I’ve been making my way through Jeremiah lately. I think most of us approach the books of the prophets with a healthy measure of hesitation—myself included. Sometimes the writings of the prophets can be difficult to understand, especially owing to our lack of understanding about the cultural context and history involved. Added to this is the fact that many of the prophecies were fulfilled shortly after the time they were given, while others point to the distant future. Some were fulfilled in Christ while others have not yet been fulfilled. How do you sort it all out? At times, I have thought that maybe the books are best left to the “experts,” but then I remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So I invite you to come along with me on this journey.
Note that my personal voyages of discovery in God’s Word often take me on tangents as I seek to fully understand what the Lord is teaching me. Therefore, I thought it was fair to warn you that there will be some detours ahead. Also, I don’t know how it is for you, but I can dig through entire chapters for which there are few “aha!” moments and then find major veins of gold in others. Therefore, this will not be a thorough, verse-by-verse exegesis (big word, huh?) by any stretch of the imagination. I certainly don’t know everything, but I have been collecting some good truths along the way; so let’s get started and I’ll show you what I found.
To start with, it is helpful to know that Jeremiah was basically a prophet of doom. Quite a downer, I agree. Imagine yourself in his shoes. The people of Judah were in active rebellion against God. They were heavily involved in idol worship—even to the point of sacrificing their children to their false gods. God laid on Jeremiah the heavy responsibility of proclaiming judgment on his people (who were about to be taken captive by the Babylonians) as well as to foretell God’s judgment on the nations. It was a tall task, especially for the timid young man Jeremiah, as is seen in the story of God’s call on his life:
(4)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 set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (6)”Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” (7)But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. (8)Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. (9)Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:5-9).
These passages speak to so many issues in our lives, as well as Jeremiah’s. Verse 5 reveals God’s foreknowledge and plan in Jeremiah’s life. This verse provides a window into God’s sovereign hand in a believer’s life—in that even prior to his work of creating us within our mother’s wombs, He has a plan for our lives and a purpose. And if God is so intimately involved in our lives prior to conception, then it certainly follows that we should approach the yet-unborn child being formed within the womb as sacred and worthy of our protection. In addition, as Jeremiah’s creator, God reserves the right to call him into service, and the same is true in our lives.
Another good lesson I gleaned here, I found in my NIV text note: “Youth and inexperience do not disqualify when God calls.” We all have our areas of timidity. In ourselves, we are inadequate, but God does not call us to serve, except that He gives us the promise that He will be with us and give us what we need to overcome—not only our own personal obstacles, but also any other obstacles the world might send our way. I don’t know about you, but I need to hear this regularly. When we are where the Lord wants us to be and bringing about fruit for His glory, you can be sure that the evil one is there, whispering that familiar list of our inadequacies into our ears, telling us we cannot do it. We need to remind ourselves, not that “I can do it,” but that “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) (emphasis mine)
Finally, this passage spoke to me about my own call to Christ, which I recounted in my blog-piece, “The Call,” which can be found here.
All Scriptures NIV