Prophet to the nations. 1:4-10
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.
v4. The Lord communicates his intentions to Jeremiah. As is typical of the scriptures, this communication is "the word of the Lord", a communication-bundle which includes the intent, the actual communication itself and the follow-through results. What the Lord intends, he communicates and does; this is the "word" of the Lord.
v5. Jeremiah describes the communication in the terms of a dialogue with the Lord. The "word" concerns the Lord's predestined intent to set Jeremiah apart for a sacred purpose, namely to perform as a prophet to the nations. The strength of this language serves to authenticate Jeremiah's prophetic office, both to Israel and to Jeremiah himself, rather than promote some doctrinaire notion of the divine control of human life. Jeremiah is specially appointed to serve, not just as a prophet to the nation Israel, but to the nations. The Lord has a word for the Gentile world, along with Israel.
v6. The dialogue continues, not that we must read these words as an actual dialogue. What is important is that Jeremiah understands the Lord's communication with him and reasons out his response. Like Moses, Jeremiah is less than confident in taking up the prophet's mantle. He feels that he doesn't know "how to speak", in the sense of being ill equipped for public speaking. He is also young and therefore, inexperienced. It is hard enough trying to address Israel, but addressing Israel's natural enemies is a big ask.
v7. The truth that God's grace is sufficient for us and is made perfect in weakness, applies to Jeremiah as it does to all believers. With the Lord on his side, Jeremiah is no weakling. Jeremiah must simply trust the Lord, go wherever (to whomsoever?) he is told, and proclaim God's word to the nations - God's word and not Jeremiah's word.
v8. There is no need for Jeremiah to be afraid for the Lord will "rescue" him in the face of danger. Although Jeremiah survived a number of hair-raising experiences, the Lord's deliverance applies more to eternal verities than to the dramas of life in a corrupt world. The Lord will see to it that his word is made known and that it achieves its intended end. Within this divine purpose Jeremiah can remain secure.
v9. Reminiscent of Deuteronomy 18:18, Jeremiah is identified as an authoritative source of divine communication, cf. Isa.6:6-7, Ezk.2:9-3:3.
v10. Jeremiah's vocation is now explained. He is to serve as a preacher of judgment and restoration to the nations - lots of judgment and not much restoration. As already noted, there is little distinction between the preached message and its inevitable consequences. To preach a word from the Lord on tearing down, is to tear down. To this end, Jeremiah is appointed.
In church circles it is known as "the call", the divine call - "I feel called of the Lord." There are many calls. We have all felt called to go out on a date with some attractive person of the opposite sex. This is the call of the wild, or the call of hormones, although some believers do think it is a divine call identifying their future life-partner - a very dangerous assumption. Ministers often feel called to go to a new church, particularly if there is trouble in their present living. This is the call of the upwardly-mobile-career-move, although again, often couched in the terms of a divine call. Of course, a congregation is less likely to be bewildered in the face of a "divine call", particularly if they were praying that the Lord move their minister on!
"The call" is so widely accepted in Christian circles that we devise ways of testing it, usually with the fleece method - the identification of open, or closed doors. The problem is, given that the authority and splendor of this world has been given to Satan, is a closed door a "yes" or a "no", and who opened, or closed the door in the first place, Lk.4:6? The issue of guidance is a constant bother for believers. Testing a "call" with opened and closed doors is a highly speculative and often fruitless exercise.
Jeremiah was called by the Lord to serve as a prophet to the nations, to declare God's word to Israel and its enemies, a word of judgment more than blessing. There was no promise that this task would be easy, especially for a young and untrained communicator like Jeremiah, but since God's power operates in weakness, he could reckon on divine aid. The question for us is, does Jeremiah's experience give us an insight into how the divine call might work for us today?
The answer is, yes! Like Jeremiah, we are personally known to the Lord, set apart and appointed to communicate the gospel to the ends of the earth. We certainly do not serve as prophets of primarly revelation, but we are commissioned to carry a good-news message to seekers and a bad-news one to those who ignore Jesus. All believers are called to this end and we fulfill it in a myriad of ways - personal witness when asked to give an account of our faith, supporting missionary societies and the Bible Society, supporting the ministry of our local church, ...... We are all called to gospel proclamation and we can be sure that the Lord will support us as we seek to make his Word known. So, let us hear the call and carry the message to a lost and broken world.
Discuss the idea that the Lord hasn't programed our call.
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