The LORD gave me this message:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
“O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said,
“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up
against nations and kingdoms.
Some you must uproot and tear down,
destroy and overthrow.
Others you must build up
and plant.” (Jeremiah 1:4-10)
Jeremiah had a realistic picture of himself. But he did not have a realistic picture of God. Jeremiah believed God was calling him; Jeremiah believed that God needed to do something about all the wickedness in the land. But Jeremiah doubted that he could be the one that God chose to work through. Jeremiah’s lack of faith in himself, his lack of faith in God’s ability to transform him into the mighty prophet he became, did not slow God down. Jeremiah already had a tongue, he could already talk. Getting Jeremiah up and running was not nearly as hard a job as creating a universe from scratch.
Jeremiah lived in a prosperous time. But a shadow hung over the land of milk and honey: the Babylonians were rising, while Egypt was declining. The balance of power was shifting. But the real problem had nothing to do with international relations. Instead, God’s concern lay with matters of the heart: his people had continued their long love affair with other gods. And they didn’t believe that God would ever do anything about it, any more than Jeremiah believed that God could use him. Both God’s people and Jeremiah would learn otherwise. God is never limited by human doubts.