3 Lessons From the First Chapter of Jeremiah
The prophet Jeremiah was called for a special purpose. What lessons can we learn from God’s calling of Jeremiah? Is his story relevant to young people today?
Jeremiah’s ministry began in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah (Jeremiah 1:2). He was a man with a message from God—a message of repentance. But, sadly, his prophecies fell mostly on deaf ears. Jeremiah was viewed as a renegade who preached disloyalty to the state of Judah. Because of the nation’s refusal to listen and change, God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Babylonians, making it an example of the fate of the unrepentant.
The book of Jeremiah is different from other prophetic books because it has a lot of biography about Jeremiah the man. We don’t know as much about the personal lives of other prophets, like Ezekiel and Isaiah.
But it’s a long book—the longest in the whole Bible, other than the book of Psalms. It’s a story full of powerful lessons and memorable verses. There’s much we can learn from the book, but in this blog post we will focus on what’s found within the first page of the book.
So, what can we learn from the first chapter of Jeremiah?
Lesson 1: God knows everything about you
The God who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them—this may not sound particularly new. It is, after all, a common description of God recorded in the Bible. But it was a title of tremendous depth and significance for the ancient Israelites. This title contained the defining hallmark of the true God, who was thoroughly unlike the pagan deities worshipped by the surrounding polytheistic nations.
This was the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, the one and only God who can claim to be the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The beautiful skies, the evergreen trees, the exquisite flowers, the soaring mountains and the vast cosmos were all created by Him.
That list also includes you.
Notice these words God said to the young Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
God knew Jeremiah from the moment of his conception. David spoke of how God similarly knew him: “Your eyes saw my substance [conceived life] being yet unformed” (Psalm 139:16). In other words, God knows about us before we even began to take shape in the belly of our mother. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re ever tempted to see yourself as just a number, a puny drop of water in the sea of humanity. God knew you before you were born.
You aren’t just another person on the planet. You aren’t some insignificant, unintended byproduct of evolution. You are a special, one-of-a-kind individual whom God knows and cares about. God is acutely aware of who you are and has a purpose for your life.
To learn more about the value of human life, read “What Is a Human Being?”
Lesson 2: You are never too young to be used by God
God told Jeremiah, “Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). The objective was clear: Jeremiah was to go to the people and prophesy to them. But Jeremiah immediately protested.
Speaking the uncomfortable truth to the sinful people of Judah would not be a walk in the park, especially for a young man. Jeremiah, like many of God’s prophets throughout the Bible, tried to turn down the responsibility. He tried to use his age as an excuse, but it didn’t work. God didn’t invite him—He ordered him.
God’s response to Jeremiah’s objection was succinct and conclusive: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak” (Jeremiah 1:7). In other words, God said, “Enough. You’re going to do what I tell you.”
History has shown that God works through young and old alike to accomplish His purpose. History has shown that God works through young and old alike to accomplish His purpose. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who were used by God from an early age.
For example, God used David when he was a young man. David, still a young adult, faithfully watched over his father’s flock of sheep, killed a lion and bear, slew Goliath and served as a commander in Saul’s army.
God used Josiah, who ascended the throne of Judah when he was 8 years old, to institute several reforms and lead the nation to a spiritual revival.
The apostle Paul made a comment about how we should view such biblical characters and the lives they led, saying, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
In the New Testament, God used Timothy, a young evangelist, to preach the Word of God and be a positive example (1 Timothy 4:12).
In looking at these individuals, we should realize that we can worship, serve and follow that great God even in our youth.
We should never use “I am too young” as an excuse.
Lesson 3: God promises to protect and deliver us
Imagine marching right into the heart of New York City’s Times Square, getting everyone’s attention, raising your voice and denouncing sinful living. Consider what it would be like to be dispatched to publicly condemn abortion, fornication, violence, lying and the many other sins that infect our modern society.
Doing that wouldn’t make you popular—that’s for certain. Now, think about the looks and reactions you would get from people. Would people try to shout you down or physically harm you?
God encouraged Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8).Such a scenario resembles what Jeremiah was called to do. All this undoubtedly crossed Jeremiah’s mind. But God encouraged him, “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8).
God was aware that Jeremiah still had his worries. What follows is one of the most strengthening and reinforcing comments someone could say to a sensitive young man like Jeremiah: “For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land” (verse 18).
That didn’t mean he would never experience persecution. Jeremiah’s prophetic career was plagued by imprisonment, starvation and loneliness. Yet God assured Jeremiah that He would deliver him (verse 19). And even when his life seemed to be hanging by a thread, Jeremiah was able to count on God’s promise.
We are probably not being called to prophesy in the same way that Jeremiah was. But we don’t have to be a prophet to be mistreated and disliked for our beliefs. At times, living as a Christian on a daily basis can make us unpopular. And as the world becomes more corrupt, the solid and consistent examples of true Christianity in action will become more noticeable—and some will not like it.
Jesus Christ explained that people who live in darkness hate the light of God’s way of life. “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20).
How these lessons affect us
The time is coming when true Christians will be in a position similar to Jeremiah’s and be hated by nearly everybody (Matthew 10:22). You can read more about this coming time in our article “You Will Be Hated.” We, too, might experience severe persecution. But we can draw strength from God’s protection and the knowledge that we are doing the right thing.
We may feel as if God doesn’t know who we are, but He does. We may feel as if we are not useful to God because we’re young, but we are. We may feel as if the whole world is against us, but God is for us.
Let’s keep these three lessons from Jeremiah in our minds and hearts.