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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Jeremiah 1

Verses 4-10

Jeremiah 1:4-24.1.10

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee.

Seven points in Jeremiah’s life and call:--

1. God knowing him. “I knew thee.”

2. God sanctifying him. “I sanctified thee.”

3. God ordaining him. “I ordained thee.”

4. God sending him. “I shall send.”

5. God commanding him. “I command.”

6. God encouraging him. “Be not afraid.”

7. God speaking through him. “I have put My words in thy mouth.” (C. Inglis.)

Childhood prophetic

Of Charles Kingsley it is written: “His poems and sermons date from four years old. His delight was to make a little pulpit in his nursery from which, after putting on a pinafore as a surplice, he would preach to an imaginary congregation. His mother unknown to him took down his sermons at the time, and showed them to the Bishop of Peterborough, who predicted that the boy would grow up to be no ordinary man.”

I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Election and mediation

The two great blessings of election and mediation are here distinctly taught. God did not speak to the nations directly, but mediatorially He created a minister who should be His mouthpiece. Observation itself teaches us that men are called and chosen of God to do special work in all departments of life. The difficult lesson for some of us to learn is that we are called to obscurity, and yet this is as clearly a Divine appointment as is the choice of an Isaiah or a Jeremiah. If you look at life, you will see that the most of men are called to quietness, to honest industry, and to what is mistakenly called common place existence. What of it? Shall the plain murmur because it is not a mountain? Shall the green fields complain that Mont Blanc is higher than they? If they have not his majesty, neither have they his barrenness. To see our calling, to accept it, to honour it, that is the truly godly and noble life! Every man is born to realise some purpose. Find that purpose out, and fulfil it if you would lovingly serve God. We find no difficulty in persuading a man that he is a Jeremiah or a Daniel, at any rate that, under certain circumstances, he might easily have turned out a Hannibal or a Wellington. The difficulty, on the contrary, is to persuade a man that the lowliest lot, as well as the highest, is the appointment of God; that door keeping is a promotion in the Divine gift; and that to light a lamp may be as surely a call of God as to found an empire or to rule a world. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The prophet’s call and consecration

The call of jehovah. Not the product of a reflective musing, nor the result of an inward impulse, but a supernatural Divine revelation, an inspiration, a voice from without.

His Divine consecration. He felt the hand of the Lord touch him: a palpable pledge of His support. Touching his mouth meant endowment. Equipment and qualification for God’s work must be from God.

Signs which unveil his mission. These he saw in spirit, God interpreted them to him as confirmatory tokens of his Divine commission.

Supernatural assurances of help. God will furnish strength, will make him valiant and impregnable. (C. F. Keil.)

Calling to service

Like as a sword being committed into the hands of a soldier, by the captain general, he is not to smite before he be commanded to fight, and before the trumpet be sounded to battle: even so, though a man have excellences given him, yet he is not to execute any function, especially publicly, before he receive a particular warrant and calling from God (Revelation 16:1). As the ostrich hath wings and flieth not; so some men have a calling, but they answer it not; they have knowledge, but they practise it not; they have words, but they work not. (J. Spencer.)

The ways in which men are called to service

It is very remarkable that the ancient prophets always kept steadily before them the exact way by which they were led up to their office, and were always ready to vindicate themselves by a plain statement of facts. It is remarkable, too, that they could trace their heavenly election, as clearly as their earthly parentage; so much so, that, as a rule, they put on record both pedigrees, so to speak, side by side; first, that which was natural; afterwards, that which was spiritual; and the one was as much a living and indisputable fact as the other. Thus Jeremiah said, “Hilkiah was my father, and the Word of the Lord came unto me,” two things separated by an infinite distance, yet both matters of positive and unquestionable certainty. Jeremiah would have treated with equal indifference or contempt the suggestion that Hilkiah was not his father and that the Lord had never spoken to him. (J. Parker, D. D.)

I formed thee

Ask what thy work in the world is. That for which thou wast born, to which thou wast appointed, on account of which thou wast conceived in the creative thought of God. That there is a Divine purpose in thy being is indubitable. Seek that thou mayest be permitted to realise it. And never doubt that thou hast been endowed with all the special aptitudes which that purpose may demand. God has formed thee for it, storing thy mind with all that He knew to be requisite for thy life work.

The Divine purpose. “I knew thee . . . I sanctified thee . . . I have appointed thee a prophet.” In that degenerate age the great Lover of souls needed a spokesman; and the Divine decree determined the conditions of Jeremiah’s birth and character and life. How this could be consistent with the exercise of personal volition and choice on the part of the youthful prophet we cannot say. We can only see the two piers of the mighty arch, but not the arch itself, since the mists of time veil it, and we are dim of sight. It is wise to ascertain, if possible, while life is yet young, the direction of the Divine purpose. There are four considerations that will help us. First, the indication of our natural aptitudes; for these, when touched by the Divine Spirit, become talents or gifts. Secondly, the inward impulse or energy of the Divine Spirit, working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Thirdly, the teaching of the Word of God. Fourthly, the evidence of the circumstances and demands of life. When these concur, and focus in one point, there need be no doubt as to the Divine purpose and plan. But in cases where the Divine purpose is not so clearly disclosed, in which life is necessarily lived piecemeal, and the bits of marble for the tesselated floor are heaped together with no apparent plan, we must dare to believe that God has an intention for each of us; and that if we are true to our noblest ideals we shall certainly work out the Divine pattern, and be permitted some day to see it in its unveiled symmetry and beauty. To run errands for God! To be like the angels that excel in strength, and do His commandment, hearkening to the voice of His Word! To resemble the boy messengers in some of our large cities, that wait in readiness to discharge any commission that may be entrusted to them!

Formative influences. It is very interesting to study the formative influences that were brought to bear on the character of Jeremiah. There were the character and disposition of his mother, and the priestly office of his father. There was the picturesque beauty of his birthplace, the village of Anathoth, lying on the high road three miles north of Jerusalem, encircled by the famous hills of Benjamin; and looking down the ravine on the blue waters of the Dead Sea, gleaming at the foot of the purple hills of Moab. There was the near proximity of the holy city, rendering it possible for the boy to be present at all the holy festivals, and to receive such instruction as the best seminaries could provide. There was the companionship and association of godly families, like those of Shaphan and Maaseiah, who themselves had passed away, but whose children preserved the religion of their forefathers, and treasured as sacred relies the literature, psalms, and history of purer and better days. His uncle, Shallum, was the husband of the illustrious and devoted prophetess, Huldah; and their son Hanameel shared with Baruch, the grandson of Maaseiah, the close friendship of the prophet, probably from the days that they were boys together. There were also the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah, who were burning as bright constellations in that dark sky, to be soon joined by himself. His mind was evidently very sensitive to all the influences of his early life. His speech is saturated with references to natural emblems and national customs, to the life of men, and the older literature of the Bible. Take, for instance, his earliest sermon in which he refers to the story of the Exodus, and the pleadings of Deuteronomy; to the roar of the young lion, and the habits of the wild ass; to the young camel traversing her ways, and the Arabian of the wilderness; to the murmur of the brook, and the hewing of the cistern. His quick and sensitive soul eagerly incorporated the influences of the varied life around him, and reproduced them. It is thus that God is ever at work, forming and moulding us. The purpose of God gives meaning to many of its strange experiences. Be brave, strong, and trustful!

