“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” - Jeremiah 32:27
This verse introduces readers to a couple of important topics. First, God is God over all mankind. That means we cannot place any god or idol in front of him and our worship of him. Second, he asks if anything is too hard for him. This implies no, nothing is.
But this may draw readers back to their Philosophy 101 class where a professor asked, “Can God create a rock large enough that he cannot move?” Can God really do everything? What does God imply in this verse?
We’ll dive into the context and meaning of this verse and try to uncover the age-old question: Can God really do anything?
Photo credit: Unsplash/Lina Trochez
What Does This Verse Mean?
The Lord speaks to the prophet Jeremiah in this verse. In a moment, we will discuss the bigger picture of what happened in Jeremiah 32, including the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
According to John Gill’s Commentary, God says this verse as a comfort and assurance during a tumultuous time.
Other versions of the verse, such as the Syriac translation, also imply that nothing can hinder God’s prophecies or things he sets to fulfill. In other words, nothing can disrupt God’s plan. If he intends for something to happen, it will.
We also must bear in mind the life and trials of Jeremiah, often a prophet standing alone in his faith and belief. In these verses, God assures him that Jeremiah can have full confidence in Him, and that his belief did not go in vain.
But what happened in Jeremiah 32 as a whole that he had to go to God in a desperate plea and prayer?
What Is Happening in Jeremiah 32?
Israel has messed up big time, and for the last time. They would soon be taken over by the Babylonians and taken into a seventy-year captivity for their unfaithfulness, their lust after other gods, and their trust in other nations such as Egypt instead of in God.
Nevertheless, although the Israelites would experience God’s wrath, God’s judgment here doesn’t last forever. God has Jeremiah build a field to symbolize that the people would again return to their land and restore it. God makes mention of his power in these verses to assure the Israelites he intends to fulfill his plan.
Photo credit: ©SparrowStock
Does Translation Impact the Meaning?
As we mentioned before, the Syriac translation slightly nuances the meaning of the verses to apply to prophecies. But what about our modern translations? Do they all differ in meaning of the verse? We’ll put five popular translations of the verse below and compare them.
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (KJV)
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (NIV)
“See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?” (NRSV)
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (ESV)
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?" (NASB)
It appears that all the modern translations of this verse are nearly identical. “Flesh” tends to mean humanity. Apart from that word, they almost copy each other word-for-word. Let’s analyze the Jewish Tanakh of this verse and the Septuagint to see if we spot any differences.
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything concealed from Me?” (Tanakh, Nevi’im, Yirmiyah)
“I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: shall anything be hidden from me!” (Septuagint)
These translations add the nuance that nothing can be hidden from God. The phrase “too hard” or “hidden” comes from the Hebrew word “pala”. This means “wonderful,” “marvelous,” or “too difficult to understand.” With this translation of the word in mind, all translations of the Bible seem to agree with this verse.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Halfpoint
Can God Do ANYTHING?
Let’s bring the discussion back to that Philosophy 101 class. Does God have limits on what he can do? And what exactly does omnipotence mean?
Scripture does seem to affirm God’s all-powerful nature (Psalm 115:3, Genesis 18:4), but does this mean he can create a rock he cannot move? Could God commit suicide, as some philosophy professors suggest?
When people ask questions like this, they tend to miss out on the true definition of omnipotence.
First, we have to take God’s character into consideration. God is holy and good. This means he cannot do something such as lie or do “any immoral action,” writes John M. Frame for the Gospel Coalition. Some people may argue that this forms an omnipotent paradox. But, explains Roger Patterson for Answers in Genesis, if God lied, God would not be God.
Second, as addressing the absurd questions like “can God make a square circle?” we must understand God created physical laws which govern the universe. When we ask God to make a rock he cannot lift or a square circle, we ask him to move outside the very laws which he set in place in our universe.
Also, it seems like a tad ridiculous of a request for God to act outside of his character, including creating contradictions.
For those who may argue he did contradictions when he completed miracles, check out this Gospel Coalition article to combat Hume’s views on miracles.
With this in mind, we understand God’s omnipotence to be not only power over the universe, but the power that sustains the universe. In him and through him, we have life. God stays true to his character and does not act in contradiction to it. Because if he did, he would not be God.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Prince David
How Can We Trust God with Even Our Big Problems?
We can trust God with our bigger problems because we know he is bigger than them. No matter what temptations or trials we face, we can place them into God’s hands and know he has a plan for us amidst times of pain, loss, or frustration.
Through his power, God forms a place of safety for us, a fortress.
As we learn in the Jeremiah verse, nothing is too difficult nor hidden from God. Satan cannot hatch a scheme that can go around God’s plan. Even the demons have to ask permission before they can do anything (Luke 22:31).
Indeed, if God has the ultimate power, we can trust him with even our most difficult of problems.
We Serve an Omnipotent God
As we discovered in Jeremiah 32:27, the Israelites desperately needed something to hope for and look forward too as the Babylonians destroyed their city and took them into captivity. God assures both the prophet and his people that he will restore them to their land, and not even the Babylonians can overturn his plan.
Omnipotence, as we discovered, means God can exercise ultimate power and sustain everything in the universe, but he still makes sure to act within his character. If he went against his character or contradicted himself, he would not be God.
In the same way, when life overwhelms us, we know we have an omnipotent God who is bigger than our problems.
Related: Listen to Your Daily Bible Verse: You Are Not Your Own (Jeremiah 10:23):
Photo credit: Unsplash/Ben White
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her at her website.