“The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom 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.” – Jeremiah 1:1-2 (ESV)
Today in my Bible reading plan we begin the book of Jeremiah. I don’t know many people have a “favorite” prophet, but if I had to pick just one, it would be Jeremiah. There is such depth to his character, and we can all relate to his reluctance as God reveals His will for Jeremiah’s life. As I read the first two chapters this morning and some of the introductory material on this book online and in some commentaries, I thought for a bit about what makes this prophet so distinct in God’s revelation to us in His Word.
Think of how the last book of the Old Testament begins – “The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” (Mal 1:1). That verse is essentially the extent of what we know about this minor prophet. Contrast that with Jeremiah, who is probably the most character-developed prophet we have. In Jeremiah 1, we are told about his divine calling, even before he was born in verse 5:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
We know that Jeremiah began his ministry fairly young and throughout this book we get an inside view of his emotions and trials and tribulations, moreso than any of the other great prophets. We see how he wished to avoid God’s call. What was going through his mind when he was told the message he was to bring to those around him ? That message was not reassuring in the least, as we see in chapter 2, verse 22:
“Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
declares the Lord God.
I can imagine Jeremiah thinking, “You’ve brought me up to tell these people this ?” Of course we remember that Moses, nearly a thousand years earlier, reacted in a similar fashion when God spoke to him initially. But as we see throughout the book, Jeremiah is faithful to God’s calling.
Something that’s always intrigued me about Jeremiah is this note from the NIV Study Bible: “Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible, containing more words than any other book.” I find this fascinating – longer than the Psalms, any of the Gospels, longer than the story of Creation and the Fall in Genesis and the deliverance from Egypt in Exodus, even longer than the great prophet Isaiah. Plus the book demands a lot of concentration from us in that it’s not presented in chronological form. Why is this ? Is there a particular reason that God has made this book this way ? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it’s just something I’ve noted.
Just some random thoughts as I begin this great book. It’s yet another reminder to me how inexhaustible the Word of God is. Each day we can rejoice in the work God has done in those saints of old and reflect on how He will do the same for us if we stay in the way He has called us to.