There was also a special preparation for his life work--“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.” In a similar manner had the seraph touched the lips of Isaiah years before. And we are reminded that the Lord Jesus promised that the Spirit of the Father should put appropriate words into the lips of His disciples when summoned before the tribunals of their foes. Words are the special gift of God. God never asks us to go on His errands (Jeremiah 1:7) without telling us what to say. If we are living in fellowship with Him, He will impress His messages on our minds and enrich our life with the appropriate utterances by which those messages shall be conveyed to our fellows. Two other assurances were also given. First, “Thou shalt go to whomsoever I shall send thee.” This gave a definiteness and directness to the prophet’s speech. Secondly, “Be not afraid because of them; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”

God vouchsafed a two-fold vision to his child. On the one hand, the swift-blossoming almond tree assured him that God would watch over him, and see to the swift performance of his predictions; on the other, the seething cauldron, turned towards the north, indicated the breaking out of evil. So the pendulum of life swings to and fro; now to light, and then to dark. But happy is the man whose heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. There was a period in Jeremiah’s life when he seems to have swerved from the pathway of complete obedience (Jeremiah 15:19), and to have gone back from following the God-given plan. Surrounded by contention and strife; cursed as though he were a usurer; reproached and threatened with death--he lost heart, and fainted in the precipitous path. Immediately he had good reason to fear that the Divine protection had been withdrawn. We are only safe when we are on God’s plan. But as he returned again to his allegiance, these precious promises were renewed, and again sounded in his ears: “I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.” (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

A call to service

“It was no vision that called me to the foreign field,” said a missionary at Clifton Springs, last summer. “I read with intense interest ‘All power is given unto Me, go ye, therefore.’ This was the foundation stone of my call to be a missionary. Later, while I was in the seminary, a letter was read from Dr. Butler, asking for five new men for India, ‘a chance to put your life to the best use for the Master.’ Though I had no outward vision, the illumination of the heart is the best vision one can have, and from that day I have never been sorry, and I have never doubted that God called me to this work.” (Christian Age.)

I cannot speak: for I am a child.--

Fears and comforts in prospect of labour for God:--

The fear of God’s servant in prospect of labour.

1. He feels his weakness.

(1) Having no influence.

(2) Having no experience.

(3) Being unstable.

2. He feels his ignorance.

3. He feels his unworthiness.

4. He dreads the enmity of man.

The comforts of God’s servants in prospect of labour.

1. The assurance they are called to the work.

2. The knowledge of the purpose of God.

3. The promise of the presence of God.

4. The fact that the message was from God. (R. A. Griffin.)

A young preacher’s oppressive sense of responsibility

When I first became a pastor in London my success appalled me; and the thought of the career which it seemed to open up, so far from elating me, cast me into the lowest depths outer which I uttered my “miserere,” and found no room for a “gloria in excelsis.” Who was I that I should continue to lead so great a multitude? I would betake me to my village obscurity, or emigrate to America and find a solitary nest in the backwoods, where I might be sufficient for the things that would be demanded of me. It was just then that the curtain was rising upon my life work, and I dreaded what it might reveal. I hope I was not faithless, but I was timorous and filled with a sense of my own unworthiness. I dreaded the work which a gracious providence had prepared for me. I felt myself a mere child, and trembled as I heard the voice which said, “Arise and thresh the mountains and make them as chaff.” (C. H. Spurgeons Autobiography.)

A sense of helplessness as a preparation for ministry

How many of the greatest men have been broken under a sense of their insufficiency! That passage in the life of John Livingstone comes back to me as I write. He had spoken at the yearly communion at Kirk o’ Shotts on the Sabbath with marvellous power, and had been requested to preach on the following morning, which he promised to do on condition that his friends should spend the night in prayer. But, as he awoke in the morning, he was so overwhelmed with the sense of his incompetence, that he went three and a half miles out of the town, to be brought back, however, and to preach so marvellously that five hundred souls were converted. The writer, years ago, when in great anxiety to learn whether his was a true vocation to the Christian ministry, the Bible opened to this page, and he can bear witness that God has been faithful. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

God achieves His work by seemingly inadequate workmen that the glory may be His

In using such ill-adapted tools for the accomplishment of His designs, God shows His own transparent power. That famous well cover at Antwerp, just opposite the cathedral--one of the finest pieces of wrought-iron that was ever known--is said to have been made by Quintyn Matsys with nothing but a hammer and a file, his fellow workman having taken away his tools. If it be so, the more praise to him for his consummate skill. All God’s works redound to His glory; but when the tools He uses appear to be totally inadequate to the results He achieves our reverence is excited, while our reason is abashed, and we marvel at a power we cannot understand. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Reluctance overcome

Farel, alike humble and courageous, had often asked if another would not succeed better than he, and a sort of presentiment had bidden him wait in hope for such a man. Calvin was unwilling to undertake the work, he was not made, he said, for such an office Farel is urgent Calvin educes fresh reasons, and it seemed as though he wanted to deter Farel by exhibiting to him the defects of his future colleague. Once more he asked that he might be left in obscurity to busy himself in studies. Then Farel broke out, “Thy studies are a pretext. I tell thee that if thou refuse to associate thyself with my works God will curse thee for having sought thyself and not Christ.” Calvin was henceforth prompt and sincere in the work of the Lord. Say not, I am a child.--Jeremiah’s mission:--

His objection not unreasonable.

1. Inexperience.

2. Insufficient knowledge.

3. Modest diffidence.

4. Yet his ago and defects time would remedy.

How God overrules His objection.

1. He refers to His preordination.

2. He refers to His commission.

3. He was to speak God’s words.

4. Divine presence pledged.

5. Supernatural communication.


1. God, not man, arranges the affairs of His moral kingdom.

2. God qualifies His instruments.

3. God often selects His agents, not as men would do.

4. God gives His own message to His messengers.

5. The ministry of God’s servants is mighty for good or evil.

(1) Listen when God speaks.

(2) Obey when He commands

(3) Trust when He promises. (Y. Burns, D. D.)

God teaching His prophet

What it is, in spiritual language, to be a child. This is one of the most comforting of Gospel names, when it unites us with God as our Father, and thus implies that there is the holy principle of a new birth unto righteousness within us.

