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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 1

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-19

At this time shall we turn in our Bibles to the book of Jeremiah.

About sixty years after Isaiah died, God called Jeremiah to what I feel must have been the hardest task any minister has ever been called upon to perform for the Lord. Jeremiah had to oversee the death of the nation. He had to watch it as it was in its final death throws, as it went into convulsions and died and was carried away captive to Babylon. His ministry was destined from the beginning for failure. That is, the people were not going to hearken. The people were not going to change. They had set their course and their destiny was determined. And yet, because God is so faithful, God continued His witness to them until they were carried away captive to Babylon. And He didn't really stop then. He had Daniel and Ezekiel there in Babylon continuing to witness to them even after their captivity. But Jeremiah's ministry wasn't to be successful as far as really bringing these people back to a spiritual relationship with God. They were on the way downhill. There was no recovery at this point and he had to sadly watch these people as they disregarded his warnings and as they went on into captivity.

So the book of Jeremiah begins with,

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin ( Jeremiah 1:1 ):

Now you will find that there is another priest Hilkiah who was the high priest, that is not the father of Jeremiah. Though Jeremiah was a priest, the fact that he was from Anathoth indicates that he was of the Kohathites. And the Kohathites had been removed, that particular branch of the Levites had been removed from the high priesthood. And so this Hilkiah, the father of Jeremiah, was not synonymous with the Hilkiah the high priest.

To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign ( Jeremiah 1:2 ).

Now Josiah was basically a good king. He was eight years old when he began to reign. So naturally being just a child, eight years old, he was just a puppet for the beginning of his reign upon the throne, as other men had good influences upon Josiah and he instituted spiritual reforms in beginning with the fifth year of his reign. And by the time the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the spiritual reforms of Josiah had been pretty effective in that they had gotten rid of most of the altars unto Baal and the groves and the high places where they had worshipped the false gods. Where the people of Israel had worshipped these false gods. And yet, it was still in their hearts. Though outwardly there was a spiritual reform, inwardly they had not turned with all of their hearts to God. So it was a time of outward spiritual revival because the king was a godly king. But as soon as Josiah died, the nation lapsed right back into its idolatry, which indicates that it wasn't really a move towards God from their hearts, but only a surface thing in seeking to please the king. They went along with the spiritual reforms. So because it was only surface and not down in the heart of the nation, even during the reign of Josiah, Jeremiah cried out against the things that were going on.

During the reign of Josiah they re-instituted the worship in the temple. But God said, "Go down in the temple and cry to the people as they go in, 'Trust not in lying vanities saying, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these." God said I've forsaken them.'" And so while Josiah was king, though, Jeremiah did not face, really, persecution, but once Josiah died and Jehoiakim came on to the throne, then Jehoiakim began to persecute Jeremiah. There were several endeavors to kill him. He was placed in the dungeon, and the same is true through the reign of Zedekiah. Jeremiah spent most of the time in prison. And so he lists these three kings.

It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah [who was the last of the kings] the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month ( Jeremiah 1:3 ).

Now there were two other kings who reigned during this same period, but their reigns were both of them short-lived. Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin both had a three-month reign during the same period that Jeremiah was prophesying. But because they reigned for such a short period, Jeremiah does not list them as the kings that were reigning. And it could be that the Lord didn't speak to Jeremiah during those particular periods that Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin were reigning. So the three major kings. Actually, Josiah reigned for thirty-one years. And then Jehoiakim reigned for eleven years and Zedekiah reigned for eleven years until he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, his eyes were put out, and he was carried away to captivity in Babylon.

Now Jeremiah continued to live there. Nebuchadnezzar gave Jeremiah the choice of staying there or coming to Babylon. Because Jeremiah was actually accused of treason during a part of his prophesying because he was telling the people, "Look, surrender to the Babylonians. They're going to take you. And so it's better to surrender than to be devastated." And so he was accused of treason and imprisoned as a result of it. They thought that he was in conspiracy with the Babylonians. But Nebuchadnezzar, in honoring Jeremiah because of his true prophecies, offered him to come and to have a place there in Babylon. But being the true patriot that he was, he chose to remain there in Jerusalem under the vassal reign of Gedaliah until he was put to death by those evil men. And then he was more or less kidnapped and taken to Egypt. He still wanted to stay, but the people were afraid that as a result of their rebellion against the vassal king that Nebuchadnezzar had set up Gedaliah, that Nebuchadnezzar was going to come and really destroy them. And so they fled to Egypt and they took Jeremiah with them. And at this point, there are legends and rumors and stories of what happened to Jeremiah.

