How were Old Testament prophets appointed? When Isaiah was called, he “saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne.” Angels called to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:1–3). Similarly, when Ezekiel was called (Ezek. 1:1), “the heavens were opened and [he] saw visions of God.”
Jeremiah’s call was not as dramatic, but no less authentic (Jer. 1:4–10). He was a young man, probably under 25 years old (see also 1 Tim. 4:12). God had in fact appointed or chosen him before he’d even been conceived (v. 5). Jeremiah felt unworthy, which was a wise response (v. 6). If it was an excuse, God rejected it, commanded his obedience (v. 7), and promised His presence and protection (v. 8). He then formalized Jeremiah’s call by touching his mouth, indicating that the young man would no longer speak for himself, but for God: “I have put my words in your mouth” (vv. 9–10).
The prophet’s calling gives us a preview of the message he would bring (vv. 11–16). God showed him two images: First, he saw an almond branch (vv. 11–12). Almond trees were the first trees to bloom in spring and symbolize wakefulness (new life) and watchfulness (looking for it). Second, he saw a boiling pot (vv. 13–16). This represented the political situation of his day, with Judah constantly under threat.
There was no doubt that Jeremiah’s ministry would be difficult—he should be ready for that (vv. 17–19). To help, God reminded the prophet of His strength. We see images of a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. How would he speak harsh truth to those in power and survive! God would be with him!
>> God knows each of us in the same way He knew Jeremiah—before we were even conceived! Reflect on this comforting and challenging truth by reading Psalm 139 as part of your devotions today.
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:9-10).