So now let’s get to a more systematic study of the prophets for a while. We went through Isaiah, so the logical next step is Jeremiah.
Let’s clear up some potential misunderstanding before we go any further. This is a devotional, not a commentary. I have no inclination or plans to go through every verse of Jeremiah. First, because I know I'd lose a lot of readers. Let’s face it: Jeremiah is a tough read. If you’re familiar with him, you know that he’s not exactly a “happy go lucky” type of guy. Of course, all the prophets have some harsh things to say, but Jeremiah tops them all without even a close second. Second, I’m planning on wrapping up the prophets around the middle of the year, and Jeremiah has 52 chapters.
But over the next month or so we’re going to be gleaning what we can from him. I know that a lot of his material could be summarized pretty simply: “You’re horrible sinners, and God is about to judge and destroy the whole lot of you.” That’s a lot of it, but not all of it or even most of it. There’s a lot more to him than just simple condemnation.
Unlike Isaiah’s book, Jeremiah’s work actually starts out with a retelling of his calling as a prophet. He came from the priestly line, but we don’t know if that was how he was making a living before God intervened in his life.
As we read the short description of God’s calling and the conversation that resulted in it, there are a few points I’d like for us to consider.
Jeremiah was marked from birth. Actually it was before that, in the womb. No actually, if we want to be precise, God picked out Jeremiah for his special purpose before the creation of the world. But the passage focuses on the fact that God knew him and chose him before Jeremiah had a conscious thought.
This reminds me that the office of prophet was not something one could aspire to, nor would it be. At least not a true prophet—there were plenty of self-proclaimed fake ones running around who only cared about popularity and cash. A true prophet did not pick himself. He was hand-picked by Almighty God.
In fact, that leads us to another common sign of a true prophet: Reluctance. Jeremiah had to know what usually happened to true prophets who told people what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear. The absolute best that you could reasonably hope for would be the undying hatred of the community. Tradition tells us that Isaiah was sawn in half. Even though he didn’t die a martyr, Moses would've been thrilled to hand over his responsibilities instead of leading those knuckleheads one more day. And the book of Exodus tells us that Moses, when confronted with his calling, came up with no less than five excuses as to why he wasn’t the guy.
And that leads us to Jeremiah’s offered excuse—“I’m too young!”
No you’re not. If God is sending you, I don’t care how old you are, or where you come from or your natural abilities. If he's sending you, that’s all that’s needed.
See what God’s response is to Jeremiah? The Lord tolerates excuses no more here than he did when Moses trotted out his own. First, the Lord basically tells him “You’re going because I say you’re going. I’m God, you’re not, get over it.”
But he also presents a note of assurance. If the Lord is sending you to do something, he'll let no real harm come to you. I've heard this over and over growing up, and it's still true: “The safest place in the whole world is smack-dab in the center of God’s will.” That’s still true. We have nothing to fear from the world of critics and enemies, both spiritual and non. He's sent us, and he'll provide for us, and he'll protect us from any real harm. We might actually suffer loss—in fact, that’s a given in serving the Lord, but in the end we won’t regret it.
Father God, I know you love to take the least likely candidates to accomplish big things in your plan. Please make me small enough to stoop down into my place in your agenda.
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