Jeremiah 1:1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.
Jeremiah ministered to the people of Judah over the course of forty years: from 626 BC until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC. His central message was that God’s people would be exiled to Babylon because of their many sins. This made Jeremiah a prophet of doom, and not very popular. Jeremiah wrote the longest book in the Bible, and is often called the weeping prophet because of his spiritual anguish.
Jeremiah 1:4 The word of the Lord came to me.
Jeremiah was living an ordinary life when the word of the Lord came to him. He was not expecting God to speak, or planning to be a prophet. Perhaps he thought that God made a mistake, but the Lord assured him otherwise. 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 (Jeremiah 1:5), he said.
It is not as though God saw the need for a prophet, then picked the best person for the job. He created Jeremiah to do the job for which he was made. When the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, he found the purpose for which he was born.
Not many receive a call to ministry as clear as Jeremiah’s, but we are all called to serve God with the gifts that he has given us. A good way to discern our calling is to find where our gifts meet the needs of the world. This could be as a teacher, poet, plumber or mechanic. Our jobs are more than a way to make money; they are a way to serve God and the world he created.
Jeremiah 1:6 Alas, Sovereign Lord, I said, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.
The Bible does not tell us how old Jeremiah was at this time, but he felt too young for the task, so perhaps he was in his early twenties. The prophetic office would prove difficult, and at least once, Jeremiah considered quitting (Jeremiah 20:9).
God uses people with strong personalities, like King David and the Apostle Paul. But he also uses people who are less sure of themselves, like Jeremiah and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7). Whether we are bold or timid by nature, God wants us to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10), wrote Paul. God will give us the courage and strength to do all that he calls us to do.
Jeremiah 1:7 But the Lord said to me, Do not say, I am too young. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
Jeremiah was given the honor of speaking for God, but it would not be easy. God’s message is often opposed, and Jeremiah’s life was often in danger. Nevertheless, he was not allowed to change the message in any way. He was to say whatever God wanted him to say, to whomever God told him to say it.
Jeremiah 1:9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, I have put my words in your mouth.
God put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth, and Jeremiah spoke for God. It is hard to imagine such authority, but all Christians speak for God whenever they share his word. This includes condemnation for sin, but also the hope of the gospel.
One preacher was robbed at gunpoint and quoted Scripture to the robber. [T]he blood of Jesus . . . purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7), he said. Years later, a man approached him after a sermon, and confessed to being the man who robbed him. He said that verse of Scripture lodged in his heart so firmly that it brought him to conversion.
Jeremiah 1:11-12 The word of the Lord came to me: What do you see, Jeremiah? I see the branch of an almond tree, I replied. The Lord said to me, You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.
The Hebrew word for watching sounds like the Hebrew word for almond tree. Because the almond tree was the first to bloom, it was said to be watching for spring. And God was watching to be sure that his word was fulfilled.
If the God of the Bible can predict the future, and no other religion can do so, then we ought to believe in the God of the Bible. The Bible has dozens of prophecies that have already been fulfilled, so we can be sure the others will be fulfilled in their time. God is always watching to see that his word is fulfilled.
Reflection and Review
How can we discover our calling?
Why does it take courage to share God’s word?
How do we know God’s word will be fulfilled?