I. The Call of Jeremiah: A Reluctant Prophet with a Difficult Mission, 1:1-19
(1:1-19) DIVISION OVERVIEW: Jeremiah is known as "The Weeping Prophet." Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah witnessed one catastrophe after another and sufferings beyond measure, all of which broke his heart and flooded him with deep, intense sorrow and weeping. He even witnessed the final collapse and fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian Empire.
Jeremiah was called to the prophetic ministry during the last 40 years of Judah's history. These were years of turbulence, both nationally and internationally. Assyria lay to the north of Judah, Babylon to the west, and Egypt to the south. All three were pursuing world domination. Decades earlier the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to Assyria and was no longer in existence. Now, the tiny nation of Judah stood alone in the very midst of these three mighty nations, struggling to survive. Because of the wickedness of the people and the nation's leaders, the future was dark and bleak. The people were just unwilling to repent of their wickedness, stubbornly rebelling against the Lord, rejecting and denying Him. Their defiance against the Lord was tragic, for only the Lord could deliver them in the midst of such a corruptible world. During the years of Jeremiah's ministry, Judah was to witness political upheaval and assassinations, power struggles and wars, and the collapse and fall of nations, including the fall of his own beloved country.
As shocking as anything during Jeremiah's ministry were the people who claimed to be followers of the Lord but who reveled and took great pleasure in the immoral, covetous, and idolatrous ways of the wicked. Jeremiah was one of the few true believers who sincerely obeyed God's holy commandments. Thus the Lord called Jeremiah to deliver His Holy Word to the corrupt society of his day. Because of his unwavering faithfulness, Jeremiah stands as a dynamic example for all who are called by God to minister within this corrupt and dying world.
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(1:1-19) Introduction: at some point in time, all nations and societies experience difficulties, whether they be moral, economical, or military issues. Economic recessions and depressions, low wages, unemployment, huge expenditures with little capital, selfishness and theft—any or all of these factors can plague entire nations as well as the smallest communities. Political upheaval, party politics, the weakening and collapse of some governments and the rise of others, the assassination of leaders and the rise of world empires—all these events take place throughout the world within every generation. In addition, every generation witnesses some societies becoming cesspools of greed and covetousness, injustice and brutality, immorality and wickedness, lawlessness and violence.
Into such a tumultuous society and world Jeremiah was born. The Lord chose him to be God’s prophet during some of the most stormy times of human history, days that were to be catastrophic for Judah. Judah and its capital Jerusalem were to be utterly destroyed during Jeremiah’s ministry. He was the prophet chosen by God to warn the world of God’s coming judgment. But he was also set apart to assure true believers of God’s eternal love and care, the hope of the promised Messiah, and the establishment of His eternal kingdom on earth.
No prophet before or after Jeremiah had a more difficult or demanding task than did this new young prophet of God. He was called to proclaim unceasingly the coming judgment of God. Despite severe and constant persecution—including being ostracized and isolated throughout most of his life—Jeremiah was faithful. And his faithfulness is a dynamic example for all believers of every generation. This is, The Call of Jeremiah: A Reluctant Prophet with a Difficult Mission, 1:1-19.
1. Jeremiah’s background: a long, steadfast ministry (vv.1-3).
2. Jeremiah’s call and mission (vv.4-19).
1. (1:1-3) Jeremiah, Background—Faithfulness, of Jeremiah—Steadfastness, of Jeremiah—Ministry, Duty, to Be Faithful: only a few facts are given concerning Jeremiah’s background. Nevertheless, these facts tell us that he lived during difficult times, an era of political upheaval, both nationally and internationally, and a period of extreme wickedness. Immorality, lawlessness, violence, brutality, idolatry, and the worship of false gods ran rampant across earth. Few people lived righteous lives or followed the only living and true God, the Lord God Himself (Jehovah, Yahweh). Although brief, the facts given about Jeremiah’s life give a comprehensive picture about the day in which he lived:
1. Jeremiah’s father was Hilkiah, a priest (v.1). Most likely this was not Hilkiah the High Priest who discovered a copy of the law during the reign of Josiah (2 Kings 22:8). Being the son of a priest means that Jeremiah himself was a priest, a descendant of Aaron, who was the brother of Moses. Whether or not Jeremiah ever functioned as a priest is unknown. Scripture seems to indicate that his call to be a prophet came about the time he would have begun his priestly ministry. He was probably around 20 years old.
