Keep Awake, as Jeremiah Did
“I [Jehovah] am keeping awake concerning my word in order to carry it out.”—JER. 1:12.
1, 2. Why is Jehovah’s “keeping awake” associated with the almond tree?
ON THE hills of Lebanon and Israel, one of the first trees to blossom is the almond tree. Its lovely pink or white flowers can be seen as early as the end of January or the beginning of February. Its Hebrew name literally means “awakening one.”
2 When Jehovah appointed Jeremiah as his prophet, this characteristic of the almond tree was aptly used to illustrate an important reality. At the start of his ministry, the prophet was shown in vision an offshoot of that tree. What did it mean? Jehovah explained: “I am keeping awake concerning my word in order to carry it out.” (Jer. 1:11, 12) Just as the almond tree ‘awakened’ early, so Jehovah was figuratively “getting up early” to send his prophets to warn his people about the consequences of disobedience. (Jer. 7:25) And he would not rest—he would ‘keep awake’—until his prophetic word was accomplished. In 607 B.C.E., right at the appointed time, Jehovah’s judgment came upon the apostate nation of Judah.
3. Of what can we be sure regarding Jehovah?
3 Likewise today, Jehovah is awake, attentive to carrying out his will. It is impossible for him to neglect the fulfillment of his word. How does Jehovah’s attentiveness affect you? Do you believe that in this year of 2011, Jehovah is “awake” to the fulfillment of his promises? If we have any doubts about Jehovah’s sure promises, now is the time for us to awaken from any spiritual drowsiness. (Rom. 13:11) As Jehovah’s prophet, Jeremiah kept himself awake. Examining how and why Jeremiah kept awake to his God-given assignment will help us to see how we can persevere in the work that Jehovah has given us.
An Urgent Message
4. What challenges did Jeremiah face in delivering his message, and what made it urgent?
4 Jeremiah may have been close to 25 years old when he received from Jehovah his commission as a watchman. (Jer. 1:1, 2) But he felt like a mere boy, utterly unqualified to speak to the elders of the nation, men advanced in age and having positions of authority. (Jer. 1:6) He had scathing denunciations and fearful judgments to proclaim, especially to the priests, false prophets, and rulers, as well as to those who took “the popular course” and developed “an enduring unfaithfulness.” (Jer. 6:13; 8:5, 6) King Solomon’s glorious temple, which had been the center of true worship for almost four centuries, would be demolished. Jerusalem and Judah would lie desolate, and their inhabitants would be taken captive. Clearly, the message that Jeremiah was commissioned to deliver was urgent!
5, 6. (a) How is Jehovah using the Jeremiah class today? (b) On what will our study focus?
5 In modern times, Jehovah has lovingly provided mankind with a group of anointed Christians who act as figurative watchmen to warn about his judgment of this world. For decades, this Jeremiah class has been urging people to pay attention to the times in which we live. (Jer. 6:17) The Bible emphasizes that Jehovah, the Great Timekeeper, is not slow. His day will come exactly on time, at an hour that humans do not expect.—Zeph. 3:8; Mark 13:33; 2 Pet. 3:9, 10.
6 Keep in mind that Jehovah is awake and will usher in his righteous new world right on time. Knowing that should urge on those of the Jeremiah class and help their dedicated companions to keep awake to the increasing urgency of their message. How does that affect you? Jesus indicated that all need to take a stand for God’s Kingdom. Let us examine three qualities that helped Jeremiah to stay awake to his commission and that will help us to do the same.
Love for People
7. Explain how love motivated Jeremiah to preach despite difficult circumstances.
7 What motivated Jeremiah to preach despite challenging circumstances? He had love for people. Jeremiah knew that false shepherds were causing much of the trouble the people faced. (Jer. 23:1, 2) This knowledge helped him do his work with love and compassion. He wanted his countrymen to hear God’s words and live. He was so concerned that he wept over the calamity to come upon them. (Read Jeremiah 8:21; 9:1.) The book of Lamentations vividly reflects Jeremiah’s deep love and concern for Jehovah’s name and people. (Lam. 4:6, 9) When you see people being “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd” today, do you not feel a desire to bring them the comforting news of God’s Kingdom?—Matt. 9:36.
8. What shows that suffering did not make Jeremiah bitter?
8 Jeremiah suffered at the hands of the very people he wished to help, yet he did not retaliate or become bitter. He was long-suffering and kind, even toward corrupt King Zedekiah! After Zedekiah turned him over to be put to death, Jeremiah still pleaded with him to obey the voice of Jehovah. (Jer. 38:4, 5, 19, 20) Is our love for people as strong as Jeremiah’s?
9. How do we know that Jeremiah’s courage was from God?
9 When Jehovah first spoke to him, Jeremiah tried to beg off. From this, we see that the boldness and firmness he went on to show were not inherent in him. No, the extraordinary strength Jeremiah showed during his prophetic career actually came from his full reliance on God. Truly, Jehovah was with the prophet “like a terrible mighty one” in that he supported Jeremiah and gave him the strength to handle his assignment. (Jer. 20:11) Jeremiah’s reputation for boldness and courage was such that during Jesus’ earthly ministry, some took Jesus to be Jeremiah returned to life!—Matt. 16:13, 14.
