Jeremiah 1:4-19 Jeremiah’s Call – To Root, Pull, Destroy, Throw, Build, And Plant.
As with all the prophets, Jeremiah received his word from the LORD, unlike the false prophets who spoke only that which they conceived in their own hearts and minds (v. 4). Like Isaiah’s Servant of the LORD, Jeremiah was known in that unique sovereign electing sense, before he was even born, and before he was born Jeremiah was also sanctified or set apart and ordained as “a prophet to the nations” (v. 5 Cf. Is. 49:1, 5). Moses was also known in the same fashion, a man who also had received grace, but Moses wanted someone to accompany him, whereas Jeremiah would by and large be a solitary figure (Ex. 33:12 – see ‘Introduction’). John the Baptist was also known in this fashion, as one who was the last of the old covenant prophets to point the way to the Servant (Lk. 1:15). Jeremiah was ordained as a missionary to the nations, even though he would be tasked with many words for his own people.
Not unlike Moses who did not think his humble, even uncircumcised speech, would be heard, Jeremiah’s concern was his relative youth (v. 6 Cf. Ex. 4:10; 6:12, 30). This brings to mind Timothy, and Paul’s words to him – “let no one despise your youth” (I Tim. 4:12a). However, He was called to speak the word of the LORD, and nothing was to dissuade him of this task (v. 7 Cf. Nu. 22:20, 38). He need not be afraid, because the LORD would deliver him (v. 8 Cf. Ex. 3:12; Ezek. 2:6; 3:9). Then the LORD touches the prophet’s lips, much like Isaiah, to sanctify or set apart his speech for the LORD (v. 9 Cf. Is. 6:7). Jeremiah was called and ordained to speak to all nations and kingdoms, and given a dual task of rooting out and pulling down, to destroy and to throw down, but to also build and to plant (v. 10). What distinguishes the end result of either of these outcomes to the prophet’s preaching, is whether or not the recipients repent (Cf. Jer. 18:7-10).
The LORD likes to use people who, from mere appearances, are not necessarily the cream of the crop for the work they are given to do. Moses and Jeremiah mention the humble nature of their speech, but the LORD told them to speak anyway (Cf. Ex. 4:11-16; Dt. 18:18; Is. 51:16). It is the same message for those who are called to preach the message of the planting of a new Zion amidst the pulling down of the apostasy of the old (Cf. Is. 51:16). One wonders if Paul didn’t in fact have this in mind when he wrote that the weapons of our warfare “are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:4-5). Jeremiah saw a branch or rod of an almond tree, and it signified the LORD’s purpose to perform his word (v. 11 Cf. Is. 55:11).
Could this rod be an allusion to Aaron’s rod that had budded, showing that the ministry of the law-word of the covenant alone was to be the great arbiter of disputes (Cf. Nu. 17)? This was in the tabernacle of witness, before the Testimony, in other words, in the presence of the LORD to bear witness to the true ministers of the word – budding as it did to signify the life-giving power of this word, which is one of the things that makes the word of the LORD unique. These minsters are chosen by the LORD. This would certainly make sense of the words that follow in verse 12 – “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.” Added to this is the image of a boiling pot, a metaphor of a calamity from the north coming upon the inhabitants of the land (vv. 13-14 Cf. 6:1). These nations will be called by the LORD against his people in judgment, because of their wickedness in forsaking the LORD, turning to idolatry (vv. 15-16).
For the above reasons, Jeremiah needed to prepare himself for the type of ministry that he was being called to execute – speaking only that which the LORD would command (v. 17a). He had a simple choice before him –be dismayed by men, or be dismayed by the LORD (v. 17b). If he obeyed the call of the LORD, the LORD would strengthen him to speak, before kings, princes, priests, and people (v. 18 Cf. 6:27; 15:20; Is. 50:7). Jeremiah’s ministry would therefore include every area of life, including and perhaps most prominently, the leadership of church and state. All these would fight against him, but they would not prevail because of the LORD’s covenant relationship with him – to be with him, to deliver him (v. 19). Ezekiel was also called to minister the word under similar circumstances (2:6). It is the word alone which is used to root and pull, destroy and throw down, but also to build and plant, a living word accomplishing his purposes (Cf. Is. 55:11).