Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. — Jeremiah 1:5
Julie and Alex Armas desperately wanted a baby. Twenty-seven-year-old Julie had already suffered two miscarriages, and now she was pregnant again. Hopeful and excited, she and her husband had already picked out a name. After fourteen weeks, however, complications developed. An ultrasound scan was done and tests were taken. The finding was what every parent dreads hearing; something was wrong. The little unborn baby had spina bifida.
Abortions are routinely offered by doctors when abnormalities are detected in a fetus, and at this stage of pregnancy, it could easily have been done. For Julie and Alex, however, this was not an option. They believed that God already knew this child, and he was a living soul, but they were racked by pain at the grim picture the doctor painted of the future for their long-desired child.
In the ensuing weeks, Julie, an obstetrics nurse, decided to research treatments and found a pioneering program of in utero surgery for spina bifida. (Medical science did not yet have the capability to keep a twenty-one-week-old unborn baby alive outside the womb.)
After the procedure began, with the surgeon working ever so carefully, a little hand reached out of the incision and grabbed hold of the surgeon’s finger like it was holding on for dear life. This little baby boy, who already had been named Samuel, had not yet felt the touch of his mother’s skin against his own. Yet the picture captured at that moment has impacted people around the world and has been referred to as “The Hand of Hope.” Samuel is now an adult and his life has been a great inspiration to others.
We may find it amazing that medical science and modern photography allow us to see a baby before it is born. Yet God saw Samuel Armas before he was born, and He has seen every other baby down through the ages. As the focus verse notes, God saw Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. He thought of who Jeremiah would become. God had a plan for Jeremiah, and He also has a plan for each one of us. His design can be thwarted by our choices, but if we follow His will, we can find and fulfill His perfect plan for us.
Old Testament books were originally written on scrolls in the Hebrew language. Often the scrolls had a preface that identified a book’s contents. Jeremiah 1:1-3 is this preface. It indicated that Jeremiah was the author. He was from Anathoth, a city of priests (Joshua 21:18) that was about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. At God’s direction, Jeremiah spoke “the word of the LORD” during the administrations of the Southern Kingdom’s last five kings and on to the time of Judah’s captivity.
Beginning with verse 4, Jeremiah described his personal call by God. This was a conversation between the Almighty Creator and a human being. God was clear; He told Jeremiah, “I formed thee,” “I knew thee,” “I sanctified thee,” and, “I ordained thee a prophet.” God declared to Jeremiah that He had set him apart for service before he was born.
Jeremiah’s sensitive and retiring nature showed in his hesitation to take up this awesome responsibility. He said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” The word child could be translated “young man,” and Jeremiah was perhaps between seventeen and his early twenties when God called him. While Jeremiah was hesitant and felt inadequate, he did not refuse or rebel.
God officially inaugurated the young prophet when He put forth His hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth, pledging to inspire his words. Jeremiah was to proclaim to “the nations” (not just Judah) that their wickedness and idolatry would be judged. Yet, a note of hope was included, for Jeremiah was also commissioned “to build, and to plant.”
Jeremiah received two symbolic visions from God. Verses 11-12 deal with the rod of an almond tree. In Palestine, the almond is the first tree to blossom, or awaken, in the spring. God wanted Jeremiah to know that He was fully awake to Judah’s sins, and His Word and judgment would assuredly come to pass. Verses 13-16 deal with the seething pot. The original Hebrew word that is translated “pot” meant a large kettle used to cook for a crowd. Just as such a pot can boil over and spill, so judgment would come from the north and go over Judah. In time, the armies of Babylon fulfilled this prophecy.
Jeremiah knew that the message from God would not be warmly received by the people of Judah, and God told him, “Gird up thy loins.” This was an expression of the times which meant to prepare for service. Long robes were tucked under a belt so a person could fight, work, or run freely. God promised that those who opposed Jeremiah would not prevail against him, “for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Prologue (1:1-19)
A. The identification of the prophet (1:1-3)
1. The background of the prophet (1:1)
2. The time of the prophet (1:2-3)
B. The enlistment of the prophet (1:4-10)
1. The divine selection of the prophet (1:4-5)
2. The divine commission of the prophet (1:6-10)
C. The instruction of the prophet (1:11-19)
1. By visions (1:11-16)
a. The almond tree (1:11-12)
b. The boiling pot (1:13-16)
2. By pronouncement (1:17-19)
God cares about every person, even before he or she is born, and He has a special plan for each one. Are you following God’s plan for your life?