1. A child in this sense, is one who has been translated out of his own unrighteous nature into the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ; and this translation takes him at once from under the dominion of the law, and brings him into the glorious liberty of the Gospel.

2. A child, in scriptural acceptation, because he feels himself to be a sinning child, will bear submissively, every trying dispensation that shall be laid upon him, and in a child-like spirit.

3. Every child of God’s adoption will study the will of God, and strive to make it his own.

What influences were operating upon the prophets, when he said, “I cannot speak, for I am a child.”

1. There was the influence of a fallen and diseased nature. It is a great blessing to be able to look into the drowning sea of our own evil hearts, and to know the things we ought to pray for, and the rocks and quicksands it is our interest to avoid. But it is perilous to linger too long in an enemy’s country, and to roll our meditations overmuch through the defiled places; because the very sight and knowledge of what we are, in our natural weakness and deformity, if they are steeped for too long a time in the bitterness of soul humiliation, will be apt to produce a feeling of darkness akin to despair.

2. There was a distrust of God’s providence. This is a common sin in very many, who are without a question, children of the covenant. They have a faith, but it is not equal to their emergencies; there is a light in it, but it does not warm them; it staggers and hesitates, when it ought to be going forwards and realising.

What it was that God intended His prophet to understand, when he replied, “say not, I am a child,” etc.

1. First He taught him that His simple word is the best rock for dependence: “Thou shalt go and thou shalt speak.” This is the way in which God most loves to teach His children, because it is the simplest, I do not say the easiest lesson, for their faith to embrace. It is a trial for their confidence to improve.

2. But God’s word to the prophet, “Say not I am a child,” implies more. Jeremiah was to work for God; but God was to work in Jeremiah, and to supply him with a strength fully equal to what he had to do. Here is another link that binds God in His omnipotence to a covenant child in his weakness. (F. G. Crossman.)

The Divine mission of children

If we judge by inference and analogy from these words, rather than from the circumstances and person to whom they belong, we reach a truth like this: that by a messenger, incompetent because of his weakness, some messages from God come more forcefully to the ears and heart of men. What the prophet was comparatively many are actually, and the same truth holds good throughout, and so we reach a point which may well occupy our thought: the Divine mission and office of children, what they have to say, what they have to do. Is it not wrong to think of children as incomplete growth, of youth as nothing more than incomplete maturity? Such treatment injures them, for it fosters the idea into strength that today is nothing, and tomorrow everything, that the present is valueless, and the future holds all hope. Such treatment injures us, for we only exist impatiently till this time shall have passed, and miss all the instruction we might gather from the earliest impulses of life. In the home, and in the Church which is the larger home, there is a place for them to occupy, a mission to fulfil. Take two or three points as hints.

1. First the meaning and the power of simple faith. It is a word that some of us perhaps for years have been trying to learn the meaning of. Faith, trust. Have you children of your own, or have you seen such, nestling fearless and trustful at their parent’s knee! Your child believes in you, in something more than the fact of your existence. It lives in your love. It trusts your care. Faith is a belief that leads to the committal of the whole being to the hands of One who is our Father, our Helper, our Saviour; and as we grow up into strength, the highest of all motive impulse, at first it may be fear or expectation of good that induces obedience, but no long time can pass, if the relation be truly sustained, before love is the impulse of every action; and because your child loves you it delights to do your will. As such is the truth which appears in the earliest years of children, can it be a mistake to suppose that God intended the truth to be learned from such illustration of His word?

2. Does there not come to us in this self-same way, too, a hint of the folly and wrong of distractive anxiety? What good could the child do by puzzling its little brain with such questions as belong necessarily to the chiefs of the family? What slight would be cast upon the parents’ love if the child should becloud its life and be sad because no way out of supposed difficulties presented itself! Would you not say or think, my child, I stand higher and see farther; what is an inscrutable problem to you is none to me; my strength removes the hindrance, my wisdom solves the riddle?

3. And this leads us to another thought: that those things which seem to us all-important, upon which our whole interest is often apt to centre, to which, indeed, we look as to the source of our happiness in life, may be the merest trifles after all. What a small matter changes the child’s light to darkness! In what an instant, by what a trivial cause, is laughing changed to crying, or the reverse! You say the child will grow, that now it speaks, thinks, acts as a child, but when it becomes a man it will put away childish things. God expects the same thing of us, and we well may ask ourselves, Am I growing into a higher life, and is it manifest by my interest in things of superior moment? Spiritually, have we come to see what is the noblest aim that may be set before us? Having learned the principles of the Gospel of Christ, are we going on to perfection, coming closer up to our Father in likeness, reflecting proof of our sonship, ready to follow everywhere He leads, and to be quite sure that as we would give our child all that is good, and not willingly or needlessly cause one pang of pain, so in much intenser and tenderer love does our Heavenly Father deal with us?

4. The last thought is the influence of kindliness and refreshing which is shed from the life of children. Their presence in the home makes the life less artificial, more true; and such may be their influence in the Church. We hold out the hand of encouragement for them to confess the name of the Saviour whom they may love. Let first impulses toward Christ, instinctive they will be, be nurtured. See to it that none be repressed, none discouraged. (D. J. Hamer.)

Childlike, not childish

Jeremiah learnt to bear testimony without flinching before kings, ay, and, in the name of the Lord, against kings; to be willing to undergo stripes and imprisonment; and to be sawn asunder for his grand defence of the Faith of God. But it was terribly difficult to him, in the beginning of his prophetic ministry, to take even the first steps on that narrow and painful way. The Word of the Lord comes to him, and tells him that from his birth he has been divinely ordained “a prophet unto the nations.” “Then said I” (it is an autobiography), “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child,” etc. Then the fear of men passed away from the prophet; and he girded up his loins, and arose, and spake unto them all that God commanded him. Now, what strikes us in this is, first, its thorough naturalness; and next, its awakening, encouraging call to each of us. It was so natural in Jeremiah to shrink from the awful ordeal of facing nations and kings. It came to him as such an absolutely new call. Well might he say, I am a mere child: I cannot attempt this. Poor human nature could scarcely have said otherwise. Only the grace of God would empower for such a duty: and that the grace of God was ready for him was proved, alike by the original call and by the rebuke and the encouragement which followed, by the zeal which he was enabled to show, in the face of the greatest possible difficulties, and by the accomplishment, both for good and for evil, of the predictions which God spake by him. And the call and the reproof and the reassuring words, are applicable also, in great measure, to each of us. Each one among us is bound to speak the truth among the brethren, boldly to rebuke vice, and, if necessary, patiently to stiffer for the truth’s sake. And yet, when we come to real, everyday life, how constantly we fail herein! How often the strong man excuses himself for being weak! how often the soldier, bravo to the death in meeting the enemy, has not courage enough to reprove or admonish a friend! how often the minister of Christ, holds his hand, instead of standing up for his Master! Surely, this backwardness in the Lord’s work, this miserable fear of men, this distrust of the Divine power committed to us, is found more or less in every class among us. And what is the real name for this? It is our childishness. How different is this from the child-like temper! The greatest and bravest and wisest of men have something of the child in them--the child’s simplicity, and truthfulness, and implicit obedience, and regard for authority. Wellington had all this eminently; but he was never childish, he had no false fears, “he never sold the truth to serve the hour.” All who are really great share this character, this holy boldness this valour for the truth upon the earth, this which is described in the picture of the Christian’s armour as the preparedness of the Gospel--the readiness to go at once on the blessed messages of God.