One very common of the rumors is that Jeremiah took the ark of the covenant and hid it, and there are some references in some of the books in the apocrypha to the place where Jeremiah hid the ark of the covenant. Other stories are that he took one of the young princes and ferreted him off to Egypt. And then according to some of the legends that are especially promulgated by the people who are called British Israelites, those who seek to identify the Anglo-Saxon races with the tribes of Israel, they say that Jeremiah spirited the prince to England where he became the king and that the present Queen of England and Prince Charles are direct descendants of the Davidic line. So God has kept His promise that from the seed of David there would not lack being one on the throne. And so that is the only place where there's still a monarchy and they are direct descendants and they go into a long rigamarole of trying to prove their point of this ethnic relationship between the Anglo-Saxon races and the British and Scottish and Danish and so forth.

They say Dane. You see, it's Dan, Dan-ish. And the word ish in Hebrew is man. So it's Dan's man, the tribe of Dan. The Danish are the tribe of Dan. The Brit-ish, you see the ish on the end proves that they are the lost tribes of Israel. They seem to ignore foolish, but... There is surely not enough solid evidence to prove their claims. It has to be stated that the claims are based much more upon fantasy and hopefulness than on actual reality from historical record.

But those are just part of the stories that surround Jeremiah. It is thought that actually he was put to death finally there on one of the banks of the Nile. One of the tributaries to the Nile River. But the Bible is silent so we must be. It's only guesswork after the Bible ceases its record.

Verse Jeremiah 1:4 :

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before you came forth out of the womb I set thee apart, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations ( Jeremiah 1:4-5 ).

Now there is a lot of question today as to when life begins, as we deal with this area of abortion. But I think that it is significant that God declares to Jeremiah, "Before the fetus was ever formed, I knew you; before you ever came forth out of the womb I had already set you apart." God's purposes for our lives were not established after we were born. God's purposes for our lives had been established from the beginning. From the beginning of time. What God said to Jeremiah He could very well say to each one of you. "Before you were ever in a fetal state I knew you. Before you ever came forth out of the womb I had set you apart for the purpose and the plan that I have for your lives." The thing is, for me to discover and to come into harmony with that plan that God has for me, that's the important thing for me. My destiny has already been determined. The Bible says, "We are His workmanship, created together in Christ Jesus unto the good works, that God has before ordained that we should walk in them" ( Ephesians 2:10 ). God has already before ordained that which He has planned for your life. Now in the meantime, He is working in your life to prepare you for those works. Thus, we are His workmanship. God is working in us tonight.

Paul the apostle speaks about having been separated from his mother's womb. God's hand was on my life from the beginning. The recognition of that. And I'm certain that each of us can look back and we can see how God's hand has been upon our life from the beginning. In the experiences and all that we've gone through as God is preparing us for His work. So God speaks to Jeremiah and speaks about his prenatal state.

Then said I ( Jeremiah 1:6 ),

Jeremiah responded to God.

Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child ( Jeremiah 1:6 ).

Now as you figure the years that Jeremiah prophesied, and the fact that he was still alive after the captivity and went to Egypt and all, Jeremiah was probably somewhere between seventeen and twenty-five years old when the call of God came to him. And that's where the estimates usually range-between seventeen and twenty-five. Now can you imagine a seventeen-year-old boy and God saying, "I knew you before you were ever in a fetal state and I set you apart. You're to go talk to President Reagan. And you're to tell him, 'Thus saith the Lord.'" I'm sure you'd have the same problem that Jeremiah, "Who am I, Lord? I'm just a young man." And that's what the Hebrew word is there. "I'm just a young man." Usually indicated a teenager.

