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Jeremiah 1:4-19 – The Call of Jeremiah


Jeremiah is called by God to bring a word from God to the people of Israel.


The call of Jeremiah follows a literary convention for the reporting of divine calls. The call of Jeremiah from his mother's womb is thereby shown to be at God's initiative, not his own. From the perspective of the audience, they should be able to see that Jeremiah was called because of "them" (1:8)! Six words are used to describe the word that Jeremiah is to bring to Israel: pluck up, pull down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant. All but the last two are words of judgment, which the readers already have experienced, but which remain the word of God in some way for every generation of readers. The two positive words (build and plant), not yet a reality for the readers, hold out hope for their future. These six words constitute a leitmotif for the book of Jeremiah (for example, 12:14-17; 18:7-9; 24:6; 32:41; 42:10; 45:4). How the people respond to this word of God will shape their future.

Jeremiah is uniquely called to be "a prophet to the nations" (1:10). This is not a call to do "mission work" among the nations, but a commission to proclaim a word to Israel that will catch up the future of other nations (especially Babylon). This word is a testimony that God's presence and activity has to do with the peoples of the world, not just Israel. This word of God is an effective reality in the life of other nations, whether they realize it or not.

Jeremiah 1:4-19

Jeremiah’s Call and Commission

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
6Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.’
9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’

11 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.’* 12Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching* over my word to perform it.’ 13The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.’

14 Then the Lord said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. 15For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will utter my judgements against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. 17But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. 18And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.

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