2. Jeremiah’s hometown was Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Anathoth was only about three miles northeast of the capital Jerusalem, which means that Jeremiah was very familiar with the political world that swirls around a capital city government. Anathoth was what is known as a priestly city, a city that had been set aside by Joshua for the priests and their families (Josh. 21:15-19). Thus Jeremiah was born and reared among the families of other priests in a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
3. Jeremiah had a long, forty-one year ministry (vv.2-3). God called him in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, which began in 640 B.C. Thus, Jeremiah’s call from God came in 627 B.C. This date tells us several significant facts about Jeremiah. Most likely he was born at the end of the reign of King Manasseh, who was the most wicked king ever to rule over Judah (see •outline—2 Kings 21:1-18 and •note—2 Kings 21:1-18 for more discussion). Manasseh followed the detestable practices of the surrounding nations. He built pagan worship sites, constructing altars to the false god Baal and images or poles to the false goddess Asherah. He introduced the Assyrian worship of the sun, moon, and stars. In addition, Manasseh built altars to the heavenly bodies and, shockingly, placed them in the temple of the Lord, the very sanctuary built to honor God’s name. Sadly, this evil king even practiced human sacrifice, offering his own son on an altar to a false god. Living in the world of the occult, he practiced sorcery and divination (witchcraft) and consulted mediums and spirits (psychics). Throughout his long reign of 55 years, he completely disregarded God’s commandments and showed utter contempt for God’s name and His temple. He was a constant stumbling block to the people, leading them away from the Lord. As a result, the people were guilty of more evil than the other nations of the world.
When Manasseh died, his son Amon continued to lead the people in the evil ways of his father. The people continued to forsake the Lord, living wicked lives and refusing to obey God’s commandments. They worshipped the false gods of this world. However, within two years of taking the throne, King Amon was assassinated by some of the officials in the palace. The assassins were immediately caught and executed by a popular uprising of the people. Soon thereafter, the people made Amon’s son Josiah king. Josiah was only eight years old when crowned, which means that he was under the control and guidance of others until he became old enough to govern the nation on his own. This points toward Jeremiah and Josiah being close to the same age. They were both born during days of political upheaval throughout the world. The power of Assyria was waning and soon the Assyrians were to fall to a combined force of Babylonians, Medians, and Scythians. This combined alliance was to give rise to the world empire of Babylon, whose envoys had earlier visited the court of Hezekiah, Josiah’s great-grandfather (2 Kings 20:12).
It was during such days as these that God called Jeremiah (627 B.C.) His strong preaching, as well as that of Zephaniah and Nahum, began to be heard in Judah. Although these facts are not mentioned in the introductory verses to Jeremiah, the date of Jeremiah’s call gives us a glimpse into the period of history into which he was born and called by God to be a prophet. Three facts concerning Jeremiah’s long ministry are given by the present Scripture (vv.2-3).
First, Jeremiah’s ministry began in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (627 B.C.). King Josiah lived a righteous life and ruled the land for 31 years. During his reign, his major concern was to turn the people back to God. He sought to restore the temple and the true worship of the Lord throughout the nation. As stated above, it was during his reign that the Book of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah the High Priest (2 Kings 22:8). When King Josiah heard the Word of God read, he was deeply moved, and he rededicated his life to stirring revival throughout the nation. He called upon the people to repent and to turn away from their worship of idols and false gods. Although the people responded positively to Josiah’s reformation, their commitment to the Lord was superficial and hypocritical (Jer. 3:10).