But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a young man: for you shall go to all that I send you, and whatsoever I command you you shall speak ( Jeremiah 1:7 ).

So often it seems that when God called a person for a particular service, they were aware of their inabilities to fulfill that service for God. God called Moses. "O God, I can't speak. I haven't been able to speak and I can't even speak now." So many times people are trying to excuse themselves because of the recognition of their own inability. But in reality, God isn't looking for talented, abled people. He's just looking for willing people. That we would not go forth in our abilities, in our genius, but we would trust in the Lord and go forth in the power of the Spirit. So God said, "Don't say. Now don't say that. Don't say you can't do it. Don't say you're but a child." Gideon said, "O Lord, you can't mean me. My father is a nobody and I'm the least in my father's family. You can't mean me." Saul, when Samuel said, "God has called you to be the king over Israel." "Oh no, no. There's a mistake here somewhere." And many times when God lays upon our hearts the things that He has in mind, we say, "Lord, there's a mistake here somewhere. The angels got the wrong address. He's delivering the message to the wrong person, Lord, that's not me."

But the very consciousness of our ability is the very thing that qualifies us for that which God wants to do. Because God said, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" ( Zechariah 4:6 ). So it isn't my ability that God is really seeking for. It's just a channel, an instrument through which He can do His work. And if I feel like I can't do it then that makes me a more yielded vessel unto God. If I feel, "All right, Lord, You bet. Just been waiting for You. I'll do it right away." Then it takes a while before God beats me down to nothing. So then He can go ahead and do what He's been wanting to do through me. In every service to which God calls us, there is that feeling of, "I'm ill-equipped. O Lord, who am I?"

Now God said,

Be not afraid of their faces ( Jeremiah 1:8 ):

Here is a young fellow going out and saying these things that are going to get people mad, and they're going to start glaring at him and gritting their teeth and scowling and making all kinds of fierce faces at him, because he's saying things they don't like. So God said, "Don't be afraid of their faces."

for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 1:8 ).

So God's personal message of comfort to the prophet, "Now don't be afraid the way they look at you because I'm with you to deliver you."

Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee this day over the nations ( Jeremiah 1:9-10 ),

Imagine God saying this to just a young fellow, seventeen, eighteen years old. "Today, now look, I've touched you and I've set you over the nations." "Me?"

and over the kingdoms, [and this was his ministry] to root out, to pull down, and to destroy ( Jeremiah 1:10 ),

Oh, what a ministry.

Years ago when I was just a child and started in the ministry, our second pastorate was in Tucson, Arizona. And I have not always been the most tactful person in the world, nor am I yet. I'm not quite as blunt as Romaine, but I'm still not always graceful and tactful. And I do have the capacity of just speaking what I feel to be the truth and I think that it's important that the truth be spoken even though it does cut or hurt. I've always believed in the proverb, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" ( Proverbs 27:6 ). And so when we were pastoring in Tucson in the first part of our pastoring there, we did a very excellent job in sort of emptying the church. And I received my first, not the last, but my first anonymous letter. I get them all the time now, but I received my first anonymous letter. And I read the first; I don't read them anymore. But it said, "When Jesus was a boy and was a carpenter in his father's shop, we never read of him using a wrecking bar." And they spelled it r-e-c-k-i-n-g. And I think that the intimation was that I was wrecking the church or something. But it was, it seems, that God called me as He did Jeremiah to root out, to pull down, and to destroy. You see, oftentimes the system becomes so corrupt that there's nothing to build on. Now God's purpose is always that of building, but He cannot always start out building. Many times He has to tear down what is there.

Now in a lot of this redevelopment, downtown stuff, they have to go in with bulldozers and just level the buildings. Tear them out and haul them away, and then they start the new building projects and the high-rises and so forth. Because the stuff is so old, it's so decrepit, it's so corrupt that you wouldn't dare try to build on it. The nation Israel had come to the place where it was beyond recovery. It was necessary now that God just pull down, root out, tear out what was left in order that He might start His new work of planting and of building. So Jeremiah's ministry was, first of all, to root out, pull down, destroy.

and to throw down, [and then] to build, and to plant ( Jeremiah 1:10 ).

