Sunday, April 24, 2022

“The Word of the LORD Came to Me” [Matt's Messages]

“The Word of the LORD Came to Me”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 24, 2022 :: Jeremiah 1:1-19 

If you have a bookmark, you might want to move it to Jeremiah, because, Lord-willing, we will be here for quite a while. Probably a year or more if we take breaks along way. 

Studying Jeremiah on Sundays as a church gets us kind of back on track with our big project that we have been pursuing for the last twenty years. Starting in 2003, I began to preach through the Big Story of the Bible, kind of systematically working our way through the Big Story in the Old Testament, and then toggling over some to the New Testament and then back again.

Some of you have been along for the whole ride. Others of you have come in along the way. And some of you are new and don’t know what I’m talking about!

In 2003, we started in Genesis. In 2005, it was Exodus. In 2007, it was Numbers (because that’s where the story carries on). Then in 2009, it was Joshua. And after each of the Old Testament books, we did a New Testament book. And some of those took awhile like Luke and Acts and Romans and Matthew

But we’ve been returning on a pretty regular basis to the Big Story in the Old Testament. After Joshua, we did Judges. Then Ruth. Then 1 and 2 Samuel. And then in  in 2016 and 2017, we did 1 and 2 Kings.

Does anybody remember 1 and 2 Kings? Remember: thumbs up and thumbs down? Those kings had just one job–keeping their kingdoms strong in the covenant, but they failed again and again.

And then the nation split into two. North and South.

Do you remember how many thumbs-up kings there were in the north? The kingdom called “Israel.” 10 Tribes. How many thumbs-up kings? ZERO! And so eventually, the Lord destroyed them through the Assyrians.

The southern kingdom was called what? “Judah.” And they had some thumbs-down but they also had some thumbs-up kings.

And they also had a prophet who lived at the very end of the tragic time of 2 Kings, and his name was “Jeremiah.”

So getting into Jeremiah kind of merges us back into our big overarching study project.

Like so many other things, covid disrupted our project, and while I enjoyed returning to Philippians and 1 Peter and marinating in the Psalms for a couple of years, I think it’s time to get back into and moving forward in that epic Big Story.

Another one of the reasons I decided to preach Jeremiah right now is that I know we need more of the prophets in our spiritual diet. I have not preached very much from the Old Testament prophets. Aside from Hosea and Jonah, I haven’t preached any of them all the way through. In fact, I can only remember one message I’ve done from the Book of Jeremiah in twenty-four years here as your pastor!

And it’s not like the book of Jeremiah is small or insignificant.

Jeremiah might be the longest book in the Bible. Depending on how you count. If you are going, not by pages or chapters or verses, but by Hebrew words, it IS the longest book in the Bible. It’s about 5% of your Bible! With 66 books out there, 5 percent is a big percentage of real estate!

As we read it, there will be lots of familiar things. Some crazy stuff, too. Maybe stuff you’ve never heard before buried in there–like the time Jeremiah was supposed to bury and then dig up some of his clothing. But lots of familiar things are in there like the most famous verse–Jeremiah 29:11, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD...” We’ll get there.

And even more foundational–Jeremiah is the book that our Lord Jesus quotes at His Supper when He talks about the “New Covenant.” That’s from Jeremiah chapter 31. “The New Covenant.” It’s so important! No salvation without it.

But often Jeremiah is ignored and goes un-preached.

How many of you have heard a sermon series that went all the way through all 52 chapters of Jeremiah? Anybody? 

Some of you, all you know that Jeremiah was a bullfrog.

That’s actually a different Jeremiah! But many of us know all the words to that song by Three Dog Night and don’t know hardly anything about the real Jeremiah in our Bibles, God’s Word.

We need to fix that.

So let’s go back in time, more than 600 years before was Jesus was born, and read the first three verses of Jeremiah chapter 1 which set the stage for the whole thing. Jeremiah chapter 1, verse 1.

Jeremiah is not an easy book to study. It’s challenging.

Partially, because it’s so long. It’s hard to wrap your mind around something so big.

