Jeremiah, who prophesied mostly to Judah, was the son of Hilkiah, a priest. The family lived in Anathoth, a priestly village conveniently situated about an hour’s walk from Jerusalem. He is believed to have been about 20 years old when he was called to prophesy.
The prophet said, “The word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.”
It is interesting to see the line of kings and the influence they had over the people. King Hezekiah, a godly king, was the father of King Manasseh, an evil king who promoted the practice of child sacrifice. When Manasseh died, his son Amon became king and he continued the evil practices of his father. Amon’s servants killed him, and his son Josiah became king.
Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king, but God gave him godly advisers, and he grew into a king who strove to turn the people back to worship God. When he was around 20 years old, he began to take measures to remove idols from the land. Several years later, Josiah ordered the cleansing of the temple, and he called for the people to repent.
In spite of Josiah’s efforts, there was no genuine repentance because Jeremiah said, “Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:10).
Jeremiah listed three kings whose reigns spanned his years as a prophet. There were actually five kings, and he possibly omitted two of them because they reigned only a brief time. At any rate, said Jeremiah, he prophesied “unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive” to Babylon.
As for his call, Jeremiah spoke of what is referred to as God’s electing grace. In His sovereignty God chose Jeremiah before he was born to be His prophet. “Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations,” God said to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was set apart for service to the Lord before the prophet even knew Him.
Jeremiah protested the call, saying, “I cannot speak: for I am a child.” He was young and inexperienced, and probably thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a priest. It would have been easier to serve as a priest because his work was already mapped out for him. On the other hand, a prophet’s life was far from routine.
He should not be intimidated by his youth, the Lord said. Age was not a consideration, and Jeremiah should go to whomever He would send him. Jeremiah should not fear anybody because the Lord would always be with him.
Because Jeremiah thought he lacked the ability to speak, “the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” Jeremiah would not have to rely on his own experience or knowledge because the Lord would tell him what he should say.
Jeremiah’s mission would be to point out the good and the evil among the people. His message would be “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” His words would not always be well received, and Jeremiah would be persecuted when he warned about the coming judgment. His prophecy would also contain words of hope that God would bring His people out of captivity and they would come home.
Sometimes we look back in time and think about God’s sovereignty and how He was directing our lives when we were completely unaware of His direction. Why did Jeremiah’s life have significance and purpose? He humbly submitted to the Lord’s leading. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10).
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. Reach him at email@example.com