Anskar, called the “Apostle to the North,” was one of the first missionaries to Scandinavia. In 826 A.D. the king summoned Anskar to preach the gospel in Denmark. Three years later, Anskar and the king were expelled. Failing to find success, Anskar went to Sweden, but “converts” there were motivated by politics, not faith. After a lifetime in ministry, Anskar died and the region reverted to paganism. Was Anskar a failure? His missionary work ended with nothing to show for it.
Jeremiah could identify with that feeling. In today’s reading, he delivered a message from the Lord: The people should not run to Egypt to escape the Babylonians. They’d promised in advance to obey (42:5–6). They’d been told God would bless them if they stayed in the land (42:9–12). They’d been warned that going to Egypt would lead to violence, famine, plague, and death (42:13–18). This decision should have been a no-brainer. Nonetheless, the people fled to Egypt anyway (42:19–22; 43:4–7). They accused Jeremiah of lying (v. 2), a serious charge given that false prophecy carried the death penalty. They accused him of being manipulated by his scribe and friend, Baruch (v. 3). As final indicators of their insolence, they kidnapped Jeremiah and Baruch and brought them along to Egypt (v. 6). What was God’s comfort in this situation? Another message to deliver (vv. 8–13)!
Jeremiah had few positive results to show from his prophetic ministry. Was he a failure? Not in God’s eyes! Jeremiah’s faithfulness meant his ministry was a success by God’s standards. We should remember that only the Lord can guarantee outcomes, and that the outcomes He measures and cares about are often not the same as ours.
>> God expected Jeremiah to continue obeying, no matter what. He cares for our needs, but never above His own purposes and glory. Jesus taught this same idea of “duty” (Luke 17:7–10). How might this truth change your daily walk with Him?
By today’s yardstick, Jeremiah had little to show for the success of his ministry. But Jeremiah’s faithfulness made him a success in God’s eyes. Thank God that we can trust His plans, and not our abilities.