The Call and the Responsibility

Posted: February 20, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 1, “The Call and the Responsibility”

Ever get the feeling that you’ve been ignored?  As if everything you’ve said went in one ear & out the other? No doubt, the OT prophets knew this experience well – especially the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah lived at the tail end of the Kingdom of Judah, and witnessed its fall to the Babylonian empire.  He was a passionate man, and known not only for the book of prophecy that carries his name, but also for the book of Lamentations – a book that laments/grieves vehemently for Jerusalem’s fall.  He was also a man of God who was routinely ignored by those who ought to have heard him.  God had made it clear to Jeremiah what was going to happen, and the kings of Judah simply didn’t care.  They wanted to hear from “prophets” that spoke of good things, and when Jeremiah gave them the simple straight truth, they burned with anger – even throwing Jeremiah into prison, waiting for him to die.  The truth was difficult for Jeremiah to preach, but preach it he did – knowing the responsibility that had been entrusted to him by God Almighty.

Jeremiah, in some ways, acts like a good doctor.  When there is a dirtied infected wound, a doctor takes the time to expose it, clean it, and prepare it for healing.  The process might be painful, but it’s necessary if things are going to get better.  God uses Jeremiah in much the same way.  From his very first call to ministry, God tells Jeremiah that he was going to “root out and pull down” (1:10) – he would be exposing the sin of the nation.  No doubt, that’s exactly what God used Jeremiah to do.  Repeatedly, Jeremiah would be calling upon Judah to repent from their idolatrous sin and to come back to the Lord.  Knowing that they would not, God promised that judgment would come.  At the same time, judgment would not be the end.  The grand promise found in the prophecies of Jeremiah is that although the old covenant was disregarded by the people, the Lord God promised a new covenant to come.  That covenant is the one of which we have today through the Lord Jesus, and the same covenant that the Jewish people will one day enjoy with their Messiah King.  God uses Jeremiah to expose the sins of the people, to declare God’s cleansing judgment, and to prepare for healing and a new day & new covenant.

If the basic theme of the book is obvious, the timeline is not.  Although there are some sections in Jeremiah that are chronological, many times the chronology jumps back & forth between various kings & enemy sieges.  The book is not so much ordered by a timeline, as much as it is grouped together by themes.  Scholars widely differ on how the book is to be broken up, but there are some general agreements: Ch 1 is an introduction – Ch 2-25 detail the sins of Judah and give calls to repentance – Ch 26-45 contain historical information from before & after the Babylonian siege, as well as gives promises of the new covenant – Ch 46-51 are oracles against the nations – Ch 52 is the conclusion (likely appended, but still inspired).  Keeping a general “roadmap” in mind can help us study as the subject matter can sometimes seem to change abruptly.

That said, this is a crucial book in the history of the Jews.  Even when the subject temporarily turns to other nations, God’s attention is never far from Judah.  His people had sinned greatly, and He would deal with them severely.  (Judgment begins at the house of God!)  Repeatedly God, via Jeremiah, calls His people to account.  So much was Jeremiah known for these calls to repentance that the people of Galilee theorized that perhaps Jesus was Jeremiah come-again.  The Galileans got it backwards.  It wasn’t Jesus that pointed to Jeremiah; it was Jeremiah that pointed to Jesus.  Just as the Jews were repeatedly called to repent in order to live in a peaceful covenant with their God, so is all the world called to repent through Christ in order that we can enjoy a covenant of peace with the God who created us all.

Chapter 1 is the introduction to it all.  In it, Jeremiah receives his call from God into ministry, and God shares with him what it is that he will in turn share with the nation of Judah.  This was a solemn responsibility.  God had a specific mission for Jeremiah, and it was imperative that Jeremiah do as God commanded.  If Jeremiah had turned away from God’s command, then Jeremiah would have been no better than the people to whom he was supposed to preach.  No.  God had given the prophet a message to declare, and he had a responsibility to speak it to others.  As it is with us.  We have been given the message of the gospel, and the command to tell the world of Jesus – and likewise, we have the responsibility to speak that news to all who will hear.

Jeremiah 1

  • Prologue/introduction (vss. 1-3)

1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, 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, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.

