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The Call of Jeremiah

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 1

Neither our inabilities nor the negative responses of sinners can hinder God’s work. He chooses us, directs us, and equips us to serve him, and as we do so faithfully, we can be sure that His work is being accomplished.


The Call of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 1


John McCutchen, the famous illustrator, drew a cartoon for the one-hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The drawing shows two men standing on the edge of a snow-covered forest in Kentucky on a cold February morning in 1809. [One man] asks, “What’s the news around here?” The other man answers, “Nothing much. Oh, there’s a new baby over at Tom Lincoln’s. That’s all. Nothing ever happens around here.”[1]

The truth is, in the light of history, incredibly important things often begin to unfold with the cry of some newborn baby. The births of Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist, and most importantly, Jesus Christ each set the stage for a brand-new chapter in God’s plan for the ages.

Well, an Old Testament priest and his wife experienced the birth of a baby boy who was going to become the mouthpiece for God during a critical time in Israel’s history.

The baby’s name was Jeremiah. In the first verse of the book that bears his name, we are told that Jeremiah is “the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.” Anathoth was a city northeast of Jerusalem that had been given to the descendants of Aaron back in Joshua 21. God’s prophets in the Old Testament are called from various backgrounds; Jeremiah would have been following his father’s footsteps in becoming a priest.

We read here in verse 2:

The word of the Lord came [to him] in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

Jeremiah is actually going to serve the Lord during the reigns of five different kings, preaching to the nation for more than forty years. And it will be a tough assignment. Listen, he is nicknamed “the weeping prophet” for a reason: he will shed many tears over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the burning of the glorious temple of Solomon, and the captivity of God’s people.

In fact, at one point, Jeremiah is thrown into an empty cistern and left to die. Why? Because he delivered the truth and lived for God. Maybe you are not having the best time of your life right now. Perhaps you are under tremendous pressure, and all you are doing is the right thing. I want you to be encouraged as we set sail through the life and times of Jeremiah.

Here in chapter 1, we are given the call of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet—and God calls him by giving him some rather stunning news here in verse 5:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Now the truths revealed in this verse could fill an entire book, and they have application to each one of us.

God says to Jeremiah, “I formed you in the womb.” The Hebrew verb here for “formed” means to fashion, to shape—literally, to mold like a potter crafts a clay jar.

Jeremiah was the creative handiwork of God; every strength Jeremiah had and every weakness—every ability and every disability—had been woven into him by the hand of His Creator. Beloved, that is true of you, and that is why your fingerprint, your voice, and your face can be used for security clearance today—because there is nobody else like you. You are a designer- made, one-of-a-kind, creation of God.

But notice, God goes back in time here and tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

One author wrote, “Before Jeremiah knew God, God knew Jeremiah.”[2] Before Jeremiah knew anything about God, God knew everything about Jeremiah. Before you and I ever considered that God was important to us, we read here the truth that we were already important to God.[3]

Listen, the truth that we are created by God and important to Him changes the way we view ourselves. We don’t become important to God if we somehow manage to become important to other people. Beloved, the fact that you matter to God is proved by God fashioning you and seeking you and calling you to Himself.

But there is still more here in verse 5. Not only did God form Jeremiah in the womb and know Him even before that, but He also says to His prophet, “Before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

This is amazing! This means life is not a puzzle and you just have to be clever enough to figure out how all the pieces fit together. No, God has always had everything figured out about your life. You are to simply walk with Him as He unfolds it one day at a time.

Now even after all this amazing revelation to Jeremiah, I must tell you, it does not automatically make Jeremiah want to throw a party. He is not all that excited about being commissioned as a prophet to this disobedient nation.

Jeremiah responds to God in verse 6, saying, “I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” The Hebrew word for “youth” can refer to a young adult. Jeremiah is probably around twenty years old at this time. And he’s convinced of two things: number 1, he is not a good preacher—he’s not eloquent—and number 2, he doesn’t have enough on his resume.

Well, here is the Lord’s response in verse 9: “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” The important issue is not Jeremiah’s resume; the important thing is God’s revelation. God is not handicapped by our handicaps. Don’t get so caught up with your lack of ability that you forget God’s sufficiency. God effectively says here, “Jeremiah, you just go deliver My word.”

Then the Lord gives Jeremiah a preview of his ministry:

“See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (verse 10)

In other words, Jeremiah’s message will bring judgment on those who do not believe and blessing on those who do.

With that, the Lord gives two visions to Jeremiah. In verse 11 Jeremiah sees an almond branch. The almond tree blossoms early and is a sure sign that spring is coming. The idea here is that Jeremiah’s ministry is a signal that God’s promises are soon going to come to pass.[4]

In the second vision, Jeremiah sees a “boiling pot, facing away from the north” (verse 13). This refers to the disaster that is coming from the north—specifically, the Babylonian army, which will come and burn Jerusalem to the ground.

So, here you have it: this is Jeremiah’s call to prophetic ministry. The Lord is sending him to deliver a message that people need to hear. Sadly, most of them will not listen at all. But one day this prophet will stand before God and be rewarded, not because people followed him, but because he followed God and faithfully delivered God’s word.

Here is what Jeremiah understood, and we all need to understand it today: Success in God’s eyes is not measured by how many people listen to you, how many of your sermons get downloaded, or how many people you influence. No, success is accepting the fact that God created you the way you are and gave you a purpose in life that He uniquely designed for you. That purpose might not appear all that impressive today; it might just be another load of laundry or another bushel of corn to harvest or another Sunday school lesson to write. But trust Him and walk with Him and, like Jeremiah, leave the rest up to your Creator—your Redeemer. And just remember, beloved, before God ever formed you in the womb, He knew everything about you.

[1] Fred M. Wood and Ross McLaren, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Holman Old Testament Commentary (Holman Reference, 2006), 13.

[2] Eugene Petersen, Run with the Horses (InterVarsity Press, 1983), 37.

[3] Ibid., 38.

[4] Charles H. Dyer, “Jeremiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Victor Books, 1985), 1131.

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