1. Realise the needs of men around you. They are very great. They demand all your energies, all your courageous charity, all possible firmness and decision.

2. Think of the danger of delay, the immense value of present opportunities. Have you never noticed, that the occasion for speaking to a soul to which we feel peculiarly impelled is at times the very last? How bitter must be our regret, if we let such an occasion slip, and allow one for whom Christ died actually to perish!

3. If you hesitate, if the childishness of your nature still wrestles with the mighty angel of God’s grace, remember that which should constrain us the most to the fearless deeds of Christian faith--the contemplation of Christ crucified, and of the exceeding great love wherewith He loved us, enduring the contradiction of sinners and the shame and agony of death. Take the first step, the first brave, loving step along that way, and He will hold you by the hand, and go with you into the very midst of the battle, into the heat of the day; and you shall thank Him, ere the sun goes down, for enabling you, though you seemed to yourself but a child, to speak and to fight for Him. (G. E. Jeli, M. A.)

Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee.--

A portrait of the true servant of God

He is called to a great work. He is a Divine messenger.

1. To go forth on an errand from God.

2. To go only where God sends him.

3. To speak only what God communicates. Not to speak his own speculations, on the theology of others, but the Word of God.

He is conscious of self-insufficiency.

1. The characteristic of all true servants. Moses, Isaiah, Paul.

2. A qualification of all true servants. “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

He is strengthened by the Divine (verse 8). A man who has God within need never be afraid. (Homilist.)

Jeremiah a servant

Divine commission.

Divine authority.

Divine presence.

Divine deliverance.

Divine power.

Divine message.

Divine result. (G. Inglis.)

The Gospel minister encouraged and instructed

1. An objection overruled.

2. Work and duty prescribed. To bear God’s message to men.

(1) To whom? To all to whom the Lord should send him. He was not to choose for himself. Must obey the call of God, and do his duty, though neglected, hated, and persecuted for his faithfulness.

(2) The matter of the message. Not to speak at random whatever came uppermost, or what might be most easy to himself or agreeable to his hearers but only what the Lord commanded.

3. How, or in what manner, God’s word was to be delivered.

(1) Faithfully and fully.

(2) Plainly and boldly.

The office of the ministry.

1. It is an ordinance of Divine appointment to be continued in all ages to the end of time. Accordingly, they who slight and undervalue it, or despise those who are employed in it, reject their message, and disregard their salutary admonitions, reproofs, and instructions, greatly dishonour God, and pour contempt upon His authority.

2. It hath pleased God to employ weak and sinful men to dispense His word, and bear His message to sinners and saints.

3. None must intrude themselves into the office of the ministry, or presume to exercise it without a lawful call. Those who run unsent, who take upon them the office of the ministry when they are not called to that sacred function, in such a manner as God hath prescribed in His word, have no reason to expect assistance and success in their work.

4. Those whom God calls to the exercise of the ministerial office, He doth in some measure qualify for discharging the several parts of it.

5. The work of the ministry is very important and difficult work. The honour of God, and the salvation of souls, are nearly concerned in it.

6. Those whom God calls to exercise the office of the ministry have ordinarily a humbling sense of their own weakness, and insufficiency for the work they are called to.

7. Ministers of the Gospel, in performing the duties of their function, do not act in their own name, but in the name, and by the authority of their Divine master the Lord Jesus Christ.

8. Whatever opposition, or difficulties, the servants of Christ may meet with in the exercise of their ministry, they have sufficient encouragement to persevere in it.

Some of the difficulties and discouragements which they who are called to exercise that sacred function may have to struggle with.

1. Their fears and discouragements are sometimes occasioned by a serious consideration of the nature of the work they are called to engage in.

2. By a sense of their own weakness and insufficiency for discharging the duties of the sacred function.

3. When they consider the opposition they are likely to meet with in the exercise of their office.

(1) From the world.

(2) From lukewarm professors.

4. The cold reception that is usually given to the messages which the servants of the Lord deliver in His name, is sometimes a cause of discouragement.

5. The low and afflicted state of the Church is apt to discourage those who are about to enter upon public work in her.

Their duty and the work they are called to.

1. They must not choose their own let. Have they a call in providence to deliver God’s message to those who are more likely to persecute them, than to submit to their instructions or pay any due regard to what they declare in the name of the Lord, they must not dispute, but readily obey the orders given them. Nor have they reason to fear any dangers they may be exposed to, through the power and malice of their enemies; for He in whose service they are employed is able to defend them, and frustrate all the designs of their enemies against them. His promise is their protection.

2. They must deliver nothing in His name but what He commands, or what is agreeable to His revealed will. In order to this, the teaching and renewed illumination of the Holy Spirit is necessary; but they need no additional, objective revelation.

3. The instructions given to the prophet, and every other minister of the Word, in the text imply, that those who are called to preach the Gospel should, as there may be opportunity, teach all truths revealed in the Word of God, and urge the performance of all duties required in it.

4. They should urge the diligent observance of all Divine ordinances, as a necessary duty. They must not think it is enough, if persons have the low of God in their hearts, and some experience of a work of grace in their souls, though they neglect the administration of the word and sacraments, or other outward ordinances, and treat with contempt any endeavours to maintain their purity; because, as some are pleased to speak, they are only outward things, and the observance of them hath not a necessary connection with vital piety, and the exercise of grace in the heart.

5. They must urge obedience to all the precepts of the moral law.

6. They should endeavour to accommodate their doctrine to the various conditions of their hearers.


1. When those who are about to enter upon public work in the Church have a humbling sense of their own insufficiency, it is a presage of future usefulness.

2. The work of the ministry is not to be engaged in rashly. Count the cost.

3. Such as bear the character of office bearers in the Church, who take upon them to make laws for the members of the Church, contrary to those which the glorious Head of the Church hath enacted, or different from them; or who enjoin the observation of religious rites, devised by men without any warrant from the Word of God, not only transgress the limits of their commission, but are chargeable with great presumption. They teach what God never commanded, and exercise a power which no creature can claim, without invading the prerogative of the supreme Lawgiver.

