- February 16, 2014
- By Matthew Richard / Eastwood Baptist Church, Gatesville
• The BaptistWay lesson for March 2 focuses on Jeremiah 1.
Michael Brown, in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, points out, “There is a famous rabbinic dictum concerning the Torah that exhorts the faithful to ‘turn it over and turn it over again, for everything is in it.’ As far as the book of Jeremiah is concerned, the same counsel can be given for the first chapter: Turn it over and turn it over again, for everything is in it!”
These 19 verses open up the framework for the 51 chapters that follow. Some of the observations that can be made from it include the historical framework, the prophet’s call, oppositional forces, the book’s message and the spiritual relationship that exists between the Lord and the speaker.
As with any biblical passage, a distinction must be made in the prologue between what can and cannot be understood, thus providing us with what is necessary to understand the book as a whole. Virtually nothing is revealed about Jeremiah’s personal life. His date of birth is not given, and all we know about his father is his name, Hilkiah (v. 1). What we do know includes his priestly heritage, and the fact God began speaking to him about his calling before, during and after his people entered into exile (vv. 2-3). In other words, the focus of his calling is not on the events that surround it, but on God’s continual call in spite of them.
Jeremiah’s calling mirrors prophetic language that utilizes the past tense to communicate God’s certainty of an event. Its emphasis is threefold: God knew, set apart and appointed Jeremiah as a prophet (vv. 4-5). For Jeremiah, this does not become a reality until he hears these words, but they have been part of God’s reality since before he was born. This calling is not just about Jeremiah, though. It is about God’s love for his people and how he planned on taking care of them even before they knew they needed him to. It’s common to apply Jeremiah’s calling to our selves as individuals. That’s OK, as long as we remember the calling God has on any of our lives is much bigger than someone’s plans to go to college or vocational objective. It’s greater purpose is for God to share his glory with the world through our lives.
Jeremiah’s reluctance to live up to this calling is understandable, and in a sense, healthy. In our world of increasing technology and education, it is not uncommon for young people to graduate from high school thinking they are ready to take on the world. Most of them are in for a rude awakening when they discover just how tough the world can be. Jeremiah’s reluctance to trust in his own ability allows him to rely on God to be with and rescue him as he is obedient to his calling (v. 8).
Following this call, the Lord provides two oracles for Jeremiah to assure him of his words (vv. 11-16). The first oracle is an almond tree and symbolizes swift action because it blossoms well before the other trees in spring. The second is a boiling pot that portrays both the heat of divine wrath ready to burst forth and the violent fury of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies that soon will march down from the north. These oracles were meant to be a confirmation of God’s words to Jeremiah, but they also must have had a fear-inducing effect as well.
Have you ever had a truth you did not want confirmed? Unfortunately, this makes it no less true. As Christians called to live for the Lord, we will face uncomfortable truths from time to time. It may have to do with choices a child makes, tragedies your family has to face or even conflicts within your church body. This does not detract from our calling to represent God in the moment we find ourselves in, even if we wish we were living in the midst of another truth. While uncomfortable and undesirable, these things serve as confirmation that we are striving to be obedient.
Verses 17-19 are God’s rallying cry and end this chapter on a high note. God promises Jeremiah he has made him into “fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priest and the people of the land” (v. 18). In other words, Jeremiah will be standing against his own people.
Going against the flow never is fun. Sometimes, when we’ve faced enough opposition, it’s easy to allow ourselves to become convinced we are in the wrong. Parents struggle when they enforce rules and standards other parents do not enforce, and their children become angry. Spouses struggle when they love unconditionally in the face of another’s hurtful actions. Friends struggle when forced to be honest with another believer about an immoral lifestyle.
Whatever situation you have been called into, no matter who you might feel is against you, know “they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord” (v. 19).