  • Who?  “Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah.”  There is a prominent Hilkiah mentioned in the OT, and although it’s debated, it’s possible that this is the same man.  Hilkiah was a priest in the days of King Josiah.  He was the one who found the book of the law packed away in the temple, and gave it to Shaphan the scribe to be read in the presence of the king. (2 Kings 22)  This kicked off the last great revival in the kingdom of Judah as King Josiah repented for the sins of the nation, restored worship, and reinstituted the Passover celebration (2 Kings 23).  If this is indeed the same man, then Jeremiah came from a God-fearing household (which is not something to take for granted, even among the priests!).
  • Of whom?  “Of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.”  Jeremiah specifically tells us that he came from a priestly lineage, which serves to underscore the possibility that Hilkiah of Josiah’s reign was actually his father.  Where was it?  Just outside of Jerusalem.  Anathoth is known as the place to which Abiathar the priest was banished by King Solomon, after Abiathar had supported Adonijah as king instead of Solomon (1 Kings 2:26).  Whether or not Jeremiah was born of this particular bloodline is uncertain.  If so, it was still a priestly line, though disgraced.  They did not serve the Lord directly in Jerusalem at the temple, but outside even the city – in another province altogether (Benjamin).
    • Quite the contrast in Jeremiah’s family tree!  On one hand, he has a disgraced family – once the line of the high priest; now cast aside to menial duties.  On the other hand, he had a father that brought the word of God to the king, sparking a nationwide revival.  Great demonstration of the fact that our family past is not necessarily our family future.  What starts off great can easily be corrupted, and what is corrupted can even be redeemed.  It all depends on what WE do with what God has given US.  We can’t blame our parents, nor can we rely upon their faith – we must respond to the gospel truth before us and have our own walk with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • When?  Through the reign of the last several kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.  It’s not exactly a comprehensive listing of everyone who sat on the throne during that time, as it leaves off Jehoahaz (prior to Jehoiakim), Jehoiachin (prior to Zedekiah), and Gedaliah (who was made governor after Zedekiah, and lived during the time of the Jewish refugees’ flight to Egypt).  Exact details of the kings aside, what is clear is that this covers a long period of time: between 46-50 years.  This is a long time to be ignored!  Imagine the heartache that Jeremiah witnessed during that time.  He saw everything from the last major revival in Jerusalem, to the fall of the city he called home.  He saw the constant departure of the people from their God, and their stubborn refusal to repent from their sin.  No matter what he said, or how often he said it, he was ignored and cast aside.
    • Judging Jeremiah’s ministry by modern standards, it would be tempting for many to call him a failure.  After all, he didn’t end up with a mega-church; he ended up in prison.  He didn’t preach a message that people agreed with; he preached one that made people angry.  Yet cast aside & alone, there is no doubt that Jeremiah is one of the greatest prophets of God that ever lived.  He wrote the two books included in the OT, the first being the longest prophetic book in the Bible.  He was given incredible visions from God, and was given direct prophecies about the Messiah being the Branch of David, and of the new covenant that the Messiah would bring.  His written words even form the lyrics of a hit song: Great is Thy Faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)  Jeremiah a failure?  Absolutely not!
    • Jeremiah did not have much earthly or material success, but what he did have was faithfulness unto God.  Faithfulness is the measure of success of a godly life; not material things.  How are you being faithful with what God has entrusted to you?
  • Jeremiah’s call to ministry (vss. 4-10)

