The Call and the Word of God-Jeremiah 1

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Big idea: (1) God does not choose us because we are good. But because God chooses us He makes us good.

(2) Those servants God appoints for difficult tasks do not cop out or bail out no matter the difficulty or opposition, for God empowers them with his presence.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew (chose) you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations'” (Jer 1:4-5).

A Fire in My Bones. "But if I say, 'I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bonesI am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot" (Jer 20:9).

Key Themes:

  • The word of God plays a critical role in Jeremiah's call. The word of God would proclaim both destruction and restoration.
  • God choose Jeremiah to be his prophet even before he was born.
  • God reassures Jeremiah by promising the power of his presence, which will deliver him from those who will oppose him and his message.

Outline and Structure (Jeremiah is difficult to outline because it is not always in chronological order.)

  1. The Call of the Prophet (1).
  2. Prophecies concerning Judah (2-45)
    1. Because of your sin, judgment is coming (chapters 2‒29).
      1. Divine judgment on Judah (2-25).
      2. Jeremiah's personal conflict with Judah (26-29).
    2. Book of consolation (30‒33). Future comfort for Israel and Judah.
    3. The prophetic warnings are refused and judgment falls (34‒45). Present catastrophe of Judah.
  3. Judgment against all the nations (46‒51). Prophecies concerning nations.
  4. Historical appendix/supplement: the fall of Jerusalem (52).

Background: Jeremiah--the “weeping prophet”--lived in what was perhaps the most difficult period Judah ever experienced. This was when the hegemony of the ancient world shifted as Assyria declined and Babylon ascended (Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC). This was when Jerusalem was besieged, destroyed and the population deported to Babylon. Jeremiah declared the wrath and judgment of God upon Judah for her rebellion in the hopes that she might repent and be saved.

Jeremiah's life story is a reflection of the pain of Judah's failure, and his own suffering mirrors that of the people. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began about 626 BC (13th year of King Josiah--Jer 1:2) and ended sometime after 586 BC (Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon). He was a priest and a prophet (Jer 1:1). He ministered during the final days of Judah's existence as Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the people carried into exile (Jer 1:3).

The account of this traumatic and pivotal episode in history begins with a teenager receiving a call from God (Jer 1:4ff). God has a purpose for each of his children and he longs for us to discover and understand what it is. We will only when we acknowledge that it's not about me. God's call is about God and his purposes for the world. When Jeremiah heard God's call, the world changed. There is also no calling without a Caller.

It's easy to think that God's call is about me/you/Jeremiah, since God called Jeremiah and calls you. But it's not about you. It's not about Jeremiah, but about the nations, human history, the temple, the exile, the unrepentant people, Nebuchadnezzar, the broken heart of God for his people. "You" are just the medium and the instrument through whom God is doing something in the world. If we make God's call about us, we will mess up the call. It's not about you. But through the call you find yourself by losing yourself. 

The great business of life is not for me to get God to do what I want but for him to get me to do what he wants! This requires a Copernican Revolution in our hearts. Copernicus (1473‒1543) caused a mega paradigm shift in human history when he discovered that we live in a helio-centric solar system and not a geo-centric one. Similarly, to experience God's call on our lives, we must discover that life is meant to be Christocentric rather than ego-centric.

The "word of the Lord" is central to Jeremiah's call and his work as a prophet. It is not the plans or ideas of Jeremiah that drive his tumultuous ministry, but rather the plans of God--indeed, the very words of God. As God's prophet, Jeremah will serve as God's spokesman, speaking the very words of God to the nation.

  1. The context (1-3). [Jer 1:2, 4; Hos 1:1; Joel 1:1; Mi 1:1; Eze 1:3]
  2. The call (4-5). The basic ingredients of a call are found in the 4 verbs:
    1. I formed you (Eph 1:4; 2 Ti 1:9).
    2. I knew you (Gal 4:9; 1 Cor 8:3; Ps 139:13-16). The greatest of all human desires is to be known.
    3. I set you apart / consecrated you (1 Cor 6:19-20; 2 Pe 1:10)...for God's (holy) purposes.
    4. I appointed ["to give"] you (Jn 15:16).
  3. The excuses (6; 1 Ti 4:12; Tit 2:6-7).
  4. The rebuke (7).
  5. The promise (8, 18-19).
  6. The empowerment (9; Jer 15.16). God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
  7. The job description (10). Notice  the 6 verbs (4 negative, 2 positive). Preach repentance before promising salvation. Address sin before proclaiming God's comfort.
  8. The two visions (11-16; Isa 55:9-11; 6:9-10; Jn 4:8; 6:63).
  9. The command (17).

The opening verses in Jeremiah summarize the entire book (1:1-3). It starts with the word of God coming to young Jeremiah (1:4-19) and ends with the fall and exile of Jerusalem (52:1-34). There is no mystery that how this story will end--very badly--and no mystery about whether the people in Jerusalem will respond to Jeremiah's message--they did not.

  1. I formed you… God thought of you first, even before your parents! You are no accident. God shaped you like a potter forms the clay (18:1‒6). He planned your eye color, height, talents, looks, etc. (Psalm 139:13‒16). Most importantly, God has a plan for your life.
  2. I knew you… Perhaps the greatest of all human desires is to be known, acknowledged, recognized, and understood. “Mommy, look at me!” When we are known, our existence is validated. Long before Jeremiah knew God, God knew Jeremiah. In finding God’s will, it is far more important that God knows me than that I know him.
  3. I consecrated you… The word can be translated “sanctified” and means to be set apart for holy purposes. In the Bible numerous things are thus “set apart” for God: pots and pans in the temple, days of the year, prophets, priests, kings, etc. This means that you are not your own, you have been bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:19‒20).
  4. I appointed you a prophet to the nations… The word means “to give.” God “gave” Jeremiah to the nations. God loves to give things away (John 3:16, etc.). If Jeremiah’s life is truly consecrated to God, then God has every right to do whatever he wishes with him.

What we need (basic equipment for the prophetic office). In the Bible the prophetic ministry is not so much about fore-telling the future as it is about forth-telling the Word of God.

  1. Ears to hear (Jer 1:2,4,11,13, etc. cf. Jer 6:10‒11; Isa 6:9-10). In the midst of all the verbal inflation of his day, Jeremiah discerned the Voice of the Lord.
  2. Eyes to see (Jer 1:11,13). In the midst of prosperity and even religious renewal, Jeremiah saw what no one else did: judgment was coming.
  3. A mouth to speak (Jer 1:9‒10). Jeremiah's words were not Jeremiah's words. They were God's words. And that gave them power!
  4. A heart to feel (Jer 4:19; 9:1; etc.). Anyone who "enjoys" being a prophet is not a true prophet!
  5. Courage (Jer 1:8, 18‒19). Don't be controlled by your fears. 

For reflection:

  1. God knew you, formed you, and had a plan for your life before you were born or even conceived. Describe your thoughts and your feelings about this reality.
  2. When a person prays that God will reveal his sovereign purpose for his life so that he might know his "life's calling," what is that person really asking?
  3. Jeremiah needed to "destroy" before he could "build", to preach repentance before he preached salvation. Is that how you heard the Gospel (Mk 1:15)? Is that how you share it?
  4. Is there a call from God on your life? Describe how you understand it (Isa 6:8).
  5. Have you experienced a "Copernican revolution" in your soul (2 Cor 5:15; Gen 12:3)?
  6. Which part of the prophetic "equipment" is weakest in your life? Eyes? Heart?

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