And it’s not just long, it’s from long ago. Just reading those first three verses, I’ve probably already gotten most of you lost. “Who are all of these people and when did all of this go down?” “Jehoiakim? Zedekiah?”

To complicate things further, Jeremiah does not proceed in chronological order. Fifty two chapters, but the order is not chronological! Not even close. In fact, it’s hard to figure out what the order actually is. 

For the last several months, I’ve been reading a stack of books on Jeremiah to get ready for this series, and all of the commentators seem have their own idea of how the book is structured. Some of them actually try to rearrange it into a different order. People have been doing that with this book for 2,000 years.

I’m not going to rearrange it for you into chronological order. 
I believe it’s a work of art that isn’t supposed to be read chronologically. It’s more like a music video or a movie with flash backs and flash forwards or a panorama that hits you in different ways as it speaks to you as you read through it.

But everybody agrees that chapter 1 is chronological. It’s a great starting place and gives a good chronology for us. Chapter 1 tells the story of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah into his prophetic ministry. It’s his “start date.”

And the first three verses also tell us about the beginning, middle, and end of his ministry. It definitely does orient us, so let’s look at it more closely. V.1

“The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.”

So this book is full of Jeremiah’s words. And we learn that this Jeremiah was the son of a priest (so he might have become a priest himself, though there is no record of it). And he’s from Anathoth, a city about an hour’s walk north and east from Jerusalem. In the territory of Benjamin. Modern day “Anata.” In the southern kingdom of Judah.

And verse 2 says, “The word of the LORD came to him.” That’s really big. More on that big thought in a second. 

When did the word of the LORD come to him? When did he start in ministry? V.2

“The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah...”

Okay. Anybody remember if Josiah was thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

His grandfather was the very worst king Judah ever had. Manasseh. And his daddy Amon was awful, too. But Josiah was basically thumbs-up.

He was really young. He started at age 8. And he was a reformer. It was during his reign that they found the book of the law in the temple. Do you remember that story? Josiah began to clean things up. It didn’t last long. The people weren’t really into it. We know that because of what they went right back to doing right as soon as he died.

But Jeremiah began his ministry in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign which we can date to 627 BC. 

The word of the LORD came to him.

And stayed with him. Jeremiah then was a prophet for 40 years. Look at verse 3.

“...and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.”

There are actually 2 other kings of Judah during that time period, “Jehoahaz” and “Jehoiachin,” but they each only lasted 3 months. These three are the big three. Josiah, Jehoikaim, and Zedekiah. 

Josiah was king from 640 BC to 609 BC. Jeremiah started in 627. And Jehoiakim was king from 609 to 597 BC, and he was absolutely terrible. Two thumbs down. He’s going to show up as a villain in this book again and again. Wait till you hear what he does in chapter 36! And then Zedekiah, who was also terrible but in a different way because he couldn’t make up his mind, was king from 597 to 586 BC.

And so that means that Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah from 627 to part way through 586, and that’s about 40 years.

40 years of prophecy.
40 years of decline.
40 years of speaking God’s word but people not listening to him.
40 years of steady, gradual, tragic decline.

And then the exile happened.

One of the worst moments in all of the Old Testament.

When all of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant: offspring, land, and blessing–all of those promises were pulled back, seemingly cut-off. 

The people were taken out of the land out blessing and into cursing.

The exile was one of the worst moments in the Bible since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

The Book of Jeremiah tells us in its first three verses, that this book is a prophecy of a tragedy.

Jeremiah is going to faithfully prophecy for 40 years, and it will not change the course of history. They will still go into exile. That’s kind of depressing.

I think that’s one of the reasons why Jeremiah does not get preached very often.

Because it’s very sad.

Jeremiah himself is very sad. This is a very personal book. We get to find out what it is like to be a prophet. Jeremiah tells us what it’s like, especially in how he talks to the LORD.

But frankly, what it’s like is kind of painful.

Jeremiah is often called the “Weeping Prophet.” The sad one. He probably also wrote Lamentations, about the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 and the exile. No wonder he was sad.

