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. 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. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 1:17-19 NIV)
Yesterday we looked at the second vision that the Lord gave Jeremiah – the overall vision regarding Israel’s discipline because of her unfaithfulness to the Lord, which would lead to her eventual restoration.
In today’s passage, the Lord speaks directly to Jeremiah. In summary, God has three points to Jeremiah:
- God’s Command (v. 17)
- God’s Preparation (v. 18)
- God’s Promise (v. 19)
God’s Command (v. 17):
The Lord commanded Jeremiah to do three things:
- Get ready for action
The phrase “Get yourself ready!” is also translated “gird up your loins” (NASB). The men in Jeremiah’s day wore long outer tunics that nearly touched the ground. If the man needed to perform any kind of physical activity like working, preparing for battle, or running, they woud pull up their tunic and tuck it into the belt around their waist. This allowed freedom of movement and prevented them getting tangled up in their clothing.
- Say whatever I tell you to say
Jeremiah was to speak whatever words God gave him to say. He was not to ad-lib the message to God’s people, nor was he to hold anything back. Jeremiah was to speak God’s mind, not his own.
- Don’t be dismayed
God told Jeremiah not to lose his courage when speaking to those God called him to speak to. As a young man called to speak to those in authority over him and older than him, Jeremiah’s natural response would be fear. But God told Jeremiah not to fear these men. In fact, God warned Jeremiah that if he feared these men, he would experience the fear (terror) of the Lord Himself, which was far worse. God’s words to Jeremiah are reminiscent of the words God spoke to Joshua many generations before in Joshua 1:6-9:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
(Joshua 1:9 NIV)
God’s Preparation (v. 18):
God knew Jeremiah needed to be prepared for the battle as well as know whom he would be fighting.
God used three military analogies to prepare Jeremiah for the spiritual battle ahead:
– A fortified city – impregnable to attacks from the outside, like a walled city
– An iron pillar – steadfast, immovable, like the primary beams and posts that hold up a building
– A bronze wall – impenetrable – can’t be burned, dug through, climbed over, shattered with a battering ram, or otherwise breached.
And who was Jeremiah’s adversary? Not the Assyrians, not the Bablonians, but rather, the entire nation of Israel. God specifically listed four groups who would oppose God’s message and His messenger:
- The kings of Judah
- The Judean political officials
- The Judean priests (the religious officials)
- The citizens of Judah
I don’t think God left anyone out – the majority public opinion would be against God and anyone show stood with God and shared His truths and message.
God’s Promise (v. 19):
God promises that there will be an internal battle with the people of Israel first before there is ever an external battle with the enemies of Israel that God said would come from the North (v. 15). Repeating His promise from verse 8, God affirmed that the battle would be intense and intensely personal for Jeremiah, but the Israelites would not prevail over God or His messenger.
Jeremiah likely related strongly to Moses and his epic battle of words with the Egyptians, and remembered when God rescued the Israelites. Jeremiah could take great assurance that God could and would rescue him from all enemies for the duration of his ministry (over forty years), with God alone as his “battle buddy”.
As we wrap up Chapter 1 today, there are so many faith lessons to take with us:
- God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the ones He calls.
Jeremiah was a teenager when the Lord called him to service. And a tender-hearted kid as well – not a brash, in-your-face, streetwise tough guy. Like the Apostle Paul, may we say “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
- God doesn’t back down from a fight when His honor and glory are at stake.
Notice that God didn’t stop the fight, but rather called Jeremiah into battle and then stood with him throughout. Also, notice that Jeremiah did not pick the fight – God did. May we have the widsom to know the difference, and the courage to fight when God calls us to battle, knowing that He is standing with us.
- Sometimes the battle inside is greater than the battle outside.
For Jeremiah, his mistreatment and hatred was from the hand of his fellow countrymen, not from the Assyrians or Babylonians. May we listen to God’s calling and direction, especially when His commands go against popular opinion. And may we stand firm on God’s Word and His promises, not fearing when adversity appears.
- God does not ask us to judge the effectiveness of our work or our life.
God calls us to obedience to Him, just as He called Jeremiah to his ministry. From a human perspective, Jeremiah felt his life and ministry was a failure. Jeremiah had no idea that his words and actions would impact us thousands of years later. And so it is with us – God often hides the impact of our ministry for Him during our lifetime so He gets the glory and we don’t get prideful or selfish. May we remember that God’s work in us and through us are not limited to our lifetimes.