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Jeremiah Chapter 1
In this chapter we have, #1. The overall inscription or title of this book, with the time of the continuance of Jeremiah's public ministry (Jer.1:1-3). #2. The call of Jeremiah to the prophetic office, his modest objection against it answered, and an ample commission given him for the execution of it (Jer.1:4-10). #3. The visions of an almond-rod and a seething-pot, signifying the approaching ruin of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Jer.1:11-16). #4. Encouragement given to the prophet to go on cheerfully in his work, in the assurance of God's Presence with him (Jer.1:17-19). As a result Jeremiah is set to work by One that will be sure to see him through.
Theme: Call of prophet during the reign of King Josiah
It will help us understand God’s prophets if we join them with 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles, the historical books which cover the same period of time. The prophets prophesied during the time period covered by those historical books . . . with the exception of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who prophesied after the Exile (and fit into the time period of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah).
Jer. 1:1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: (KJV)
The reference is to Hilkiah the father of Jeremiah. He was the high priest who found the Book of the Law during the time of Josiah. It was the finding of the Law of the LORD as given to Moses that sparked the revival during the reign of Josiah. Revivals are NOT caused by men; they are caused by the Word of God. The Word of God is responsible for every revival that has taken place in the church. Yes, God has used men, but it is the Word of God that brings revival. The record of this revival and its effect is found in the historical books in 2 Kings 22 and in 2 Chronicles 34.
Anathoth was the hometown of Jeremiah. It is a few miles north of Jerusalem.
Jer. 1:2 To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. (KJV)
Josiah was eight years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for thirty-one years. Jeremiah began his ministry when Josiah was twenty-two years old. Actually Jeremiah was about twenty years old himself; so both of them were probably friends. Jeremiah prophesied during eighteen years of Josiah's reign, and he was a mourner at his funeral (2 Chron. 35:25).
The word of the LORD . . . the commission from God, authorized Jeremiah to his prophetical work (Jer.1:10); or command of God (1 Ki.12:24), for the time of forty-one years continually, in Judea, from the thirteenth year of Josiah to the eleventh year of Zedekiah, besides the time that he prophesied in Egypt (Jer. 43:1-13; 44:1-30).
During the reign of Josiah, and reformed state of religion, Amon; who corrupted that religion by those idolatries that his father Manasseh had in the latter part of his reign so well reformed by rooting of them out (2 Chron.33:21-23). In the thirteenth year; by which it appears that Jeremiah prophesied the last eighteen years of Josiah's reign; for he reigned thirty-one years (2 Ki. 22:1).
Josiah had done a very stupid thing . . . he went over to fight against the pharaoh of Egypt at Carchemish although the pharaoh had not come up against Judah at all. For some reason Josiah went out to fight against him in the valley of Esdraelon or Armageddon at Megiddo, and there Josiah was slain. Jeremiah mourned over his death because Josiah had been a good king. The last revival that came to these people came under the reign of Josiah, and it was a great revival. After the death of Josiah, Jeremiah saw the nation lapse into a time out of which it would not emerge until after the Babylonian captivity.
Jer. 1:3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month. (KJV)
Verses 2 and 3 give us the exact time of the ministry of Jeremiah . . . from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah and continuing through the carrying away of Jerusalem into captivity.
When Judah went into captivity, Nebuchadnezzar allowed Jeremiah to stay in the land.
Jer. 39:11-12 Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, 12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee. (KJV)
Jeremiah did not want to go to Babylon with the others, for they had rejected his message and were being led away captives as he had predicted. Since Nebuchadnezzar gave him his choice, he chose to stay in the land with the few who remained. Jeremiah continued his ministry to the remnant that was left at Jerusalem. After they forced him to go to Egypt with them, he still continued his ministry in Egypt until the time of his death. We can say that two things characterized the life of Jeremiah: weeping and loneliness. They are the marks of his ministry.
Jer. 1:4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (KJV)
Then, when Jeremiah was first called to his office; or, the LORD then began to speak unto me. The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. I don't know how God got it through to Jeremiah, but He did . . . for it is recorded for us as the Word of God.
Jer. 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (KJV)
What if Jeremiah's mother had an abortion? He would never have been born. Many people today ask, "When is a child a child?" Dear one, a child is a child at the very moment he is conceived.
