Introduction, 1-3

Jer 1:1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.

Jer 1:2 The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah,

Jer 1:3 and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.

The Call of Jeremiah, 4-19

Jer 1:4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

Jer 1:5 “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.”

Mormons find in this text support for the pre-existence of Jeremiah as a ‘spirit child’.  But the text itself by no means requires this interpretation, and there is no contextual support for it.  The idea comes, rather, from the Mormon book The Pearl of Great Price, and has been imported into the text.

The more probable meaning of the text is ‘that God determined to make Jeremiah His spokesman before he ever existed, and brought about that design after he was born. These words can also be taken as Jeremiah’s expression of the fact that he could never get away from his calling as a prophet—it was “inborn” in him—even though he sometimes wanted to (Jer 20:6–9, 14–18).’ (Apologetics Study Bible)

This forms the basis for his unshakeable conviction that his mission was God-ordained.  It won’t matter that he feels ill-equipped for the task.  It won’t even matter that his message will be bitterly resented and rejected.  What matters is that he will be fulfilling God’s purpose for his life.

Such a conviction lies at the heart of all spiritual experience and endeavour.  This awareness that he was chosen, set apart and appointed by God was the energising force behind everything that Jeremiah did as a servant of God.  It gave his life a radical re-orientation.  He discovered himself to be created, known and chosen by God for a definite purpose and destiny. His centre of gravity shifted from within himself, and his conerns and wishes, to God, and his concerns and wishes.  And just as Jeremiah was the subject of God’s foreknowledge, was set apart and appointed, so is the Christian, Rom 8:28ff.  Our proper response to this is not conjecture or debate, but gratitude and rejoicing, Eph 1:3f.

Jer 1:6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”

Where the young Jeremiah and the aged Moses were similar is that they both tried to get out of God’s call.  In Jeremiah’s case, when he kept silent he felt a fire burn within him that he had to breath out (Jer 20:9).  Natural shyness does not disqualify a person from public ministry.  Williams adds that Jeremiah may not have been skilled at ‘thinking on his feet’: his messages show signs of having been carefully composed and written down.

Jeremiah’s very reluctance is indicative of profound humility.  God spoke, and he obeyed.  Nothing would come in the way of that.  At least he was free from the temptation to take on this role out of a sense of self-importance, or from some perverse delight in denouncing others.  In fact, he would quite often feel overwhelmed by the tragic nature of his message, Jer 20:7ff.  Indeed, the poor man even regreted the day he was born, Jer 20:14ff.

Jer 1:7 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.

Age is of little interest to God.  He called Moses, a pensioner, to lead his people out of Egypt.  He called Jeremiah to be his spokesman while only a child.  Derek Williams (The Bible Application Handbook) cites further examples: Timothy, who was young and inexperienced, and William Booth, who began to preach when he was 17.

Jer 1:8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

The Lord knew that behind Jeremiah’s protest of youthfulness there lurked deeper, unspoken fears.  It is as though Jeremiah was thinking, “I will be utterly alone”.  And the Lord responds: “I am with you.”  “Yes but they will threaten to kill me.”  The Lord replies, “I will rescue you.”  Jeremiah’s enemies would only be able to touch him as the Lord allowed.  Like the great evangelist George Whitefield, he knew himself to be ‘immortal till his work was done.’

Jer 1:9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.

Jer 1:10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jer 1:11 The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

Jer 1:12 The LORD said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

Jer 1:13 The word of the LORD came to me again: “What do you see?” “I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” I answered.

Jer 1:14 The LORD said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.

Jer 1:15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the LORD. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah.

Jer 1:16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshipping what their hands have made.

Jer 1:17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.

Jer 1:18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.

In the United States, a warrant for arrest reads, “The People of the State of [your state] versus [your name].” That doesn’t seem like very fair odds. The whole population against one person – you! But that is what Jeremiah had to face. All the people of the land and its kings and priests would be against him. Hence these words of comfort and reassurance in v18f.

Jer 1:19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.