As God starts then His new work. God never tears down in our lives except to the end that He might begin His true work of building up and planting that new work in us. So you may be in that stage right now where God is still rooting out. You say, "Oh Lord, you know. You're bringing me to nothing." Yes, that's what He wants to do in order that He might start His building and His planting in your life. So that ministry to which God called Jeremiah is a very common type calling as God must get rid of the present corrupt system in order that He might establish His new work. That is why I feel that very rarely do you ever see real revival come within the framework of a denomination. That God seems to always go outside and start a new work. He doesn't try to bring recovery to the old systems. He doesn't try to pour the new wine in the old skins. He doesn't sew the new piece of cloth on the old garment. But He usually goes outside and starts a whole new building process.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see? And he said, I see a rod of an awakening tree ( Jeremiah 1:11 ).

The almond tree in Hebrew is an awakening tree because the almond tree is the first tree that awakes in the spring. In fact, the almond trees begin to blossom in January. They're the first trees to come out of the winter season there in the holy land. They start to blossom in January and by March they have their almonds and all on them. So it's called an awakening tree because it's the first tree to awaken in the... after the winter season.

Then said the LORD unto me, You have seen correctly: for I will [watch over or awake over] my word to perform it ( Jeremiah 1:12 ).

"What do you see?" "I see an awakening tree." "That's right. You've seen good, because I'm going to be awake over My Word to perform it. I'm going to watch over My Word to perform it."

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What do you see? And I said, I see a boiling pot; and the face of it is towards the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land ( Jeremiah 1:13-14 ).

Now Babylon was actually east, but in order to attack they had to come to the north and come down from the north, rather than coming across the desert area there. And so it is a reference to Babylon and the coming invasion.

For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands ( Jeremiah 1:15-16 ).

So God is going to bring judgment upon His people because of their wickedness, because they have forsaken God, and they have turned to other gods and are burning incense to these other gods and worshipping these little idols that they have made with their own hands.

Now some of the latest archaeological diggings in the city of Jerusalem are in the area of the old City of David, Ophel, that is down below the temple mount area. The City of David was actually down below that temple mount area. The temple was put up there on Mount Moriah by David's son, Solomon, but that was sort of the outskirts of the city in a westerly direction. And the City of David is on that hill of Ophel coming up from the pool of Siloam and the Gihon springs. That mound that comes up was the original city of Jerusalem and the City of David. And they are now doing quite a bit of archaeological diggings on the side of the hill there and they are uncovering houses that date back to the time of Jeremiah. The little houses that they are uncovering were broken down by Nebuchadnezzar during the time that Jeremiah was alive. So the archaeologist's spade is going right back to the time of Jeremiah. And as they are pulling the rubble and the rocks off of these dwelling places, for when they came back from the Babylonian captivity, rather than rebuilding the houses they just covered them over with dirt and build on top of them. And so they have dug down and they found these houses, but the interesting thing in the rubble of the houses there, they are discovering multitudes of little idols that the people had made and were worshipping. A confirmation to the Word of the Lord here to Jeremiah where He said they worshipped the works of their own hands. In each one of the houses multitudes of these little idols. They're getting a collection of little idols like you can't believe. So God says, "My judgment is coming."

Therefore gird up thy loins ( Jeremiah 1:17 ),

Now the guys wore these long skirts, and they're all right for walking around, but if you're going to go to work you've got to pull the things up and tie your sash so that your legs have free movement. If you're going to run, you got to gird up your loins. You gird up the skirts, you pull them on up, tie your sash so that you can really get to work. You can't work with that long robe down to the ground. So that term, "gird up your loins," is always in reference to pulling up the long skirt that the men wore and tying the sash around to hold the thing up so that you can get to work. It's sort of a phrase that says, "And now get to work. Get busy."

and arise, and speak unto them all that I command you: be not dismayed at their faces ( Jeremiah 1:17 ),

Now the second time Lord said that, because they're going to be looking at you and some real angry looks.

lest I confound thee before them ( Jeremiah 1:17 ).

