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Jeremiah 1:1-19: Accept The Call By God’s Grace Alone by Kevin E. Jesmer 7-3-18

Accept The Call By God’s Grace Alone

Jeremiah 1:1-19                         Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 1:7                            7-3-18

“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (NIV)

Part 1: Our Confidence Is In God Alone (1-10)

Verses 1-10, “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. 2 The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 3 and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. 4 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 set you apart;

    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. 9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Have you ever faced an ominous task? What about school project or a job that you have not received training for? These things generate within us great anxiety at times. How can we succeed in overcoming the looming obstacle, especially when it is we have no means within ourselves to do so? We have all faced it. I have recurring nightmares of failing university and missing classes and not being prepared for finals. All of this even after I graduated from college. Jeremiah was facing a challenging call from God. He was called to stand as God’s servant to preach his word if judgement to his own people. He felt like he could not do it. But God showed him, that with God’s help he could embrace his calling and live as God’s servant. Let’s see.

After Solomon’s death the united kingdom of Israel divided into the northern and southern kingdoms. The north was called Israel and the south was called Judah.  Jeremiah was the son of a priest from the village of Anathoth in Benjamin, a few miles north of Jerusalem, in the southern kingdom. He lived and prophesied during the reigns of at least five kinds of Judah. It was a time of political upheaval. There was moral and spiritual decay. Egypt and Babylon battled for supremacy in the region. Judah was caught in the middle.

Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry in the thirteenth year of King Josiah (627 B.C.). King Josiah had set out make great religious reforms in Judah according to God’s word. But his reforms did not change the hearts of his people. Josiah could not stem the tide of corruption. He was killed in an attempt to stop an Egyptian invasion. The people of Judah, from the top on down were still rebellious towards the Lord. Jeremiah appreciated Josiah’s attempts at reform. When the king died, Jeremiah lamented his death. (2 Chron 35:25).

God had a plan for which Jeremiah would be set apart. God forgave his sins and called him to head up a special mission. This was God’s grace to him. Look at verse 5. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah was appointed by God as a prophet to the nations. He was called to go wherever God sent him and say whatever God told him to say. God knew Jeremiah long before he was born, definitely he knew him long before his coming to the faith. God thought about him and made a plan for him. Though he may have felt inadequate and discouraged at times, God always thought of him as a valuable member of his kingdom and had a great and wonderful purpose in mind for him.

Some people don’t have a clear calling like Jeremiah did. What should they do? Whether the calling is specific and clear, or vague and general, all believers have a calling in life. If God does not give you a specific calling then serve the common mission that that is common to all believers. Whatever we do we should do it for the glory of God (Philippians 1:11). That mission will undauntedly involve loving, obeying and serving God through the local church, and loving your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:26-40) One day, his more defined calling will become evident. This is called convergence, when all the seemingly loose threads of life and ministry come together to form a cord.

Jeremiah lacked confidence as a prophet. Look at verses 6-8, “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”  God placed before Jeremiah, a new challenge. He listened to God, but he was pensive. He lacked self-confidence. Jeremiah thought he was only a child, too young and too inexperienced to be a prophet to the nations. He, like many prophets in the Bible, who had no confidence in serving his calling and mission given from God.

Think about another servant of God. Moses was eighty years old when God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. When he was called, he had no confidence in himself to embrace such a task. Look at Exodus 3:11-16, “11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” 13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’” Moses was to go in God’s name. God promised to be with Moses. God would go ahead of Moses and make the people favorably disposed to him. The success of the mission he was called to embrace had nothing to do with Moses’ strength as a man, but it had everything to do with the God who was sending him.

Our confidence can never come from our human strength. It must come from God. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reads, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This was written from Apostle Paul’s personal experience with God. Though we are weak he is strong. Even in our weakness, we can do all things through he who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

If God gives us a job to do in his kingdom work he will surely provide all that we need to embrace the call and serve him in that office. He is God. He has all authority. He is all powerful. He is ready, willing and able to rescue his servants according to his will.

Likewise, it is the same for us. We have been called by Jesus to embrace some sort of mission. The missions change as the chapters of our lives unfold, yes. But each phase of our calling is no less difficult to embrace. The challenge is much greater than our human strength. We must never allow feelings of inadequacy keep us from obeying God’s call. Jesus will be with us. Our lack of self-confidence must never be an excuse.

