01 Jeremiah 1v1-19 The Call Of God

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Jeremiah has been described as the most
autobiographical of the prophets we
certainly know more about him that any
other prophet. He is also probably one of
the most misunderstood of the O.T. leaders.
The book of Jeremiah, it has been claimed
is the least read and least understood book
in the Bible due, in part, to the fact that its
composition does not follow a historically
linear pattern.
The name Jeremiah means ‘the Lord’s
exalts’ and is thought to reflect his parent’s
expectations or hopes for the nation.
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Jeremiah’s home was in the Levitical town of Anathoth. He was born into a
priestly family though nothing indicates that he exercised a priestly office.
He was the greatest spiritual personality in Israel in his day and has been
described as the most psychological of the prophets because he reveals his
personal feelings as he proclaims God’s message. Indeed, many think his
greatest contribution to posterity is his personality:
“By birth a priest, by grace a prophet by trials of life a bulwark for God’s
truth; by daily spiritual experience one of the greatest exponents of
prophetic faith in his unique relation to God;
by temperament gentle and timid, yet constantly
contending against the forces of sin; and by
natural desire a seeker after the love of a
companion, his family, friends, and; above
all, his people - which were all denied him.”
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Jeremiah was borne in 646 B.C. and 20 years
later he began his 40-year ministry in a
chaotic age, days of political, social, moral
and spiritual turmoil. He lived at a time
when Judah was under the dominion of
Egypt, Assyria and then Babylonia. God does
not speak or work in a historical vacuum!
When we study biblical books and ask what
does God intend to say to us today through
them we must remember that. For this
reason it is important when looking at a
book like Jeremiah to ask where it fits into
‘heilsgeschichte’, God’s scheme of ‘salvation
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If we fail to understand the past, we
will not grasp the meaning of the
present far less with the eye of faith
discern some of the possibilities of the
future. In order to understand
Jeremiah’s ministry, we need to place it
first in a broad historical context,
secondly in its more immediate
historical context [he ministered during
the reign of 6 different Jewish
monarchs] and finally against the
background of the political turmoil that
was taking place in the Middle East.
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The arrangement of the material in the book of Jeremiah has posed a
number of problems not least because the prophecies are not arranged
chronologically. The following suggested chronological arrangement has
been suggested:
1. Reign of Josiah:
2. Reign of Jehoahaz:
3. Reign of Jehoiakim
4. Reign of Jehoiachin
5. Reign of Zedekiah
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Chs. 1-6
Nothing [cf. 22.10-12]
Chs. 7:1-13:17; 13:20-20:18; 25-26; 35-36;
45:1- 46:12;47; 48?; 49.
Chs. 13:18-19; 22-23?
Chs 21; 24; 27-34; 37-44; 46:13-28; 50-52?
As far as the theological emphasis of the book is
concerned the following issues are addressed:
An underlying confidence in God and his promises.
God’s goodness, his claims on man, his
requirements of repentance and faith and the
physical and spiritual welfare of the people of God.
Jeremiah makes clear how temporal the secondary
features of Judah’s faith were, for they trusted in
their outward acceptance of the covenant [11v1-5],
circumcision [9v25-26], the temple [7v1-15], the
sacrificial system [6v20, 7v21-23], the outward
possession of the law [8v8], prayer [11v14,15v11]
the throne [22v1-9] and the ark [3v16].
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The great Messianic hope also runs through this book as Jeremiah looks
into the distant future and sees Israel returning in penitence to the Lord
The Messiah will rule over her in justice
and righteousness [23v5-8]. The remnant
of the nations will enjoy blessing at this
time [3v17; 16v19] the establishment of
a new covenant [31v31-34].
The book of Jeremiah has also been
described as a handbook for learning
the art of having fellowship with God.
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
We read, “the word of God came to Jeremiah”.
This young priest, living in a small village, is told
that God intended to use him to be a
messenger to the nation. This purpose of God
was neither, an emergency plan nor, an
afterthought, but something which God had
planned even before his birth! It would seem
that Jeremiah’s parents had no idea that the
child born to them had been set apart by God
for special service. In the mysterious past God
had decided that Jeremiah would be his man.
His natural gifts and spiritual consecration were
therefore no accident.
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
And so Jeremiah is given to understand
that God, unknown to him, had shaped
his past in order that he might be
equipped for future ministry.
This is how we are to look at life, and
how we are to understand our conversion
and call to service. It is what theologians
call prevenient grace. The work of
preparation, which God does in our lives
prior to our becoming Christians. We
need to learn to look back and to marvel
at our past history and think, “God
intends to use even that!”
