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 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
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. 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, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:4-10 NIV)
After Jeremiah introduces himself, he begins his book by retelling the story of the Lord calling him as a prophet.
Notice when God chose Jeremiah as a prophet (v. 5). God did not wait to see how Jeremiah turned out, to see if he would have the moral or spiritual characteristics needed to be a prophet. No, He appointed Jeremiah as a prophet before he was born.
Notice also that God called Jeremiah for His purposes. God reserved Jeremiah’s life for His plan and His use. Jeremiah was designated as holy unto the Lord, sanctified and set apart before he was even born.
While our calling in Christ will likely not be as dramatic as Jeremiah’s, we still have a calling and purpose after we come to Christ. The Apostle Paul explains it this way:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
As we consider Jeremiah’s call, we must ask ourselves why Jeremiah included this at all. Why didn’t he just announce himself as a prophet called by God and move on? Was Jeremiah boasting about his calling, proudly wearing it as a badge of honor? No, quite the opposite.
No, quite the opposite. Jeremiah humbly shared his calling for two primary reasons:
- To point to the Lord who called Him and to the Lord’s larger plan of calling the Israelites back to Himself, using Jeremiah as the one humanly speaking God’s words.
- To persuade the Israelites (the ones Jeremiah was called to speak to) of the incredible significance of the Lord’s words which Jeremiah recorded in the book.
The emphasis and focus are on the Lord, not Jeremiah.
Notice Jeremiah’s response to the Lord’s calling – “I am too young.” (v. 6). Scholars estimate that Jeremiah was a teenager when the Lord called him as a prophet. From a human perspective, I can relate to Jeremiah’s fears. He has no experience nor training to take on this role.
The Lord corrects Jeremiah in verse 7, reminding Jeremiah that He did not call him as a prophet because Jeremiah was equipped for the role. Instead, God told Jeremiah that He custom made him for this role, and would equip him for the task ahead. Notice that God did not deny Jeremiah’s misgivings and concerns. From a human perspective, they were likely true. But that was not the point of God’s message. God commanded Jeremiah to obey and not fear, and He would take care of the rest (vv. 7-8). The emphasis was on the Master (God), not on the servant (Jeremiah).
And so it is with your life and mine. Too often we become introspective and over-think our purpose and calling, thinking that it is all on our shoulders to carry out whatever the Lord has asked us to do. In reality, God asks us to obey and step out in faith, and He supplies the words and actions that we are to obey and do.
In verses 9 – 10, God commissions Jeremiah for ministry. In a scene reminiscent of Isaiah’s commissioning (Isaiah 6:1-8), we see God touching Jeremiah’s mouth, telling Jeremiah that He had given him the words to say.
What were those words that God put in Jeremiah’s mouth?
- to uproot and tear down (example – false beliefs)
- to destroy and overthrow (example – false practices)
- to build and to plant (the promise of hope and restoration)
Jeremiah was the antithesis, the opposite of a “hell fire and brimstone” kind of priest and prophet. He would have much rather focused on the “building and planting” message rather than the destruction communications. But God called Jeremiah, the tender-hearted one with tears in his eyes, to be the prophet delivering these hard words.
May we see God’s heart toward us through Jeremiah’s life and calling – His desire to bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself, to love us and care for us.
And God will do whatever it takes to get our attention, not because He is angry with us or disappointed in us, but because He loves us. God uses people like Jeremiah to speak hard words to get our attention off ourselves and back on Him.
May we hear and heed God’s calling, and respond quickly to His love.