John T. Willis

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yahweh Commissions Jeremiah to be a Prophet--Jeremiah 1:4-19

The first section of the Book of Jeremiah is Yahweh's Commission of Jeremiah to be a Prophet, as recorded in Jeremiah 1:4-19. Jeremiah presents this in the FIRST PERSON, as indicated by the use of the words "I" and "me" and "my." Jeremiah 1:1-3 indicates that Jeremiah received this commission in the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah, therefore, 627 B. C.

Yahweh's Commission to Jeremiah is CHIASTIC or INVERTED in structure. The organization is ABBA. In the two A sections, Yahweh intentionally commissions Jeremiah to be a prophet. In the two B sections, Yahweh gives Jeremiah two visions. These two visions communicate the same thought. Let us follow the flow of the text in this way.

I. Yahweh Commissions Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:4-10.
a. Yahweh speaks to Jeremiah first. Yahweh says FIVE things to and about Jeremiah in a certain order. 1:4-5.
1. I [Yahweh] knew you [Jeremiah]. The verb "knew" [know] means to have an intimately, daily, personal relationship with some individual. Yahweh had an intimate, daily, personal relationship with Jeremiah.
2. I [Yahweh] formed you [Jeremiah] in the womb. Human beings do not just happen accidentally. Yahweh deliberately and intentionally "forms" an individual in the womb of that person's mother. See 1 Samuel 1:5-6, 19-20; Psalm 139:13-16.
3. I [Yahweh] consecrated you [Jeremiah]. Yahweh intentionally set Jeremiah apart to do a certain job or task or responsibility.
4. You [Jeremiah] was born. First, Jeremiah was conceived in the womb of his mother, and nine months later, he was born.
5. I [Yahweh] appointed you [Jeremiah] a prophet to the nations. Now, Jeremiah's specific job or task or responsibility to be function as a prophet to the nations. NOTE: Yahweh did not commission Jeremiah to be a prophet to Judah or Israel or groups of Israelites only, but to all the nations. This is very important in understanding the function and work of Jeremiah.
b. Jeremiah responds negatively. 1:6. Like Moses, Jeremiah attempts to reject Yahweh's commission. Jeremiah gives two excuses so that he does not have to do this.
1. Jeremiah does not know how to speak. Moses gave this same excuse at the burning bush (Exodus 4:11) and later in speaking to Pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 6:30). We often assume that a GOOD or GREAT SPEAKER is the kind of person God seeks. This is frequently not the case. Many significant servants of God were not really good speakers. But God used them powerfully to carry out HIS purposes.
2. Jeremiah is too young. He says: "I am ONLY a BOY." Apparently, Jeremiah was between 15 and 20 years of age when Yahweh gave Jeremiah this commission. Again, we often assume that God cannot use YOUNG PEOPLE. We have to wait until we are in our forties or fifties or later. But history has shown that God frequently uses YOUNG PEOPLE to carry out his purposes. A sterling example is Timothy, as we all know. Paul instructs Timothy: "Let no one despise your YOUTH, but set the believers and example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 3:12). I personally want to verify the fact that YOUNG PEOPLE are important, vital individuals for the service of God, with whom I have worked for over fifty-five years. Let us all support our YOUNG PEOPLE.
c. Yahweh refuses to accept Jeremiah's excuses. 1:7-10.
1. First, Yahweh specifically tells Jeremiah: Do not say, "I am only a boy." Age has nothing to do with it. The REAL ISSUE is whether GOD is there to support you and sustain you. Yahweh instructs Jeremiah to do two things: 1. GO to all of the audiences to whom Yahweh sends him. Some people think that in the Old Testament, God's people were not called to GO to the lost. READ the Old Testament. There are abundant, numerous passages which declare that God's people are suppose to GO to the lost to try to bring them to God. 2. SPEAK whatever Yahweh commands him. The message of God is powerful. The person speaking is insignificant.
2. Then, Yahweh tells Jeremiah NOT TO BE AFRAID. This assumes that the REAL reason Jeremiah did not want to obey Yahweh's commission is that he was afraid of the opponents, the responsibilities, the future, and many other things. ALL OF US constantly struggle with the problem of FEAR.
3. Then, Yahweh assures Jeremiah that Yahweh is WITH him to deliver him out of all possible situations. The word "WITH" is a very powerful, important term. Often, the Bible calls out: God is WITH us. The very word Immanu-el means: "WITH us is God." See Isaiah 7:14.
4. Then, Yahweh touched Jeremiah's mouth to symbolize that Yahweh has put Yahweh's words in Jeremiah's mouth. The message of Jeremiah is NOT Jeremiah's own message, but Yahweh's message.
5. Then, Yahweh tells Jeremiah that Yahweh appoints Jeremiah OVER nations and kingdoms--through the message of Yahweh.
6. This message is two-sided.
a. Negatively: to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow.
Part of Jeremiah's message is doom, condemnation, destruction. But this NOT the entire or full or balanced message.
b. Positively: to built and to plant.
After Yahweh punishes his people, Yahweh will redeem and restore the faithful remnant. Note that this theme recurs often throughout the book of Jeremiah: see
12:15, 17; 18:7, 9; 24:6; 31:4-5, 28.

