Jeremiah 1:1–19 (NKJV)
1:1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 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. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
Jeremiah is the second of three major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. These writing prophets produced lengthy records of the Word of the Lord as it was given to them through the Holy Spirit. They were national prophets, who spoke to kings and, at times, influenced the nations of Israel and Judah. God used them mightily. However, Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. He did not relish the idea of responding to the call and speaking to the nation. He is called by many scholars the “Weeping Prophet,” because He mourned over the fate of the nation. He was also young, and perhaps intimidated by the task at hand. However, this book is a wonderful example of how God not only uses the old and experienced, but also the young and green to deliver His Word.
4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then said I:
“Ah, Lord GOD!
Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
7 But the LORD said to me:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD.
God offers Jeremiah great encouragement by telling him that He has been aware of Him since before His conception. He has made big plans for him, and–as with every soul created–formed Him in the womb. God, in His omniscience, knew that Jeremiah would serve Him, and called him before his parents ever conceived. He set him apart and ordained him. What an awesome thought, that God knows us and designs a path for us before we are even conceived! Jeremiah is overwhelmed by the prospects, though, and initially refuses the offer, saying he was too young. This is reminiscent of the response of Moses when God called to him from the burning bush. But, just like with Moses, God disarms the excuses and sets the burden, the precious burden, of prophecy upon the shoulders of Jeremiah.
9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.”
This powerful prophecy over the prophet’s life gave Him immense authority: over nations and kingdoms, to destroy and root out, and to build and plant. Jeremiah would make a difference!
11 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”
And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.”
12 Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”
13 And the word of the LORD came to me the second time, saying, “What do you see?”
And I said, “I see a boiling pot, and it is facing away from the north.”
14 Then the LORD said to me:
“Out of the north calamity shall break forth
On all the inhabitants of the land.
15 For behold, I am calling
All the families of the kingdoms of the north,” says the LORD;
“They shall come and each one set his throne
At the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem,
Against all its walls all around,
And against all the cities of Judah.
16 I will utter My judgments
Against them concerning all their wickedness,
Because they have forsaken Me,
Burned incense to other gods,
And worshiped the works of their own hands.
The Lord then offers His first prophetic word to Jeremiah, giving him the image of an almond tree and a boiling pot. The almond branch signifies two things. First, it is a sign of new life or beginning, likely marking the beginning of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry. Secondly, the Hebrew word play has the word for almond (shaqed) against the word watching (shoqed), signifiying that God is watching Israel in order to judge them. The boiling pot is then the nations of the North who will come to sit in conquest of Judah as instruments of God for judgment against their idolatry and sin.
17 “Therefore prepare yourself and arise,
And speak to them all that I command you.
Do not be dismayed before their faces,
Lest I dismay you before them.
18 For behold, I have made you this day
A fortified city and an iron pillar,
And bronze walls against the whole land—
Against the kings of Judah,
Against its princes,
Against its priests,
And against the people of the land.
19 They will fight against you,
But they shall not prevail against you.
For I am with you,” says the LORD, “to deliver you.”
The final words from the Lord to Jeremiah are further encouragement. God tells Jeremiah that the authority He has already given to Jeremiah should give him the confidence to not be afraid or dismayed when he speaks to leaders like kings, princes, priests, and the people. Speak His word, stand firm like a wall of bronze, and a fortified city, for God is with you. This word was for Jeremiah, but it is also for us today. Stand firm like and iron pillar and declare what thus says the Lord, for He will stand with you to deliver you!