Accept God’s Assignment

Explore the Bible Series

March 6, 2005

 

Background Passage: Jeremiah 1:1-19

Lesson Passage: Jeremiah 1:4-15, 17-19

 

Introduction: God displays his authority in many ways.  Initially, when we consider the sovereignty of God, we might think of the “big” issues of history: the incarnation, the death and resurrection of Jesus, or the Lord’s glorious return at the end of the age.  However, we should also consider the “little things.”  As we study the Book of Jeremiah, we will discover something of this prophet’s distinct personality and call.  Who shaped this man’s personality?  Who called this prophet to divine service?  Of course, we have little trouble discerning God’s activity in Jeremiah’s life, but we may some difficulty in tracing God’s work in our own experience.  God is not likely to carry on a conversation with us as he did with the young prophet; therefore, our call may not seem as distinct as his.  Nevertheless, God makes his ways clear to us, and we may rest assured that the Lord has designed a path for us just as he did the prophet. 

 

Jeremiah was very young when the Lord called him to the prophetic office. In addition to his youthfulness, the prophet apparently possessed a tender and sensitive personality.  Some have referred to him as the “Weeping Prophet.”  His message to the citizens of Judah broke his heart. His tender years and his gentle personality caused Jeremiah to recoil from the Lord’s call on his life.  Surely, he reasoned, these things would disqualify him from the difficult and heartbreaking task God had revealed to him.  Not so, the Lord told him.  Jeremiah’s life illustrates the principle Paul laid down in I Corinthians 1:27, “…God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” Like this young man, we may retreat from the Lord’s will for our lives.  We may entertain thoughts, as he did, of our own inadequacy and insufficiency for the task.  Furthermore, we may find distasteful the cost of service to God. No one, in their right mind, relishes social rejection, open hostility, persecution, death threats, and loneliness.  These things clearly troubled Jeremiah, and contemporary servants of Christ may encounter some of these distasteful occurrences as well.  Furthermore, a faithful servant of the Lord may face these difficulties with a sensitive and gentle personality.  “Who is sufficient for these things?”

 

The faithful Bible student will find the answers to these issues in the Book of Jeremiah.  Again, Paul observed, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”  (II Corinthians 3:5)

 

 

 

I.                   The Historical Setting of the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1-3)

A.     Jeremiah’s father and hometown (v.1): Hilkiah, Jeremiah’s father, was a priest who lived in the Benjamite town of Anathoth.  This small town was located about three miles northeast of Jerusalem.  When King Solomon removed Abiathar as the high priest, the king sent him to this village (See I Kings 2:26-27).  Some have speculated that Jeremiah came from the linage of Abiathar. 

B.     “…in the days of Josiah”: This good king ruled Judah for thirty-one years (c. 640-609 B.C.).  He succeeded his idolatrous father Amon, and the Lord used him to bring something of a revival in the land.  Jeremiah, it appears, began his work about the time that Josiah was twenty-one years old. 

C.     Jehoiakim the son of Josiah: Ruled Judah 609-597 B.C. His given name was Eliakim, but Pharaoh Neco gave him the throne name Jehoiakim.  He spent almost his entire reign as a vassal to Egypt.

D.     Zedekiah the son of Josiah: He was the last king of Judah 596-586. After the capture of Jerusalem, Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar killed the sons of Zedekiah and put out the king’s eyes.

 

II.                The Lord’s Call of Jeremiah to Serve as a Prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

A.     God’s plan for Jeremiah’s life (vv. 4-5): The call of the prophet appears in the form of dialog between Jeremiah and Jehovah.  Several other servants of God received a call to special service in this dialogical manner: Moses (Exodus 3), Gideon (Judges 6), Samuel (I Samuel 3), Isaiah (Isaiah 6), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3).  The Lord encouraged Jeremiah by informing him that Jehovah had known and chosen him before the prophet’s mother ever conceived him. God not only knew him, but he set the young man apart for a holy and unique purpose and appointed him as a prophet to the nations.  Note that the Lord did not intend for Jeremiah to limit his prophetic work to Judah; rather, he called the prophet to preach to the nations.

B.     Jeremiah’s objection (vv.6-9): The timid young man flinched at the Lord’s assertion.  Perhaps Jeremiah’s sense of inadequacy grew from his awareness that, as a young man, he did not possess the training, wisdom, and background to assume such an important task.  God reassured him on these grounds.

