I. Jeremiah’s Call to Ministry (Jeremiah 1:1-19)
I. Jeremiah’s Call to Ministry (1:1-19)
1:1-3 Jeremiah is a sad book. You don’t want to read it if you are feeling down because “the weeping prophet” will have you crying with him (see 9:1) at the depths of unfaithfulness to which God’s people sank and the severe judgment that God delivered.
Jeremiah was a priest from the town of Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin (1:1), located about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. He was called to deliver God’s message of judgment to the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been swept away by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The time stamp on his ministry covers a period of forty-plus years, beginning in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah (1:2), the last of the good kings of Judah, and continuing through the destruction of Jerusalem and the people’s exile into Babylon in about 586 BC.
1:4-7 The Lord announced to Jeremiah that he had appointed him a prophet to the nations (1:5). Like Moses before him (see Exod 4:10), Jeremiah protested God’s call on his life because he didn’t know how to speak (1:6). But God had decided before Jeremiah was even born that he would use him this way (1:5), for he delights in demonstrating his great power in human weakness (see 2 Cor 12:9).
1:8-10 Happy times were not ahead for Jeremiah. When the Lord tells you, Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to rescue you (1:8), you know you’re in for some hard days. Nevertheless, God fortified Jeremiah and promised the prophet his divine protection. Jeremiah was going to need it, given his assigned role: I [the Lord] have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant (1:10). Jeremiah’s message was not one of complete despair and destruction: after the people had experienced seventy years of exile in Babylon, God was going to bring them back to the land and rebuild his temple. Still, it wouldn’t be popular.
1:11-12 God gave Jeremiah two visions to confirm both his close involvement in the prophet’s ministry and the basic message of that ministry. The first thing Jeremiah saw was the branch of an almond tree (1:11). The almond was one of the first trees in Israel to blossom in the spring. The Lord said he would watch over [his] word to accomplish it (1:12). The Hebrew words for “almond” and “watch” sound alike in Hebrew. Thus, God would see to it that every word he gave Jeremiah to deliver would blossom and come to pass.
1:13-16 Jeremiah then saw a boiling pot, its lip tilted from the north to the south (1:13), an unmistakable picture of the disaster coming upon Judah from the north (1:14) when the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would swoop down on Jerusalem. The accuracy of God’s Word is amazing. Babylon was actually east of Judah, but its armies invaded from the north, following the trade routes that took travelers around the Arabian Desert instead of through it. Babylon would execute God’s judgments upon Judah for her idolatry (1:16).
1:17-19 Now, get ready. Stand up and tell them everything that I command you (1:17). If you have bad news to deliver that people need to hear, there’s no use delaying it or dancing around it. God had already warned Jeremiah of fierce opposition and persecution, but he added, I am the one who has made you a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land [of Judah] (1:18). Jeremiah would need all of these defenses for his years of ministry that lay ahead.