“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”￼ (1:5)
We love to pluck out this verse and feel warm fuzzies about the intimacy of the LORD–how deeply He knows us. But this sentence didn’t have the same affect for Jeremiah. The first word out of his mouth upon hearing this is, “Alas!”
Jeremiah lived out his life alongside the last years of Judah’s kingdom. He was a prophet unto exile, starting in the reign of Josiah. He would have been aware of the prophets before him. Perhaps most familiar with Isaiah, who was part of the royal family and very stately indeed. Isaiah also was probably sawn in two, meaning Jeremiah would have associated a level of trepidation with this calling.
The LORD says it’s okay he’s young, and to not be afraid, but not for the reasons you’d think. He didn’t say, “it’s okay you’re young, people will still take you seriously.” Or “Don’t be afraid, nothing bad will happen.” In fact, Jeremiah’s life would go on to be marked by people ignoring him and plenty of bad things (inspiring his next book: Lamentations).
So why should he be comfortable with this calling?
“I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. (1:8a) “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” (1:9b)
The LORD isn’t making him speak without something to say, and He is not sending Jeremiah out alone. It’s going to be rough, but it is important, from the LORD, and He will be there along the way.
Many times in my life I felt I had an assignment from the LORD, and then I marched out with a salute and a, “I won’t let you down!” I’ve needed constant reminders to wait for His words in His time and way, sticking with Him. The only acceptable anecdote￼ for the fear, is His with-ness. It can’t be my confidence.
I love how Jeremiah’s first prophetic experience was so gently facilitated.
“What do you see?”
“I see a rod of an almond tree.”
“You have seen well, for I am watching over you to perform it.”
By my estimation, this also ties to the long prophecy in chapter two: what is the evil Israel committed?
“They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”￼￼ (2:13)
Leaving the LORD to charge ahead into your own agenda is a recipe for disaster, but it’s also our natural tendency.
Do you find yourself navigating the LORD’s word in your life on your own? Are you striving by your own strength or improvising the message? Talk to Him about it. What do you need to ask Him for? Patience? Vision? Peace? Truth? Faith? Ask Him today.