4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

  • God forms people in the womb.  There might be unintended pregnancies, but there are no “accidental” people.  Every single baby that is born is a baby that was “formed” by the hand and will of God.  Job acknowledged (even in his suffering) that he had been knit together by God (Job 10:8-12), and David wrote that God had formed his inward parts & covered him in his mother’s womb (Ps 139:13).  We are truly fearfully & wonderfully made – each & every one of us!
    • Which tells us something about our basic worth: every human has value.  Every. Single. One.  There is not a person that is expendable in the eyes of God.  There is not one that can easily be written off, or one for whom Jesus did not die.  If God formed us, we can be sure that God loves us & desires us to be saved.
  • God knows us AS people within the womb.  More than forming us as humans and knitting our physical bodies together, God knows WHO we are while we are still gestating babies.  God told Jeremiah “I knew you.”  That isn’t only true of the prophet; that’s true for all of us.  As a country, we have been sold a pack of lies when we were told a fetus is just a clump of cells; God sees that “fetus” as a person & knows each & every one personally.
  • God has a plan for us from the womb.  Specifically for Jeremiah, God had set him aside (“sanctified”) and called him (“ordained”) to be “a prophet to the nations.”  In the mind of God, there was no question what Jeremiah would be when he grew up.  He may have been raised and trained by his earthly father to be a priest, but he was called by his heavenly Father to be a prophet.
    • What is God’s plan for you?  Not everyone is called to be a prophet (or a pastor, etc.) – but every believer in Christ DOES have a call from God to do something for Him.  God never intends believers in Christ to be bumps on logs; His desire is to use us for His glory.  Part of that may be within our own families as we lead devotions.  Part of that may be in our local church as we find a way to serve.  Part of that may be in our workplace as we live out a witness for Christ.  Maybe you don’t know yet what God’s plan and call is for you, but be assured that He has one.  Ask Him to reveal it to you & get busy serving Him in the meantime.  He might just show it to you along the way.
  • BTW – notice that Jeremiah is not only a prophet unto Judah or Israel, but “to the nations.”  Jeremiah’s primary message would be for the Jews, calling that particular nation to repent – but ultimately, his message would be of importance to all the world.  The God of Israel does not only command the repentance of the Jews, but of ALL.  As Paul spoke to the Athenians, God “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).  Once Jesus went to the cross & rose from the grave, humanity has now been given the definitive statement from God that there is a sure judgment for sin, and a vital opportunity to be saved.  That is the new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah, and promised through Jesus.

6 Then said I: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”

  • God called, but Jeremiah objected.  Even the prophets balk at the word of God at times!  He couldn’t understand how God could use someone like him.  After all, he was too young at the time.  He either thought he had no authority to “speak,” no ability to speak, or both.  How is it that God could use someone who was so woefully unqualified?
  • How quick we are to cast doubt upon the Creator God!  So often, we throw up similar objections to the Lord: “Lord, You can’t use me – I don’t know anything!”  “I can’t share the gospel with that person – I’m not equipped.”  “I don’t have the strength…”  “I don’t have the standing…”  Etc.  In all of our excuses, we leave out one very important factor: the “Lord GOD.”  When Jeremiah was called to do something, it wasn’t Jeremiah who decided to put himself into the ministry and manipulate his way into being a prophet.  This wasn’t a career ambition; this was a calling from the Lord God.  And what God wants to do, He does.  What God wants us to do, He equips us for.  After all, He is the Lord GOD.  He is King Yahweh, the Ever-existent Creator God with all authority in heaven and earth to do (and command) whatever it is that He desires.  If He wants to use a donkey to speak, that donkey will speak (re: Balaam).  If He wants to use you & me, God can surely do the same thing! 
    • Never forget Who it is that has given you His word and ministry: the Lord GOD.  The One who has saved you and given you new life is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has also sealed you and empowered you through God the Holy Spirit.  Thus if God wants you to do something, have no doubt that He will make you able to do it.  It doesn’t matter if it has been impossible for you in the past – it doesn’t matter if it would be impossible without the help of God.  If God called you to do it, then God will help you.  He does not call you to something He does not intend to equip you for.
    • Moses had forgotten this when God first called him to ministry.  In fact, he gave much the same objection to God as Jeremiah did.  Exodus 4:10–12, "(10) Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (11) So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? (12) Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”" [] Actually, he went a bit too far in his objection, not resisting only one time, but twice – basically telling God that God had made a mistake, and he needed to get someone else.  Exodus goes on to tell us that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and that in His mercy, God granted that Moses’ brother Aaron would speak for him.  Moses’ inability had never been a limit for God; only Moses’ unavailability / unwillingness.  Never forget Whom it is you serve!  He is able to make you able!  What you & I lack, God is more than capable to provide.  We need to trust His equipping.
  • In Jeremiah’s case, it was his youth that he believed would be an obstacle to his ministry.  How young he was at the time is impossible to say – though considering his prophetic career lasted between 45-50 years, it would not be improbable that Jeremiah was in his late teens to early 20’s at the time.  That would indeed seem to be a daunting task.  How could a 18-20 year old have the credibility to stand before the king & other elders of Judah, and call them to repentance?  Again, the ability would not be in Jeremiah, but it would be in the Lord God.  See vs. 7…

