Jeremiah as an Exemplar of the Call to the Ministry

Jeremiah is aware through divine revelation that his calling preceded even his birth. He was set apart from his mother’s womb with the intention that he should be a prophet to the nations (Jer. 1:5). The reference to his being known before his conception implies not only divine foreknowledge in the sense of knowing beforehand, but also that his conception was at least in part for the purpose of using him to accomplish the ministry set before him, namely, to prophesy to the nations. That he is set apart before birth lends further support to this thought and also speaks of God’s continued providence in preparing him his whole existence to carry out this prophetic commission.

Jeremiah’s initial response to this knowledge was to protest and provide an excuse for why he would be unable or unqualified to carry out the commission. This is not an uncommon reaction and is evidenced in the lives and ministries of others in Scripture, most notably Moses (Exod. 3:11, 13, 4:1, 10), though others appear not to have had difficulty answering the call, such as Isaiah (Isa. 6:8), and some actively attempt to resist or circumvent the call (e.g., Jonah in Jonah 1:2-3).

The Lord encourages Jeremiah (1:7-9) and spells out his ministry, which is not wholly positive in nature. The Lord does not answer Jeremiah’s protest except to tell him not to say what he has said and telling Jeremiah, “You will go!” (1:7).

The Lord then provides encouragement by telling Jeremiah that he need not fear because he, the Lord, will be with him (1:8). He also tells Jeremiah that the words Jeremiah will speak will be the words of the Lord (1:9).

Any encouragement from the Lord and any thrill at being set over nations (1:10a) are set against the burden of Jeremiah’s impending ministry, which involves six aspects, only two of which are positive: “To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.”

Most of Jeremiah’s ministry will be negative and he will gain many enemies, but the Lord has told him that ahead of time and has given him assurance, through his encouragements, that this is his calling.

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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