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Of course God does not necessarily
break into all our lives with the same
clarity experienced by Jeremiah to tell
us that we have been called for a
particular service. It may be that
Jeremiah had such a spectacular call to
service because he had a particularly
difficult job to do.
His unique call would stand as a
constant reminder to him in the most
adverse of situations that he was God’s
man called to do God’s work!
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
His call was so vivid because his ministry was to be particularly
painful in character. His commission was to “root out, pull
down and destroy, and to throw down to build and to plant.”
The greater part of his work was to have a destructive
nature. Clearly, he was not going to be an O.T. Billy Graham.
There would not be a significant revival as the result of his
preaching. His would be extremely discouraging and
disheartening work. The unshakeable conviction that God
had called him to this task would help to keep him going!
We all need to be fully persuaded in our own minds, about
particularly demanding pieces of Christian service, that God
has called us! We dare not enter them because of their
personal appeal or because people will then think more
highly of us, or in order to please our family!
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Secondly Jeremiah’s call is marked by his own
reticence, “Ah Sovereign Lord...” v6. He felt he was a
child in knowledge and experience. Yet God has often
selects the young for significant service. Think of
Samuel, Timothy, Joseph, David and Daniel.
During the Reformation, John Calvin had completed
his major theological work by the age of 22. John
Wesley had founded Methodism at the age of 25.
Hudson Taylor was 17 when he began to prepare for
missionary service in China! In every age of the
church, young people have read this passage and
thought since youth did not disqualify Jeremiah so it
might not render them unfit for God’s special service.
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Jeremiah was reticent about his suitability for the task. He was no public
speaker. He could not string two sentences together. He would not be asked
to take part in the school play - he would have taken stage-fright! He was
unsuited to this job! But God’s best speakers are frequently those who are
least eloquent. If a person possesses great gifts of oratory then he is the
danger of relying upon those skills and attributing the results to his gifts
rather than to the power of God’s Spirit.
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Jeremiah also thought himself temperamentally ill equipped for prophetic
office. He was a sensitive, delicate, diffident soul and not fitted to do the
work of a spiritual bulldozer. If forced to speak, he would rather that his
subject was one he could warm to like the boundless mercy, compassion and
tenderness of God. But to announce a message of judgement, that was not
something he could easily grapple with!
Here then is the mystery of God’s
purposes that he should chose as a
prophet to the nations a man so
apparently unfitted by gift and
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Now the whole atmosphere of the nation in which Jeremiah lived was
marked by unbelief - did this in some way influence him? He tells God that
he has made a mistake in choosing him - i.e. he knows better than God!
Notice too that unbelief tends to concentrate upon the demands of service
rather than upon its privileges - this is precisely how Jeremiah reacted.
God knows all of these limitations when he calls us
to service but he doesn’t see them as something
which should stand in HIS way! If only we could
learn this basic lesson that strength is only
made perfect in weakness. It is to those
who have no might that God increases
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
God’s choices often startle us. He does not
choose those we feel are most naturally
fitted for particular tasks. Recall Samuel’s
confusion when he went to Jesse’
household to choose a future king of Israel.
God bypassed the brothers who seemed so
physically mature and strong and chose
instead, a pimple-faced shepherd boy
Cf.1 Sam. 16v6-7…
We are further reminded in 1Cor. 1v27 that
God has chosen, “the foolish things of the
world to shame the wise; and the weak
things of the world to shame the strong...
so that no one may boast before him.”
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Note too the special equipment that Jeremiah received for his life’s work. It
is symbolised here by God touching his mouth, and saying, “Now I have put
my words in your mouth”. This explains Jeremiah’s future ministry, his
prophetic insight and foresight, the keenness of his spiritual discernment
and the soundness of his political judgement.
Today, we would describe his speech as
inspired. And so it was for God gave him
the words to speak. Jeremiah’s equipment
included a message from God which was
particularly adapted to his need. Jeremiah
had protested his unfitness and God responded by
saying, “You shall go.. You shall speak...” What is God’s
point? Jeremiah’s need to subject himself unreservedly
to God’s authority.
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The Call And Commission Of Jeremiah
Finally, Jeremiah’s equipment included a word of
encouragement, “Do not be afraid of them for I
am with you and I will rescue you”.
Jeremiah would meet with many hostile faces,
brows that were lowered, eyes that flashed
hatred and lips curled in scorn. But over against
that he was to place the promise of God’s
presence and the guarantee of strength and
protection amid all the difficulties and dangers
of his future service. God did not promise
Jeremiah freedom from painful circumstances
but deliverance within them. There is a world
of difference between the two.
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