From his own words, we get the sense that Jeremiah heard God’s call at a young age. He voices his anxieties to God right away: “Alas, Sovereign Lord…I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). God reassures Jeremiah of His presence – “I am with you” (1:8) – but then gives Jeremiah a powerful and challenging mission. As a prophet, God’s message through him will “uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is a message that will confront kings and leaders with the judgment of God (1:11-16). It will not be easy, and Jeremiah will face strong opposition: “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you” (1:19).
When we think of God’s calling these days, we often refer to it with great excitement and, at times, giddiness. “What is God’s plan for my life?” we wonder. But what would we do if our calling were like Jeremiah’s calling? Would we move forward with excitement or dread?
Jeremiah moves on from God’s call to bring a message that is challenging to his own people, both in Israel and Judah. He confronts them with their unfaithfulness to God, using strong words about marriage, adultery and divorce from God (3:6-4:4). This unfaithfulness has manifested itself in unceasing idolatry (10:1-10) and breaking God’s covenant (11:1-17). Jeremiah promises that destruction will come upon God’s people and the source will be God’s own judgment upon them (22). There is the hope of future restoration, but terrible times are ahead (25:1-14; 30:1-31:40).
Jeremiah’ calling from God is not limited to speaking out against Israel and Judah alone, however, as he brings God’s challenging words against the nations of the earth, even those that Judah is tempted to turn to for help (chs 46-51). Jeremiah is used by God to universally challenge his own people and the surrounding nations and it is not an easy job.
As you might expect, when a prophet brings such challenging and discouraging words, he is not always welcomed with open arms. Jeremiah’s own life story, as recorded in the book of Jeremiah, relates a series of terrible situations. Jeremiah faces a plot against his own life (11:18-23). He is terribly ridiculed by leaders and people alike (19:7-18). He is beaten by the official in charge of God’s temple and left in stocks in public view as punishment (20:1-6). He is threatened with death by the leaders of Judah (26:1-24). When his servant delivers a written record of Jeremiah’s prophecies to King Jehoiakim, the king burns the prophecy line by line in defiance (36:20-27). He is imprisoned briefly in a vault but then put under arrest in the courtyard of the king (37:16-21). Jeremiah is thrown into a mud-filled cistern to slowly sink to his death through starvation (38:1-13) before being rescued. Along with many of his countrymen, he endures the brutal siege of Jerusalem by the King of Babylon (39:1-18). When he prophesies against the people going to Egypt, he is mocked and then forced to disobey God by being taken to Egypt by others (42-43). This calling for the prophet was anything but exciting. It was challenging. But Jeremiah endured because he desired to be faithful to His God who, even while he faced the greatest opposition, was right alongside of him, rescuing Him (1:8, 19)
What does it look like to hear the call of God? It looks as diverse as the number of people God has created. He speaks to us distinctly and uniquely. At times, God calls us to exciting things. At other times, God calls us into challenging things. Either way, the bottom-line is walking faithfully with God wherever He calls us.