Jeremiah: Introduction   Next chapter    Back to Bible studies                     

The book of Jeremiah is highly biographical and autobiographical, which is the reason why we know more about the personality of Jeremiah than any other prophet in the Old Testament. Throughout the book, Jeremiah expresses his feelings to God and one of the most outstanding features of the book is the close personal relationship God and Jeremiah share. Subsequently, another major theme in the book is the stark contrast between form religion and a personal relationship with God. Of interest is the large number of similarities between the life of Christ and that of Jeremiah. Both spoke about the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem; both spoke about the fact that the worship of God had just become a meaningless outward ritual; both emphasized that a personal heart-relationship with God was vital. Jeremiah, like Christ, was familiar with tears, suffering and rejection from his own people. The resemblance is enforced by what we read in Matthew 16:14 which indicates that people in Christ's day thought that He was Jeremiah reincarnated.

A key idea which appears regularly in the book of Jeremiah is the speaking of "The word of the Lord". It is used approximately 350 times in the entire Old Testament and 150 appear in Jeremiah alone. He wanted to make very sure that people knew that he was not speaking his own words, but the very words of God. (It may be important to note that there were many false prophets in the days of Jeremiah, nor were the priests fulfilling their true purpose.)  Of note: Jeremiah is also alluded to a surprising number of times in the book of Revelation.

Jeremiah chapter 1

Early on in this chapter there is an exchange between God and Jeremiah (v 6) which reminds us very much of the conversation between God and Moses in Exodus 4:10: "Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  It is interesting that in both cases God sets aside the excuses by declaring that He will go before these men. This is settled right from the start as the foundation of Jeremiah's mission --  that God will be with him, and this is all he needs to know. Any other motive, however noble, would not carry him through. Even in the difficult times that lay ahead, the one single thing he needed to know was that God would be with him and that he was acting on clear instruction from God Himself. This would be his solid reference point forever after especially when things went from bad to worse. We see this repeated again in verse 19.

Recently, I was appalled when reading through the publication of a major missions organization.  Sadly, the call of God hardly features at all when they send a missionary into the field. What counts far more are skills, personality and a host of other things. Upon closer scrutiny, the 'mission' work is revealed to be nothing more than a purely humanitarian effort outside of the direct call of God to do His work. This is very dangerous indeed, because unless one is called by God one cannot expect to function in His power, knowing His enablement and Presence. Lacking that, when the first obstacle is encountered, the person immediately questions whether they have done the right thing because they have no solid reference point, the memory of the clear and authentic call of God. It is no wonder to me that many missionaries return from the 'mission' field with a worse relationship with God than when they left. Furthermore this 'work of God' burns up a chunk of Christian resources with no effect. If there is one single thing that has to be clear for any missionary before they depart for the mission field, it is that they know before their souls that they have received a call and instruction from God Himself.

In verse 9 God reiterates His call of Jeremiah by touching him and 'putting [His] words' into Jeremiah's mouth. As stated above, this idea runs like a golden thread throughout the book of Jeremiah and there is never any doubt that he is speaking the very words of God. God then appoints Jeremiah "to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."  What a weighty instruction - and who is equal to such a task - lest God has called and empowered him?

Immediately after this, God gives Jeremiah two visions, almost to 'test' His connection with Jeremiah and also to set the scene regarding the message that Jeremiah is to bring to the nation.      

In verse 12 we have an interesting reference to God "watching to see that [His] word is fulfilled."  This called to mind for us a reference from Isaiah 55:10-11 "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. We also looked at Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

What emerges is a powerful connection between God's spoken Word and that which comes about as a result. We have of course, a supreme example of this in Genesis 1 - "...and God said...". God created by simply speaking a Word. In light of this, the prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others are not simply messengers or carriers of verbal messages.  The Words of God are not simply a message; the Words of God pierce reality and have a very real and serious effect.  Hence by speaking God's Word, Jeremiah will 'uproot', 'tear down', 'destroy' etc. There is power in the Word of God and the prophets bring that power to bear on the situations they enter into. We are reminded of Jesus when He walked this earth - by a mere word He healed, raised to life, and set free from bondage. We dare not see God's Word as merely words, or even as an 'inspiring' message. It is infinitely more than that. God Himself, His power, His being is in His words and things happen when they are spoken.  This is in stark contrast to the words of man which are merely words.  

We have a desperate need, to hear the actual Words of God spoken into our hearts and by that things will happen: evil will flee away, permanent change/transformation will occur in us, and, most importantly, His name will be truly glorified. How many of us have first-hand experience of the powerlessness of human 'Christian' words, which comforts for a fleeting moment but has no lasting effect?

Finally in our chapter, God reminds Jeremiah, "Stand up and say to them whatever I command you… they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you."

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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