
will you do in the thicket (or raging/swelling or magnificence) of the Jordan?
In its glory days, the Jordan—which means “descender”—had umpteen curves with varying widths, from 75 feet to 200 feet. Many rapids and falls were along its course, which usually had a rapid, strong current.*
Sounds similar to a soul wilderness journey to me.
Being called down into His murmuring deep, descending into a place with rugged terrain and raging waters . . . an uncommon place where God alone is your road map.
Along his destined journey, Jeremiah learned how to focus on what God was doing—not what He was removing during that soul wilderness process.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? When God places any of us in a pressurized soul situation, we see what’s missing. What’s been taken away, diminished, lost. We mourn for what was—and wonder when, if ever, we will return to some state of our previous “normal.”
We long for release and hope for a new normal—the promise of something within that immerses us into His holiness and transforms us so we are not even a shadow of our former selves.
PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE
Life isn’t easy. And trials of any magnitude are disturbing. But the point is . . . are you first seeking God and believing His Word, following His leading, and getting covered in prayer from trusted believers in Him—or is your soul dial set for auto-tilt?
You know, your spiritual compass hitting a “10” on the frustration richter scale.
Believe me, I’ve been there and can get there in no time, if I’m not staying in His flow.
That’s why Jeremiah 12:5 is special to me. God used it often to encourage me during one of my extremely difficult wilderness journeys.
When I didn’t think I could take another step, another hit, another disappointment—newly widowed, family issues, uncertainties on so many levels—He’d give me a vision . . . allowing me to see and hear the stampeding hooves of mighty horses.
Would I run with them or fall to the side? If these spiritual battles—in times of relative national peace with challenges common to humanity—would get me down, how will I ever finish the race against tougher enemies? And what will I do in times of more difficult hardships or even persecution?
My soul knew the answer. It had to keep pushing forward in Him and with Him. But I had no strength on my own. Throughout that five-year process (and counting), I’ve had to take it step by step, soul breath by soul breath.
I’m in process, learning to rest on this truth in Jeremiah 20:11 . . .
God is with me like a mighty warrior.
Read all the Soul Arrow stories:
- Soul Remodeling Series: Soul Arrow—Sarah
- Soul Remodeling Series: Soul Arrow—Joseph
- Soul Remodeling Series: Soul Arrow—Moses
- Soul Remodeling Series: Soul Arrow—Jeremiah
- Soul Remodeling Series: Soul Arrow—Saul Paulus
I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.
*Stats on Jordan from biblehub.com