The Call of Jeremiah and the Two Visions, 1:4-19
i] The call of Jeremiah
Following the introduction, which gives us the historical context for the book, there is an account of Jeremiah's call in 627/6BC. The passage defines the authority and extent of Jeremiah's call and is set in the form of a dialogue between the Lord and Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was called to serve as a prophet of the Lord to the Nations, and specifically to Israel. His task was to proclaim divine truth, not just predictions of the future (fore-telling), but truth for the present (forth-telling). Only a small number of prophets had the privilege of proclaiming primary revelation. At the end of the New Testament era, primary revelation ceased when the apostles completed their task of preserving, communicating and explaining the teachings of Christ. The New Testament is the end product of their work.
As well as prophets like Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, etc., there were "schools" of prophets who, although not a source of original revelation, served to proclaim divine truth. In second Corinthians chapter 14, Paul the apostle encourages his readers to seek this gift rather than the gift of tongues. The modern ministry of preaching, forcefully proclaiming the kingdom through the teachings of Christ, is probably very close to the New Testament ministry of prophecy.
God's call to the ministry is a mysterious business. Some pastors seem to doubt their call, although their call may well be obvious to everyone else. Other's assure us of their call, but their ministry seems to deny the presence of the divine. Yet, apart from the ordained ministry, there is a sense where we are all called, all called to serve as prophets of the Lord. This truth is sometimes known as "the priesthood of all believers." We are all called to minister the gospel to God's broken world.
Jeremiah's call was clear and precise and can aid us in understanding our call. Although not privileged to proclaim an original revelation, we are none-the-less called to communicate a profound mystery. We are called to make known the gospel of Christ.
In His sovereign will, God has determined to use us as prophets to the nations and to the people of God. We are "set apart" and "appointed" to this end. He says to us, "do not be afraid." Jesus reminds us that he will be with us always and give us all that we require in serving him. We are privileged to serve as ministers of the gospel.
Like Jeremiah, or even Moses, we may protest our limited capacity to serve in gospel ministry; we may rest on our inexperience. Yet, sharing in gospel ministry is really not that difficult. We can all play our part through prayer, financial gifts to missions and outreach programs, being ready willing and able to speak of our faith when asked to do so, and in all this support our local church in its outreach ministry. By these means Christ is proclaimed.
So, although we are not called to minister as primary prophets, we are "set apart" and "appointed" to a ministry which is just as important.
Jeremiah's call is open to some debate. The call came in the thirteenth year of king Josiah, 627/6BC, but was Jeremiah's call at birth or as a young man? Commentator's are divided.
"knew you" - personally knew, intimately knew. "I knew you for my own", NEB. The word is used of the intimacy of marriage.
"born" - came from the womb
"set you apart" - set apart for a sacred purpose
"appointed" - gave to a particular end, appointed to a particular task
"child" - a mere youth, boy
"go to everyone" - lit. "upon whatever", therefore sent to a certain people, or a certain place.
"rescue" - snatch away. Protect, deliver.... The word is used of God rescuing Israel from Egypt, but has a wider meaning than just physical deliverance.
"now" - look, behold, lo, see here; "now listen here."