Almost twenty years before the death of Josiah, king of Judah, the Lord called out a prophet to deliver His word to the kings and the nation. This was the great prophet Jeremiah, who would serve all the remaining kings before Judah was finally overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Like the prophet Isaiah before him, Jeremiah would deliver both God’s stern words of warning for Judah to turn back to the Lord as well as far-reaching prophecy to all people about the coming of the kingdom of God.
The book of Jeremiah begins with a description of his call.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5 NKJV
Jeremiah’s call bears witness to the time-transcendent, all-knowing nature of God, also seen in the words of King David in Psalm 139.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:16 NKJ
Scripture tells us that the Lord sees us, knows us, and loves us even before we are born. We are His creation, brought into this world for His good pleasure and delight. These loving thoughts are also expressed for our neighbors, friends, and yes, even our opponents and enemies.
In the midst of a people who had turned their backs upon Him, the Lord saw something special in Jeremiah. He was not perfect – the Lord had to sanctify or purify him – but there was something there that pleased Him, and He chose Jeremiah for this vital and difficult task.
It is easy for me to believe that the Lord was always there for me, even before birth, as I can see the great favor He had bestowed upon my family, even in the years before I was born.
My dad survived a brutal war and was involved in many sea battles. Before he had joined the service, he took over a war-material factory lathe for another man, who then went off to war and died a hero. His brave fire-fighting actions after being mortally wounded were credited with helping to save his burning ship from sinking.
After the war, my dad returned home to our medium sized city. A few years later, he met and then married my mother. As it turns out, unknown to my dad, five years earlier she had been the fiancée of the war hero who was killed. Many decades later, my father told me of this man, “I not only got his job, I got his wife”.
God’s hand was so evident in the coming together of my parents, a mysterious intertwining of coincidence and foreshadowing. This is how the Lord often chooses to reveal Himself to us – with events that come together to bring about blessing, joy, healing, and peace where only turmoil, fear and grief had been before.
God picked Jeremiah to be His mouthpiece to a rebellious nation. Just as the Lord knew all about Jeremiah before he was born, He also knew that his short-term mission would not be successful. But amongst Jeremiah’s frustrating interactions with Judah’s last kings who would not heed God’s warnings, his prophecies would also help build the foundation of a future kingdom of God that will have no end. These foundations today give all believers around the globe the strength and encouragement they need to carry on in the building and growing of God’s kingdom.
Sometimes because of the thoughtless words or harmful actions of someone during our youth, we may not believe that God was there, or if He was, that He was against us, not for us. This could not be further from the truth.
It is a sad but common tragedy when the sins of other human beings are laid at the feet of a loving God and used as a lifelong reason to reject Him. He was there for us even in the most painful times, such as when my mother lost her fiancée in the war. He is there for you today, and He is entirely for you, not against you! I say it again, He is for you!
Lord, if there be barriers in my past that prevent me from recognizing Your loving presence throughout my life, even before my birth, please remove them for me. Take away the sting of hurtful words or actions inflicted upon me by others. Open my eyes that I may see You and Your great love for me in a fresh and new way. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.