Verse 6: His reluctance
We are not told what the young man, Jeremiah, was doing on the day when the word of the Lord came to him, nor in what manner it was received. We simply know that it came, and it appears that it was something Jeremiah was not looking for. "I am a child", was his plea. "I am not able to bear this responsibility". God would reveal that the young man was afraid. As already mentioned, this was quite understandable considering the day and generation in which he lived, and what he obviously knew of the duties of a prophet of God. Look at the message he has to deliver: he ridicules the nation's worship (2.27); he tells them they are deceiving themselves (2.35); he calls them backsliding adulterers (3.20); he calls them fools and children who lack understanding (4.22); and, of course, the major theme throughout the book, he tells of the desolation of Jerusalem. Jeremiah did not have easy words to say to these people so we can readily understand why he thought an older man would be better suited for the job.
Consider for a moment why a young man was chosen. It is clear from the history of the people, described in Kings and Chronicles and also here in Jeremiah, that there were very few faithful servants left. The people had corrupted themselves and, worse still, so had the priesthood and the king. The older generations had failed, and continued in their failure. One was required from the up and coming generations that had not been polluted by years of immoral, abominable indoctrination, one who had not been subjected to the pressures of man's theories and interpretations of God's requirements. A young, tender man is seen to be best suited in the light of these concerns. There are questions that must be asked of our older generation. Have the traditions of men so gripped our minds that we are blinded to the simple truths of Scripture? Is the love of God perfected in us? Are we truly walking as He would have walked? If a man be in Christ, so let him examine himself honestly.
How often have we known the mind of God for a particular service for Him, but the first thing that comes into our thoughts is an excuse as to why we are not suited. So often we act like Moses by saying that we do not have the eloquence of speech, doubting our personal ability for the job; or, perhaps like Gideon, we can continually seek assurance as to the mind of God. Now, seeking assurance from God on a matter is not wrong, but did Gideon really need to have double assurance from the fleece, or did he even have to go through with the fleece test as he says to God "If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said …" (Judg 6.36)? Surely he did not need to question the mind of God but should simply have had faith in the word of the living God. We see from Moses that what he thought was lacking in his character was of no concern to God - "Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say" (Ex 4.12). God knew Gideon feared (Judg 7.10); He was merciful and gracious toward Moses who, by his reaction, could only be said to have been afraid of the task before him (Ex 3 & 4), and He was also gracious to our young man Jeremiah in his fear (v.8).
Now young brother, young sister, which one of these servants did God let down? Which one could we say knew not the strength that only comes from above? Which one through their experience found God not to be faithful to His word? Which one ended up rejecting the God of heaven because He was not any better than the gods of the heathen? None, of course, for there has not been a servant of God down through the ages that has ever known God not be true to His word. It is our young man that is moved to pen "great is thy faithfulness" (Lam 3.23), even in the midst of his dark despair during the judgment of Jerusalem. Let us be up and doing what God requires of us.
Verses 7-8: Encouragement received
The encouragement given to Jeremiah from God comes in three distinct ways. The Lord first addresses the excuse given ("Say not"), then instills confidence in the young man ("thou shalt"), and then gives the promise of His presence with him ("I am with thee"). We are often prone to make excuses for not doing one thing or another, especially when it comes to spiritual things. Jeremiah, we may feel, had a very legitimate excuse (I am too young), and we may think that we too have legitimate excuses for not doing various things before God. But listen to what God says to the young man - "Say not I am a child". Young brother, young sister, we are never too young to be used of God - look at Samuel. Young man, young woman, there is no degree of understanding which bars you from service for God - see the man of Gadara, saved and sent home to preach within hours (Lk 8). He had no time to study to know the depths of the work of Christ upon Calvary.
Older brother, older sister, the years may have been many, and so too the disappointments and the missed opportunities, but it is never too late to do something for your Lord and Master. Think of Barzillai who, though old in years, advanced a younger man for the blessing of the king (2 Sam 19). Do we not have much to pass on to the younger generations so that nothing is lost? What does Paul say? "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2.2). And to the women "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2.3-5).
Now what about the instilling of confidence? Please note that God did not tell Jeremiah that he would say all that God wanted him to say simply by looking within himself to find strength sufficient for his need. No, no, and again, no! The self-help/motivational teaching of today's literature and popular 'Christianity' is clearly not seen here (and nowhere else in Scripture for that matter). God tells the young man that he would fulfil his ministry, because He was the One that would help Jeremiah and give him the words to say. And so with us. None of us is able or sufficient within ourselves for the work that God requires of us, and neither was Paul, but he said "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil 4.13). We are promised help from above (Jn 16.24; Heb 4.16), but do we utilise this infinite, inexhaustible resource?
To be continued.