Psalm 139:15-16 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (KJV)
At the very moment of conception, a child is formed in the womb of his mother; and at that very moment, life begins! Abortion is murder, period! That is the way the Word of God looks at it. God said to Jeremiah, "Before you were born, I knew you and I called you." WHY did God say this to Jeremiah? Dear one, God is going to ask Jeremiah to give a message to the people of Judah that will be rejected. Jeremiah is going to be imprisoned because of his firm stand for God. His message from God will break his own heart because he loved his people, and he hated to tell them what was going to come to them.
God wanted a compassionate, tender man, to bring His message. To the court of old Ahab and Jezebel, God had sent a tough, hardened prophet by the name of Elijah. But before the kingdom of Judah goes into captivity, God wants His people to know that He loves them and that He wants to save them and deliver them, so He chose this man Jeremiah. So, God is saying these things to Jeremiah to encourage him. Before Jeremiah was born, God set him aside for His use.
Personally, God expects the same of me. He called me almost 50 years ago to teach His Word. I feel very comfortable as I write articles or commentaries. I tell it like it is. I give the Word of God just as it is. To bring the Truth is my responsibility. I am not responsible to you; I am responsible only to God. If what I say does not please you, or makes you angry, take it up with my Master!
Jeremiah's response follows.
Jer. 1:6 Then said I, Ah, LORD GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. (KJV)
Jeremiah was probably about twenty years old at this time. In reality, he was NOT a child as we think of a child. Child here is the same word that is translated young man. Zec. 2:4 And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: (KJV)
What Jeremiah is saying is, "I'm young and inexperienced. I am not able to do such a job. I am not prepared. . . . When God called me, I thought the same thing. I was a babe in Christ, and He wanted me to teach these fathers (1 Jn.2:13-14) in this church where both my husband and myself were saved. All those people had been weaned on the Word of God! I was terrified . . . but any time the LORD calls a person to do something, He always equips them to do it! This nobody, is proof of that. The LORD has NEVER left me, NEVER forsaken me!
Jeremiah felt inadequate, unfit, unequipped. Listen to God's answer to him:
Jer. 1:7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. (KJV)
Say not, I am a child . . . the LORD told Jeremiah: do not give Me excuses.
Thou shalt go . . . this is God's answer to Jeremiah, in respect of his sense of his own inability. This may be by way of command, or by way of promise, and it is a satisfactory answer to his excuse, as both proceeded from a sense of his own insufficiency, and it is a check to his timidity. Thou shalt go, to all that I shall send thee . . . God told Jeremiah to fear not, I will be with thee.
Jer. 1:8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. (KJV)
Be not afraid of their faces . . . God says to Jeremiah, Be not afraid of their faces; their fierce looks (Eze.3:9) . . . the sign of their enraged minds (Dan. 3:19); neither when thou deliver My message to them, nor when thou may be cited before them (Mat.10:18-19), for I am with thee to deliver thee. He is telling Jeremiah, I will be with you. Martin Luther said, "One with God is a majority." That is always true. As TRUE Christians we may feel that we are in the minority, but in reality, we are the majority, because He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb.13:5).
I am with thee; I will not only send thee as other kings do their ambassadors, but I will go with thee. God also promised this to Moses (Ex.3:12; Deut.31:6, 8). He also promises this to us when He gives us a job.
Jer. 1:9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. (KJV)
Then the LORD put forth his hand . . . God had motivated the prophet to his work by command and promise, now in a vision He established and confirmed him, either by the hand of an angel (Isa.6:6-7), or by Himself in some visible shape. Touched . . . as the word is used (Judg.20:41), thus enabling Jeremiah to speak.
I have put my words in thy mouth . . . God has motivated the words of Scripture, not just the thoughts and ideas of Scripture. Consider, the devil was NOT inspired by God to tell a lie, but the record in Scripture is that the devil told a lie is inspired. It is important to understand that the words of Scripture are inspired by God. God told Jeremiah, I'm going to put My words in your mouth.
Jer. 1:10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant. (KJV)
I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms . . . having now received his commission, he is directed to whom he is to go . . . to the greatest, not only single persons, but whole nations, as the Babylonians, Persians and Egyptians . . . and encouraged to greatness of mind, as being sent as an ambassador from God, to deliver His messages without sweet talk or cowardice; and that he might make that proud people sensible of their folly, that looked upon themselves as above reproof. God gives His prophet this great authority.