Under Josiah, the nation grew both economically and militarily, extending its borders significantly (2 Chr. 34:6-7). Judah became a significant player in the realm of politics among the surrounding nations. The people became very prosperous and were freed from foreign invaders, able to live in peace and comfort. But based upon the preaching of Jeremiah during these years, the people were apparently materialistic, more concerned about securing wealth, possessions, position, and honor than they were about living righteously (see chs. 2-25).
Jeremiah was called to warn the people of the coming judgment of God. These were to be the last decades of the nation’s history. The judgment of God was to fall upon the materialistic, covetous, and idolatrous society that had made only a half-hearted commitment to follow the Lord.
Second, Jeremiah’s ministry continued right on through the reign of Jehoikim, whose rule brought about another evil and depraved period of history (v.3). Actually, King Josiah was the last godly ruler of Judah. Immediately after his death, three of his wicked sons and one evil grandson took the throne in rapid succession. Josiah died on the battlefield against the Egyptians, and soon thereafter, his son Jehoahaz began to reign. However, three months later Pharaoh Neco removed him from the throne and appointed Jehoikim as ruler of Judah. During his 11-year reign, Jehoikim lived a corrupt life and did evil in the sight of the Lord. He led the nation and the people back into the sins of his grandfather, King Manasseh, including the persecution and slaughter of the prophets and other believers (2 Kings 23:34-24:6, esp.3-4).
When Jehoikim died, he was succeeded by his wicked son Jehoichin. But his rule lasted only three months, for he was forced to surrender to Babylon, who then placed Zedekiah on the throne of Judah.
Third, Jeremiah’s ministry lasted up through the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign (586 B.C.), the year when the tragic fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the people to Babylon took place. Jeremiah’s ministry actually included several years beyond the fall of Jerusalem, years that were spent in Egypt. But for the present the emphasis is on his long 41-year ministry in Judah. The Lord was calling him to be a prophet in the most turbulent years of the nation’s history. Yet through these stressful, chaotic years, God’s prophet would persevere to the end, remaining committed to the Lord. He would faithfully carry out the difficult task and mission given him by God.
Thought 1. Imagine living in an age such as Jeremiah’s, an age when people were materialistic, covetous, and idolatrous, all the while professing to be followers of the Lord. Imagine such hypocrisy, where people falsely profess to know the Lord but live wicked, unrighteous lives and persecute the true followers of the Lord. Sadly, the description sounds much like societies of every generation with many people living hypocritical lives.
Jeremiah was faithful in proclaiming the morality and righteousness of God to his generation. How many of us today are faithful in proclaiming God’s Word, in expressing the utter necessity of living righteous and godly lives before the Lord? How many of us issue the warnings of coming judgment against those who live wicked lives, who disobey the commandments of God? How many of us are faithful, steadfast in following the Lord? Listen to what God’s Holy Word says:
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22).
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love" (John 15:9).
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9).
"Only let your conversation [behavior, conduct] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27).
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised" (Heb. 10:23).
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb. 12:1-4).
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (James 1:12).
"Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (James 5:11).
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13).
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9).
"Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:17-18).
"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" (Rev. 3:11).
"But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day" (Josh. 23:8).
"If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear" (Job. 11:14-15).
"The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger" (Job. 17:9).
"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them" (Ps. 103:17-18).
2. (1:4-19) Call, of Jeremiah—Mission, of Jeremiah—Judgment, Duty, To Preach; To Teach—Warning, of Judgment—Promise, of God’s Strength, to Jeremiah—Persecution, Deliverance from, Promised—Ministers, Promises to, God’s Presence—Message, Prophetic, Judgment and Salvation: Jeremiah’s call was to change the course of his life forever. His father Hilkiah was a priest, which means that Jeremiah was from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe of Israel. Jeremiah was destined to become a priest when he reached the age of service. As a priest, he would live a settled, regulated life. He would be ministering to the people in one local community throughout his ministry—a life that could become very routine due to the rituals and ceremonies that had to be constantly repeated day after day.
