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The Call and Message of Jeremiah - Jeremiah 1:4-16

Or, "The Purpose for Which Jeremiah Was Born"

Jeremiah 1:4-16, 2:19, 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; 1 Timothy 4:12a; 2 Kings 22:13; Deuteronomy 5:6-10, 13:6-10, 12-16, 17:2-5, 31:16-21; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4-5

Jul 29, 2012 12:00 AM

MP3 audio icon The-Call-and-Message-of-Jeremiah_07-29-2012.mp3 — MP3 audio, 13213 kB (13530971 bytes)

I recently read some comments by Ray Comfort in regard to the recent deadly Colorado theatre shooting.  What he said about that incident is an accurate commentary on the people of Judah in the days of Jeremiah.

"Imagine how wicked society would be if the fear of God and the fear of civil law were both completely removed.  Imagine if a man could rape and murder, with no concerns about being punished.  That's when we would see the true heart of humanity, and that's where we as a nation are slowly heading."

"We have turned our backs on God, and given Him lip-service by maintaining a belief in His existence while at the same time embracing that which is abhorrent to Him: things such as homosexuality, abortion, adultery, fornication, pornography, lying, theft, and blasphemy.  Few have any fear of God, which the Bible says is the 'beginning of wisdom.'  A wise man once said, 'Most I fear God.  Next I fear him who fears Him not.'  When men don't fear God, they give themselves to evil.  This was clearly the case in the latest mass murder." 1

Judah, as a nation, was guilty of exactly what Ray Comfort said: They turned their backs on God, and gave Him lip-service by maintaining a belief in His existence while at the same time embracing that which is abhorrent to Him.  They were guilty of abandoning the covenant they made with God and welcomed with open arms every kind of idolatrous worship imaginable.  When one worships that which is satanically driven, it produces satanic results.

Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. ( ESV)

These were the people to whom Jeremiah was sent to preach.  If you want your best life now, do not aspire to become a prophet for God.  In the first chapter, we read of Jeremiah’s call and his message to the apostate people of Jerusalem and Judah.

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

6 Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."

7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD."

9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth.  And the LORD said to me, "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

11 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" And I said, "I see an almond branch." 12 Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it."

13 The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north." 14 Then the LORD said to me, "Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. ( ESV)

The Call - All the commentators refer to this as God’s call to Jeremiah to become a prophet.  This isn’t a call, as Christians typically describe it.  When someone desires to enter into the ministry and become a pastor, or he desires to become a missionary, one of the first things he is usually asked by his own pastor or others in positions of leadership is, “Do you feel called to the ministry?“  Do you think it is God who is moving you in this direction?  Do you think this inclination is of the Lord?  Is God calling you into full-time service for Him?

In Jeremiah’s case, this isn’t a call from God.  It isn’t a heavenly request for a volunteer.  It isn’t even an encouragement to Jeremiah to go and do what he is already inclined to do.  This is an announcement.  God is informing Jeremiah that his life is already planned for him.  God is telling Jeremiah what He is going to do with this young man’s life.  By the way, this is also a violation of Jeremiah’s “free will”.  He isn’t given a choice in this matter.  The course of his life has already been decided for him by God, and that’s that.

It doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?  What if Jeremiah had plans to go to college or start a business?  What if he was thinking about moving to Europe to get a better education?  Or maybe he just wanted to do his priestly duties at the Temple like his father had done, and his grandfather, and great grandfather, etc., etc.?

Nope.  God tells Jeremiah He created him for the specific task of being God’s own mouthpiece, God’s spokesman, God’s preacher to the apostate people of Judah.  We rebel against such things as this.  I even heard of one Christian who said, “Who does God think He is that He gets to choose?”  And those who espouse the free-est “free will” would have us believe God has no right to tell us what to do.  But in the case of Jeremiah, God has gone much further than merely telling him what he is going to do.  God says, “I created you for this task!  I decided how I was going to use you for My purposes before you were even born.  So get going.”

