The Word Made Fresh
1This is the prophecy of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, who was among the priests in Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God’s word came to him when Josiah, son of Amon, was king of Judah in his thirteenth year. 3God’s word continued to come to him during the reign of King Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, in Judah, and through the eleventh year of the reign of King Zedekiah in Judah, until Jerusalem was captured in the seventh month of that year:
4The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5“I knew you before I shaped you in your mother’s womb, and I set you apart as a prophet to the nations before you were born.”
6I said, “Ah, LORD God, I am only a child who doesn’t know how to give speeches!”
7But the LORD said, “Don’t say you’re just a child. You will go to everyone I send you to, and you will say what I tell you to say. 8Don’t be afraid to speak to them. I am with you, and I will protect you.”
9Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth, and said, “I have placed my words in your mouth. 10Today I appoint you over kingdoms and nations to pull up or tear down, to destroy or overthrow, to build up or plant.”
11Later the LORD said to me, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”
“I see a branch from an almond tree.”
12The LORD responded, “You have seen correctly, and I am watching to make sure my word is performed.”
13The LORD spoke to me again and asked, “What do you see?”
I said, “I see a pot boiling over, tilted away from the north.”
14The LORD said, “Disaster will befall the people who live in the lands of the north, 15because I am calling all the northern tribes to come and place their thrones at Jerusalem’s gates and against the surrounding walls, and against the other cities of Judah. 16Then I will make known my judgments against them, because of their wickedness and because they have forsaken me and made their offerings and worshiped other gods which are nothing but the work of their own hands. 17Now, you get dressed and stand up and tell them everything I have commanded you. Don’t shy away from them, or I will shy away from you. 18What I will do is to turn you into a walled city. You will be like an iron column. You will be like a bronze wall against the entire country – against the kings of Judah, including the princes, priests, and all the people of the land. 19They will turn against you but they won’t prevail because I am with you and will protect you. This is the word of the LORD.”
1-3: The introduction to the book tells us that Jeremiah prophesied during roughly the same period as Isaiah, from the reign of Josiah until the Exile. Anathoth was a City of Refuge (set apart for the protection of those accused of crimes while they await a proper trial) about 3 miles northeast of Jerusalem.
4-10: The description of Jeremiah’s call is unique among the prophets. He was apparently still quite young (in his teens, many scholars believe) when God made known to him that he had been chosen since before he was born. In response to his objection that he doesn’t know how to speak, God touches his lips and says, “There! My words are in your mouth.” Wow. Moses, you may remember, had a bit of a problem with public speaking, too (Exodus 4:10-12).
11-12: Jeremiah’s schooling begins. There is a play on words in these verses between “almond tree” (shaqed) and “watching” (shoqed).
13-19: Jeremiah’s duties are daunting. God is going to bring the nations of the north (Assyria, Babylon) to punish Jerusalem for their ungodly worship practices, and Jeremiah’s job will be to get in the face of the most powerful officials in the land.
When God chooses a person for a special task, God always provides that person with the needed skill set.