Sermon on Jeremiah 1:4-10
Text: The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “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.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7 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. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Sometimes when children are asked to do a task, they come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they can’t do the task. They may say something like, ‘It’s too hard.’ Another reason that is given is that they are busy doing something else. ‘Can I do it later? I really want to watch this TV show.’ They may offer the excuse, ‘I’m too little.’ They feel they don’t have the maturity or, maybe even, the height to do the task. Sometimes when God asks us to do things, we, too, come up with all sorts of excuses why we can’t do the job. Today we are going to study a prophet in the Old Testament, who also offered an excuse when God called him to do a task. As we study God’s response to Jeremiah, may we also find the reason for all of our excuses, as well. This morning, we study God’s Word under the theme: DON’T SAY, “I’M ONLY A CHILD!” 1. God Has Chosen You. 2. God Has Promised To Be With You and 3. God Has Given You His Word.
We want to take note of the time and circumstances in which Jeremiah was to prophesy. He began prophesying forty years before the Babylonians conquered Judah. As the Babylonians approached, the other prophets of the day said that the Babylonians would be defeated. Jeremiah, as God’s spokesman, spoke of defeat and destruction. When the Babylonians conquered the land, the false prophets said the captivity would last only a few years. Jeremiah, as God’s spokesman, said that the captivity would last seventy years. Because Jeremiah dared speak a message that was contrary to the ideas and hopes of his generation, he was threatened, imprisoned, and called a traitor. Jeremiah died in Egypt, where he was taken by a party of Jews after the fall of Jerusalem.
What is recorded for us today on the pages of Holy Scriptures took place at the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry as he was called to be a prophet of the LORD. We read in verses four and five, “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.’” We note that Jeremiah was not speaking his own words. He didn’t make them up. These were God’s words. They came by verbal inspiration.
God told Jeremiah that he had been chosen, set aside for a particular task. He was to be a “prophet to the nations.” Note when God chose Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Before Jeremiah was even conceived in the womb of his mother, God knew him. It wasn’t Jeremiah had exhibited certain qualities and characteristics that made God take notice and recruit him for the task. Rather, before Jeremiah was born, God set him aside for the task. God gave him the characteristics, temperament, gifts and talents which would qualify him for the task. God told Jeremiah that he had chosen him for the task of being God’s spokesman, his prophet.
In the same way, God has chosen us to be his people. When did he choose us? Indeed, it was before we were conceived in the wombs of our mothers, for we read in Ephesians 1:4, “[God] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Note that we were chosen before we could possibly do anything to earn our salvation. God chose you before the world was created. For many of us that choice was made known when we were brought into the family of God through the washing of baptism.
Why did God choose us? Just as with Jeremiah, it wasn’t that we had such outstanding characteristics. Rather, we were completely unlovable because of our sinfulness. This state in which all mankind is in is a result of Adam’s sin. All are born sinful, enemies of God. Think how often, during the average day, your sinful nature shows itself. Every time you complain or become upset with someone else or are lazy or a list of many other sins, you sinful nature shows itself. There is nothing lovable or admirable in you by nature that would move God to choose you. So, why did he choose us?
The answer is, in a word, grace. The word “grace” mean to choose to love, to love those who really don’t deserve to be loved. God so clearly showed that love, grace, by sending his Son to be our Savior. We deserved to spend an eternity in hell because of our sins. However, because Jesus came to the earth, lived a perfect life in our place, suffered and died to pay for our sins, and rose victoriously on Easter morning, we know that eternal life is ours. God further showed his grace by sending the Holy Spirit into your heart to create a saving faith. God chose us to be his own.
