How Does God End His Commissioning of Jeremiah?

Jeremiah 1:17-19

In light of God watching over his words of threatenings to perform them and in light of his promise to bring calamity from the north on his people in the form of a conquering kingdom  God tells Jeremiah to arise, speak, and not be terrified in Jeremiah 1:17.

God Called Jeremiah to Action

The Lord had already encouraged Jeremiah to not be afraid of the nations he would send him to. So, now I think this admonition is particularly in regard to Jeremiah’s own people the Jews and his attitude toward them.

And the admonition is to not be afraid of them. But if Jeremiah was minded to be afraid of them God threatens to really give him something to be afraid of.

What God wants Jeremiah to be mindful of is that he needs to fear God more than men.

But it’s not all fear.

God Promised to Deliver Jeremiah

God’s not just scaring Jeremiah into obeying him. He leaves Jeremiah in chapter one with a very assuring message of God’s presence with him and God’s promise to rescue him from all danger that he will face. (Jeremiah 1:18-19)

Jeremiah is promised conflict with the whole land of Judah – kings, princes, priests, people in general. We even see him later on battling his fellow prophets!

They’ll fight him but they won’t win. Why? Because the Lord is with him and will rescue him.

And like Jeremiah we too as Christians are promised conflict and trouble and persecution in this life. But we’re also promised the presence of Christ as we go and make disciples and baptize and teach.

 

What Do a Boiling Pot and a Northern Invasion Have in Common?

Jeremiah 1:11-16

Jeremiah 1:11-12 records the first object lesson that God used to commission Jeremiah to go to his own people with his message of judgement.

The second object lesson that God gave to Jeremiah has to do with a boiling pot and a northern invasion in Jeremiah 1:13-16.

Here in this object lesson — just like in the first one involving an almond tree — there are a few word plays.

Boiling Pot and Northern Invasion

First, God shows Jeremiah a boiling (naphach in Hebrew) pot. God then says an evil shall break forth (pathach in Hebrew) from the north.

The message then is that an enemy is coming from the north.

But is the Enemy Really from the North?

And you need to remember that Babylon – whom we’ll later find out is this enemy – is not north of Israel. That nation was basically directly east of Israel.

So, why does God say that the enemy is from the north?

Here’s why. There’s an impassable desert between those two ancient nations. That’s why God describes Babylon as coming from the north. They’d have to go northwest a ways and then they could come down in a southwestern move from the north.

So, that’s the first word play – foretelling destruction from a northern enemy.

An Evil is Coming Because of Judah’s Evil

The second word play has to do with the reasons for this coming enemy to destroy Judah.

God says that an evil (rangah in Hebrew) is coming. That’s referring of course to an enemy and the destruction they will bring.

But why is God sending a destroying enemy from the north? Jeremiah 1:16 – God needs to judge his people in this way – touching or concerning or because of – all their wickedness (rangah in Hebrew). Their moral evil, that is.

What moral evil of theirs is bringing God’s judgement on his own people? Well, they forsook their God. They then took other and false gods and burned incense to them. They worshiped what their own hands had made rather than worshiping the one who made their hands in the womb – going back to the beginning of Jeremiah’s commissioning.

So, God will bring evil upon Judah because of the evil they’ve committed against him.

What Do an Almond Tree and a Watching God Have In Common?

Jeremiah 1:5-16

In Jeremiah 1:4-10 we saw Jeremiah’s commissioning to the nations. But God’s not done with his commissioning of Jeremiah at that point. Because Jeremiah 1:11-16 seems to focus on Jeremiah’s ministry to his own people – the Jews.

Jeremiah Commissioned to Judah

God commissions Jeremiah to the people of Judah in the form of two object lessons.

It’s hard to tell if these object lessons are visions that are outside of the bounds of normal reality or if God just somehow points out to Jeremiah two common ordinary objects and makes a statement about each one.

But whether in a vision or in the realm of reality, God shows these things to Jeremiah to communicate a message.

The Almond Tree & the Watching God

Let’s look at the first object lesson — the lesson of the almond tree and the watching God in Jeremiah 1:11-12.