7 But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD.

  • Jeremiah may have been focused on his limitations, but his age was no issue for the Lord.  God had called him to the work, and God would see the work through.  It’s not God that looks upon physical age; it’s people.  Age is a just a number; it is maturity that is the real issue.  There are 60 year olds with the maturity of teenagers, and there are teenagers who demonstrate wisdom beyond their years.  It wasn’t just that way with Jeremiah – Timothy had a similar problem.  Timothy had been a disciple of the apostle Paul, and had travelled all over the Roman empire with him setting up churches and preaching the gospel.  Yet when it came time for Timothy to be left in Ephesus & raise up leaders for the church there, apparently there were some people for whom Timothy’s age was a problem.  They did not look upon his spiritual maturity, but only saw his physical appearance.  Paul exhorted Timothy not to give them a reason to have their fears proved true: 1 Timothy 4:12–14, "(12) Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (13) Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (14) Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership." []  Timothy had already been given everything he needed to do the ministry – he just needed to walk in faithfulness and courage.
    • Timothy’s danger (as was likely Jeremiah’s fear) was that he would get in the way of his message.  The solution?  Stay out of the way!  Ensure that by the way you walk, people see the Lord Jesus & not yourself.  If we’re glorifying the Lord in our words and actions, then we won’t need to try to build up our own credibility; our credibility will be obvious because it will be in the Lord.  It’s those who endlessly promote themselves that cause people to wonder where their credibility lies.  When our qualifications and message are in the Lord Jesus, it will be evident to all.  (And when it isn’t, there’s a problem!)
  • For Jeremiah, his age was not an excuse, nor a problem because he was going in God’s authority.  God would “send” him, and God would “speak” through him.  IOW, Jeremiah was going into the prophetic ministry as an emissary of the Lord.  Just like any ambassador goes with the authority of the king, or head-of-state, so would the true prophet of God go with the authority invested in him by God.  Jeremiah did not invent this for himself; it was God who sent him.
  • Because he went with God’s authority, he could also go without fear.  There is no question that Jeremiah would face much resistance & persecution.  Yet there is also no question that God would never leave him nor forsake him.  God said clearly “I am with you to deliver you.”  Question: if Jeremiah was thrown into prison to die, did God still deliver him?  Without trying to twist words, some of it depends on what your definition of “deliverance” is.  If deliverance is only physical and material prosperity, then no – God did not deliver Jeremiah in that way.  However, God promised to deliver Jeremiah.  Is God a liar?  Absolutely not!  Thus, “deliverance” must mean something MORE than only physical prosperity & well-being.  Far more important than our comfortable circumstances is our eternal standing and relationship with the Lord.  Had God ever abandoned Jeremiah in his trials?  No.  Did God ever remove His Spirit from Jeremiah?  No.  Did God ever release Jeremiah from His sovereign grip?  Not in the slightest.  God DID deliver Jeremiah.  The comfort Jeremiah did not experience in Jerusalem, he undoubtedly enjoyed when he entered Paradise with the Lord.
    • We never need fear when we do the work of the Lord.  There is a reason that missionaries in India can walk into Hindu villages with the gospel knowing that many times they will be beaten and dragged outside of town.  There is a reason that newly born-again Christians can express their faith with confidence to their Muslim family even while knowing that they might be assaulted, or even killed.  It’s because they know the promise of Jesus that He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).  They know for certain that they have the seal of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternity with Christ.  God does not abandon us in those times of persecution; on the contrary – we will experience His presence and power in ways we might not otherwise know.
    • There is no question that we are entering an era in our own country in which Christians will be ostracized more and more.  We will be criticized for our belief in the Bible.  We will be ridiculed & told to sit down & shut up.  Some people will lose business – some might lose their jobs – some might lose friends and family relationships.  We need to be prepared for those things.  There is one thing for certain in all of this: we will never lose our Lord Jesus!  He will be with us, always.  We can have confidence in whatever it is He calls us to face because He is the One who will be with us every step of the way.  As Paul wrote about his own abasements and trials, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13).  So can we!

9 Then the LORD put forth 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 this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.”

