The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. Jeremiah 1:11
“Learn that simple lesson well, O you who try to speak for God! You must be seers before you can be speakers.” Charles Spurgeon
It’s the first rule of communication: know what you want to say before you start saying it. Few things are more frustrating than trying to listen to someone who is trampling on this rule…their mouth is moving and the words are flowing and they have no idea where they are trying to go. That, I believe, is where the prophets of the ancient days set themselves apart. They were called “seers”…because they could see what was unseen by all the rest of us. It was not so much a gift of SPEAKING, as much as it was a gift of SEEING and then simply speaking the truth about what they saw. That calling was made so very clear in Jeremiah’s case.
I do not study scripture in the original Hebrew. But Charles Spurgeon did. And he notes that the Hebrew word for “almond” actually comes from a root word that means “awake” or, more specifically, “wakeful”. That is because the almond tree started to blossom very early in the Spring (even late Winter), while all the other trees were still sleeping. So, in the Hebrew language, this tree was known as the “wakeful tree”.
The imagery would have been clear to Jeremiah. His assignment was to see, first and foremost. If Jeremiah will remain wakeful to see, God will remain wakeful to perform His word just as Jeremiah sees it. God’s assignment came with a promise. It always does, doesn’t it?
And isn’t that the church’s assignment as well? Are we not called by God (even set apart) to see the world through the lens of His Word, and then to speak in love about what we see? Doesn’t the church have that responsibility to see and understand God’s Word and God’s ways and then to speak those truths as a God-honoring interpretation of what is going on in the world around us?
Our ability to speak the truth…our credibility as stewards of that truth…all depends upon our wakeful watching and seeing. It means seeing God’s Word, seeing what God is doing in the world in which we live, and understanding the unseen world around us as well. It means being genuinely guided by the Spirit of God to see what we otherwise would not have seen and to understand otherwise incomprehensible truths.
Pondering this responsibility, I suppose I am feeling a little panicked. It just seems to me that, over the centuries and perhaps much more so in my lifetime, the church has been caught a little too often speaking without seeing…sometimes it is not all that clear just how “wakeful” we are being. Just spend a little time perusing your social media streams today and ask yourself whether “the church” is really seeing or not. And then join me in praying for forgiveness for when we speak before we see.