Joshua 7; Psalms 137-138; Jeremiah 1; Matthew 15
JEREMIAH LIVED IN DAYS of threat and declension. Called to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Josiah, Judah’s last reforming king (about 627 B.C.), Jeremiah served for more than forty years. The fall of Jerusalem took place in 587 (forty years after Jeremiah’s call), and the prophet continued his ministry for a while after that. His ministry was doomed to apparent fruitlessness. But God had called him to speak the truth about the nation and about impending judgment, regardless of whether or not his words were well received. One senses Jeremiah’s growing maturity and resolve as the years of his ministry slip past.
The call of Jeremiah occupies the first chapter (Jer. 1). Some important elements:
(1) Not only was Jeremiah’s commission from God, but God had chosen him even before he was born (Jer. 1:5). In the hours of darkest opposition and brutal treatment, that reality doubtless proved immensely stabilizing to Jeremiah.
(2) Clearly, Jeremiah was only a young man when God called him to his first commission. Jeremiah protested that he was too young, “only a child”—but God would not accept the excuse, for he is perfectly capable of equipping anyone he chooses. God himself would put words in Jeremiah’s mouth and make him a prophetic voice, not only over Judah but over the surrounding nations (Jer. 1:7-10).
(3) Two visionary vignettes clarify Jeremiah’s call. The first is an almond branch. The Hebrew word sounds much like the Hebrew for “watching over.” The almond branch was the first to bud in the spring, and thus points to the advent of spring; in the pun, God’s word points to its own fulfillment, which must inevitably follow. Thus Jeremiah is encouraged to speak God’s words with utter confidence that all that God says is true, and all that he predicts will take place (Jer. 1:11-12): God watches over everything. The second visionary element is a boiling pot, tilting away from the north—a graphic way of indicating that the boiling cauldron of judgment, the judgment that Babylon would mete out to the tiny nation (Jer. 1:13-16), would pour down on Judah from the north.
(4) Above all, God tells Jeremiah not to be afraid—a common divine word to God’s servants (e.g., Abraham, Gen. 15:1; Moses, Num. 21:34 and Deut. 3:2; Daniel, Dan. 10:12, 19; Mary, Luke 1:30; Paul, Acts 27:24). God does not sugar-coat the difficulties: Jeremiah will be opposed and will at times stand alone “against the whole land” (Jer. 1:18)—but they “will not overcome you,” God says, “for I am with you and will rescue you” (Jer. 1:19). Only such promises are sufficient to breed titanic prophetic courage.