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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Jeremiah 1

Verses 1-2

JEREMIAH’S CALL

‘Jeremiah … to whom the word of the Lord came.’

Jeremiah 1:1-2

I. The considerations employed by God to induce the prophet to undertake his office.—It is obvious that the language is meant to assure him and to lead him to acquiesce in his appointment. Why should God’s acts in the present have less force than His designs in the past? Perhaps the real force of predestination is the corroboration which it brings to the present out of the past. It gives the idea of a prevailing and fixed direction of God’s gracious mind towards us. This cannot fail to bring strength to our life. Not now for the first time is God thinking of us or making use of us.

II. The man’s instinctive shrinking from God’s proposal.—The prophet is not to be blamed for his hesitation. It was a matter of mental constitution. Other prophets, such as Isaiah, do not shrink at all. Isaiah never feared the face of man. He confronted kings with fearlessness. He never analysed his own feelings and reflections; he was absorbed in his mission. Jeremiah lived long after Isaiah, and it is a mark of advanced religious thought that men become analytical, critics of themselves and of others. Jeremiah’s is the more interesting temperament; Isaiah’s the more healthful. The men of our time are like Jeremiah, but the men of a former (and let us hope of a future) day, like Isaiah. The mission of Jeremiah was mainly destructive. Religion in his day was moss-grown and rusty, eaten away with formalism. It was indeed an age of reform, but Jeremiah cherished no illusions about its reforms. They merely scratched the surface; he wished to pierce down to the rock. For the first time in prophecy it is the heart that comes into prominence; it is on the heart that all depends Jeremiah is the prophet, not of reform, but of revolution. He preached a new régime, but the new régime is the New Covenant.

III. The Old Testament is a book of ideals—ideals never realised at the time, but which those who proclaimed them knew well would be realised eventually. We also have to learn that God has sent every one of us, and that He puts the words in our mouths. This is difficult, for the course of history has been so prolonged, and the time when God walked with human feet on earth is so far distant, that we find it hard to realise His presence. The realisation is the very thing we need. If we had it, it would make men of us, instead of mere wavering shadows, that come and go in the wind and the sun. The old philosopher said, ‘Give me a standing-place and with my lever I will move the world.’ Scriptures gives us a standing-place, and the standing-place is God.

Illustration

‘The character of Jeremiah is in many respects the exact opposite of that of Isaiah. Possessed of no great literary power, writing in a timid, hesitating style, yet often with a plaintive sweetness; borrowing constantly the thoughts and even the very words of others, as if glad to have their authority in his support; melancholy in temperament, brooding constantly on the difficulties in his path, till he even cursed the hour of his birth, he yet in his moral qualities rises to the very highest elevation, and is not unworthy of the place he held in the estimation of the Jews, who regarded him as the chief of all the prophets.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE MEANING OF INSPIRATION

There is no more interesting book as illustrating what is the meaning of inspiration than Jeremiah.

I. Upon the question of how the Scriptures came into being, this prophet throws immense light.—The four greater prophets belong to a state of national transition: Isaiah foresaw the fall of the northern kingdom, and the destruction of Samaria; Jeremiah foresaw the destruction of the Jewish empire, and was, in fact, the prophet ‘to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.’ With the exception of one short prophecy, all his utterances were delivered in Israel. Ezekiel prophesied in the land of captivity; Daniel lived to see the return. So these four great prophets carry us over from the time of the Jews to the time of the Gentiles. It may be remarked in passing that there is a considerable analogy in this respect between the group of four prophets and the four evangelists, the latter carrying us on to the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus. Jeremiah stands at the parting of the ways.

II. His was an experience of constant opposition from his own countrymen, constantly delivering a most unpatriotic message, viz., that they should surrender to their enemies. His book seems tangled, yet it is a work most carefully edited. It was written by two prophets, for at the end of the fifty-first chapter we read, ‘Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.’ The words following are not the words of Jeremiah. In the twenty-fourth chapter the good figs represent the captives taken away; the ‘naughty figs,’ Zedekiah and those left.

The later prophet gives the history of the bad figs, and then comes back to the good ones; and, after thirty-seven years, Jeconiah is released.

—Rev. Dr. C. H. Waller.

Illustration

‘One may divide the Book of Jeremiah into four periods, as follows:—First, there are twenty chapters, ending with the passage in which Jeremiah curses the day that he was born. This is chiefly pure prophecy. Second, a mainly historical portion, extending from the twenty-first to the thirty-sixth chapter, ending with the story of the roll. This is the portion which gives to Jeremiah the idea of being “tangled.” It is mainly historical, but not in chronological order. It is the only portion that is not in historical order. The third portion, to the forty-fourth chapter, is straight history; and the fourth, from the forty-fifth chapter, chiefly concerns the prophet’s utterances against the Gentiles, Egypt and Babylon. The twenty-first to the thirty-sixth chapter is the portion which should be specially studied.’

Verse 17

JEREMIAH CONTRA MUNDUM!

‘Be not dismayed.’

Jeremiah 1:17

I. A tender-hearted prophet.—Jeremiah stands before us, keenly sensitive to injustice and misconstruction, deeply moved by the ungodliness prevailing round him, well aware that the nation is hurrying to its ruin. I recognise in him a brother of my own, although I have not his lofty gifts. Frequently his heart was cast down. Frequently the burden laid on him seemed too heavy to carry. Frequently there was storm and darkness within his soul. I compassionate him. I feel for him. I love him. I know something of his misgivings and griefs.

II. A reassuring God.—Let us see at what pains God is to scatter the fears that gather round his soul. He gives him the assurance of an eternal ordination, an appointment to his work in the Divine mind before he was himself born. He gives him the assurance of a present help, touching his mouth to tell him that he will never be left in uncertainty as to his message—that thought and language will always be supplied. He gives him the assurance of a successful ministry: ‘I have this day set thee over the nations.’

One by one, if only I lean on Him, God will dispel all my alarms, and will make me wise and strong.

Illustration

‘A sense of helplessness is of prime importance as a preparation for ministry. Those who count themselves able to speak will never become God’s mouthpiece, those who have no words of their own will be surprised to find how forcible and perennial the stream of holy speech will become through their lips. Though you cannot He can. And your sense of inability is the condition that the Spirit of your Father should speak through you. Of you, too, it shall be true, “the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwelleth in me doeth the works.” ’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/jeremiah-1.html. 1876.