In the Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange uses a powerful Time Stone to watch millions of possible future outcomes and find one where the Avengers win. The solution involves huge, almost unconscionable losses, including giving the villain, Thanos, exactly what he needs to commit genocide. The movie was part one of two, and the second wasn’t released until a full year later. Infinity War ends with Thanos victorious, and audiences had to wait to see if Strange’s decisions and sacrifices would work. Would the trust the Avengers put in him be rewarded and lead to their deliverance? It didn’t look good at the time, and it was actually a pretty grim movie.
Marvel’s story had cast Strange in the role of a prophet, except that Strange himself saw the future, and decided himself what to report back to the others, who had to trust what he said he saw, his judgement in what to share, and be willing to stick with it no matter what. As I’ve been covering Jeremiah’s call this week, chapter 1, verses 8-10 have some interesting comparisons with Marvel’s story line. The verses are:
“Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.
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.
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.”
Unlike Doctor Strange, Jeremiah did not have the big picture; he could not pick and choose what to say. God would “put…words in your mouth,” words specifically chosen from perfect and infinite knowledge to be exactly what was needed. Strange was able to act on his plan, although the others didn’t understand and resisted. In Jeremiah’s case, Israel did not listen to him, and God actually told Jeremiah they wouldn’t, but he prophesied anyway. He was created for that purpose, and in the verses above he was assured to “not be afraid of them.”
While Strange promised that his plan would work, we had to wait for the sequel to see it. God promised Jeremiah, who also told the people, that his plan would work, and that the words God gave Jeremiah would determine the fates of “nations” and “kingdoms”, who God would “pluck up” and “break down.” But Jeremiah died waiting for the sequel. During his lifetime, Israel was plucked up by the Babylonians and sent into exile as punishment for their rejection of God, which was also a rejection of Jeremiah. His life was like a pretty grim movie, but his story was not finished, as we now know.
In three posts about the calling of Jeremiah this week, we’ve seen examples of God’s love for people who have a different calling from us, who have imperfect faith, and who aren’t seeing immediate blessings from their efforts. We should be compassionate when we see others are flawed in these same ways, because they are no different than Jeremiah, and also no different from us. None of us consistently give God’s word the full authority it deserves. It’s a shame that Jeremiah is often seen as a gloomy, annoying bearer of bad news. In Jeremiah, God has given us an example of someone who is like all of us and a call to love others as we love ourselves. That’s good news, but it didn’t look good at the time.
In his lifetime he may have looked like a failure, but in the years after and in eternity, his work as a prophet and also his personal experience of God has provided invaluable lessons for millions. God knew this from the beginning because He didn’t have to wait a year to see the sequel. He has already seen them all. Therefore, we can trust what He sees, His judgement in what to share, and be willing to stick with it no matter what, because His story and ours does not end in this lifetime.
“It is not your business to succeed, but to do right. When you have done so the rest lies with God.” – C. S. Lewis