To pull down . . . Jeremiah was to prophesy that God will pull down; according to Scripture the prophets are said to do that which they foretell shall come to pass (Gen.49:7; Eze.43:3), to pronounce destruction; therefore God is said to slay them by the words of His Mouth (Hos.6:5); and so are all the following expressions to be understood.
To build and to plant . . . images taken from architects and gardeners. Either the former words relate to the enemies of God, and the latter to His friends; or to both in theory. IF they repent, He will build them up . . . He will increase their families, and plant them, settle them in the land (Jer.24:6). IF they do not repent, He will root them up, and pull them down. Compare this (Jer.42:10, and Jer.45:4). The reason why God used so many words for the same purpose seems to be, partly to show how deeply all kind of wickedness and contempt of God had taken root; which possibly may be one reason why He places pulling down and rooting up before building and planting, to show how much rubbish there was to be removed before He could reform and repair His church. Because the prophet was to begin with these in his prophecy, as appears by his second visions (Jer.1:11, 13); God wanted to quicken the prophet's zeal against them.
The Book of Jeremiah is the Word of God, my friend. It has survived and is going to survive through our day. America no longer hears God. They do not listen to Him in Washington, D.C. They do not hear Him in the classrooms of our universities. And they do not hear God in the military. Scientists do not listen to Him. Dear one, God is speaking and His Word will survive.
God is telling Jeremiah that He is going to put him in charge of giving His Word to the nation of Judah. God now gives Jeremiah two remarkable pictures concerning his call to the prophetic office.
Jer. 1:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. (KJV)
This and the boiling caldron (Jer.1:13), is thought to be at the same time, and in the same vision, when Jeremiah was first appointed to his work.
A rod of an almond tree . . . that had leaves, and possibly blossoms on it, like Aaron's (Num.17:8); for without leaves it is possible he had not so readily guessed of what kind it had been. This is a tree that blossoms early and quickly, and therefore has its name in Hebrew scaked, signifying watchful, forward, nimble, or quick; and so it may point at either God's readiness to smite (Jer.1:12), which is described elsewhere by summer fruit (Am.8:1-2); or Israel's ripeness to be smitten, as we have the similar (Eze.7:10-11). This rod was like a threatening dagger, showing Jeremiah the miseries that were at hand, as the death of Josiah, which soon followed this vision (2 Ki.23:29), and the taxing them by Pharaoh-nechoh (2 Ki.23:35), and presently after the breaking in of the Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites (2 Ki.24:2), and then the Babylonian captivity (2 Ki.24:10), which happened in the eighth year of Jehoiachin (2 Ki.24:12), when Nebuchadnezzar took him with others, and carried them away, about twenty-three years later; and about the fortieth year Jerusalem was taken, and the Temple burnt.
Jer. 1:12 Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. (KJV)
Thou hast well seen . . . Thou hast seen and judged right; or Thou hast done well in seeing so.
I will hasten . . . I will be upon them quickly, in a short time, and suddenly, before they are aware; or, I will watch, and be ready to accomplish this in due time.
My word . . . my word of threatening against Judah and its inhabitants.
Jer. 1:13 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. (KJV)
After the smaller punishment from the LORD (rod of an almond tree) follows this of the boiling pot, by which means Judea and Jerusalem, as may appear by the application that they themselves make of it in a way of scorn and derision (Eze.11:3,7).
What was the seething pot? In Jeremiah's time Egypt and Assyria were no longer a danger to the southern kingdom of Judah, but around the nation in the north was a boiling pot: the rising power of Babylon, which was to eventually destroy Judah. It was to be Jeremiah's job to constantly warn his people what was going to happen to their nation.
Is toward the north . . . signifying from whence their misery should come (Jer.1:14), from Chaldea (Babylon), which lay north from Jerusalem.
Jer. 1:14 Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. (KJV)
The LORD said unto me . . . explained this vision.
Out of the north . . . from Babylon, a metonymy of the subject; for although it lie eastward, yet it is north from Jerusalem, as lying four degrees more from the equinoctial (Jer.1:13).
Shall break forth; it shall be withheld or restrained no longer in my treasure; I will let it out . . . that evil of punishment represented by the fire.
Of the land . . . although God gave almost all the then known world to the king of Babylon, yet here Jeremiah understands it to be the land of Judea (Jer.25:9).
