15 February 2016

Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 36


One of the dangers in an age when the Bible is not a well-known book for large parts of the population - even those of us who are in church week after week - is that we form unhelpful pictures of its major characters.

Today's passage - Jeremiah's protest that he is too young to be of much use to God - is quoted by preachers when reminding us that God can choose all sorts for use in God's service. But Jeremiah's response - "I am only a boy" (v. 7) - can leave us with a false picture.

The book of Jeremiah - the second longest of the prophetic books - records the work of a man whose ministry lasted more than 40 years before Judah was overwhelmed by Babylon in 587BC. We must not stay with the impression that Jeremiah, called as a boy, stays young and inexperienced.

Indeed, the 52 chapters record an extraordinary series of exploits. Jeremiah prophesies using what would today be called performance art - extraordinary public displays such as walking about in the streets with a yoke about his neck along with other efforts to attract attention. He is taunted and retaliates, and is thrown in jail as the result. At one point he is even dumped into a pit.

But despite all this, the point of Jeremiah's ministry is not who he is, but is in the one who called him to be a prophet. Jeremiah declares that God has spoken:

  • "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…"
  • "before you were born I consecrated you…"
  • "I appointed you a prophet…"

Ultimately it isn't the word of Jeremiah that matters, it is the word of God being spoken out to Judah and that word is both painful to speak and heartbreaking to hear.

To Ponder

  • Do today's prophets appear on the streets or write books?
  • How do you recognise the prophets in today's Church?

Bible notes author

The Revd Gareth Hill

Gareth Hill is a Methodist minister with a particular interest in pioneer ministry and fresh ways of being Church. He is​ in circuit ministry in the Winchester, Eastleigh & Romsey Circuit in the Southampton District and has pastoral charge of six churches in Romsey and on the edge of the New Forest.