  • The words Jeremiah was to speak were not his own; they were given him by the Lord.  In vs. 8, God told Jeremiah that He would give the prophet a command to speak – vs. 9 shows us how God did it.  Apparently, when Jeremiah had the word from the Lord, he was also given a vision in which he saw the Lord do this.  God “put forth His hand and touched” the mouth of Jeremiah.  The book of Revelation is somewhat reminiscent of this when the apostle John receives a book of prophecy from an angel and eats it – receiving the word of the Lord (Rev 10:10).  Here, it’s not an angel, but the Lord God Himself.
    • BTW – this tells us that Jeremiah saw none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus at this time.  Jesus told us that God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit & truth (Jn 4:24), thus God is invisible.  Yet the Bible also tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (Col 1:15).  Anytime God has form (especially human-like form) in the Bible, by necessity it must be an appearance of God the Son, the Lord Jesus.
  • Jesus gave the calling, the word, and finally the authority to the prophet for Jeremiah to go and perform the task at hand.  He said that Jeremiah had been set “over the nations and  over the kingdoms.”  How so?  Did Jeremiah have a kingly reign as a monarch?  Obviously not.  What he had was the calling, word, and authority of God.  God is the One who reigns over the nations of the world, and Jeremiah was sent in His name to proclaim His word. 
  • God gave the authority to Jeremiah “To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.”  His ministry would be that of exposure, destruction, and building up.  It would sound contradictory, except that it is not…it’s all a part of healing.  The sin of Judah had to be exposed & rooted up.  The evil kings and priests who misrepresented the Lord had to be thrown down & destroyed.  The nations that continued to rebel against the Lord would be cast down.  The promise of the new covenant needed to be planted and established for something to which the people of God could look forward.  That was Jeremiah’s mission – and God gave him the authority to do exactly those things.
    • Question: was the authority in Jeremiah?  No – it was in the word of God.  As long as Jeremiah spoke the word of God, he would go in the authority of God.  If Jeremiah ever strayed from that, he would lose all authority.  The same is true for God’s people today in the Church.  When we proclaim the truth of God’s word, then we can speak with all the authority as representatives of God.  When we stray from that, and when our actions stray from the truth we proclaim, we inevitably lose authority.  Is it any wonder that the words of so many Christians have no credibility when the Church has strayed from her foundation?  Too many churches do not exalt Christ; they exalt the superstar pastor.  Or they preach entertainment rather than repentance.  Or they support a political party above the gospel.  Or they proclaim anything but the word of God, all in the misguided hope of being “more appealing” to the culture.  Is it any wonder the American Evangelical church has lost its moral authority?  We need to proclaim Jesus in the word of God, and nothing else!
  • Jeremiah’s first visions (vss. 11-16)

11 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12 Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”

  • The first vision was that of an “almond tree.”  Scholars note that almond trees are the some of the first to give bud in the spring.  It seems that as God tested Jeremiah’s prophetic ability, He was giving Jeremiah an indication that God was getting “ready” to act.  What would God do?  “Perform My word.”  Jeremiah was not the first prophet to whom God revealed that He would judge the Jewish nation.  Decades prior, Isaiah had written of the assured coming judgment.  Before Babylon became a force to be reckoned with, Isaiah wrote of the rise of the Babylonians, and how they would take the Jews into captivity.  And Isaiah wasn’t the only one.  Habbakuk had also been shown by the Lord how God would raise up the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to do a work that he would not believe (Hab 1:5-6).  God had warned His people time and time again through the various prophets that the Babylonians were coming, and now He reveals to Jeremiah that the time is at hand.  The almond tree was ready to bud, and things were about to burst forth.
  • The same sort of vision continues in vs. 13…

13 And the word of the LORD came to me the second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, and it is facing away from the north.” 14 Then the LORD said to me: “Out of the north calamity shall break forth On all the inhabitants of the land.

  • Just as a boiling pot of water sometimes boils over, that is what the Lord revealed to Jeremiah.  The boiling pot was about to pour forth “from the north” – a reference to the Babylonian armies that would invade from the north and conquer the Jewish “inhabitants of the land.
  • God showed Jeremiah the almond tree & the boiling pot as signs that the time was ripe…the end was at hand.  We’ve also been given indications that the time is ripe for the Lord’s soon return.  The nation of Israel after centuries of absence and wandering has been reformed & re-gathered.  There is a departing form the faith as people who once called themselves Christians give heed to deceiving spirits and demonic doctrines (1 Tim 4:1).  People have used the church to become lovers of themselves & money, engaging & attempting to justify all sorts of sin, having a form of godliness, but denying its power (2 Tim 3:1-5).  And that doesn’t begin to include the various ways that the earth is groaning for its Creator!  There ought to be little doubt that we live in the last age, and we need to (1) personally be prepared for Jesus to call His church home, and (2) proclaim the news to others, that they might be prepared also.  The pot is ready to boil over…people need to know!