Now, as I see God’s love so clearly in my life, I want to say, “Thank you.” I want to serve him. How can I do so? God told Jeremiah, “I appoint you as a prophet to the nations.” He says, essentially the same thing to us in the familiar words of Matthew 28:19&20, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” When we hear this command of God, we may start to feel uneasy and think up the various excuses why we can’t. ‘I haven’t been trained to do that.’ ‘What if people make fun of me?’ ‘No one listens to me.’ Perhaps, we can take comfort in the fact that Jeremiah also offered excuses when God came to him with his call. Jeremiah said, “Alas, Sovereign LORD, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Verse 6) Jeremiah felt that he wasn’t qualified. He didn’t know how to speak. He said that he was too young. The word used for “young” in the Hebrew does, at times, carry the idea of not being qualified. It may well have been that Jeremiah was quite young, especially when you consider the fact that he had a forty plus year ministry. It wasn’t customary that young men address the elders of the community. So, whether Jeremiah is speaking figuratively or literally, he felt that he couldn’t carry out the task. He shuddered at the very thought of it.
Note, then, how the Lord deals with Jeremiah. He doesn’t scold him or tell him that he’s being foolish. He does tell him to stop talking like this, but gives him the reason he can find strength to do the task. We read in verse seven, “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.’” The Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s excuse was decisive and clear. He was not to say that he was too young. He was the Lord’s ambassador. Furthermore, this is what God wanted him to do and where he was to do it.
As further comfort and encouragement, God told Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Verse 8) If any doubt remained, the Lord addressed it in two ways. First of all, he gave a command to dispel Jeremiah’s fear. “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you.” Even though the people Jeremiah was going to prophesy to would try to kill him, he was not to be afraid, because the LORD was with him. Jeremiah served the LORD, not the fancies and whims of human beings. As further comfort, God told Jeremiah, “I will rescue you.” God promised to protect and care for his spokesman.
So also when we go out with God’s Word, he makes the same promises to us. We don’t have to be afraid because God is with us. He is there for us. He has made the promise that he will rescue us. Even if it should be that we were to lose our lives because we are witnessing for the Lord, we will be rescued from this life of pain and sorrow and reach the bliss of heaven. Indeed, when we face opposition as we speak God’s Word, we recall Paul’s words in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
It’s interesting to note that we hear no further word of protest or doubt from Jeremiah’s lips throughout the rest of this book. Because God had told him to go and had promised to be with him, that was all that Jeremiah needed to go forward with the message. We also note what God did next. You will recall that one of Jeremiah’s excuses was, “I don’t know how to speak.” Look what God did in verse nine, “The LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth.’” Those words that Jeremiah was worried about coming up with would be supplied by God himself. God gave Jeremiah the very words to speak. How useless to worry about inexperience or opposition! For, if the people opposed Jeremiah’s word, they were opposed to the LORD’s word and, thus, were opposing the LORD himself.
Listen to the power of these words of the LORD. In verse ten we read, “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” With these words Jeremiah would uproot, tear down, destroy and overthrow. With these words he would build and plant. What were these words that could do such powerful things?
We hear and use the same words today. They are the Law and the Gospel found in God’s Word. When God’s Law is spoken, it tears down the sinful pride. It uproots all of the sins that are so firmly imbedded in our lives. It overthrows the sinful nature’s domination of our lives. With the Gospel, we build up the new man. We plant the seeds of hope, joy and peace. God has given us these powerful words to use. So, when we make the excuse that we wouldn’t know what to say, God tells us to use his Word. Apply the Law as needed. When the comfort of the Gospel is called for, be ready to apply it. You, too, are included in Christ’s Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19) Of course, the only way we can know what God has commanded is to know his Word. God’s Word is a very valuable tool. As we learn more about it, we become better at being able to use it.
Often, it seems, excuses that are offered are quite weak. They tend to fall apart under close scrutiny. God calls us to be his spokesmen to the world. Before we offer our excuses, be reminded of the facts that God has chosen you, he has promised to be with you, and he has given you his Word to speak. More than that, he gives us the motivation for carrying out this work. He loved us. He loved us to the extent that he sacrificed his Son. Moved by the love of God, may we respond as Isaiah did, when the LORD asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah said, “Here am I. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) May the Lord fill us with this zeal. Amen.
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