Why does God show Jeremiah an almond tree of all things? You won’t be able to make sense of this if all you have access to is an English Bible – unless it has good study notes.

What’s happening here is this. God makes a play on words here. He shows Jeremiah an almond tree (shaqed in Hebrew). Then he says that he will hasten or watch over (shoqed in Hebrew) his word to perform it.

In other words, God shows Jeremiah a shaqed and then follows that up with a promise to shoqed his word to do it.

So, God tells Jeremiah that he is watching over and hastening his word or his threats against his rebellious people, Judah.

This is indeed an ominous start to Jeremiah’s commissioning to the nation of Judah.

How Did God Respond to Jeremiah’s Doubts?

Jeremiah 1:7-10

Jeremiah 1:7-10 relates God’s response to Jeremiah’s doubts regarding his call to be a prophet to the nations.

It’s a threefold response. First, God assure Jeremiah that he will tell the prophet where to go and what to say. Second, God promises to deliver Jeremiah from all danger. And third, God reminds Jeremiah that he’s given him the authority to carry out his ministry.

So, let’s explore each of those statements…

God Will Tell Jeremiah Where to Go and What to Say

In other words, God is saying in Jeremiah 1:7 that he has it all planned out.

Jeremiah doesn’t need to fear. All he needs to do is to go where God tells him to go and say what God wants him to say.

Even a child — which Jeremiah claimed to be and probably was — can do that!

God Promises To Deliver Jeremiah

In Jeremiah 1:8, God tells Jeremiah to not fear “their faces” in the Hebrew.

Whose faces is God talking about? Well, it could be the nations that God spoke of earlier. And in the more immediate context in Jeremiah 1:7 it’s all those people to whom God will send Jeremiah.

So, Jeremiah is to not be afraid of them – why? Because God is with Jeremiah to deliver or protect him.

That’s encouraging. You can withstand a lot as long as you know there’s divine protection on your side.

So, with that assurance given to Jeremiah, responding to his age-based doubt, the Lord continues his commissioning of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:9-10.

God Gave Jeremiah Authority

So, in Jeremiah 1:9-10 God makes a symbolic gesture and touches Jeremiah’s mouth. By this, the Lord is signifying that he has put and will continue to put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth.

Is This a Vision or Reality?

By the way, we’re not told if this is a vision or not.

So, did God come to Jeremiah in bodily form somewhere and speak to him and touch him?

Or is this indeed a vision and we just weren’t told that it was?

Either way, it really happened. But if God actually physically came to Jeremiah then it’s very likely that this was a pre-incarnate Christ that came to Jeremiah!

Six Authoritative Actions

So, Jeremiah is given God’s authority. He has God’s very words in his mouth. And with those words, Jeremiah will perform the actions listed in Jeremiah 1:10. And he’ll do so on the global scene.

The first two actions seem to focus on the initial stages of destruction – rooting out and pulling down.

The next two seem to speak of utter and final and complete destruction – destroy and throw down.

And then the last two are positive – build and plant.

All these actions Jeremiah will perform with his God-given words.

Summary

And with that, God has finished his commissioning of Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations.

How Did Jeremiah Respond to God’s Call?

Jeremiah 1:5-6

In Jeremiah 1:6 we see how Jeremiah responds to God’s call to be a prophet to the nations. I would label his response as age-based doubt.

We Can Sympathize With Jeremiah’s Doubts

Now, again if Jeremiah is about thirteen to sixteen years old – which I argue is likely the case – then this protest is a little more understandable than if he were – say – forty years old.

But Excuses Are Inexcusable

And yet, we need to recognize that this kind of excuse is ultimately inexcusable.

So what if you’re thirteen? If God has prepared you for something – what does age matter?

To Paraphrase Jeremiah’s Doubts

You might remember that in Jeremiah 1:5 God says that he knew Jeremiah before he was born.

It’s ironic then that Jeremiah responds back to the Lord here – “I don’t know how to speak”. “You may have known me before I was born, Lord, but I don’t even know how to speak!” “You knew me before I was a baby. Well, I still feel like one!