It’s hard to be a prophet. At least to be a true and faithful one in an age of decline.

Because prophets tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

But that’s one of the reasons why we should read this book. Because it tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

The first thing that the LORD told Jeremiah was that he was going to be a prophet, and he didn’t have any choice about it. Look at verse 4.

“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’”

There’s our title for today’s message, “The Word of the LORD Came to Me.”

That’s one of Jeremiah’s favorite phrases. I think he uses it more than any other prophet does. 

The word for “came to me” could be translated, “happened to me.”

Yahweh showed up and started talking to Jeremiah. And He gave Jeremiah something he had to say. It wasn’t something he chose.

It wasn’t like, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Jerry?” And Jerry’s like, “I want to be a prophet.”

No, Jeremiah was minding his own business, and the LORD hit him with it.

“The word of the LORD came to me...” BAM!

Notice how personal this is. “Came to me.” We get the inside story, from Jeremiah’s own personal perspective. 

The LORD speaks directly to Jeremiah and tells him that He has always known him, and always chosen him to be a prophet. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“This isn’t something you have a choice about, Jeremiah.”  The word for “appointed” is more like “given.” “I’ve given you to be a prophet since before you were born.”

Now, that’s really encouraging and also kind of scary. What’s really encouraging is that the LORD knows us from before we are born and from before we can do anything good or bad. And this knowing is not just information, it’s election [like we saw in 1 Peter 1!]. Jeremiah was chosen by God before he was even formed in his mother’s womb.

And that also reminds us of the sanctity of human life. That unborn people are people, too. And that they matter like the PRC is always telling us.

But it’s also a little scary for Jeremiah, because it’s clear that this is something he’s not going to get out of.

He’s been appointed a prophet, or a spokesman for God, a prophet to the nations. Not just a prophet to Judah or about Judah (though that will be most of his work) but to and about the nations around Judah, as well. They will factor in heavily in this books, especially in chapters 46 through 51.

But it’s not an accident that Jeremiah is going to be a prophet. It didn’t just happen to him. This was Yahweh’s plan from the beginning. And Jeremiah is going to do it!

But, surprisingly, Jeremiah doesn’t want to do it! He doesn’t feel qualified. Look at verse 6.

“‘Ah, Sovereign LORD,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’”

And he might have been very young. This isn’t just an excuse. Some scholars think that he might have been in his early teens. Like 13 or 14 at this time. 

The Hebrew word here means “youngster,” and it could stretch from infant to young adult. He’s saying, “I’m just a kid.” I’m not “a speaker.” Not yet.

What’s really interesting to me here is that Jeremiah talks back to God!

Jeremiah is not afraid to tell the LORD what he is thinking and feeling. We’re going to see that again and again. He’s not saying, “No.” He’s not a Jonah here, running the other way.

But he is hesitant. And he does tell the LORD what he is thinking. He is thinking, “I am only a kid.”

Verse 7. “But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

That’s really important.

I have three points for you this morning as we come down to the end of this message. Three things the LORD is saying to Jeremiah about His words in this chapter. 


The LORD says to Jeremiah, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” “You don’t get to choose your audience, and you don’t get to choose your message. As my prophet, I want you to speak my words.” [Insight from C.J.H. Wright]

But you don’t have to be afraid! Because you are speaking my words, you don’t have to be hot stuff yourself. You’re not on your own. Don’t say, “I am only a child.” Say, “The LORD will be with me.”

Do you see how that changes everything?

What are you tempted to put into verse 6 of your life?

“Ah, Sovereign LORD...I can’t do that thing you want me to. I am only ________.”

Maybe you feel too young.
Maybe you feel too old?
Maybe you feel too quiet. You’re an introvert.

“I’m only a single. I’m not married.”
“I’m new to the faith. I’m not mature yet.”
“I am poor.”
“I am only...” what?

The LORD says, don’t say that. Say, “The LORD will be with me.”

Because He will!

Now, you and I are not prophets. Jeremiah had a special unique calling.

But you and I can speak God’s words. And do it without fear.

Believe that Jesus Christ is risen today.
And tell others that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.

