Jeremiah 1:1-10 (ESV)
1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”
9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
Lent is a very special season, one that presents us with an opportunity to draw closer to God; much closer, if we wish. If you are new to Lent, you may think of it as a time to “give something up,” like alcohol, chocolate, or something else that you normally enjoy. Lent is widely associated with deprivation. Mardi Gras, the “fat” Tuesday that precedes Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) has developed into day of wild abandon as people prepare to enter this period of perceived self-denial.
This notion of Lent is essentially bogus. You can draw closer to God by denying yourself; but if you approach self-denial as you do a distasteful chore, you will likely find Lent to be a distinct displeasure, much like dieting. Once Easter comes, you will look forward more toward next year’s Mardi Gras rather than the Lent that follows, and over time develop a deft skill in dissipation.
Jeremiah, on the other hand, developed a skill in listening to God. And he needed no Lent to do it; instead, he just heard the word of the Lord, which came to him.
Your Lent can be a useless exercise in dieting; or, it might enable you to hear the word of God. The choice is yours. If you choose God, a holy Lent is necessary—God has no need of Jeremiahs anymore, so don’t expect his word to just come to you.
What, then, is a holy Lent? A holy Lent is one in which you turn away from something in your life so that you can turn toward God. In this away/toward movement, you essentially sacrifice the “something” for God—the thing goes away and you replace it with God.
Then, you might just hear him speak.
Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.