“Jeremiah: God’s Prophet to a Nation on the Brink of Judgment” (Jeremiah 1)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 3, Jeremiah 1

The book of Jeremiah is both biographical and prophetic, chronicling his life and experience. Written by the prophet whose name it bears, the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah accounts for the ministry of that faithful prophet. Fifty-two chapters long, the Book of Jeremiah spanned fifty-four years: Beginning with Judah’s revival years during the reign of King Josiah, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.

Jeremiah 1 – The Calling of a Prophet of God

Jeremiah’s ministry was to a people who had turned from God. Like Israel, Judah had broken God’s covenant and disobeyed His commandments. It was for such a time the LORD called Jeremiah to stand in the gap and warn His people that should they fail to repent, they would suffer the consequences that come with their broken covenant.

Jeremiah’s ministry began during the reign of Josiah (est. 640 BC to 609 BC) and continued through the reigns of four wicked kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah died (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36).

A Levite by birth, Jeremiah’s father was Hilkiah, a priest who was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses (1:1). Anathoth, his hometown, was only about three miles northeast of Jerusalem (1:1; Joshua 21:15-19). There is no doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the culture and politics of Jerusalem.

The Sovereignty, Foreknowledge and Calling of the LORD (1:4-5)

God’s call must have turned Jeremiah’s world upside down. Like his father, Jeremiah would have been destined to live in the obscurity of a small town (Anathoth, 1:1). One day, in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (1:2), the LORD spoke to Jeremiah, and assured him he had been called to be a prophet before he was conceived in his mother’s womb (1:4-5).

Jeremiah wrote, “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified [consecrated; set apart] thee, and I ordained [appointed] thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Before he was born, Jeremiah had been “sanctified” (set apart; dedicated) by God, and “ordained unto the nations” of the world (1:5).

Spiritual Truth – In the same way God knew Jeremiah before He was conceived, He knows you. The LORD knows your talents, gifts, and abilities. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows everything about you. In fact, He knows you better than you know yourself (Psalm 139:15-16).

Jeremiah’s Objections to God’s Call (1:6-8)

Notice two fears the prophet had to overcome to fulfill God’s calling. The first fear was, the fear of inadequacy.Jeremiah protested, “LORD God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (1:6).

Jeremiah was not a child in the chronological sense, but he was a young inexperienced man. The thought of being God’s prophet in the midst of an ungodly people was intimidating and overwhelming. God answered Jeremiah’s objection with an exhortation, saying, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak” (1:7).

Jeremiah’s second objection to God’s calling was the fear of man. The LORD exhorted Jeremiah, saying, “8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD” (1:8b).

The Breadth of Jeremiah’s Ministry (1:9-10)

“The LORD said unto me [Jeremiah], Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10  See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:9b-10).

From heaven’s perspective, Jeremiah was a messenger of the LORD. From man’s perspective, however, he was a troublemaker, an antagonist, called “to root out [sin], and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (1:10).

Jeremiah’s Message – Imminent Judgment (1:11-19)

As we will see, Jeremiah will often employ object lessons and symbolism in His preaching. In the concluding verses of Jeremiah 1, we find the LORD doing the same as He presented the prophet with three assurances that would strengthen his call to his people (1:11-19).

1st Assurance – The Vision of an Almond Tree: God’s Word will soon be fulfilled. (1:11-12) Jeremiah’s ministry would be like the blossoms of an almond tree, the first to blossom in the Holy Land (1:11). His calling was to awaken God’s people out of their spiritual apathy, and warn them God’s judgment was imminent, and His words would soon be fulfilled (1:12).

2nd Assurance – The Vision of a Boiling Pot: God’s wrath will be poured out. (1:13-16) The Middle East has always been a boiling caldron of nations at war; even today, it is a place of bloodshed, violence, and war. Prophetically, Israel is the site where the nations will gather against Israel for a final battle the Bible calls Armageddon (Revelation 16:16; Zechariah 14:1-3; Joel 3:16).

The vision of “an evil” that would come out of the north was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar’s army descended upon Judah (1:15; 39:1,3). Judah had broken God’s covenant (Exodus 20:3-6), and foolishly “worshipped the works of their own hands” (1:16).

3rd Assurance – Three Metaphors (1:17-18) – Jeremiah’s task would be both unpopular and dangerous; however, God promised to protect and empower him (1:17-19). God commanded the prophet, “gird up thy loins,” for there was no time to delay, and “speak unto them all that I command thee (1:17c). Assuring Jeremiah, He would give him power and protection, the LORD declared, “18For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced [fortified] city, and an iron pillar [strong as a column of iron], and brasen [bronze] walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land” (1:18).

Closing thought – Jeremiah would be an unpopular prophet, hated and despised by his people. The LORD warned him, “they shall fight [make war] against thee; but they shall not prevail [overcome] against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD [affirm; declare], to deliver [rescue] thee” (1:19).

What a great encouragement to those whom God has called to teach and declare His Word! The LORD is with us! Let us therefore, in the words of the apostle Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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