4. Those who are called to bear God’s message to the children of men ought to be well acquainted with His written word contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

5. Ministers of the word must have no partial respect to the persons of men.

6. In order to a suitable discharge of ministerial duties, much fortitude and resolution is necessary.

7. Those ministers of the Gospel who, sensible of their own weakness, are enabled humbly to depend upon the power and grace of God for protection, and support in their work, are most likely to discharge the duties of their office with acceptance and success.

8. They must take care that they do not run unsent, or thrust themselves into the office of the ministry without a lawful call, the call of God and the call of the Church.

9. They are to deliver their message authoritatively, as not acting in their own name, but in the name of God. If ministers, in preaching the Word, act as the messengers of the Lord of hosts, the people to whom they preach ought to receive their message with reverence and submission. If they reject it, or slight it, they put an affront upon Him who sent them. They despise not man but God. (D. Wilson.)

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.--

A reason for bravery

Whenever fear comes in and makes us falter, we are in danger of falling into sin. Conceit is to be dreaded, but so is cowardice. Our great Captain should be served by brave soldiers. What a reason for bravery is here. God is with those who are with Him. God will never be away when the hour of struggle comes. Do they threaten you? Who are you that you should be afraid of a man that shall die? Can you not trust Him? Do they pour ridicule upon you? Will this break your bones or your heart? Bear it for Christ’s sake, and even rejoice because of it. God is with the true, the just, the holy, to deliver them; and He will deliver you. Remember how Daniel came out of the lions’ den, and the three holy children out of the furnace. Yours is not so desperate a case as theirs; but if it were, the Lord would bear you through, and make you more than a conqueror. Fear to fear. Be afraid to be afraid. Your worst enemy is within your own bosom. Get to your knees and cry for help, and then rise up saying, “I will trust, and not be afraid.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Valiant manhood

Just as much as a man drives out fear, marches boldly on, says his say, does his act, by so much is he a valiant man. In the old Norse ballads it was indispensable to be brave. Odin cast out of his heaven, the Valhalla, all who were tainted with cowardice; and over a battlefield the priests taught, went the Valkyries, or choosers of the slain, heavenly messengers who took care only to admit the valiant. The kings when about to die, lay down in a ship with its sails set, drifted out into the ocean, charged with fire too in the hold, so that the king might blaze in his tomb and be delivered to the sky. The valiant is the really valuable man.

Courage is ministers

The truest way not to be afraid of the worst part of a man is to value and try to serve his better part. The patriot who really appreciates the valuable principles of his nation’s life is he who most intrepidly rebukes the nation’s faults. And Christ was all the more independent of men’s whims because of His profound love for them and complete consecration to their needs. There come three stages in this matter: the first, a flippant superiority which despises the people and thinks of them as only made to take what the preacher chooses to give to them, and to minister to his support; the second, a servile sycophancy which watches all their fancies, and tries to blow whichever way their vane points; and the third, a deep respect which cares too earnestly for what the people are capable of being to let them anywhere fall short of it without a strong remonstrance. You have seen all three in the way in which parents treat their children. I could show you each of the three today in the relation of different preachers to their parishes. Believe me, the last is the only true independence, the only one that it is worth while to seek, or indeed that a man has any right to seek. An actor may encourage himself by despising or forgetting his audience, but a preacher must go elsewhere for courage. The more you prize the spiritual nature of your people, the more able you will be to oppose their whims. These must be the fountain of your independence. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

Danger regarded from the high ground of faith

Fire broke out on a prairie not far from the dwelling of a settler. His son, seeing flames advancing, cried out they would all be burned, but the father took his boy to some high ground, and showed him that all round their dwelling was a wide clearing, too broad for the flames to overleap, and so they were safe. How frequently we worry ourselves because of some threatening danger, whereas, if we took higher ground and looked with the eye of faith, we should see that God has arranged a defence, that it may not hurt us. (The Signal.)

See, I have this day set thee over the nations.--

Prophet’s commission

1. He is made a (paqid), a prefect or superintendent of the nations of the world. A Hebrew term corresponding to “bishop” of the Christian Church.

2. He has widest scope for the exercise of his powers: he is invested with authority over the destinies of all peoples. If it be asked in what sense it could be truly said that the ruin and renascence of nations was subject to the supervision of the prophets, the answer is obvious. The Word they were authorised to declare was the Word of God, that fulfils itself with all the necessity of a law of nature (Isaiah 55:10-23.55.11).

3. What strength, what staying power may the Christian preacher find in dwelling upon this fact, that God’s Word is fulfilling itself, though that Word may be disowned, and the efforts of the preacher may be thwarted. (C. J. Ball, M. A.)

Charge to pastors: their work defined

Inquire what are the evils against which you must contend and the methods you are to adopt in this opposition.

1. By your public ministry root out errors in doctrine.

2. By leading the Church, in the exercise of faithful discipline, root out evil-doers.

3. By rendering your pastoral visits subservient to the purposes of conviction and correction.

What is that good you are to encourage?

1. As a builder--

(1) Be sure you lay a right foundation.

(2) See that your materials be fitly framed together. Implying that--

(a) They be hewed and squared.

(b) They be formed by the same rule.

(c) Every one be put in the situation for which he is formed.

(3) So frame the whole as that it may be a fit habitation for God.

2. As a planter.

(1) Sow “wholly a right seed.”

(2) Give attention to the plants as you see them grow.

(3) Cultivate them by every means.

(4) Pray that they may be watered by the Holy Spirit. (Andrew Fuller.)

The work of Jeremiah, and that of St. Paul

Contrast. Jeremiah, the prophet of disaster and despondency, could look back to a holy and happy past--the son of the faithful priest Hilkiah, the friend of the godly king Josiah; he fell upon evil and apostate times. Saul had to turn his back upon his old life--count all things but loss that had been gain to him--thus he was ever looking forward, reaching onward--the apostle of faith and hope.


1. Each is elected by God, and therefore trained by his circumstances for his work. The call of Jeremiah, the conversion of Saul, was to each a revelation of a God that had formed him from the womb for his work (cp. Galatians 1:15-48.1.16 with Jeremiah 1:5).

2. The two-fold nature of that work--destructive and constructive. To root out, pull down, destroy; yet to plant and to build. We may almost say this is the work of all whom God has called to labour for Him. This was the type of Christ’s work. His coming laid an axe to the root of the tree (Matthew 3:10, see also 15:13). Yet was He the Sower. It may be the teacher, like Jeremiah, does not live to see his work grow--yet who can doubt the effect of Jeremiah upon those who returned purified and repentant from Babylon? The two must go together. Root up error and plant truth. Pull down the strongholds of sin, and build up the temple of Christian holiness. (John Ellerton, M. A.)