10. Why can it be said that the anointed remnant are ‘over nations and kingdoms’?
10 As “King of the nations,” Jehovah commissioned Jeremiah to deliver a judgment message to nations and kingdoms. (Jer. 10:6, 7) But in what sense are the anointed remnant “over the nations and over the kingdoms”? (Jer. 1:10) Like the prophet of old, the Jeremiah class has been given an assignment from the Sovereign of the universe. God’s anointed servants are thus duly authorized to make pronouncements worldwide against nations and kingdoms. Invested with authority from the Most High God and using the clear language of his inspired Word, the Jeremiah class declares that the nations and kingdoms of today will be uprooted and destroyed at God’s due time and by his chosen means. (Jer. 18:7-10; Rev. 11:18) The Jeremiah class is determined not to relent in its God-given commission to proclaim Jehovah’s judgment messages earth wide.
11. What will help us to keep preaching without letup when we face difficult circumstances?
11 It is not unusual to get discouraged at times in the face of opposition, indifference, or difficult circumstances. (2 Cor. 1:8) But like Jeremiah, let us keep going. Do not lose heart. May each of us continue to supplicate God, lean on him, and ‘muster up boldness’ as we look to him for help. (1 Thess. 2:2) Being true worshippers, we must continue to keep awake to our God-given responsibilities. We need to be determined to keep preaching without letup about the destruction of Christendom, which was foreshadowed by that of unfaithful Jerusalem. The Jeremiah class will declare not just “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” but also “the day of vengeance on the part of our God.”—Isa. 61:1, 2; 2 Cor. 6:2.
12. Why may we conclude that Jeremiah maintained his joy, and what was a key element in his doing so?
12 Jeremiah found joy in his work. He said to Jehovah: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah.” (Jer. 15:16) For Jeremiah, it was a privilege to represent the true God and preach his word. It is of interest that when Jeremiah focused on the ridicule from the people, he lost his joy. When he turned his attention to the beauty and importance of his message, his joy was rekindled.—Jer. 20:8, 9.
13. Why is feeding on deeper spiritual truths important in our maintaining joy?
13 To maintain joy in the preaching work in our day, we need to feed ourselves on “solid food,” deep truths of God’s Word. (Heb. 5:14) Deeper study builds faith. (Col. 2:6, 7) It impresses on us how our actions really touch Jehovah’s heart. If we are struggling to find time to read and study the Bible, we should reexamine our schedule. Even a few minutes of study and meditation each day will draw us closer to Jehovah and will contribute to ‘the exultation and rejoicing of the heart,’ as was true in Jeremiah’s case.
14, 15. (a) What fruitage resulted from Jeremiah’s faithfully sticking to his commission? (b) God’s people today appreciate what about the preaching work?
14 Jeremiah did declare Jehovah’s warnings and judgment message without letup, yet he had at heart his commission “to build and to plant.” (Jer. 1:10) His work of building and planting bore fruitage. Some Jews as well as non-Israelites survived Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. We know of the Rechabites, Ebed-melech, and Baruch. (Jer. 35:19; 39:15-18; 43:5-7) These loyal and God-fearing friends of Jeremiah well illustrate those having an earthly hope today who befriend the Jeremiah class. Great is the pleasure of the Jeremiah class in spiritually building up this “great crowd.” (Rev. 7:9) Likewise, these loyal companions of the anointed find immense satisfaction in assisting honesthearted ones to come to a knowledge of the truth.
15 God’s people appreciate that the preaching of the good news is not only a public service to those who hear it but also an act of worship to our God. Whether we find a receptive ear or not, rendering sacred service to Jehovah by means of our preaching brings us great joy.—Ps. 71:23; read Romans 1:9.
‘Keep Awake’ to Your Assignment!
16 The urgency of the times we live in is underscored when we consider the inspired prophecy at Revelation 17:10. The seventh king, the Anglo-American World Power, has come into existence. Concerning it we read: “When he [the seventh world power] does arrive he must remain a short while.” By now that “short while” must be near its completion. The prophet Habakkuk gives us this assurance concerning the end of this wicked system: “The vision is yet for the appointed time . . . Keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.”—Hab. 2:3.
17 Ask yourself: ‘Does my life truly reflect the urgency of our times? Does my way of life show that I expect the end to come soon? Or do my decisions and priorities indicate that I do not expect the end anytime soon or even that I am not sure if it will ever come?’
18, 19. Why is now not the time to slow down?
18 The work of the watchman class is not yet over. (Read Jeremiah 1:17-19.) What a source of joy it is that the anointed remnant are standing immovable, like “an iron pillar” and “a fortified city”! They have their “loins girded about with truth” in that they allow God’s Word to strengthen them until their commissioned work is completed. (Eph. 6:14) With similar determination, those of the great crowd actively support the Jeremiah class in carrying out its divine assignment.
19 Now is not the time to slow down in Kingdom activity but to consider the import of Jeremiah 12:5. (Read.) All of us face trials that we must endure. These tests of faith may be compared to “footmen” with whom we must run. Nonetheless, as the “great tribulation” approaches, we can expect hardships to increase. (Matt. 24:21) Grappling with the more challenging difficulties ahead may be likened to running “a race with horses.” It would require great powers of endurance for a man to keep up with galloping horses. So it is beneficial to endure the trials we now face, which may prepare us to endure those that lie ahead.
20. What are you determined to do?
20 We can all imitate Jeremiah and successfully fulfill our assignment to preach! Such qualities as love, courage, and joy moved Jeremiah to carry out his 67-year-long ministry faithfully. The beautiful almond blossom reminds us that Jehovah will ‘keep awake’ concerning his word in order to carry it out. We have good reason, then, to do likewise. Jeremiah ‘kept awake,’ and so can we.
Do You Recall?
• How did love help Jeremiah ‘keep awake’ to his commission?
• Why do we need God-given courage?
• What helped Jeremiah maintain his joy?
• Why do you want to ‘keep awake’?
[Pictures on page 31]
Will you keep on preaching despite opposition?