But when God called young Jeremiah to be a prophet, his life and ministry were to be radically different. He was to become primarily a spokesman for God, a man who spends his time proclaiming the Word of God to people. God’s Word included both salvation and judgment. Unless people received the salvation of God, they would face the judgment of God. If the prophet saw the people going astray, he was to call the people to repentance: they must forsake their sins and turn back to God. If they continued to live wicked lives, they would stand condemned before God.
Being called to focus on the message of God’s judgment means that Jeremiah was called to a very difficult ministry. Pointing out the sins of the people and proclaiming the judgment of God is seldom an acceptable message. Most people reject the message of God’s judgment, and they often react against the messenger—in particular, if they are hard-hearted and unwilling to repent of their sin and turn back to God.
The years of Jeremiah’s ministry were to span the final days of the nation’s existence and the actual execution of God’s judgment on the people. Jerusalem was to fall, and most of the survivors were to be deported throughout the Babylonian empire. The people would reject the prophet’s message and severely persecute him, even attempt to kill him. But throughout the years of rejection and persecution, Jeremiah would remain faithful. As with anyone who suffers as much as he did, Jeremiah sometimes needed special encouragement and strength from the Lord. But he never doubted or wavered from God’s call. As is seen in the present Scripture, God’s call to Jeremiah was a very personal and dramatic experience for the young man—an experience that he could never forget or deny. Beyond all question—Jeremiah knew that God had called him to be a prophet. Therefore, he knew that he must be faithful and plow ahead in his prophetic ministry—no matter the obstacles, persecution, or apparent failures. Jeremiah was faithful in proclaiming the salvation and the coming judgment of God, faithful to the very end of his life. The Scripture and outline clearly describe the unmistakable call of God to the young man:
1. God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet even before his birth (vv.4-5). This is a striking statement, a statement intended to arouse confidence and assurance in Jeremiah. God informed the young man of three facts:
a. Before God formed Jeremiah in the womb, God knew him (v.5). The word knew (yada) refers to God’s perfect, timeless, all-encompassing knowledge. Before Jeremiah was ever conceived in the womb of his mother, God knew all about him. God had a full and complete knowledge of him. God knew what Jeremiah would be like in all his weaknesses and strengths, flaws and virtues, failures and successes. God knew that Jeremiah would trust the Lord, that he would establish a close, personal relationship with the Lord. For all these reasons, the Lord accepted Jeremiah and chose him before his birth (Gen. 18:19; Ps. 1:6; Amos 3:2).
b. God set apart Jeremiah to be a prophet. He was not to commit his life to any other profession nor to spend his time on other affairs (2 Tim. 2:3-4). He was set apart for a specific task, to be a very special minister of the Lord.
c. Jeremiah was ordained, appointed to be a prophet to the nations of the world. God created the whole world; therefore, His love reaches out to all the nations of the earth. God wants everyone to be saved and to live with Him eternally. This is why He chose Abraham to be the father of Israel, a people who were to be a new race through whom He could send His Son and give His Word to the world. This is why God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations of the world. Through Jeremiah, God warned the world and still warns us today: unless we repent of our sins and are saved, the hand of God’s judgment will fall on us.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John 3:16-20).
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:24-29).
2. When the Lord issued His call to Jeremiah, a deep sense of inadequacy surged through the young man’s body (v.6). Hesitant, somewhat fearful due to the enormous task of reaching the nations with God’s Word, Jeremiah blurted out that he was not an eloquent speaker, not a public speaker at all. Moreover, he was only a child, a young man who had no experience. Considering the long ministry of Jeremiah (over 41 years), he was probably around 20 years old. Whatever the case, Jeremiah knew the awful wickedness of the people and the society in which he lived, as well as his own inadequacies and inexperience as a young man. He knew that a prophet must have the ability to speak publicly in order to preach God’s Word. Thus, it was only natural for him to shrink back from the awesome task of reaching the nations for the Lord.
Thought 1. When the Lord calls any person to serve Him, the person usually senses a deep inadequacy. More often than not, the person feels totally incapable and unqualified for the task being assigned him by God. Note the following examples of men who were called by God:
1) Moses felt inadequate, incapable when God called him:
"And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ex. 3:11).