A century earlier God had delivered Jerusalem, and now all the false prophets were running around saying that He was going to do it again.
All of God's prophets of the past . . . Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah and Nahum, all those who had been contemporaries of Isaiah . . . had now left the scene. Zephaniah and Habakkuk were probably still living. Ezekiel and Obadiah were also contemporary with Jeremiah, but they were not going to prophesy until the captives are actually in Babylon. Daniel, too, will be prophesying later on. But at this time, Jeremiah stands alone, and he is to speak these judgments that are to come upon the nation. What will be the reaction to his message?
Jer. 1:15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. (KJV)
I will call all the families . . . I am about to bring the northern countries to join together in this work (Jer.6:22; 10:22; 26:9, 26).
The kingdoms of the north . . . the Babylonians and their supporters, the Medes also being in confederacy with them, whose king's daughter Nebuchadnezzar married.
They shall set every one his throne . . . their tents shall be pitched, which shall be as so many thrones, where I will see My judgments executed by the Chaldeans (Jer.52:4).
At the entering of the gates . . . at the way leading to the gates (Judg.9:35; 2 Ki.7:3; Jer.43:9), which besiegers have always a special regard to, that there be no going in or coming out (Isa.22:7).
Against all the walls thereof round about . . . they shall encircle it, noting the great multitude, power and courage of the Chaldeans.
Against all the cities . . . there were none of them that would fare any better than Jerusalem.
The gates of the cities were the usual places where justice was administered, so the enemies of Jerusalem are here represented as conquering the whole land, assuming the reins of government, and laying the whole country under their own laws; so that the Jews should no longer possess any political power: they should be wholly subjugated by their enemies.
Jer. 1:16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. (KJV)
I will utter my judgments against them . . . God condemned them, defeated their cities and destroyed their kingdom . . . these facts prove that the threats were fulfilled.
Worshipped the works of their own hands . . . idolatry was the source of all their wickedness and was the cause of their desolations. Idolatry was their one great work, the business of their life, their trade.
Jer. 1:17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. (KJV)
Gird up thy loins . . . by these words God prepares Jeremiah for his work . . . he was not to stand uncertain, but to prepare himself. It is speech taken from the custom of the countries where they wore long garments, so they had to gird the clothing up about them, that it might not hinder them in any work that required a journey (Ex.12:11; 2 Ki.4:29) and elsewhere. It indicates two things: #1. Speed and dispatch. #2. Courage and resolution (Job 38:1-41).
Arise . . . is another expression for the same purpose, to speed him about his work (Jer.13:1-27).
Speak unto them all that I command thee . . . tell them everything that I tell you to say.
Be not dismayed at their faces . . . have no fear, conceal no message, tell it to them like I tell it to you (Jer.1:8).
Lest I confound thee before them . . . lest thou become confused and shattered in thy ways, and unable to deliver thy message, for I will not leave thee nor forsake thee (Mat.10:28; Heb.13:5).
God could have shamed or destroyed him in their sight, if Jeremiah disobeyed God. We all must do as God asks of us.
Jer. 1:18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. (KJV)
For, behold . . . God promises that He will do His part, He would not fail to do what He had promised, to stand by Jeremiah.
I have made thee this day a defenced city . . . God would make Jeremiah like a defensed and impregnable city, supported with pillars of iron, and encompassed with walls, not of stone, but of brass, stating both great uprightness and strength.
Against the whole land . . . all its inhabitants, none to be spared, as he does above all rank them in their several degrees in the following words, suggesting that though men of all degrees would set themselves against Jeremiah, God would support him against them all, and that He would carry him through his work, even though Jeremiah’s trials and troubles would not only be great, but also long . . . passing through several kings' reigns.
Jer. 1:19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee. (KJV)
They shall fight against thee . . . they shall make many joint attempts upon thee (Judg.20:11).
They shall not prevail . . . they shall not be able, even with all their plans, to shorten thy days, (Jer.15:20; 20:10-11).
For I am with thee . . . the reason for Jeremiah’s safety, Almighty God will be his guard (Jer.1:8; 2 Tim.4:17-18).
A comment: I wonder what we would have done if the LORD would have come to us with this job instead of Jeremiah. WOW! Is all I have to say!
Book of Jeremiah
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