To throw down, to build, and plant.--

Destruction and construction conjoined

“To root up, and to pull down.” What a mercy of God to the Church was it that the same day that Pelagius, that arch-heretic, was born in Britain, Augustine the Great, confuter of that heretic, should be born in Africa--providence so disposing that the poison and the antidote should come into the world together. (John Trapp.)

Verse 9

Jeremiah 1:9

To whom the Word of the Lord came.

The Word of God

Words are often used in two ways--one specific, definite; the other general, figurative. Thus, when we use the word “heart,” we mean specifically that organ which pumps the blood throughout our being; on the other hand, we use it broadly as the seat of the affections and centre of highest being. So it is with the term “word,” Primarily, it stands for a written or spoken term composed of letters; then we enlarge its content and use it in the sense of a message, “What word did our friend send?” Then as the Psalmist used it, where the heavens have a word for us, a message. Then we go on until we come to find that any expression of God is called a Word of God. This is the use of “word” in the Bible. The Word of God is always an expression of God’s being.

There is a Word of God for us in nature. The very heavens have a Word of God for us. They tell us that an attribute of His is glory, majesty, far-reaching grandeur. Days and nights all speak of His glory and infinite resource. How many words of God come to us through Nature! How the writers of the Psalms saw it! How Jesus saw in Nature the Word of God’s care and watchfulness!

1. Thus honesty is a Word of God, written on all the face of Nature as an attribute. Nature tells us God is honest, true to Himself, to the laws He has made, to man. The foundation Principle of the physical universe is honesty. The stars swing true to their courses. Suns rise and set and do not deceive us. If we did not know this universe was run honestly, we would not dare enter a new day.

2. As we are reading, in these days, more and more deeply into Nature, we are hearing another great Word of God, namely, that God is a God of purpose. This is a great message. Many people think He is not a God of purpose, but that the universe is being run with no end in view. Nature is full of prophecy, life everywhere throbs with expectancy of greater being; God begins with the simplest and works towards the greatest, He starts with a cell of living matter, and ends with the wonderful human frame, He starts with a spark of life and ends with a spirit in His own image. The best lies before us, the golden age is yet to be. God has great destinies in view for the human soul.

There has been a distinctive Word of God spoken through prophets and statesmen who have been wrapped up in the progress of nations. We might see this in the history of any nation, of old or of today, but I will take Israel, because we are more familiar with its history and its prophets. One Word of God that came through Israel was justice. God was a just God. He was not like the gods of the Babylonians, fickle, full of whims, acting by impulse, but He was a God who weighed and considered; who looked at motives as well as deeds; who meted out rewards and punishments by desert. Another Word of God that came to Israel was that He was a shield and reward, a defender of His people. “The Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” Ah, how well Israel learned that word in all her devious history! And how deeply impressed upon her was the word that God was a jealous God--jealous for the welfare of His people, a present help, a refuge, and a strength. Another word that came through Israel was that God was a patient, long-suffering God. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah were continually giving this Word of God. And every other nation through its people and prophets has some great Word of God to give to the world. For God is not dumb, and His prophets today are not deaf.

It is through life that God must speak His largest word, make the fullest revelation of His Being. It is life that speaks to life, heart that comforts heart. All the prophets of Israel saying that God is long-suffering will not move a man to see it so much as one soul here exhibiting the forbearance of God. Preachers may preach forever that God is love, and it will not have the force of one God-filled deed of love. So it is with all the attributes of God. They cannot be revealed in their great, Divine reality except as they are manifest in human life. So when the fulness of time had come God spoke to men through a human soul. Then was His true glory revealed, then His nature made manifest. It was when the word, the expression, the character of God became flesh and dwelt among us that we beheld His glory. Jesus is the living manifestation of the Word of God. Now I have seen Jesus I know God identifies Himself with men. For He has come into our humanity. I ask God what word He has for me in my sorrows and loneliness, and the answer comes to me in the life of Jesus that God is love. I see God living as love before me. I see His love going out to wretched men and women. I see Him serving as only love can serve. I see Him gathering to Himself outcasts and sinners, and recreating them in a new atmosphere of love. I see Him taking little children upon His knee and blessing them. I see Him suffering because He loved the world. What is the nature of God? In Jesus see how He is a Father. See how Jesus’ whole life was a living word speaking the Fatherhood of God. How does God treat sinful beings? Look how Jesus treated sinful women who came to Him, and see how God treats sinners. How does God feel over the sins of the world? See Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Will God suffer to save men? See Jesus giving His rest, and strength, and life, that men may see to what ends God will go to save His children. Let us remember that it was because Jesus was one with the Father that He could be the medium of the Word of God. But when He said, “I and the Father are one,” He referred to a spiritual oneness. So wherever there is a soul today who is one with the Father, there you will find a living Word of God. There is a very striking scene in George Macdonald’s “Robert Falconer” which shows how today a Word of God may come through life. Eric Ericson, a poor Scotch student, tramping on to Edinburgh, stops footsore and weary at the “Boar’s Head,” the inn kept by Letty Napier. After resting awhile, he starts to go on, although so footsore he can hardly walk. But Miss Letty makes him go up to a room and take off his shoes, and let her bathe his feet. He expostulates, for he has not a shilling in the world. But Miss Letty makes him stay three days and rest, while she ministers to him, and then starts him off to Edinburgh, a new man, and a couple of pieces in his pocket. Eric had been a sceptic, but as he walks with Robert he says, with the tears welling up in his eyes, “If I only knew that God was as good as that woman, I should die content.” Robert answers, “But surely ye dinna think God’s nae as guid as she is? Surely He’s as guid as He can be. He is good, ye know.” Eric answers, “Oh, yes, they say so. And then they tell you something about Him that isn’t good, and go on calling Him good all the same. But calling anybody good doesn’t make him good, you know.” Yes, poor Eric was right--calling Him good does not make Him good. But when Eric felt love in this godly woman it set him to thinking about the goodness in God. It was a living word from God straight to his heart. So, every time you do a deed of love, you are speaking a word of God. (F. Lynch.)

The call of Jeremiah

It is not to be expected that a superficial gaze will discern the special qualifications that attracted the Divine choice to Jeremiah. But that is no wonder. The instruments of the Divine purpose in all ages have not been such as man would have selected. There were several reasons why Jeremiah might have been passed over.

1. He was young. How young we do not know; but young enough for him to start back at the Divine proposal with the cry, “Ah! Lord God! behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child.” Without doubt, as a boy he had enjoyed peculiar advantages. God has often selected the young for posts of eminent service: Samuel and Timothy; Joseph and David; Daniel and John the Baptist.