"And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue" (Ex. 4:10).
2) Gideon felt inadequate, incapable when the Lord called him.
"And he [Gideon] said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house" (Judg. 6:15).
3) Solomon felt inadequate, incapable for the task assigned him by God.
"And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in" (1 Kings 3:7).
4) Paul the Apostle felt inadequate, incapable in carrying out the task assigned him by the Lord.
"And who is sufficient for these things?...Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5).
3. Despite Jeremiah’s hesitancy, the Lord insisted he go and proclaim God’s Word (v.7). He must not make excuses. He must not use his youth, inexperience, or lack of ability as an excuse for not serving the Lord. He must surrender to the call of God. He must be God’s prophet, go to everyone and everywhere God sends him. And he must preach exactly what God commands him. He must preach God’s Word and God’s Word alone. He did not have to be an eloquent speaker, nor did he have to present new, novel ideas, or the latest theological positions. His task was to be God’s ambassador, to proclaim God’s Word to the nations of the world.
Thought 1. Every believer is called to be an ambassador for God, called to share God’s Word with the people of the world. As we walk throughout the day, we are to share the Word of God and the gospel of Christ with our neighbors, fellow workers, friends, acquaintances, and anyone else as opportunity presents itself. God has called every believer to be a witness to the salvation offered by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:19-20).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).
"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21).
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
"For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
"And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him" (Acts 5:32).
"We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak" (2 Cor. 4:13).
"To wit, that God was in Christ,
reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;
and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are
for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19-20).
"Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Tim. 1:8).
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name" (Mal. 3:16).
4. God met Jeremiah’s need (vv.8-10). When God calls a person to serve Him, He always provides what is needed. In Jeremiah’s case, he needed strong encouragement and assurance. He also needed the ability to speak, as well as a clear understanding of the message he was to take to the nations. God met all three needs of the young man. First, God gave Jeremiah two wonderful promises, the promise of His presence and protection. As Jeremiah went forth proclaiming God’s Word, he could rest assured that the Lord would be with him and would deliver him through all the trials, opposition, and persecution that would confront him.
Second, the Lord equipped Jeremiah by touching his mouth (v.9). This symbolized God’s Word, power, and authority being given the young man. From this point on, Jeremiah had no need to feel inadequate, for the Lord had given him His very own Word to proclaim.
Third, God actually spelled out the message to be taken to the nations (v.10). This message included God’s judgment as well as His mercy and salvation. When proclaiming the judgment of God, the prophet was to stress that the Lord would uproot, tear down, destroy, and overthrow the nations and peoples of the earth. But he was also to proclaim God’s mercy and salvation, the fact that He would rebuild and plant the nations and peoples who repented. If the people turned away from their sins and turned back to Him, God would save them. However, if the people chose to live wicked lives, having nothing to do with God, then they would be allowed to live apart from God. They would continue to be separated and alienated from Him. The day of judgment was coming against all who opposed the Lord, all who rebelled against Him and His righteous commandments. This was God’s Word that Jeremiah was to proclaim, God’s Word that included both the judgment and salvation of God.
Thought 1. When God calls us to do a particular task, He always equips us. He provides whatever we need to accomplish the task. No matter how inadequate or incapable we may feel, God will meet our need and equip us. God’s call is not based upon ability, but rather availability. His call is not based upon a person’s appearance, charisma, voice quality, descriptive personality, or flowery speech. Nor is God’s call based upon a person’s ability to think creatively, to come up with new ideas or theological concepts. God’s call is based upon a person’s heart, how open and loving and committed the heart will be. A surrendered heart is what God is after when He calls a person. If a heart is surrendered to the Lord, He can equip a person to proclaim His Word. This is seen time and again throughout Scripture:
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:4-12).
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9).
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13).
"And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say" (Ex. 4:11-12).
"And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord'S anointed is before him. But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:6-7).
"Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
5. God reinforced Jeremiah’s call by giving him two visions (vv.11-16). The first vision was that of an almond tree, which was the first tree to bud and bear fruit in Palestine (vv.11-12). When asked what he saw, Jeremiah responded that he saw blossoms on the branch of the almond tree, a sure sign of spring. God explained that He was also watching the signs, the events taking place on earth in order to fulfill His Word. When certain events took place, the promises and warnings of His Word were to be executed exactly as He said. If the people continued in wickedness, His hand of judgment was to fall. But if the people repented of their sins and turned back to Him, they were to be forgiven and saved from the coming judgment. Just as Jeremiah and the people looked to the almond tree as a sign of coming spring, so God was watching the events on earth to determine when to fulfill His Word of salvation and judgment against the people.
"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18).
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35; Luke 21:33).
"Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant" (1 Kings 8:56).
"The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure" (Ps. 111:7).
"For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezek. 12:25).
The second vision given by God was that of a boiling pot or kettle that was tilting away from the north (vv.13-16). God explained that the pot represented an evil calamity that was coming from the north, a disaster that would be poured out and scald the people. To make sure the message was understood, the Lord explained that a coalition of nations from the north would invade and conquer Judah. At this particular time, the Assyrian Empire, which was in the north, was disintegrating and its power was waning, so any threat from the north seemed to be unlikely. Nevertheless, the Lord was making a clear prediction that another world empire would arise on the scene and invade Judah from the north. This was a clear reference to the Babylonian Empire that would soon become the world’s dominant power and seek to conquer the entire known world. The rulers of the nations that were part of the Babylonian Empire would actually set up their thrones in the gates of Jerusalem, determining the fate of the capital and the other cities of Judah (Josh. 20:4; Ps. 9:4; 122:5; Jer. 39:3).
God also spelled out the reasons for His coming judgment on the people (v.16). Three reasons are given:
⇒ The people were living wicked lives, choosing to walk their own way in life and doing their own thing, rejecting the commandments of God.
⇒ The people had forsaken the Lord, turned away from Him and broken their covenant or promise to follow Him (see •outline—Ex. 19:5-9 and •note—Ex. 19:5-9 for more discussion).
⇒ The people engaged in false worship, worshipping the false gods and idols created by the imaginations of people.
When the people rejected the Lord, they broke their covenant, their promise to the Lord. Consequently, the curses of the covenant were to fall upon them (Deut. 11:26-28; see •outline—Deut. 28:15-68 and •notes—Deut. 28:15-68 for more discussion).
Thought 1. Sin has its penalty, its consequences. If we live wicked lives, we condemn ourselves to the judgment of God. We will die, be eternally separated from God. The penalty for sin is death.
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
"For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8:6).
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14-15).
"Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17).
"As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death" (Prov. 11:19).
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4).
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezek. 18:20).
6. Proclaiming God’s coming judgment was to be a very difficult task for Jeremiah, so God issued a strong charge and warning to him (v.17). The young man must arise and proclaim God’s Word. His task was not to teach the philosophies, psychologies, ideas, theologies, and beliefs of people. His message was to be the Word of God, it and it alone.
God also gave a harsh warning to Jeremiah. He must not shrink back. If he feared the opposition of people and drew back or fled from his mission, God would punish him. He himself would face the terrifying judgment of the Lord.
Thought 1. God warns us against shrinking back, against backsliding and turning away from our commitments to Him. Whatever mission God has given us, we must complete that mission. We must fulfill our task on earth, or else we will face the judgment of God.
"And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:30; see also 25:14-30).
"And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27).
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:25-27).
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38).
7. Finally, God gave Jeremiah a strong, reassuring promise to combat the young prophet’s sense of inadequacy and lack of experience (vv.18-19). In the future, when Jeremiah faced opposition and questioned his ability or strength to continue on, he could be reassured by remembering these two promises.
a. God would strengthen him, make him invincible, impregnable (v.18). He would be as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, or a bronze wall. No matter who attacked or opposed him—whether king, government official, priest, religious worker, or mobs of people—he would be empowered to stand against them all. They would not be able to break down his strength nor to overcome him.
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).