15 For behold, I am calling All the families of the kingdoms of the north,” says the LORD; “They shall come and each one set his throne At the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, Against all its walls all around, And against all the cities of Judah.

  • The trials & boiling over would begin with Nebuchadnezzar, but it wouldn’t end with him.  There would be king after king that would rule over Jerusalem – and the Jews would not have a king of their own again until the Messiah came in glory.  First would be the Babylonians, then the Medes & Persians, then the Greeks, then the Seleucids, then the Romans – all empires from the north ruling over “the cities of Judah.”  Even if the reference is only to Babylon, history shows us that Babylon did not come against Jerusalem once, but again & again, until finally there was no king left in Jerusalem & only a puppet governor remained.  God’s word proves true, every single time.
  • Not only was this the prophecy of God, it was the call of God.  This was His work, and His judgment.  See vs. 16…

16 I will utter My judgments Against them concerning all their wickedness, Because they have forsaken Me, Burned incense to other gods, And worshiped the works of their own hands.

  • God had called the Babylonians from the north, and uttered His judgment against Judah.  Why?  Because they had abandoned the covenant!  They had acted wickedly against God, and committed vile idolatry.  Keep in mind that idolatry from the Gentiles was expected (though still sinful), but idolatry from the Jews was as adultery in the sight of the Lord.  They had a covenant with God, much like husbands & wives have a covenant commitment in marriage.  Yet the Jews walked out on God – they had “forsaken” Him & turned to other pagan gods in worship.  And it wasn’t even a logical choice!  Instead of worshipping the God who made the heavens and the earth, they “worshipped the works of their own hands.”  IOW, instead of worshipping the God who created the trees & formed the gold, the Jews took wood from a tree, carved it, and covered it with gold from the earth.  They proclaimed it to be God, and worshipped that, instead.  It was completely foolish, and it was a slap in the face of the true God who had always provided for them.
  • That’s what ALL idolatry is.  It’s illogical & foolish, and a slap in God’s face.  It’s to take the very thing that God has provided for us (be it money, our job, even our families) and give all our attention and love to the THING, rather than the GOD who provided/made the thing. 
  • Beware, lest we make the same mistake as Judah.  Keep in mind, it was the people of God who sinned in idolatry; just like we can do today.  It’s one thing for people of the world to give their love & attention to stuff; it’s another thing for the people of God to do the same.  God did not hesitate to judge the Jews, and He will not hesitate to bring His discipline upon us for the same sin.
  • Jeremiah had not engaged in this sin; he was to called to speak against it…
  • Jeremiah’s responsibilities (vss. 17-19)

17 “Therefore prepare yourself and arise, And speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, Lest I dismay you before them.

  • Jeremiah was to prepare himself to speak the word of God to the people.  Not just part of the word, but “all that I command you.”  There was not to be a single syllable that Jeremiah left out.  What God had said, that is what the prophet was to “arise” and proclaim.  That’s not to say things would be easy…far from it!  Jeremiah had good reason to be nervous about his call.  He well understood that the kings and people to whom God spoke would not receive the word that was given.  Yet God did not call Jeremiah to fear; He called him to be of good courage – to “prepare [himself] and arise.
    • It’s not always easy to stand fast for Christ, but it is something we must do – and it is something for which we must prepare.  If we don’t have our minds made up in advance to follow Christ, how will we hope to stand when push comes to shove?
  • Jeremiah had a good reason to prepare himself.  If he wasn’t willing to face the disapproval of the people, then he would surely face the disapproval of God.  God was not giving Jeremiah a choice of careers; He gave Jeremiah a command call.  We need to remember that God is GOD.  God has every right to command whatever it is He commands, and our obedience is not optional; it’s expected.  If Jeremiah held back anything the Lord gave him to speak, God would humble Jeremiah the presence of all the people.
    • How might this apply to us?  Easy: the gospel.  Have we been ashamed of Christ Jesus?  Have we been reluctant to tell others of Him?  That’s not to say that everyone is called to go stand on a street corner with a sandwich board over their chest – but every Christian IS commanded to witness of Jesus in some way.  Have you been in a situation in which the Holy Spirit weighed heavily upon you to share the gospel, and you refused to do it?  Maybe you got fearful or nervous…  That is to be “dismayed” before others.  That’s not what God would have for us!  He doesn’t want us to be dismayed about Jesus; He wants us to be bold FOR Jesus.
    • We can be certain that if there ever comes a time that we are nervous or fearful about sharing the gospel, that the fear did NOT come from the Lord.  2 Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." []  We need not be dismayed; we can rely on the power of God.  Here’s the test: the next time you’re nervous about sharing the gospel with someone, pray quickly for the Holy Spirit to empower you & embolden you.  As you do so, take a step of faith (and maybe a breath!) and just see what happens.  You might be surprised by the power of the Lord!