I don’t think I have ever met a Christian who would actually deny the sovereignty of God.  But I have met multitudes of Christians who believe God is not sovereign over the wills of men.  So my question is, “How does God ever get anything done?”  If God is not sovereign over the wills of men, then the book of Jeremiah never would have been written by him.  God would have had to bow to Jeremiah’s objection:

"Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."

The Objection - Self-centered, man-centered response: “I can’t do this.” I.e., “God, you’ve got the wrong guy.”  But God has dealt with people like Jeremiah before.  Moses is a good example.  But as was the case with Moses, so it is with Jeremiah.  God does not bow to Jeremiah’s will.

God did not bow to Jonah’s will either.  Quite dramatically.  He is one prophet whose life should have served as a sign to all potential prophets: “Just do whatever He tells you!  I know what I’m talking about.”

All of this that we read here in Jeremiah is further evidence of the truth of .

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. ( ESV)

While Paul is talking about God’s calling of people to salvation and faith, and not to perform some particular task such as the work of a prophet, even so, in both cases, we see that God’s calling is effectual.  His call in both cases is not an offer to those called to choose between options.  When God called Jeremiah to be His prophet, his response was, “I can’t talk because I’m too young!”  But God’s rule over nations and men is not a democracy.  God is not the president of His creatures.  He is King over them.  So He says to Jeremiah,

7 . . . "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD."

This isn’t a request.  Jeremiah isn’t a volunteer.  God’s command is not debatable.  We’re not in a position to discuss things with God, or disagree with what He has determined to do.  HE is most certainly the Commander in Chief.  He commands and it is done.  And He is watching to make sure it is done.

This is not the first time God has called a young man to do His bidding.  To Timothy, Paul said,  Let no one despise you for your youth. (a ESV)

Many who are older seem to have a natural disdain for those who are younger.  They assume the younger generation isn’t mature enough or wise enough to know what to say or how to say it when it comes to instructing or teaching those who are older.  Much of the time, that is a correct assessment of youth, particularly today in our country.  But a young person is not automatically to be considered unworthy of speaking and teaching others who are older than they are.

This young man Jeremiah was called by God as a spokesman for God, a prophet.  And it appears God chose a young man in order to confront those who were older with words that would be supernaturally filled with wisdom and power which could not be from Jeremiah alone.  Do you recall what the Jews said about Jesus’ teaching?  “He speaks with authority.”  That was the case with young Jeremiah.

The First Revelation - “What do you see?”  This is a word picture for Jeremiah.  A word association to help him remember the purpose of his mission.  He sees an almond branch.  “Almond” in Hebrew, according to the ESV study notes, sounds like “watching”.  The commentators make much of the fact that almonds bloom in the spring before any other of the trees, and therefore God’s judgment is going to be swift and will not delay.  I don’t believe that is the point of this vision of an almond branch.

Jeremiah sees an almond branch.  Then God says, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it." The emphasis is on God watching.  He has declared in His word what He would do to His people if they broke their covenant with Him, and now God is going to see to it that His own word is fulfilled.  God can be counted on to do what He has said.  The vision of the almond branch is a reminder to Jeremiah that God is indeed going to bring His promised judgment upon those who have forsaken Him.  I am watching over my word to perform it.

What word?  Surely, it was the same word King Josiah read.  Last week, we looked at 2 Kings and how the High Priest, who turns out to be Jeremiah’s father, Hilkiah, finds the Book of the Law in the Temple.  When the Book of Moses is read to King Josiah, he tears his clothes and says:

13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found.  For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” ( ESV)

What in the Law of Moses would give Josiah the idea that God was angry with His people?  Well, among other things, .  Please turn there.

6 "If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. 9 But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ( ESV)

12 "If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. 16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. ( ESV)

2 "If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. ( ESV)

In other words, if any of the people you love most in the world entice you to worship other gods, you must kill them.  If one of your cities anywhere in Israel is enticed by “certain worthless fellows” to worship other gods, burn the entire city to the ground along with its inhabitants.  If any individual person anywhere within Israel has served other gods or worshipped any heavenly bodies, stone them to death.

