21 July 2010

Jeremiah 1:1-10

"The Lord said to me, 'Do not say "I am only a boy"; for you shall go to all whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.'" (v.7)


Jeremiah was born into a priestly family at Anatoth, a few miles north of Jerusalem. He was called to be God's prophet in 627 BC. Though reluctant at first because of his age, Jeremiah accepted his role. For 40 years and throughout the reigns of Judah's last five kings he appealed to the people to turn back to God. The historical background to his prophecies can be found elsewhere in the Old Testament (2 Kings chapters 22-252 Chronicles chapters 34-36).

But Jeremiah's message went unheeded and disaster came. In 587 BC Judah was defeated by the Babylonian empire. Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was desecrated and the people were taken captive into exile. Jeremiah was offered a position of some comfort and prestige at the Babylonian court, but chose instead to remain in Judah in solidarity with his people. When the governor appointed by the king of Babylon was murdered, the people fled to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them. As far as we know, he died there.

Several significant figures from the Old Testament were Jeremiah's contemporaries: Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Daniel and Ezekiel. But in many respects Jeremiah stands out. In fact, he cuts a somewhat solitary figure. His message made him unpopular amongst his peers and he was labelled a traitor for arguing that the people should submit to Babylon. He was persecuted, imprisoned and often in danger of his life. He also suffered from inner turmoil, including extreme fatigue and agonising doubt. Yet he persevered and his message also contained words of hope: after the judgement of the exile, God will return the people to their homeland and they will be joyful and prosperous.

To Ponder

Have you ever felt called to do something you believed you couldn't do? What happened?

How might you discern whether someone is speaking God's message to you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Caroline Ainger

Caroline Ainger is a Methodist minister based in Liverpool. She has a passion for creative worship, social justice issues and international development.