18 For behold, I have made you this day A fortified city and an iron pillar, And bronze walls against the whole land— Against the kings of Judah, Against its princes, Against its priests, And against the people of the land.

  • Considering he was just beginning his ministry, Jeremiah had not yet experienced the power of the Lord in sharing the word of God, but no doubt he would!  Jeremiah did not need to be dismayed, because God had given him strength of which he did not know.  The picture here is pretty amazing.  Remember Jeremiah is just a lad – perhaps a young man in his late teens/early 20’s.  Yet he has been tasked by the Lord to confront the most powerful men in the nation of Judah: kings, priests, and even other (false) prophets.  How could this young man stand against a whole nation?  Yet that’s exactly what God promised.  Jeremiah may have felt weak in his youth, but that’s not how God saw him.  God saw him as “a fortified city and an iron pillar…bronze walls against the whole land.”  Jeremiah would stand against the whole nation of Judah, and Jeremiah would remain standing.  Not in his strength, but in the strength of the Lord.  As has often been said, “One man + God makes a majority.”  If God was for him, that was all Jeremiah needed!

19 They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the LORD, “to deliver you.”

  • Jeremiah could expect resistance…God promised it!  The kingdom’s powerful & elite would “fight against” him, but they wouldn’t win.  They would persecute Jeremiah, but they would not “prevail.”  God would see Jeremiah through – He would deliver Jeremiah all the way to the end.
  • Though Jeremiah did indeed experience much persecution and rejection by the nation, it’s interesting to note that he outlived all of the wicked kings against whom he spoke.  They all perished, or were taken captive to Babylon.  Jeremiah did not.  He survived the conquest, and though he was forced to go to Egypt by the hand of Jews who still refused to believe God, Jeremiah survived.  God showed Himself strong on Jeremiah’s behalf, even in the midst of all his trials.  God never abandoned His prophet.
  • Our Jesus never abandons us!  It may seem at times as if we stand against a nation…and in many ways, we do.  The gospel is increasingly being rejected by our culture.  This is not a time for timidity, but boldness.  We can be assured that our God will equip us for such a time as this.  All we need to do is have faith, and continue to be faithful with the message and work He has given us.

Jeremiah was a man with a mission.  He had been called by the Lord (even from the womb!), and had a responsibility to do what God had called him to do.  To shirk from his responsibility was to withhold the message of repentance from a people who desperately needed to hear it.  That they wouldn’t repent wasn’t the issue; God was merciful enough to provide the message, and that message needed to be proclaimed.  Nothing needed to be an obstacle to the prophet: not age, not fear – nothing.  God had called Jeremiah, and God would equip him for the task.

Like Esther, Jeremiah was placed among his people and given a mission from God “for such a time as this.”  Likewise, so are we.  We are known by the Lord, and equipped from the Lord.  Our King Jesus has commanded us to go speak His word in proclaiming the gospel, and we have a responsibility to see it done.

Is there any area in which we’ve shirked away from the message God has given?  Have we shown ourselves to be dismayed?  Have we held back?  Confess it to the Lord, receive His forgiveness, and start anew.

Maybe it’s just been hard to get started.  You haven’t felt equipped or worthy to be used by God.  Thankfully, that’s not up to us; that’s up to the Lord.   If God gives you the opportunity and the call, then you can be sure He will equip you for the task.  May we not be those who hold back out of fear, but boldly step out in faith!

  1. John Warren Jr. says:

    The “branch of an almond tree” could be an allusion to Numbers 17, where overnight Aaron’s rod had budded, brought forth buds, bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. (Interestingly, there’s more of a miracle there than just the time-frame, because almonds naturally require pollination by another variety in order to set fruit. He is the Lord; is there anything too hard for Him?)

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