- Who Is Jeremiah?
- The Message
- Jeremiah's Time
- Interesting Fact
- Ears to Hear
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
The first chapter of Jeremiah introduces us to both the prophet and the plight of the Israelites living in Judah. It sets the tone for the chapter as a whole. Within the first couple verses we get a detailed timeline of when Jeremiah's ministry begins (13th year of King Josiah's reign) and the state of Judah at the time.
Who Is Jeremiah?
Jeremiah is identified as the son of Hilkiah. Hilkah was a priest, which means that he, as well as Jeremiah, is from the Tribe of Levi. The Levites, having no inheritance in the land, lived in various cities throughout the other tribes' territories. Jeremiah and his father were from the city of Anaoth in Benjamin, which was located in Southern Israel (usually referred to as Judah).
God gives Jeremiah a message to deliver during the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah. Josiah was one of Judah's better kings. Despite taking the throne at only 8 years old and being the son of Judah's worst king, Josiah finds his was to God after 8 years of reigning (5 years before Jeremiah's message). This is important because it sums up and embodies the whole of the message (see 2 Chronicles 34-35). Josiah was the son of Manasseh, one of Israel's worst kings. This is probably why he spends the first few years of his reign not in accordance to God. But when Josiah discovers God, he quickly repents and begins making changes in the city. He removes the idols, tears down the pagan temples, and has the Word of God read to the people. Because of Josiah's actions, he (along with the city) are spared from harm.
The whole of Jeremiah's message is a call to repentance, just as Josiah had demonstrated. God was promising that if the Israelites did as Josiah had done, they would remain in His good graces. However, God already knew they would not heed His call. The juxtaposition of the final fate of Israel, who did not repent, and Josiah, who did, is something we should remember throughout the book.
Jeremiah's call for Israel's repentance doesn't end with Josiah; he prophesies during the reign of Josiah's son, Jehoiakim, all the way through the time of Zedekiah. Jeremiah remains steadfast in preaching God's Word through the destruction of Jerusalem and the final deportation of the Jews to Babylon.
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.
Jeremiah was called to this mission before he was even conceived in the womb. Can you imagine being called to a purpose before your parents even came together to create you? It seems impossible, but when I think back on my own life, there are things I've been drawn to without explanation. Some ideas, hobbies, occupations, etc. just feel right. I imagine it's because each of us have been ordained with a specific purpose. It may not be as grand as Jeremiah's or it may be just as grand, but it's our purpose nonetheless.
Jeremiah didn't think he was the man for the job because he was "too young."
What is too young? When I was in my teens, Bible teachers used to use these verses to encourage us that even as kids we may be used by God. It's probably the verse people used to justify the 12 year old who became a pastor back home. While it may apply to kids, the older I become and the more I study the word (and live), I've realized that Jeremiah could have been 30 years old and referred to as a youth.
Now that I'm 30 myself, I understand how what we as teens considered an adult could be viewed by more seasoned adults as a youth, and how they could be doubtful of their abilities. In your teens you feel like you know everything, but some time in your mid to late 20s, you start realizing you don't know anything! The Bible doesn't specify how old Jeremiah actually was, so all we know is, he wasn't an elder.
The important point made was that it wasn't Jeremiah who would be speaking; God is always the star of the show. We are merely vessels He uses to get His point across. It doesn't matter if we're 10 or 100, as long as we say exactly what He tells us, the message is the same. The power comes from Him, so in the end our age doesn't really matter.
When God tells Jeremiah that He will give him the words, the Hebrew word used is dabar (דָּבָר). Dabar actually meads "word, event, or thing." In Hebrew, words and actions are essentially the same thing. God is not just promising Jeremiah a transcript of a speech, He's promising the action of delivering the speech. This includes stage presence, authority, confidence, an audience, etc. God doesn't half step; when He calls us for something, He has everything we need already in place.
The first vision given to Jeremiah consists of an almond tree, followed by a boiling pot that faces away from the north. God explains that nations from the north will encircle Judah and bring calamity. The reason God will allow this is because Judah has turned away from God and is worshipping idols. The kingdom in the north is Babylon, who invades and conquers Judah in Jeremiah's lifetime, just as God said.
Ears to Hear
God warns Jeremiah that people won't listen to him and encourages him not to be discouraged. This message resounds with me because it is something we can really relate to today. Jeremiah was speaking words given to him directly by God—truth, given to him by God—but the people didn't want to hear it. In today's society, the same can happen to us. We get fired up because God has revealed Himself to us, but when we go to share our experience with others, we are met with deaf ears. This can be discouraging and heartbreaking. For some it can cause them to question what they've experienced. However, God is telling us in advance that only certain people will receive His message. Our job isn't to worry about the reactions, just to deliver the message so that those who might hear, can do so.
Not wanting to hear the truth can lead people to violence. People become enraged with those who don't just go with the flow and who stand up for God. A common theme throughout all of history is the persecution of God's people. We see this right from the beginning, with Cain killing Abel. When we stand for God and share His message, we essentially put a target on our back. That prompts fear in a lot of us, which is exactly what Satan wants—us to be too afraid to do the work God has called us to do. Knowing this dilemma, God makes Jeremiah (and us) a promise that He will walk with us through these trials. He promises to build Jeremiah up so that he can withstand any adversity that comes his way. Just as God does this for Jeremiah, He does so for us.
References and Footnotes
- Ree Hughes. "2 Chronicles 34&35: Josiah". PSALMS to God. March 2017
- "Q&A on Youth". La Vista Church of Christ. 2016
- “Strongs H3414. יִרְמְיָה”. Blue Letter Bible; visited December 2022