Jeremiah’s Call & Commission
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
‘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.’
Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’
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.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
– Jeremiah 1:4-10
In the opening sentences of Jeremiah, God speaks to the would-be prophet and tells him that he will be a “prophet to the nations.” Now, prophets were aplenty in ancient Jerusalem. Some were the “false” prophets we often hear stories about, but most were just professional prophets – those who preached and taught in a community or lived an itinerant lifestyle, doing ministry wherever they went. As a job title “prophet” didn’t have quite the same wow-factor that it does today. And many prophets learned their trade from their fathers; studying scripture, public speaking, teaching strategies, etc. from a very young age.
But a “prophet to the nations” was a different story. Those were prophets who would counsel kings and entire countries. It was a BIG job, with prestige, power, and a whole lot of holy responsibility. It was their job to be the mouthpiece of God to God’s people, so you know, no pressure.
And when Jeremiah hears that God has called him to be a BIG prophet…
Jeremiah is shocked. “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ He’s too young to be a prophet to the nations! Besides, shouldn’t he start out with something smaller, like “prophet to the fields between the well and the road,” or “prophet to the three families that live by the river?”
God reminds Jeremiah that this BIG job has been his destiny ever since he was very small, like microscopic small – cells dividing in the womb small.
God reaches out and touches Jeremiah on the mouth and tells him that he will help him speak. Thus begins the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah.
This is a BIG deal. God sometimes calls small people: people of small means, little experience, and sometimes the very young.
This means two things for us. It means we can’t just brush away that feeling that we’re supposed to be doing something for the kingdom of God. You can’t sigh and say, “Well, I’m not a pastor or a theologian so….” You can’t be “too busy,” and as we’ve seen with Jeremiah, you can’t use “I’m too inexperienced,” or “I don’t know where to start” as valid excuses. Big jobs call for small but important first steps.
It also means we have to listen to those around us. We can’t discount what they have to teach us because of their age, background, skin color, or how polished their words may sound. We might miss BIG words from the BIG One.
The problems in the world are indeed big, and just one person is a small blip on the radar. But small people begin big movements, they speak words with big meaning, and they have potential to spark big change.
So, when confronted by God, do not say, “I am only a…..”
Instead, listen to God’s call. And listen to God’s words as they come from others, because big things often come in small packages.
Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries for NorthPark Presbyterian. She grew up a member of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport, received her Bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University, and her Masters of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.