Jeremiah 1:4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 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.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.”
Apparently Jeremiah was unusually young when called by God to be a prophet. We don’t know how young, though he is refers to himself as “only a boy”. In ancient Israel a man was considered mature enough to function in leadership roles about age 30, so we can assume he was well under that age when called. There are a couple of thoughts that come to me today in connection with this passage.
First, God says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”. The Hebrew word “yada” translated here as “knew” is a much more intimate word than in conversational English. For instance, when a husband and wife were sexually intimate in the bible it is said they “knew” one another. It includes a physical, emotional, spiritual connection between the two. The bible says that Moses “knew” God and vice versa, which is obviously not a sexual relationship but one of deep closeness on every level. This is the sense of the word “knew” in this passage. God “knew” Jeremiah before he was even formed in the womb. That’s an interesting idea don’t you think? How does God know someone before they are even conceived? I’ll have to think about that some more.
Then we see Jeremiah push back on God’s call, “Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pushed back against God’s call because in my mind I was insufficient in some way. I’m not experienced enough. I’m too . young. I’m too old. I don’t have patience for this. I’m not smart enough… you get the idea. The list of my personal deficiencies (at least in my own mind) is very long.
But here God reminds us of a very important truth. God doesn’t deny reality. Is Jeremiah exceptionally young to be a functioning prophet in Israel? Yes. Will his youth be a barrier to some people taking him seriously? Yes. Will these things prevent him from doing what God is calling him to do? Nope. Why not? Because God will be with him.
“for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.”
In other words, the Lord is going to run interference for Jeremiah by directing him when to speak, to whom to speak, and what to say. All he has to do is be obedient and the Lord will take care of the rest.
This is an important truth for you and me. God will call us to do things we cannot do – at least not on paper. When we think we have a deficiency that will get in our way we may very well be right. God’s point here is that it doesn’t matter.
God makes up for our deficiencies when we are walking in obedience according to his call on our lives.
Lord, give us grace to trust you more than we doubt ourselves. Amen.