Did you do that this week?

If not, why not?

“Because I am only....”

“Because someone might...”

V.8 “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

He says that 168 times in this book. “Declares the LORD.”

That’s like a divine mic drop.

“I will be with you.” “Declares the LORD.”

The Lord says the same thing to you and me, doesn’t He?

“I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

Therefore, “speak my words.” Look at verse 9.

“Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth. [I wonder what that was like?!] See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’”

This is where I have gotten the title for our whole series on Jeremiah.

We’re going to call it, “Uprooted.”

Because that’s what Jeremiah’s words are going to do.

Jeremiah is appointed or given as a prophet over nations and kingdoms–not as a king but as a prophetic spokesman for God. And when he speaks for God, then nations and kingdoms are going to be 6 things:

torn down
and replanted.

Notice that four of those are destructive and two of them are constructive. Four of them are negative and two of them are positive in outcomes. The first four are about devastation, and the last two are about restoration.

And that’s how this book will be. It will be like 2/3 doom and then 1/3 hope.

And the hope will shine all the brighter because of the darkness of the gloom.

The joy is greater because of the sadness.

By the end of the book, the whole kingdom of Judah will be uprooted.

Heather Joy has been weeding her garden recently. It’s that time of the year. She had a whole wheelbarrow of weeds one day this week. Heather joy takes a great joy in ripping those things out, roots and all. Dirt flying everywhere. Gleeful look on her face. And rightfully so. I’m happy for her. 

But imagine, for a second, being the plant. Ripped up, roots and all.

When we started 1 Peter this fall, we were thinking about Afghani refugees. Now we also think of Ukrainian ones. Ripped up, roots and all.

And Jeremiah was getting his people ready to be uprooted, as well. You know how Peter was writing to the exiles and foreigners?

Jeremiah is getting his people ready for exile, too. This book is a perfect follow-up to our last one. And prepares us for being uprooted, too. Or to realize that we are already uprooted as we try to live godly lives in an ungodly world. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven while we sojourn through the kingdoms of this world.

And look forward to the time when we are fully replanted. When our joy is made full.

These 6 verbs–uproot, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant–will show up over and over again as we read Jeremiah. Because this was the mission Jeremiah was chosen for. To speak God’s words to the nations and watch things happen.

Except they don’t always. It often seems like God is not keeping His word. 

Jeremiah is going to prophecy doom and destruction for 40 years! And not only does his preaching not bring revival, but it doesn’t bring total destruction for 40 years. So, from the beginning the Yahweh had to make it clear to Jeremiah that He would be bringing all of His words to pass. Look at verse 11.

“The word of the LORD came to me...” 

He says it again. This happens three times to Jeremiah in chapter 1.

“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree,’ I replied.”

There are a lot of almond trees in Anathoth, and they are spring trees. They are the among the first to bud in the spring. 

Which trees tell you that the spring has come? We are waiting for the spring to really come, right? When do you know that that’s happened? I like the forsythia. When I see those yellow buds open up and the daffodils, too. Then I know that spring has come.

The Hebrew word for “almond” is “shaqed.” Well, the LORD has a pun planned for Jeremiah. What do you see, Jeremiah? I see a “shaqed.” v.12 "The LORD said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.’” The word for “watching” is “shoqed.”

You see a shaqed? Well, I am shoqed. Just as you know that when you see an almond branch, that spring will come, you can know that I am going to see that my words are fulfilled. It’s not always going to seem like it. But I’m going to see to it myself. “Shoqed.”


Yahweh says, trust that my words will be fulfilled. Wait for them. Watch for them. Because I am watching for them. The Lord takes this personally. He is not going to leave it up to chance. He is not going to leave it up to someone else.

Did your mom ever ask you to do something, and then watch you to make sure you do it? “I’m not leaving until you put that away.” The LORD is doing the same thing with His words.

Do you believe that? I’ll bet that it feels to some of you in this room right now like the Lord has dropped the ball. 

“When is He going to do what He said?”