2. He was naturally timid and sensitive. By nature he seemed cast in too delicate a mould to be able to combat the dangers and difficulties of his time. He reminds us of a denizen of the sea, accustomed to live within its shell, but suddenly deprived of its strong encasement, and thrown without covering on the sharp edges of the rocks. The bitter complaint of his afterlife was that his mother had brought him into a world of strife and contention. Many are moulded upon this type. They have the sensitiveness of a girl, and the nervous organism of a gazelle. They love the shallows, with their carpet of silver sand, rather than the strong billows that test a man’s endurance. For them it is enough to run with footmen; they have no desire to contend with horses. Yet such, like Jeremiah, may play an heroic part on the world’s stage, if only they will let God lay down the iron of His might along the lines of their natural weakness. His strength is only made perfect in weakness. It is to those who have no might that He increaseth strength.

3. He specially shrank from the burden he was summoned to bear. His chosen theme would have been God’s mercy--the boundlessness of His compassion, the tenderness of His pity. But to be charged with a message of judgment; to announce the woeful day; to oppose every suggestion of heroic resistance; to charge home on the prophetic and the priestly orders, to each of which he belonged, and the anger of each of which he incurred, the crimes by which they were disgraced--this was the commission that was furthest from his choice (Jeremiah 17:16).

4. He was conscious of his deficiency in speech. Like Moses, he could say, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” The best speakers for God are frequently they who are least gifted with human eloquence; for if that be richly present--the mighty power of moving men--there is an imminent peril of relying on it, and attributing the results to its magnetic spell. God cannot give His glory to another. He may not share His praise with man. He dare not expose His servants to the temptation of sacrificing to their own net or trusting their own ability. Do not, then, despair because of these apparent disqualifications. Notwithstanding all, the Word of the Lord shall come to thee; not for thy sake alone, but for those to whom thou shalt be sent. The one thing that God demands of thee is absolute consecration to His purpose, and willingness to go on any errand on which He may send thee. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

In the days of Josiah . . . also in the days of Jehoiakim.

Mutations of life

When one sea floweth, another ebbeth. When one star riseth, another setteth. When light is in Goshen, darkness is in Egypt. When Mordecai groweth into favour, Haman groweth out of favour. When Benjamin beginneth, Rachel endeth. Thus we are rising or setting, getting or spending, winning or losing, growing or fading, until we arrive at heaven or hell. (Henry Smith.)

Verses 11-16

Jeremiah 1:11-24.1.16

I see a rod of an almond tree.

Tree emblems

The Hebrew word for almond signifies the “waker,” in allusion to its being the first tree to wake to life in the winter. The word also contains the signification of watching and hastening. The word for almond tree is shaked, and the word for “I will hasten” (Jeremiah 1:12) is shoked, from the same root. The almond was the emblem of the Divine forwardness in bringing God’s promises to pass. A similar instance in the name of another rosaceous tree is the apricot, which was named from praecocia (early), on account of its blossoms appearing early in the spring, and its fruit ripening earlier than its congener the peach. (Professor Post, F. L. S.)

The rod of the almond tree and the seething pot

This vision was parabolic, and contains one thought in different stages of development. In looking at any object through a telescope the first look may give a correct impression of the object, but an adjustment of the lens may reveal details not seen before. So in the case of the double vision here. The almond is the first tree to awake from the sleep of winter, and to put forth blossoms. God, in the vision of the almond branch, indicated that the judgments pronounced upon the Hebrew nation were nearing their fulfilment. “I will hasten My Word to perform it.” The second vision gives more information than the first upon the same subject. In the first only the fact of the speedy retribution is made known, the second reveals whence it is to come. “Out of the north.” The seething pot also shows the terror and confusion that would fill the city of Jerusalem when surrounded by her enemies.

Those who have to utter the truth of God to others must first see it clearly themselves.

Those who can see the mind of God must be prepared to utter the truths they see. Men of genius who see things in secret, and think they see what is worth giving to the world, gird up their loins to put forth what they have seen in word, or on canvas, or in the sculptured marble. Christ instructed His first scholars to do this (Matthew 10:27). So Jeremiah must give out that which he has seen.

God often makes use of things far beneath us, to make known to us important truths. The boiling pot and the almond branch were common everyday objects, yet God uses them as vehicles to convey to Jeremiah solemn truths respecting His people. So in Christ’s parables.

The times and instruments of national judgment are in the hands of God.

God’s chastisements increase in severity with the increase of national sin. God had again and again sent less severe chastisement upon the Jewish nation, but all had failed to stop their moral decay; hence the necessity, if the nation were to continue in existence, of the execution of the judgments foretold in the prophetic vision.

The most childlike and humble in spirit see best into divine mysteries. Just before receiving this revelation Jeremiah had confessed his ignorance and inability (verse 6). (Matthew 18:3-40.18.6; Isaiah 57:15; 1 Corinthians 2:1-46.2.16.) (Sermons by a London Minister.)

The almond tree’s message

The almond tree was, as its name indicates, the “watcher,” the “hastener”; as if it lay at the gates of spring, waiting, yearning for their opening; as if it would urge forward the days of sunshine and gladness. It was apparently with some sense of the allegory it taught that the shape of its blossom was adopted as the pattern of the “cup” for the candles in the golden candlestick in the temple. So, as the candles burnt from sunset to sunrise in the golden cups of the almond blossoms, the symbol out of which they sprang was telling of the watcher and the hastener, and was saying, “The morning cometh” And the almond branch says through all the dreary winter, “The spring cometh and also the summer. God watches over His Word to perform it.” Yes, as God watches over the almond blossoms to open their beautiful leaves, and to gladden the eyes of men, so will He open the promises and prophecies of His Word to fill men’s hearts with joy and peace. Ah, we cannot watch over our word to perform it, save in a very qualified sense indeed. But how calmly the Infinite and Eternal One keeps watch over His from generation to generation till all are fulfilled! Although the symbol of the almond branch was employed to show how certainly God’s Word will be performed on the grand scale of its application to national life, we may fairly take our crumb of personal comfort from it. There are multitudes of promises, multitudes of assurances of love, multitudes of revelations which are adopted and applied as personal words from God to His children, who build upon them, hope in them, look for their fulfilment. They have associated God’s love and honour with them as closely as our children bind us up with our words. And they are abundantly encouraged to do so. The promises for man are promises to men. God deals with humanity by dealing with individuals. The race is saved through its units. The secret promise of spring in the branch of the almond tree, which the prophet was taught to apply to the whole nation, has also a meaning for every soul of man. It means that God watches and waits to perform His Word to him. But we turn now to that national and human aspect of the text, which undoubtedly it chiefly had for the prophet, and which it was intended to have for men in all generations. When, then, God performs His Word, does He perform it mediately by the instrumentality of agents, or immediately by an exercise of volition? The almond branch answers our question. Not by the touch of His invisible fingers does He make the flower burst from the stem and open its pale pink leaves to the sun and wind. He does it by the majestic movement of the seasons. The courses of the stars, the rush of the world through space, the heat from the far-off sun, the blowing of the winds, the falling of the rain, the secret chemical action of the soil, the mysterious operation of the laws of life in the tree itself, all combine as God’s ministers to bring to pass God’s will and word in the making and unfolding of a flower. And this increases the marvel of His work; this enlarges our conception of His superintending care; this touches our souls with a consciousness of His universal presence. If the Almighty will spend a year of unceasing work to make a flower bloom, if He will lavish the wealth of earth and use the powers of the heavens upon it, then we may fairly assume that He will exercise as great or greater vigilance and effort to perform His Word touching the highest welfare of man. He will not fail to establish His kingdom, and He will do it by using the most vailed forces operating through centuries of time, if need be, through ages of ages. It is, perhaps, not easy for us to remember that He is now operating through ourselves and through the great masses of mankind, all the while watching over His Word to perform it, but so it is. The Old Testament view of God’s use not only of Israel, but also of heathen kings and nations, should aid us to see that He is still using men to fulfil His purposes. Tyrants as well as patriots have served the cause of liberty by compelling nations to safeguard it by constitutional laws and usages. Atheists have furthered a reverent piety by revealing the coldness of their denials and their incompetence to satisfy the deepest, the best, the most irrepressible of our thoughts and desires. Grasping capitalists, as well as Socialists, are now urging forward the cause of a sound and real equality, by causing men everywhere and of all degrees to think, to inquire, to contrive, and to act in combination, each man subordinating the personal to the general good, and so learning a lesson in unity, in self-control, and in care for others. The very faith of the Gospel has been promoted by much that seemed to threaten its extinction. The very principles and precepts of the kingdom of God have been adopted and confirmed because of experience of the evil of their opposites. We dare not, we would not, say that knowledge of evil has been the necessary introduction to knowledge of good, but this we may affirm, that God works by means of evil to perform His Word, to establish it among us as the admitted counsel of perfect wisdom and perfect love; He uses even our faults and our sins to bring to pass the fulfilment of His Word. (J. P. Gladstone.)

