In our study, we look at the man that is known as the weeping prophet and the tears that he shed for his people. He spent almost fifty years begging the people of Judah to repent and turn to God but nobody did.
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
We are introduced to the prophet who was from Anathoth which was a city of refuge. If someone accidentally killed another man, then they could flee to the city for safety. God called him from this city to go to the people of Judah and call them to repentance in the face of coming judgement. We see here, a list of the rulers that came and went as Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed the word of God. As we see, they did not repent and so God brought judgement on the people and they were turned over to the enemy and taken into exile.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'
We see here the fact that God had chosen him even before he was conceived to be a prophet with a purpose. Although you may not be called to be a "prophet to the nations", God knew you from before you were born and He also has work for you to do that He designed only for you (see Ephesians 2:10).
'Ah, Sovereign Lord,' I said, 'I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.'
This is just like Moses (in Exodus 3) in that both of them felt inadequate to speak on behalf of God. In both cases, God used men not because of their ability to speak but because of their lack of ability on their own. God uses the humble people of this world to His glory.
But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, "I am only a child." You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord.
God reminds the prophet that he is not alone and so he is not "only a child". He is also told to not be afraid because God is in control and able to rescue him from his enemies. These same reminders apply to us as we serve the living God and He has never changed. This is also what God told the prophet Ezekiel when he was being prepared for service (see Ezekiel 2).
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, 'Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.'
Now, the Lord reassures Jeremiah by touching him and telling him that it is God that will do the work and it will be His words. That is a good lesson for us as we seek to serve the Lord, our service must be by His Word and His power. Then, God tells him about his ministry and, at first glance, it seems to be all bad news as God says he is going to uproot and destroy. The last part tells of the fact that after the tearing down, he will be used to rebuild and the rebuilding will be on the foundation of God and not men. That, too, is a great lesson for us in our service to God in that it has to be based on the Word of God which is Jesus Christ. We, too, may have to tear down some false buildings and foundations but after that the rebuilding can begin on the solid Rock that is Jesus Christ.
The word of the Lord came to me: 'What do you see, Jeremiah?' 'I see the branch of an almond tree,' I replied. The Lord said to me, 'You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.'
The Lord reassures Jeremiah with this vision of an almond branch. Almond trees grow wild in Israel and throughout the Bible they are used as a symbol of God's watchfulness over the affairs of His people. Almonds and their buds were on the candle holders that were made for the service of God (see Exodus 25). Aaron's rod was made of almond wood and Jacob used an almond branch to increase his flock (see Genesis 30). The almond tree is usually the first tree to sprout leaves in the spring and the last to lose them in the late fall. The Hebrew root of the word for almond is shaqed and the same root is used in the word shoqed which means to watch diligently. Sometimes, it is hard to say and do things that the Lord has for us to do and the same was true for the prophet here. We, like Jeremiah, can be comforted by the words of the Lord here and the fact that He is watching over us and His words.
The word of the Lord came to me again: 'What do you see?' 'I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,' I answered. The Lord said to me, 'From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.'
The direction north was associated with heaven and the throne of God. Here, God shows the prophet a vision of the coming judgement on His people who have turned away from the things of God. Now, God is going to use people from the north as an instrument of judgement. This happened during Jeremiah's lifetime but nations are going to come against God's city again as we see in Revelation 16.
'I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,' declares the Lord. 'Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah.'
God continues to give some of the details about this coming judgement and, here, He reminds us that He is calling these nations to come against His people. Many times we forget the fact that God will correct His people and sometimes He will use the godless people of the world as His tools. We have forgotten that this correction is done in love because He wants us to return to Him.
'I will pronounce my judgements on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.'
Here, God states the charges against His people and what it comes down to is idolatry. The people have turned their back on God and worshiped things that they created. This is happening more today than it ever did back in the time of Jeremiah as people worship everything from animals to cars to houses and even to people.
'Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.'
God warns Jeremiah once again that he must not fear the people because God is going to use him in a mighty way. If he does not fear them and faithfully shares God's Word, God will be with him. If he fears the people and does not proclaim God's Word, then God will make him an example of what happens to the disobedient. This is a good lesson for us today as well in that fear of anything except God is not of God. We can walk in confidence because God is with us and in fact lives in us through the Holy Spirit. We, like Jeremiah, are told to get ourselves ready and a big part of that is understanding what we have in Jesus Christ. Once we understand that, we will not fear any man and so will faithfully proclaim the Word of God no matter what happens.
'Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land - against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.'
God informs Jeremiah that everyone from every class of society was going to be against him but He also reminds the prophet that God is the source of his strength. This is a good lesson for us as well in that, sometimes, it may seem like we are standing alone in faith and following what God asks us to do but really God is with us and in us to give us the strength.
'They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord.
A gambler would not have liked the odds here as Jeremiah was told that it was going to be everyone against him. But, God also declared that he was on the prophet's side and that changes things dramatically. We, too, can take comfort in the fact that it does not matter how many oppose us if God is with us.