It felt like that many times to the people of Israel living through the story of the Old Testament. But this is the truth right here, “I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

“I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

The LORD Himself is supervising the perfectly-timed enacting of His words.

Wait for it. 

Wait for His promises to be fulfilled.

And His threats!  Look at verse 13.

“The word of the LORD came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,’ I answered.”

Do you see the picture in your mind’s eye?

There is a big boiling pot with spaghetti in it. Or maybe chicken stew. I don’t know what’s in it.

But it’s tilting your direction. You’re sitting to the south of the pot. And the boiling pot is tilting away from the north and towards you. What do you think is going to happen? Y

ou’re going to get burnt. You’re going to get scalded.

That’s what the vision was for Jeremiah.

“The word of the LORD came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north...’” Verse 14.

“The LORD said to me, ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ declares the LORD. ‘Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.”

Now, He doesn’t say here who is coming from the north. It’s maybe too early in Jeremiah’s ministry to reveal that. 

It’s not the South though. It’s not Egypt. The enemies will be coming from the North, and we know now that eventually it was Babylon.

From the beginning of his ministry, Jeremiah knew that the LORD was going to bring judgment on Judah.

All he had to do was wait. The boiling pot was going to be poured out. Yahweh has declared it. They can expect siege warfare. They can expect disaster. They will be scalded.

And here’s why. Not because of the geopolitical realities of the day. The LORD uses those politics, but it’s not why Judah would be scalded.

They will be judged because they had forsaken the LORD. They had worshiped idols. They had worshiped “what their hands had made.”

We’re going to see this again and again in the book of Jeremiah.

There is painted in this book a beautifully ugly portrait of sin. Jeremiah poetically and powerfully explains to us what sin really is.

And it’s what brought Judah down. God wasn’t just having a bad day when the exile came. The exile was the judicial results of hundreds of years in the making of forsaking the LORD.

What’s amazing is that He was so patient and waited so long! But He was watching to see that He word was fulfilled.

And that’s true of the happy and hopeful promises of Jeremiah, as well. In many ways, we are still waiting for them to come to fruition.

The New Covenant has been inaugurated in the blood of Jesus and ratified by the resurrection of Jesus. But we are still waiting for the return of Jesus and the kingdom that He promised.

We are still in some ways uprooted and waiting to be planted forever in the kingdom.

But it will happen. Just wait and see. And while you wait, stand with God’s Word.


Yahweh says in effect:

"Speak my words." I’ve put them in your mouth.

"Wait for my words." I’m watching to see that they will be fulfilled.

And "stand with my words." Stand up for them. Fight for them. Don’t back down from them. No matter what anybody says. Look at verse 17.

“‘Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

The ESV translates this, “Dress for work,” Jeremiah.

“[P]repare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13).

Roll up your sleeves (Ryken).  And don’t back down. If you cower before men, I will give you something to cower about. V.18

“Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

I love that. I want that.

I want to be a fortified city.
I want to be an iron pillar.
I want to be a bronze wall.

I want to be ready to stand with and for God’s word against all comers.

That’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m tackling the prophecy of Jeremiah with you, because I need to grow in this.

I do not like being unpopular.

I like to be liked. I’ll bet that you do, too. But Jeremiah was set from the beginning to be unpopular.

Notice who he has to be prepared to stand against! Verse 18

“...against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.”

That’s everybody. That’s everybody inside. It’s not the nations that Jeremiah has to contend with. It’s his own people!

This is the story of the book. Jeremiah did not like being unpopular either.

But he was prepared to do it because the word of the LORD had come to him.

He felt those words. He had them inside of him. He says that they were like a fire burning in his bones (20:9). He had to speak them. Whether people wanted to hear them or not.

You and I need to prepare ourselves to be uprooted.

And to say what needs to be said [with love!] whether people want to hear it or not.

Jeremiah had a backbone. Jeremiah had a spine.

He was not “only a child.” For 40 years, he was a fortified city, a iron pillar, and a bronze wall. He was unpopular, but he was invincible. Not because he was so great, but because (v.19), the LORD was with him and rescued him.

And that same God will be with us if we will stand with His words.

“Declares the LORD.”