Spiritual vision

This power of spiritual vision is preeminently the gift of God. This power of parables, making them or reading them, is a deep mystery of the unseen kingdom. Is it not the gift of sight that distinguishes one man from another? The prophet may truly say, “I hear a voice they cannot hear; I see a hand they cannot see.” How the earth and sky are rich with images which the poet’s eye alone can see! What a parable is spring, and what a vision from the Lord is summer, laden with all riches, gentle and hospitable beyond all parallel! With the mountains girdling thee round, as if to shut thee up in prison, and suddenly opening to let thee through into larger liberties--what seest thou? I see beauty, order, strength, majesty, and infinite munificence of grace and loveliness. Look at the moral world, and say what seest thou. Think of its sinfulness, its misery untold, its tumult and darkness and corruption, deep, manifold, and ever-increasing. Is there any cure for disease so cruel, so deadly? What seest thou? I see a Cross, and one upon it like unto the Son of Man, and in His weakness He is mighty, in His poverty He is rich, in His death is the infinite virtue of atonement. I see a Cross, its head rises to heaven, and on it is written, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” and from it there comes a voice, saying, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die? Believe in Me, and live forever.” And far away in the distance, what seest thou? Across the seething sea of time, standing high above all earthly affairs, yet inseparably connected with them, what is that glistening object? It is fairer than the sun when he shineth in the fulness of his strength, and marvellous is its fascination alike for the evil and the good: the evil look upon it until their knees tremble and their bones melt like wax, and the good look unto it, and praise the Lord in a song of thankfulness and hope. What is it? It is a great white throne whence the living Judge sends out His just and final decrees. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Natural objects setting forth Divine dispensations

In his later days it was the habit of Wm. Wilberforce, before retiring to rest, to seek in the natural objects about him, to be afresh assured of his Father’s love and presence. “I was walking with him,” says a friend, “in a verandah, watching for the opening of a night-blowing Cereus. As we stood in eager expectation, it suddenly burst wide open before us. ‘It reminds me,’ said he, ‘of the dispensations of Divine providence first breaking on the glorified eye, when they shall fully unfold, and appear as beautiful as they are complete.’”

Verse 17

Jeremiah 1:17

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee.

God’s witness

Must be quick.

II. Busy.
III. Bold.

Faithful. For--

1. He must speak all that he is charged with.

2. He must speak to all that he is charged against.

(1) Because he has reason to fear the wrath of God if he should be false.

(2) Because he has no reason to fear the wrath of man if he is faithful. (M. Henry, D. D.)

Service requires concentration

The girdle is often yards in length, and is a significant part of a man’s apparel when in full dress; and the first sign that a man is in earnest about any work would be that he would gather his skirts about him and tuck them into his girdle; so as to be unhampered and free. The idea for us is that Christian service demands concentration. It needs the fixing of a man’s power upon one thing, and the gathering together of all the strength of one’s nature until its softest and loosest particles are knit together and become strong. You may take a handful of cotton down and squeeze it tight enough to make it hard and as heavy as a bullet, or you may stretch it out into tissue paper. The reason why some men hit and make no dint is because they are not gathered together, compacted--their loins are not girded. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Verse 18

Jeremiah 1:18

I have made thee this day a defenced city, etc.

A sure stronghold is God

Though thou shalt be exposed to persecutions and various indignities, they shall not prevail against thee. To their attacks thou shalt be as an impregnable city; as unshaken as an iron pillar; and as imperishable as a wall of brass. None, therefore, can have less cause to apprehend danger than thou hast. The issue, in Jeremiah’s case, proved the truth of this promise; he outlived all their insults; and saw Jerusalem destroyed, and his enemies, and the enemies of the Lord, carried into captivity. (Adam Clark.)

Verse 19

Jeremiah 1:19

And they shall fight against thee.


The vehemence of our foes.

1. Formerly this virulence was manifested in revolting cruelties; lit fires of martyrdom; crowded prisons with sufferers for conscience’ sake; drove thousands into exile; even disturbed ashes of pious dead to emphasise the execrations of the living.

2. Now opposition resorts to more secret, though not less deadly means. Seeks to prison confidence and joys; impede progress, disturb peace, destroy spirituality.

The certainty of our security. Saints may be weary, maimed, fearful, but cannot be ultimately defeated. False professors will fall a prey: indeed they tempt the tempter; but true men are sure of victory.

The source of our confidence.

1. The abiding presence of the Lord.

2. The constant manifestation of the power of the Lord. (R. A. Griffin.)

Persistence in spite of opposition

As the springs do not cease from giving forth their waters, or the rivers their streams, albeit no man come to take up any, or to sail upon them: so must not the minister cease from preaching, admonition, and reproving, albeit in manner, no man make profit of his doctrine and admonition. (J. Spencer.)


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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 1". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.