But God promised to be with him. Look at verse 8 again, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”  This was God’s promise to be with Jeremiah. He didn’t have to be strong. He didn’t have to have it all together. No. God would be with him. God would strengthen him and go before him as he opened his mouth to speak the word of God. This is consistent with the world mission command of Jesus. Matthew 28:18-20 reads, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

God transformed Jeremiah into a prophet. Look at verses 9-10, “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah was not born a prophet. He did not naturally have confidence to preach the word of God. God touched him and transformed him into a prophet. This brings great hope to us all.

We are all underqualified. We are all incapable of serving the Lord. But that does not disqualify us from assuming the role God has called us to. God actually transforms us into his servants. He puts his words in our mouths and he appoints us. All of the onus is on God and not on ourselves. It takes a whole lot of pressure off of us. This too is the grace of God.

God is a God of the whole world. God appointed Jeremiah to bring his word to the nations and kingdoms. He would speak not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentile nations. Yes, Jesus was working through Israel. Even back then, God had a plan to reach all the nations.

Jeremiah was called to preach a very powerful word. God’s word has power…power to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.  It is because God’s word is truth. God’s word calls people to repent and turn to him. It plants hope in the hearts of the people. Through his word, God helps individuals and nations to be transformed. That is why many autocratic nations persecute Christians. They seek to suppress the church and the preaching of the Gospel. It is because the Gospel plants “dangerous” ideas in the hearts of the people, ideas that will uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow regimes. We see it happening around the world. The Gospel has power to transform nations for the good. Think about the fall of apartheid in South Africa and the rebuilding of Rwanda, to name a couple of examples. What a privilege it is to be called to be a preacher of such powerful words.

God has called me, an ordinary Christian, to propagate his Gospel to the nations. I have no power on my own. I am an unlikely candidate to be a preacher of the Gospel. But God, by his grace saw fit to call me. He who called me is faithful to transform and fit me for service. I trust that and embrace his call with full confidence in Christ.

Part 2. God Will Make Sure We Stand As His Servants (11-19)

Verses 11-19, “11 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. 12 The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” 13 The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?” “I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”14 The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. 16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made. 17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

God gives glimpses of the coming judgement to Jeremiah. Look at verses 11-14. The vision of the branch of an almond tree revealed the beginning of God’s judgement because the almond tree is among the first to blossom in the spring, God saw the sins of Judah and the nations. God is awake and watching. The boiling pot tilted away from the north and spilling over Judah pictured Babylon delivering God’s scalding judgment against Jeremiah’s own people. God would carry it out swiftly and with certainty.

This upcoming invasion was not because of God’s doing, it was because of the peoples’ sins. Look at verse 16, “I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.” It was because of their unrepentant sins. The people of Judah continued to burn incense to and worship other gods. God had commanded them not to do this. (Exodus 20:3-6.) These acts places created things in the place of God. It led people away from the Lord. They were God’s own people, and yet they chose to follow false gods. God was bearing with them for centuries. But they did not change. Now the whole society was corrupted, from the priest and king on down. The people brought it on themselves.

What a difficult message to preach! Jeremiah was to tell the people that judgement was coming and the judgement was because of their unrepentant sins. That is a very hard pill for the people to swallow. How could they accept such a hard word? They didn’t. For decades they rejected Jeremiah’s words and persecuted him. Maybe Jeremiah was catching a glimpse of how hard the mission was that he was called to serve. He was wondering how he, a son of a priest could ever withstand the scorching blast of persecution that was coming his way.

Yes, Jeremiah must stand alone against kings and false prophets. But God would be with him. Look at verses 17-19, “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah would have to ready himself, ready himself with faith in God, ready himself to speak the words that God would give him. Ready himself to face persecution while standing firm in God. God would protect him and by God’s grace he would be the one who could not be overcome.

There is a similar promise given by Jesus to his disciples when they are persecuted. Matthew 10:9 reads, “9 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  God was giving the same grace to Jeremiah. The same grace is extended to us also as we serve Jesus.

The problems we face as servants of God may not be as ominous as Jeremiah’s but they are just as critical and about to overwhelm us. God’s promise to us is that nothing can defeats us. Jesus will help us through the most agonizing problems, such as fear and persecutions and the like. He will give us the words to speak. God will be with us, strengthen us and see us through so that he may be glorified.

Prayer: “Lord, I know that I am underqualified to be your servant. But I embrace your call and trust that you will see me through it all for your glory”

One Word:  God enables us to stand up as his servants to preach his word.