The Expository Files

Before You Were Born

Jeremiah 1:5-10

Jeremiah was a prophet of God who began his work in 627 B.C. and continued until he was taken to Egypt in about 587 B.C. During his lifetime he saw the Assyrians, once powerful and dreaded enemies of Israel and Judah, crumble and fall. He warned of coming disaster due to the infidelity of the people. He saw his prophecies fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Babylon.

During his service as a prophet, as he pled with the people to repent and warned of the consequences for failure. He was branded as a traitor by ungodly kings. He foretold that captivity in Babylon after the defeat of Judah would last for seventy years. It would be long after his death, when the seventy yearn had been fulfilled, that yet unborn foreign kings would allow a remnant return to rebuild Jerusalem, just as Jeremiah had said.

Jeremiah did not want to be a prophet. It is interesting that many of God's prophets were not at all eager to become prophets. Moses had objected that he was not eloquent enough. Isaiah had interjected that he was only a man of unclean lips. Jonah ran the opposite direction when God told Him to go preach in Nineveh. Jeremiah, too, is not seeking the office of prophet when the Lord calls him. We shall consider some points about God choosing Jeremiah and relate them to our own lives as disciples today.

Appointed By God
"Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I haw appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5). There are several things here that are wonderful and awe-inspiring as we reflect on what this verse says about the omniscience of God. God tells Jeremiah that He "knew" him before he was formed within the womb. He already knew Jeremiah's strengths and weaknesses. He already knew that Jeremiah would possess what God wanted to use during this particularly trying time of Israel's history. And before Jeremiah was born, God had already set him aside for a special task which He would give him years later as a young adult.

What does this mean to us? After all, we are not prophets like Jeremiah. No, but we are human beings created in God's image like Jeremiah. God knew each of us; what our strengths and weaknesses; abilities and limitation would be. He knew us in this way even before we were born. He has also appointed us to become like Jesus as we follow in His steps; "For whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-horn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29). It is up to us as to whether we will accept God's appointment or not, just as it was up to Jeremiah.

Excuses Will Not Do
"Then I said, 'Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak because I am a youth." (Jeremiah 1:6). I suppose that Jeremiah was staggered by the responsibility of God's appointment. He obviously took it very seriously, but he was dealing with the One who knew him better than he knew himself. Jeremiah was saying that he was not sure that he could do the job. But God had already answered that objection. God knew what Jeremiah could do, and had known from even before Jeremiah had been born!

Likewise, I am sure that sometimes we may feel the same way. When facing terrible times we wonder if we will make it. Can we maintain our faith? Can we possibly succeed when all seems to be going against us? Will we be able to get back up if we falter? God knows we can and has assured us so. There quite simply is no excuse for failing to become what we ought to be in whatever circumstance we may face.

Trust In God And His Word
"But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, 'I am a youth' But everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak." (Jeremiah 1:7). Jeremiah contended that he was only a youth. That may well have been, but God is eternal. To put it simply, Jeremiah's duty was to obey God. The power was God's, not Jeremiah's. The word to be delivered would not be the words of a youth, but of God.

The Lord commanded that Jeremiah to go where he would be sent and to speak that which the Lord would command him. Likewise with disciples today, we must never set aside God's mission for us. To contend that we lack the ability to live as God commanded is to express doubt in our Creator's wisdom. To set aside His word in favor of the creeds of men is to reject His Lordship. When men begin to direct their own steps, their course leads to failure (Jeremiah 10:23).

Fear Has No Place
"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 1:8). Our sinful world has never welcomed those who would teach the truth, bowing to no worldly pressure. Jesus said to His disciples, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who endures to the end who will be saved" (Matthew 10:22). Later, as Jesus spoke with His apostles shortly before His arrest, He foretold how they would soon be scattered into the night to leave Jesus alone with His captors. He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The Word Has Been Delivered
"Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, 'Behold I have put My words in your mouth." (Jeremiah 1:9). When we preach and teach and live what the Bible says, then we do not need to be wondering if we are right or not This is because the Scriptures come to us from the mind of God (II Timothy 3:16,17). Truth has already been settled; not in a human court or council, but in heaven.

When Jeremiah spoke by inspiration, the words came to him by God's Spirit. This is how God chose to reveal His will to us; through inspiring selected individuals with His Spirit. Today we have the completed Scriptures as our guide containing the words written and spoken by those upon whom the Lord had "stretched out His hand" and touched their mouths. When we teach these things, we are then speaking "as the oracles of God" (I Peter 1:20,21; I Peter 4:11).

The Work Which We Must Do
"See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." (Jeremiah 1:10). This well sums up our mission today as proclaimers of Gods word. Sometimes, when confronting error, we must "pluck up" and "break down." At other times we must speak so as to "build" and to 'plant." Our work is incomplete if it is all "breaking down" because our mission requires building. Also, our work is lacking if we are only "building" because there are things which need to be "plucked up."

I've heard of preachers being accused of being "too positive" and of others as being "too negative". No doubt some of the charges are true. Some might err in judgment in this regard and be too positive or too negative. But the discerning mind knows that there is room for both in the Kingdom today. Our mission is to make known the will of the Lord and His salvation in Jesus. For this we have been appointed. The Lord has said that we are equipped for the task and that He will help us. Let us get on with the work we have been given to do.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.12; December 1999