I love the book of Jeremiah, not because it is filled from beginning to end with hope (actually, it’s not), but because Jeremiah is so approachable. With all his struggles, yet ultimate faith in God, we can see ourselves. Yet, the important thing here is the message, which cannot be separated from the prophet himself. And it all begins with God’s call to Jeremiah. But, as with the other prophetic books, one cannot really understand the message without understanding the historical context.
The opening verses name the kings who ruled during Jeremiah’s ministry, which gives us that historical context. These were the last days of the kingdom of Judah, and things were not hopeful because of the people’s continued stubbornness and refusal to return to God, and also because of the impending judgment and disaster which were sure to come. (Before anyone gets too despondent, remember that we know the end of this story, both for Judah and for us. God’s grace overcomes! But these days of Jeremiah were tough!)
Jeremiah labored at a task few of us would be capable of performing. Over a period of forty years he persisted in bringing bad news to his people: judgment was coming, swift and terrible. As John Wesley observed: “It was the great unhappiness of this prophet, to be a physician to, but that could not save, a dying state, their disease still prevailing against the remedy.”
What a painful and thankless job! What kept Jeremiah at it? The answer is found in the following verses, which depict the call of Jeremiah. That’s for tomorrow . . .