Jump Start # 2758
Jeremiah 46:17 “They cried there, ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a big noise; he has let the appointed time pass by.’”
In our verse today, Jeremiah is revealing God’s prophetic word against the nation of Egypt. The universal God had lessons and instructions for all people. There was a window of opportunity in which Egypt and the rising Babylonians could have merged and worked together. But Pharaoh drug his feet. The window closed. The opportunity passed. Now, Egypt would be struck down by Babylon.
In our passage we find this powerful expression: he has let the appointed time pass by. Others express it this way:
- ESV: one who lets the hour go by
- KJV: he hath passed the time appointed
- NIV: he has missed his opportunity
The idea of missing the opportunity is sprinkled throughout the Bible. Think about the days of Noah and while he was hammering on that ark, he was also preaching. Matthew tells us that they were eating, drinking and getting married up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the rain fell. Missed opportunity.
The rich man in Luke 16 is another example of this. Poor Lazarus was at his very gate. Everyday he could have seen Lazarus if he only looked. Everyday he had the opportunity to do good, if he wanted. Then he died. Missed opportunity.
Paul used the very word opportunity in his letter to the Galatians. Let us do good, he said, as we have opportunity. Jesus said, ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work.” Opportunity.
There is an old blacksmith term, “strike while the iron is hot,” that we often use in reference to opportunities. The blacksmith would have a rod of iron in the hot, burning coals. He’d pull it out and put it on the anvil. With a mighty swing of his hammer, that red hot iron would bend. Back into the fire and then back on the anvil, it would go. Until, the blacksmith got the shape he wanted, then he’d put that rod of iron in a barrel of water and it would sizzle and cool down. When he brought it out of the cool water, his hammer could no longer bend it. He had to strike “while the iron was hot.”
Let’s look at some thoughts about opportunity:
First, opportunities often do not work according to our schedule. The person who wants to talk with you, catches you on a busy day. Your desk is covered with papers, you’ve got emails waiting your reply and here stands that person who wants to know if you have a minute to talk. That minute quickly turns into an hour. A soul is opening up. A heart needs help. Or, you have a Saturday all mapped out. It’s going to be a busy day, but someone needs you. Now to push these things to another day, often is to miss the opportunity. It took some courage for the person to reach out to you. To pass them off because you are too busy makes them feel that you are not interested. Then they easily conclude that no one is interested.
Second, opportunities often do not come announced. They just happen. I believe this is true of the pandemic we are working through. There has been some golden opportunities for congregations to reach more through videos and livestreaming than ever before. Those that saw that and were ready excelled. The Gospel is reaching people in their homes who would never come to a church building. I’ve known stories of people who sitting in surgery waiting rooms striking up conversations with other people there. Jesus is talked about. Bible studies are arranged. An opportunity was seized.
Third, being prepared helps us meet opportunities. Think about young David taking food to his brothers on the front line of the battle. And, there stands the giant, challenging and taunting. David sprang into action. There is a tiny detail that we often overlook here. He went to the brook and gathered five smooth stones. He ran toward the giant and brought him down by the power of God. But do you know what David had to accomplish that? He had his sling with him. How different the story would be if David had to run home and get his sling. How different it would be if David told Goliath, I’ll meet you next week. The opportunity was now. David was ready. I know a man who keeps a hundred dollar bill tucked away in his wallet. It is his sling. If an opportunity arises and he can do some good, he is prepared. I wonder how many opportunities slip by us because we are not prepared. Could you, on the fly, talk to someone about the Bible? Could you do that without a hour’s preparation and an armful of papers to guide you? That chance may come up at work…or the doctor’s office…or in the airport…or in the neighborhood. David had his sling. He was ready. Are you ready.
Fourth, and sadly, once opportunities pass by, they often do not surface again. The opportunity to talk to that one person. That opportunity to do good. That opportunity to let your light shine. And, when that door closes, it often stays closed. Sometimes those opportunities begin very innocently, such as helping a neighbor clean his yard, or a friend to move into a new house. There is a haunting hymn that is not sung too often. I think no one really wants to lead that song. It makes us drop our heads in shame. So many faces cross our memory as that song is sung. The song? “You never mentioned Him to me.” I don’t like that reminder. It’s true. There have been people that in times past I never mentioned Jesus to them. They have gone their way and I’ve gone me and we never met again. Opportunity lost.
Pharaoh missed his opportunity. We don’t want to do the same. The greatest lost opportunity is that of walking with the Lord and spending eternity with Him. Nothing else equals that. To miss that is to miss it all. All around us are opportunities to know, grow and become as the Lord wants. Bible reading programs. Blogs. Podcasts. Videos. Worship. Layers and layers of opportunities to learn, serve and help the people of God. It’s a banquet feast before us. All we have to do is pick up a fork and enjoy.
Pray for the Lord to put opportunities before you this year. Opportunities to teach. Opportunities to lead God’s people. Opportunities to let your light shine. Opportunities for you to grow.
And, don’t be like ole’ Pharaoh who missed his opportunity.