1.      The Lord was sovereign in this matter, and the youngster would go where God sent him and speak what God commanded him (v.7). Lord did not approach the boy with a proposal for his consideration; rather, he gave Jeremiah a command to obey.

2.      God pledged to go with Jeremiah and serve as his defender and deliverer (v. 8).  The fear of God must overcome the fear of men. Servants of God are invincible so long as God still has a purpose for them.

3.      The Lord touched Jeremiah and put his words in the prophet’s mouth (v.9).  The prophet had not only a commission to follow but a message to deliver.  The words he would speak came from God himself.

4.      The Lord gave Jeremiah a two-fold purpose; to tear down and to build up (v. 10).  The youthful prophet, no doubt, felt the weight of the destructive element of his preaching (the tearing down), but that was not the final word on his ministry.  In addition to the tearing down, Jeremiah would also, in God’s time, build up the people of God.

 

III.             Two Prophetic Visions (Jeremiah 1:11-16)

A.     The Vision of the Almond Tree (vv.11-12): Jeremiah grew up in a center of almond production; therefore, the vision of an almond rod seemed familiar to him.  This tree produced its buds earlier than the other tree varieties in the region.  The text employs a play on word that English translations cannot capture. The word “almond” closely resembles the term for “watching.”  The message seems clear.  God was watching over his sinful people, and he, in addition, would watch over the prophet’s preaching to his generation. Furthermore, as the almond tree budded before all the other trees, the judgment of God would come quickly upon Judah.

B.     The Vision of the Boiling Pot (vv. 13-16): Again, God employed a familiar image to reveal his message to Jeremiah.  No doubt, the prophet had often seen a boiling cauldron over a roaring fire (the Hebrew denotes a fire that the wind has fanned into an intense flame).  The cauldron boiled over, and, since the pot tipped slightly to the south, the contents boiled over on the south side of the fire.  The vision anticipated the eventual collapse of the Assyrian Empire and the rise of the Neo-Babylonians under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, the Battle of Carchemish (609 B.C.) broke the Assyrian/Egyptian alliance, and what was left of the declining Assyrian dominance came to a final end.  The Babylonians controlled the region, and, before long, Nebuchadnezzar moved his forces against Jerusalem (598 B.C.).  After a lengthy period of vassalage, the final destruction of the city occurred in 586. God made clear to Jeremiah why these calamities would come on Judah.  They had burned incense (this Hebrew verb may also refer to the burning of sacrifices) to other gods and practiced a disgraceful and foolish idolatry. 

 

IV.              God’s Encouragement to the Young Prophet (Jeremiah 1:17-19)

A.     “Prepare yourself”:  Literally, “gird your loins.”  The phrase enjoins bracing oneself for vigorous work or a strenuous test of one’s strength. The Lord did not mislead Jeremiah; rather, he honestly described the difficulty of the assigned task.

B.     “Speak to them all that I have commanded you”: God did not call Jeremiah to creativity or innovation.  The young man had one task; deliver the word of the Lord to the people of Judah. 

C.     “Do not be dismayed before their faces”: God forbid Jeremiah to fear the response of the people to his preaching.  Utter fearlessness had to characterize his prophetic work. He had to fear God more than man. 

 

Conclusion: God gave Jeremiah two precious promises at the outset of the prophet’s work.  First, God promised that would make the young man a fortified city and an iron pillar (v.18).  Judah’s kings, government officials, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens opposed the prophet, but God favored him with strength and resilience.  Second, God pledged to remain faithful to Jeremiah.  He would never forsake him (v.19).  Though the prophet would certainly face formidable enemies; yet the Lord would remain with him and ensure his protection and victory. Despite Jeremiah’s youthfulness and sensitivity, the Lord promised to sustain and protect him.  His weakness did not disqualify him from effective service in God’s Kingdom.  All of us have areas of profound weakness and inadequacy in the service of Christ.  We do not possess the requisite gifts to bring the slightest blessing to others apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.  At times, we may wish we possessed the remarkable gifts of Spurgeon or an Edwards; nevertheless, I have concluded that it is not so much that God works through extraordinary people.  Instead, I think it pleases God to do extraordinary things through ordinary people.  May God do remarkable things through ordinary people like you and me.