Jeremiah 1:1-3. The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: 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. 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.
Jeremiah was a young man when he was called to the prophetic office; and he was sent of God, as a young prophet, to help the young king, Josiah. His public life, therefore, opened somewhat happily. But, after the death of Josiah, wicked kings sat upon the throne, and it was the painful lot, and yet in some respects the choice privilege, of this weeping prophet to be sent upon his Master’s errand, time after time, to a disobedient and gainsaying people, who wrought him only evil while he sought their good. The Holy Spirit, you see, is careful to note important dates in the history of God’s servants; and you and I also should keep a record of the times when God sets us to work, and when he gives us special grace for the service to which he has called us.
Jeremiah 1:4-6. Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou came forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
He was but young, and, when young men are called to be ambassadors for God, it behoves them to feel the weight of the responsibility that rests upon them, and to be conscious of their lack of experience, and of their want of fitness for the work. In that consciousness of unfitness, there often lies the evidence of their fitness for the task entrusted to them. Peradventure, out of weakness they shall be made strong; but if they do not feel their weakness, they are not likely to cry to God for help, or to receive it from him. “Ah, Lord God!” said young Jeremiah, “behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.”
Jeremiah 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.
Now, even a child can often speak anything that has been said to him; to repeat what he is told to say, is not beyond his capacity; and, after all, this is a Christian minister’s principal work. Somebody says, “We want thinkers.” Yes, so we do; but we want men whose thoughts shall be subordinate to the thoughts of God, ministers who do not come to utter their own thoughts, but to deliver their Master’s message, to tell to us what he has told to them. Is that sermon merely what you think, sir? Then, what do I care what you think? What is that to me, any more than what I think may be to you. If, however, you can come to me, and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” I will give diligent heed to your message, and I am bound to receive it; but woe be to that minister whose word shall be other than this!
Jeremiah 1:8. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
When a king sends an ambassador to a foreign court, he cannot usually go with him; but God’s ambassador always has his King with him. Oh, what courage he ought to have with such a Companion!
Jeremiah 1:9. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth.
For you young brethren who are to be preachers of the gospel, I cannot wish anything better than that the Lord may touch your mouth in this way. In the old times that some of us remember, godly men used to pray that the Holy Spirit would be “mouth, matter, and wisdom” to the preachers of the Word. It was not at all a bad prayer, for it was a petition that he would give to his servants the right subject, the right spirit, and the right utterance, — that he would teach them how to speak, what to speak, and in what spirit to speak it.
Jeremiah 1:9. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
That is a true picture of a Spirit-sent preacher of the gospel, — a man who has God’s words in his mouth. I said before that the minister must not utter his own thoughts, but here we see that he must not even utter his own words. God’s thoughts are best delivered in God’s words; and the more of Scripture there is in our teaching, the more true, the more divine, and the more powerful, will it be.
Jeremiah 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.
What a mysterious power rested on this God-sent messenger! Poor Jeremiah was often in prison, frequently at death’s door, yet he was the master of nations and kingdoms, and the Lord gave him authority to root them up or to plant them, to throw them down or to build them up. What wondrous power God gives to those who faithfully preach his Word! Well might Mary Queen of Scots say that she was more afraid of John Knox’s preaching than of all the armies that came against her.
Jeremiah 1:11-14. 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. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. 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. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
The Chaldeans and the Babylonians were like a great cauldron, boiling and seething, sending forth smoke and steam over the nations, and ready to scald Jerusalem to its destruction.
Jeremiah 1:15-16. 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 everyone 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. 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.
God tells Jeremiah that he was about to destroy Jerusalem because of the people’s sin. He was not merely to foretell their doom, but he was also to tell the reason of it, — that it was the result of their sin, and especially of the sin of idolatry, to which mankind is ever exceedingly prone. It is most difficult to keep men to pure spiritual worship, — the worship of the unseen God in spirit and in truth. They will get away, if they can, to some outward form or another. They will take the very bread of communion, and worship it; or the image of the bleeding Saviour, and make an idol of that. Somehow or other, they will have something visible, or tangible, as the object of their adoration. Men will fall into idolatry of one kind or another even to this day; and this is a God-provoking offence, from which may the Lord, in his mercy, graciously preserve all of us perfectly clear!
Jeremiah 1:17. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, —
“Thou hast a hard task before thee, Jeremiah, a stern life’s work cut out for thee; ‘therefore gird up thy loins,’ “ —
Jeremiah 1:17. And arise, —
“There must be no waiting, no idleness: ‘Arise,’ “ —
Jeremiah 1:17. And speak unto them all that I command thee:
“Do not trim it at all, or pare it down, or omit distasteful portions; but ‘speak unto them all that I command thee.’”
Jeremiah 1:17. Be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
We ought to be so afraid of God that we are afraid of nobody else. “Fear him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear.” Send all your fears to heaven, and there let them stop.
Jeremiah 1:18-19. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defended city, and an iron pillar, and brazen 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. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.