Now it's an interesting thing if... A lot of times, especially when you've got a message, you've got to not even look at the faces of the people if it's a harsh message, because their faces might make you lose your thought and you get confounded because you're reacting to the response of the people to the message. So He said, "Don't look at their faces lest you get confounded. Just go out and speak the word that I put in your mouth. And it's going to have a negative effect upon them, so just don't look at their faces lest I confound you before them."

For, behold, I have made thee this day a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brass wall against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes, against the priests, and against the people ( Jeremiah 1:18 ).

Man, you're going to stand against them all, Jeremiah. You're going to be standing against the kings, the priests, the princes and all the people. You're going to be almost alone in this thing. But I've made you a defensed city. I'm going to defend you. I'm going to put a wall around you.

And they shall fight against thee; but they will not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver you ( Jeremiah 1:19 ).

Now here is his commission. Here is his calling, and it is interesting to me that in his calling, God doesn't lay out a nice, rosy picture. "Jeremiah, I'm going to call you now to a wonderful job and you're going to minister for me. And because you're a minister, I want you to drive a Cadillac and live on Lido Island and enjoy the best now. Because after all, you're my child. You deserve the best." No, God laid out the truth of what's going to happen to you, Jeremiah. It's not going to be easy. "You better not look at their faces; it will scare you. I've set you against the king, the princes, the priests, the people, the whole caboodle. You're going to be there by yourself and they're going to turn against you. But don't worry, I'm going to be with you. I'm going to deliver you."

When the Lord called Paul the apostle on the road to Damascus and brought that dramatic change in his life, as Paul was there and the Lord was saying to Paul, "Now Paul, I'm calling you to go to the Gentiles." And the Lord laid out for Paul the whole ministry that He had for him. When Paul came to the city of Damascus still blind, and of course, I am certain in his mind total mental confusion. Here he was on the road to Damascus breathing out threats against this new sect of Christianity. Actually, the word is breathing out murders against them. He was so uptight against this sect that would dare to declare that Jesus was the Messiah and to go against the teaching of the Pharisees. And breathing out murders against them with papers to imprison those who call upon the name of the Lord there in Damascus. There on the road a life changing experience as he's lying on the ground and someone is saying to him, "Why are you kicking against the pricks?" "Who are You, Lord, that I might serve You?" "I'm Jesus whom you persecute." "What would you have me to do, Lord?" And the Lord told him what He had him to do.

For when Paul was in Damascus and still going over these things in his mind after three days, the Lord spoke to a man by the name of Ananias and He said, "Ananias, go over and lay your hands upon Paul or Saul that he might receive his sight." And he said, "Oh Lord, You're kidding, aren't You? I'm on his hit list. I've heard about this guy. He's been just wrecking havoc in the church in Jerusalem. This guy's fierce." The Lord said, "No, don't worry, you go and do what I told you to do, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me and I have shown him all of the things that he's going to have to suffer for My sake." The Lord said, "Paul, here's what I want you to do. I want you to go to the Gentiles, but it's not going to be easy. You're going to be stoned. They're going to drag you out of the city thinking you're dead. They're going to whip you. They're going to be beating you. But I want you to go for Me." Paul said, "All right, let's go for it." I think that that's very commendable on Paul's part, that even having heard all the things he was going to suffer, he still made that commitment.

Now sometimes ministers like to lay out a rosy path for you. "Just receive Jesus and life is going to be so beautiful. You'll have no more problems because it's just a nice bed of roses. Just get on the air mattress and float into heaven." No way! And Jesus didn't say that. He said, "Look, if they didn't receive Me, they're not going to receive you. If they persecuted Me, they're going to persecute you, because the servant is not greater than his Lord. Take up your cross and follow Me." He didn't paint a rosy picture. He told them the truth and I think it's important that we tell people the truth. It isn't easy to follow the Lord. It isn't easy to serve the Lord. You're going to be going against the tide. But as the Lord said to Jeremiah, "I will put a wall around you. I will be your defense." And you will have experiences with God that will be invaluable as you see God's hand upon you and God's defense around you and the work of God. It's beautiful.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-1.html. 2014.
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