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Jeremiah (1): The Young Man for God (Jer 1.1-10)

T Rogerson, Muirhead

There are men who stand out in this world's history as being those who have accomplished something or have simply left a lasting impression in our minds, and it will take a long time before such individuals will be forgotten. In the same way, as we approach the Word of God we have various people who stand out head and shoulders above the rest for one reason or another, not just like Saul in physical stature but also in character. We start the Word with righteous Abel, the first man to produce a sacrifice that God was pleased to set His eyes upon, and we end with John, the beloved of the Lord; from a man who produced a lamb to the man who held the Lamb of God and beheld Him in the midst of the heavenly throng as the centre of praise and worship. Each person has their own unique trait which sets him or her apart from others.

Thus we would concentrate on this man, Jeremiah, a man who was privileged to write two books for the Word of God, who stands out as the second prophet to be vocally reluctant for service when the call came, but who was also set apart from others as one of the youngest prophets for God in the Word (Samuel being of a similar age when he heard the call of God), and of course as the lamenting prophet. We would, therefore, like to look at a few things we can learn about this prophet so that we might be encouraged by the features of one who lived and served so long ago.

Verse 1: His origin

The first thing that Jeremiah tells us about himself is that he is the son of Hilkiah. Now there is only one other man named Hilkiah in the Word of God who lived around the same time, and that is the High Priest who contributed to the revival in Josiah's day - he who found the book of the law of God (2 Kings 22.8). We cannot, however, prove whether or not they are the same person, as there is little said about the High Priest which could give us a clue. What is important is that Jeremiah's father lived during a time of darkness, when every man was doing that which was right in his own eyes, and God had only a small remnant of faithful people across the nation. We assume that Hilkiah was part of this small company in the midst of the nation as his name means "my portion is Jehovah", and the majority of people in the Word of God lived up to their name. So, first we see that Jeremiah was blessed by his parents, good God-fearing parents we can only assume. But following this we see also that he was blessed by the place where he lived - Anathoth: a city given to the tribe of Levi, one that was hard against Jerusalem, and one that was a city of refuge for the man-slayer. We could try and imagine what it must have been like for Jeremiah, growing up as a boy destined to be a priest among so many, what one might have hoped were God-fearing and God-knowledgeable priests. The reality was somewhat different in his experience. Those who should have been the wisest and the best examples turned out to be some of his harshest persecutors in rejection of his words, which brought out the truth of the situation.

The lessons are plain for us. We have many children growing up in the midst of our assemblies, and we trust they truly do understand what a privilege it is to have parents which are saved and seeking to educate them in the things of God. Not only are there parents, but there will also be an older generation, setting an example for the youth to follow, and they bear a tremendous responsibility. This should be the exercise of all, so that when we have the saints over to our houses we are not teaching the youth to gossip but rather to have fellowship in the things of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord taught us that the Pharisees sought to make themselves examples for others to follow. He said that they compassed sea and land to make one proselyte, but when that was achieved they made him "twofold more the child of hell" than themselves (Mt 23.15). This teaches us that not only our actions can be a bad example but so also is imparting a legalistic doctrine which is not of God. Paul would say, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample" (Phil 3.17). An example to follow after - are we one?

Verses 2-3: His timing

Jeremiah was a man of many messages from the Lord for the Lord's people; however, he did not open his mouth for God until the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign. Josiah is always remembered as a king that did much good for God, but it was not until the eighteenth year of his reign that the book of the law was found in the temple and he set to work (2 Kings 22). We cannot know for certain what age Jeremiah was at this point, but we can say that the timing of God is impeccable. A young man, living in the midst of a people who thought it was quite in order to worship Baal, to sacrifice their children to idols, to have relations with their neighbours' wives, and still honour Jehovah at the same time, is sent forth to reveal their wickedness, to declare the hardness of their hearts, and to make known that God will be vindicated. And so, five years later, revival happens within the king's heart, false altars are broken down, the high places are defiled, and the temple set in order. The only thing lacking was a change within the heart of the people, for as soon as the king died all that was an abomination before God was set back in its place. Therefore we have the man Jeremiah sent out to preach.

For our part, we must remember that God has a time for everything; truly there is "a time to every purpose under the heaven" as the Preacher said (Eccl 3.1). It is just so difficult for us to have the patience to sit back and wait for whatever God would have us to do. Let us remember God's calendar, for in this we see that God never rushed into anything. Abraham was not called straight after the Flood, the nation of Israel as a people did not start to be formed until after the time of Abraham's great grandchildren, and even then the people were not ready to partake fully of the Promised Land until nearly 500 years later. The nation, although in the land, did not fully enjoy that land as they were meant to, and will not enter into that enjoyment until a time yet future. God has his timings for His own people. Again, Paul tells us that it was "when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen" (Gal 1.15-16). We see that Paul recognised that God had a time for him to be born, and a time for him to be called to service. May we all be sensitive to the timing of God for our lives.

To be continued.


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