Called to Speak God’s Word: Reflecting on Jeremiah 1

Jeremiah 1 records the prophet‘s divine calling to speak God’s words to Judah before the Babylonian invasion. Though Jeremiah felt unqualified as a youth, God reassures him that He will empower this ministry. The chapter also previews Judah’s coming judgment, yet promises to preserve Jeremiah amidst opposition. As we reflect on this passage, we see principles for how God prepares leaders, often calling the unexpected to serve His purposes. When we feel unfit for the task, He enables and upholds us by His strength and grace.

Key Takeaways

  • God called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry while still young, underscoring how God uses unlikely people.
  • Jeremiah felt unworthy, but God assures him that He appoints and equips the called.
  • God prepares leaders through direct revelation, inner prompting, and wise mentors.
  • God commissions Jeremiah to confront Judah regarding their covenant unfaithfulness.
  • God warns Jeremiah he will face opposition, but promises to protect and sustain him.
  • Jesus similarly promises His followers they will be hated and persecuted, but their reward in heaven is great.

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The Call of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 1 opens by situating Jeremiah’s ministry at the outset of the Babylonian crisis around 626 BC during King Josiah’s reign. Jeremiah describes his calling from the Lord:

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘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.’ ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’ 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'” (Jeremiah 1:4-7).

Several key truths emerge here:

  1. God ordains leaders long before they grasp His plans, even forming them in the womb for destiny.
  2. Jeremiah feels unqualified as a young person, but God says not to buy into this excuse.
  3. God equips those He appoints. Jeremiah only needs to speak the Lord’s words, not his own clever messages.

This episode displays God’s sovereignty in selecting and empowering leaders, often breaking human paradigms of who seems “qualified.” The Lord called David, Israel’s greatest king, while a shepherd boy overlooked by his own father (1 Samuel 16). Similarly, God chose Jacob the deceiver, Moses the stutterer, and Gideon the fear-filled to do mighty exploits by His strength.

As Oswald Chambers said, “God doesn’t choose a person for something on account of what he is; God makes something out of the person He chooses.”1 God alone qualifies the called. Let us step out in faith when we sense His commission.

Prepared from Birth

Jeremiah 1 highlights how God prepares leaders long before their public ministry emerges:

“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 1:5).

Here God reveals He consecrated Jeremiah and foreknew his prophetic role even from before conception in the womb. The Lord was already at work shaping Jeremiah for future service.

We see this also in the Apostle Paul’s testimony that God set him apart from birth for ministry to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15). While public ministry comes later, God plants early seeds of leadership and cultivation.

For young leaders, this emphasizes the importance of cooperating with God’s preparatory work in current stages, even if public platform seems delayed. Avoid wasted years by stewing over the “not yet.” Instead, let God develop character, skills, and wisdom for future influence in the “now.” The waiting prepares us for the working.

Inner Prompting

Beyond general readiness, Jeremiah 1 reveals God issues a direct call to leaders for specific assignments:

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying…” (Jeremiah 1:4).

Jeremiah highlights the inner experience of receiving God’s personal directive, the defining moment when destiny clicks into clarity. This represents a transition from general preparation to tactical commissioning. The hour has come!

We see similar pivotal moments in Moses encountering God in the burning bush (Exodus 3), Isaiah hearing the Lord’s voice in the temple (Isaiah 6), Saul blinded by Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9), and other leaders arrested by an unambiguous assignment from heaven.

For some leaders, this inner prompting comes like a lightning bolt that kickstarts their calling. For others, it unfolds gradually through recurring impressions that crystallize God’s direction for the season ahead. In either case, the inner witness of the Spirit confirms God’s commission to equip us for the task. Let us respond promptly when we sense Him speaking.

Wisdom from Mentors

In addition to direct revelation, Jeremiah 1 shows God uses mentors to affirm the paths of emerging leaders:

“The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘…What do you see?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree’, I replied. The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled'” (Jeremiah 1:11-12).

God shows Jeremiah a symbolic vision which his mentor, possibly the priest Gemariah, correctly interprets: The flourishing almond branch represents God rapidly carrying out His word.

This interaction displays how God uses wise counselors to provide timely perspective, feedback, and advice that validate a leader’s trajectory. Paul similarly submitted his calling to local church leaders for their blessing and input (Galatians 2:1-10).

Young leaders should humbly seek out and learn from seasoned veterans who can offer broader context, insight, and experience for navigating challenging assignments.

Confronting Sin

After detailing Jeremiah’s calling, God reveals the content of His commission to confront Judah regarding their sin:

“…the Lord said to me, ‘…I am making you over this nation that you may pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow, build and plant.’ So now the Lord says this to you: ‘You must go and shout this message everywhere in Jerusalem: ‘This is what the Lord says: O Israel, I have seen how stubborn and rebellious you are. For ever since you were young, you have refused to obey me'” (Jeremiah 1:9-10; 2:2; 3:25 NLT).

Jeremiah’s difficult task was to confront Judah about their long history of idolatry and moral corruption, warning that God’s patience had limits. If they refused to repent, judgment would come through Babylon’s invasion.

Like Jeremiah, God often calls leaders to rebuke cultural sins and cry out for societal change, even at personal cost. Yet we speak the truth in love, with compassion not condescension. The goal remains restoration not condemnation.

Let us pray for courage to speak biblically on controversial issues, calling people back to God’s design with grace and truth.

Promise of Protection

Because of the opposition Jeremiah would face, God provides assurance of protection:

“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. 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. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:17-19).

God emboldens Jeremiah not to cower in fear but deliver the Lord’s words boldly. God would make him strong as a fortified city able to withstand attacks. Victory was assured because God accompanied him.

Similarly, Jesus told His disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves…Be on your guard; you will be handed over to local councils and flogged…But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it…For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:16-20).

Despite persecution, we can have confidence of God’s sustaining help and wisdom to persevere as we speak His truth. The Lord upholds His faithful messengers.

Conclusion

In summary, Jeremiah 1 displays key truths about God’s calling and preparation of leaders:

  • God often selects unexpected candidates through His sovereign wisdom.
  • Leaders should not disqualify themselves based on seeming limitations or inadequacies. If God calls, He equips.
  • God prepares leaders through life experiences, inner promptings, and wise counsel before their public ministry emerges.
  • God courageously commissions leaders to confront sins that may be culturally controversial.
  • God protects and upholds those whom He appoints to accomplish His purposes, even amidst adversity.

Our great God delights in using flawed but faithful vessels who rely wholly on His power. May we be attentive and obedient to God’s call, submitted to His preparation process toward being leaders after His heart who bring great glory to Him.


1 Chambers, O. (1986). My Utmost for His Highest. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House.

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