II. Yahweh's First Vision: The Almond Branch. Jeremiah 1:11-12. In both visions, Yahweh asks Jeremiah: "What do you SEE?", indicating this is a VISION. Probably, Jeremiah was doing something and saw these things, then Yahweh appeared to Jeremiah, and jarred him to thought to reflect on what each thing he had seen.
a. There is a Hebrew word play. All peoples use word plays. In English, a person might say: "I see that you have a BLUE shirt." The other person responds: "Yes, and I am very BLUE" [meaning, sad]. The reason for this is that I took a test yesterday, and I "BLEW" it [meaning, I did very poorly on this test]. Here the word "BLUE" or "BLEW" is a word play.
b. The Hebrew word for "almond" is shaqed. Yahweh's response is: "You have seen well, for I am watching [the Hebrew word here is shoqed] over my word to perform it." In Hebrew, the words for "almond" and "watch" are very similar, and thus form a word play. In this context, Yahweh is saying that he is going to "watch" over his word of punishment against Judah.

III. Yahweh Second Vision: The Boiling Pot tilted away from the North. Jeremiah 1:13-16.
a. Here is a major theme throughout the book of Jeremiah. Yahweh is announcing that A FOE FROM THE NORTH will soon some and overthrow Judah. That FOE is Babylon.
b. The symbol is that of a boiling pot tilted away from the north. The boiling water spills southward to scalding everyone in its path. The Babylonians come from the north to devastate Judah.
c. The Babylonians and their allies are not coming against Judah on their own. Rather, Yahweh himself deliberately, intentionally sends the Babylonians to punish Judah because of Judah's sins. Yahweh specifically highlights one specific sin here: idolatry. The Judeans were making offerings or sacrifices to other gods and worshipping the works of their own hands.

IV. Yahweh commissions Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:17-19. Now, Yahweh concludes by repeating his commission to Jeremiah uttered in Jeremiah 1:4-10. Note much repetition between these two paragraphs.
a. Yahweh instructs Jeremiah to "gird his loins" to go into service. This was a common practice in ancient times. See 1 Kings 18:46; 1 Peter 1:13.
b. Then, Yahweh repeats his command to Jeremiah to tell his audiences everything that Yahweh had commanded Jeremiah, and not to break down before his audiences.
c. Then, Yahweh assures Jeremiah that Yahweh would give him all the strength he needs to carry out Yahweh purpose. Yahweh has made Jeremiah "a fortified wall, an iron pillar and a bronze wall" against the whole land.
d. The opponents of Jeremiah are his own people: the kings of Judah, the princes of Judah, the priests of Judah, the people of the land of Judah. One wishes that these might be foreign people. But this is not the case. Throughout history, often the opponents of God and true godly people are the chosen leaders of God's people.
e. Yahweh concludes that the opponents of Jeremiah will FIGHT against him, but they will NOT PREVAIL against Jeremiah--for ONE REASON: Yahweh is WITH Jeremiah to deliver him. This promise in verse 19 is a repetion of verse 8.

Yahweh's Commission to Jeremiah recorded in Jeremiah 1:4-19 contains the major themes found throughout the book of Jeremiah. Hence, this paragraph is very important, and one should keep reading and reflecting and meditation on this chapter.

I hope this chapter will CHANGE YOUR HEART AND LIFE. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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