Had any of that kind of false worship happened in Israel?  Had anyone ever enticed a husband or a wife to worship false gods?  Was there anyone guilty of such abominations as these in Judah so as to deserve capital punishment?  Stoning to death?  Death by the sword?

Yes, and not just in private.  Not just in one family.  Not just in one remote village in a far corner of Israel.  But in every city and all throughout the nation of Judah.  The nation of Israel had already been destroyed by God by means of the Assyrians for their idolatry.  And now, suddenly, King Josiah hears these words read to him.  He looks out his royal palace window toward the Temple, and he sees within the courtyard of the Temple the worship of every false god imaginable: Baal and Asherah and Molech and Ashtoreth and Chemosh and Milcom.  The idols of these false gods are worshipped within the Temple of Jehovah.  The first and second commandments, the most foundational principles of the worship of Jehovah which God gave to Israel were being flagrantly violated in God’s house, in His presence, and presumably within sight of King Josiah’s palace:

6 "'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 7 "'You shall have no other gods before me. 8 "'You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ( ESV)

And it is because of this pagan worship that God shows Jeremiah a second vision.  This will be his visual reminder, his “word picture” of the message which he is to take to Judah and the nations.  The first vision, the almond rod, communicates to Jeremiah that God is going to perform His word.  This second vision is an illustration of what that will look like.

What does God’s promised judgment look like which He is watching to perform?  "I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north." This pot is facing away from the north, toward the south.  God’s means of judgment will come to Judah and Jerusalem in the form of invasion by Babylon from the north and it will be as destructive as a great cauldron of God’s boiling wrath.

This is specifically how God will judge His people.  And this is specifically what Jeremiah will say to them for forty years.  Judgment is coming because of your sin.  Just like Moses, a thousand years earlier, prophesied it would.  Look with me at .

16 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' [I.e. “Where is God when all this bad stuff happens to us?”] 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. 19 "Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give." ( ESV)

God does not believe in freedom of religion.  God does not respect the various opinions of men in regard to what is and is not acceptable worship.  The God of Abraham and of Israel is not willing to share the stage with others who profess to be legitimate gods deserving of worship.  Nor is He willing to allow His Bride to sleep around with other so-called gods.

But Judah didn’t care what God thought.  Consequently, the day of their destruction had come.  And they would be destroyed according to the words of Moses because they disagreed with the commandments of God and because they broke their covenant with Him in a very big way.  They rejected the God who loved them and became His enemies instead.

We live in a nation very much like that.  A nation that gives lip service to the God of the Bible, while neglecting nearly everything He has said.  The Bible is already a lost book in many of our churches and even in many so-called Christian families.  A growing intolerance is being felt by us from our culture and even from other Christians towards anything that smacks of traditional evangelical biblical convictions.  Even Christians often resent being corrected and chastened because of their departure from biblical convictions and practices for the sake of being more relevant and tolerant of a society that is at enmity with God.

The message to us from Jeremiah is this: No Compromise.  The people of God cannot compromise with the world.  Obviously, we are in the world.  That is unavoidable.  But it should also be obvious that it is very dangerous to be of the world.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ( ESV)

And obviously, the world wants us to be like them rather than follow after God and the Bible and righteousness.  The world hates holiness.  The world hates God.  We need to be very mindful that friendship with the world makes us enemies with God.  James says it very clearly:

4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? ( ESV)

We as the people of God cannot compromise our convictions with the world in order to be friends with unbelievers, in order to keep the peace.  This is why the people of Jerusalem hated Jeremiah.  Because he would not compromise the message God gave him to speak.  Because he would not tell them what they wanted to hear.  We need to follow in his footsteps.

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” ( ESV)

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1  http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/5346020260.html


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