And so we hit our second major prophet. This one’s a challenge, and I’m not sure how I want to tackle this yet. For some reason, Jeremiah keeps switching the chronology of events. He’ll talk about Josiah, then Zedekiah (the last king of Judah), and then Jehoiakim (Josiah’s son), and then go back to Zedekiah. Isaiah may have done a bit of skipping around too, but not to the extent Jeremiah does.
But anyway, God speaks to Jeremiah and says,
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. (5)
How old Jeremiah was when this call came is uncertain. What is certain is that Jeremiah was hardly brimming with confidence. He said,
“Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” (6)
In other words, “Who me? I can’t do that. I’m too young. I don’t know anything. And I’m no orator either. I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.”
But God replies,
Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. (7-10)
What was God saying? He was saying to Jeremiah, “You’re something more than what you think of yourself. You’re something more because I’ve made you something more. I’ll put my words in your mouth and I’ll use you to make a difference in this world.”
So often, we are like Jeremiah. I know I am. I look at myself, and I still don’t think I’m much. I may have a few years on me, but I still don’t feel particularly wise. Nor do I feel particularly capable to do all that God may be calling me to do.
But God says, “Don’t put yourself down. I am with you. What you are is not so important. What’s important is who I am. And I will use you to make a difference.”
What do we have to do? Just do whatever God asks. God won’t give us more than we can handle.
He started simple with Jeremiah as we see in verses 11-12.
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “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.”
God gave him a simple vision with a simple question. Jeremiah answered, and God said “See you can do it. And I’m watching to make sure the word I give to you is fulfilled.”
He even did a little wordplay in the process, as the word for “watching” in Hebrew sounds similar to the word for “almond tree.”
It’s the same with us. God starts simple with us, and then he gives us more when we can handle it. But even more important is that he promises to always stand with us. He told Jeremiah,
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. (17-19)
God tells us the same.
“Get ready. Stand up and do and say whatever I tell you. People will fight against you, but they will not overcome. Satan himself will fight you, but you will not be defeated, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as weak? Inadequate? Worthless? You’re so much more in the sight of God. All you have to do is follow him. Will you?